Yesterday I enjoyed the company of fellow colleagues. We had a "meeting" in the sunshine a top a beautiful vantage point in the Oxfordshire countryside. Apart from the birds and her aberrant neighbour shooting his gun at delayed intervals, all was well with the world!
Over a lunch of fresh salad leaves with fresh eggs from one colleague's garden, falafels and tzatziki from mine, soup from another, the question arose as to why I wanted to become a midwfe.
It's not a question I've not toyed with over and over and, because I am a hugely reflective person, will again, many times.
Why become a midwife when you're a doula? Why put yourself through it? In many respects I have it far better. I can be with women one to one from the beginning to the end, knowing that I have no medical responsibility for them and therefore, am not going to be hauled over the coals for something as long as I'm sensible and stick to basic rudementary guidelines and, more importantly, my own intuition. At the end of the day, the parents tend to thank me for what I've done and tell me how they couldn't have done it without me. Okay, well they could have, and would have, but that's a story for another day.
So why am I about to embark on three years of potentially removing all these options from my care. I won't be "with woman" from beginning to end. I will be more restricted with my choices and autonomy may be a word I struggle to bring into my care. My every move will be documented and monitored and if I miss to record even one contraction, it could be the last mistake I ever make. I may not have time to be with that woman from the minute she comes into the hospital to the minute she leaves and rubbing her back may only occur whilst I'm simultaneously caring for two or three other women. Ridiculous eh?
But actually, no!
I have always been very fond of Gandhi's statement "Be the change you want to see in the world" and I feel that midwives get short shrift over everything. Yes, there are some crappy midwives out there and sadly, as with any profession with a few crappy ones but the majority wonderful, it tends to be the tales of the crappy ones that pave the way for the rest. I honestly know that if I want to help to change birth experiences in the UK then I need to be a part of the closest force to that that I can be. I need to be "on the frontline" so to speak.
I don't have a "god complex", nor do I feel that I am a pseudo super-hero (although I do like this terminology, thanks Charlotte ;-) I just know there are better ways to do this than many of the stories I hear and I know that I can sit and bemoan it, or get in there and try, in a minimal way, to help change things. I also feel supported that there are many other women who are moving into midwifery now who feel the same way as I do. Perhaps the Mexican wave is coming?
I also have an interminable desire to learn and there is a huge lure towards the knowledge side of things, particularly to enhance my teaching skills. Of course, I don't have to put myself through three years of a degree to do this, that's just the surface.
I also know that much as I believe in the art of being able to be "hands off" as a midwife, as a doula there is more of an element of "hands tied". I can see things sometimes that I know I wouldn't do or have done as a midwife and then I have to sit back and watch my internally forecasted predictions unfold before my eyes. As much as I can suggest as a doula, make my clients aware of the pros and cons, the decision has to be theirs. Of course, as a midwife, I can't insist that the parents do as I say, nor should I want to, but the reality is that if I don't suggest breaking someone's waters to speed up a perfectly normal and healthy, if a little hesitant, labour, then it won't happen. As a doula, if a midwife suggests it, my clients may well choose to do it, regardless of my thoughts, because it has been suggested by the midwife and there is a feeling that it "must be for the best". It's hierachical. Naturally, as a US doula, I saw that more there than I do in the UK.
Last but not least, I think I'm lucky! Of course, I'm lucky to have a supportive family who can help me so I can do this, lucky that they love me and believe in me enough to know I'll make them all proud. I'm lucky that I got a place on a highly over subscribed course and I'm lucky that I am still wearing my rose tinted specs and feel that NHS politics won't get rid of me (they may get me down at times) and that my vision to provide one-to-one care from beginning to end, in the comfort of a birth centre or the mother's home is on the road to being fulfilled.
But most of all, I'm lucky that I AM a doula. I'm lucky that I have had six years of learning what a woman needs and how her emotions need to be met and what really is important, when push comes to shove (no pun intended!). I'm lucky that I can and bloody well will, put this essential part of caring for a labouring mother into practice as a midwife. I can be her sole carer, I can stop all the clocks and make her and her partner the most important people on the planet so that her birth experience, with the best of natures blessings, will be the best of her life.
So, there you have it.
Enjoy your day x