Autumn 2020…I was running a busy NHS antenatal clinic day. I was behind and feeling the pressure to catch up and it wasn’t even lunch time yet. 30 minutes to ensure the wellbeing of mum and baby (blood pressure, urinalysis, fundal height measurement etc) as well as discussing fetal movements, birth preferences, infant feeding, mental health, covid anxieties, domestic abuse, safeguarding….with the number of appointments being reduced due to covid restrictions and new guidelines and procedures I felt like I had so much to cram into such a short space of time (and I know some midwives are only allowed 15 minute appointment with their clients!?!) What if I missed something important? What if I didn’t tell them what they needed to know to help them prepare for this powerful and transformative experience of growing their family?
Most days I felt like I was on a covert operation working under the radar. Borrowing 5 minutes here to give an extra 5 minutes there, sharing my knowledge and experiences of REAL midwifery and childbearing. About the power of the human body. About the sacred and transformative rite of passage into parenthood. I loved it, I really did but it felt like a lot of pressure. I was desperate not to slip into just covering the basics to be safe and professional, as I knew I had so much more to offer than that and that those in my care deserved more, they ASKED me for more, but I was done sacrificing myself to try and give more in a system that didn’t encourage or promote it. I thought “how does everyone else manage to do it?” Then I had a massive realisation. They’re NOT doing it.
There are so many midwives in self preservation mode right now and its crippling them. Emotionally, spiritually and physically. They are suffering with compassion fatigue, conflicts around having their core values being compromised time and time again, anxiety, stress and burnout. This is not just the midwives working on the ground but those in middle and senior management too. Everyone is struggling in their own way but the root cause is the same.
They are having to deal with ongoing chronic short and unsafe staffing level, longer busier shifts, poor work/life balance, increasing complexity of care and processes, bullying, poor support…the list goes on and on…..
None of us came into this profession to work like this.
So many phenomenal midwives leave the NHS daily as they are not met with the compassion, level of autonomy or flexibility they need to thrive. They have to get out even though it breaks their heart. And those who stay? Well, some get worn down over time, feeling defeated. They become just another cog in the machine, taking home their salary and counting down the days until retirement.
Some look around them and conclude that everyone else can manage, so it must be something innately wrong with them. That they don’t have what it takes to be the midwife that they know they are inside (which made them answer the sacred calling of midwifery in the first place). This eats away at their self esteem and confidence, increases their need for external validation and drives fear of failure and rejection and leaves them feeling stuck and powerless. They stay but are waiting for their breaking point.
Then there are some who have a gut feeling they can help themselves and things can be better but maybe just don’t know HOW.
They are done with having their voices muted.
They are done with playing small.
They are done with diluting themselves to please everyone else.
They are done with being at the bottom of the priority pile.
They are ready to discover and bring in change.
Now to do this takes time, it’s not a quick fix. It take’s courage and vulnerability. It means having boundaries and holding yourself and others accountable to them. It means being a leader by example and being prepared to ruffle some feathers. It means holding up a mirror to yourself and being prepared to go deep or go home and keep on fighting.
I know so many wonderful birth workers who have already answered this call to arms but it will take more of us. Some are doing in under the radar like I was and more and more of us are doing it loud and proud. KNOWING that things cant go on as they are.
The real reason I left a contracted post in NHS midwifery was because I knew I had a vision of how things could be and I wanted to have the time and personal freedom to share it with others for the benefit of all.
I was done with hearing about and feeling the fear and frustration of other midwives. I wanted to help them see WHY they had those thoughts, emotions and feelings and how they could channel it to help them to realise THEIR truth and help them to own it.
I wanted them to rediscover their inner power and their potential. That they could step back into the leading role in their own life story and that it wasn’t too late to start a new chapter.
It’s not that you’re not good enough my lovely. It’s that you’re a round peg being forced into a square hole and I say enough is enough.
What do you think?
If you’re already in a leadership position in maternity services and what I’ve said resonates with you, then why not get in touch to see how we can support your team together through my 1 day group workshop? Click here to find out more.