Against the odds, Anaesthetics, Babies, Being a mum, Being busy as a midwife, Birth, Caesarean section, Communication, Compassion, Courage, culture in nhs, Digital, Hospital, Human kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, leadership, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, Newborn, NHS, NHS Systems and processes, Obstetrics, parents, Patient care, Postnatal care, Respect, Skin to skin contact, Student Midwives, Women's rights, zero separation

A midwifes role in the maternity theatre – support from managers

Here it is my blog aimed at NHS managers and fundholders of maternity services – time to explain a few home truths. MORE support is required for midwives in the operating theatre from upper NHS management in order to facilitate and maintain SkinToSkin contact between mothers , fathers and babies .

A few reasons the midwife may have for leaving theatre include : –

  • To check the placenta
  • To take blood gases
  • To obtain documentation from a printer bit which is not sited in the operating theatre
  • To complete digital or written records
  • To register the birth

Let’s look at it another way – if an operating department practitioner said to a midwife “I just need to nip out for a few minutes can you step in for me for a few minutes and help the anaesthetist? ” how would a midwife feel ? How often does this happen ? Never !!

We must respect each another’s professional competencies and abilities and not take advantage of any given situation . The operating theatre is governed by health and safety due to the highly clinical nature of its environment . Midwives are selling themselves short by trying to manage their workload instead of questioning why they need more support .

We must deal with the root cause which is midwives leaving theatre to complete routine tasks (when they should be staying with women and babies)

The symptom is the fear of other staff in theatre of caring for the dyad , the woman’s fear at being unable to speak out that she’s scared of holding her baby during her operation or procedure .

The midwife has a professional responsibility for the mother and her newborn as set out in the NMC code of conduct and The NMC Standards for Competence for Registered Midwives

I’d also like to refer to these key parts of the NMC code which seem to address care of the dyad in theatre so well .

If you are a manager support your midwives by auditing the reasons why a midwife might leave a woman in theatre for any length of time and address that issue with the multidisciplinary operating theatre team – there will be solutions and the solutions will improve care , safety , women’s and families experience of care in the operating theatre and well as giving midwives immense job satisfaction, plus enabling team cohesiveness – what more could you ask for ?

I am challenging all line managers to go into the operating theatre and watch the midwife – how can you make it better for the midwife and therefore the dyad ?

Keep on keeping on

Thank you for reading my blog

Please leave your comments as I appreciate all feedback

Jenny ❤️

Babies, Being a mum, Birth, Communication, Compassion, Courage, culture in nhs, data colllection, Giving information, Helping others, Human kindness, Human rights, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, leadership, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, Newborn, NHS, Obstetrics, parents, Psychology, PTSD, Respect, soeaking out, Student Midwives, unconscious bias, Women's health, Women's rights

Talking with strangers and unconscious bias in the NHS Maternity System

This blog is dedicated to Sandra Bland with love to her family #SayHerName ❤️

I have just finished reading the book “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell

The book is a critique of how we approach others through our body language speech, demeanour plus the various cues that we interpret or misinterpret according to our own life experiences, culture, colour , upbringing, religion or non religion , education , training ,inner feelings at that time and individual roles plus many other factors too numerous to list . One particular woman who in the book was Sandra Bland a black woman who was forced to change lanes on a highway because a police car was approaching with speed – the officer totally misinterpreted Sandra’s distress at being pulled over – he wasn’t kind with his words or approach and this led to Sandra being wrongfully arrested and she died in her cell three days later the verdict was suicide . When you listen to the recording of the officers first interaction with Sandra you can sense the irritation and suspicion in his voice as well as the tone he uses. He doesn’t see that Sandra may have vulnerabilities and that she is trying to calm herself by lighting a cigarette .

As a midwife I have witnessed disparity of care towards women depending on their social status, background, colour, culture and ethnicity- something I have challenged throughout my career . These experiences have often placed me in some difficult situations with colleagues. On one occasion I refused to allow someone from finance dept into the woman’s labour room . This years (2019) RCM International Day of the Midwife campaign was around Midwives as defenders and I wrote a blog about my interpretation of this . We must approach women placidly and an excerpt quote from the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann © 1927 illustrates this rather well.

GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons

Unconscious bias is something we all have – This animation by Professor Uta Frith of The Royal Society explains unconscious bias in a concise way . It’s the 21st Century – time for all NHS staff to be educated, assessed and held to account around the subject of unconscious bias plus to question their own personal identity around this issue .

Here is a photograph of part of the philosophy of the Royal Society panel members – a philosophy for the NHS .

Whilst writing this blog I also came across this refreshing blog post for By ‪@SuzRankin‬ CEO of Ashford and St Peters NHS Foundation Trust, Chertsey , Surrey .

If you are a midwife I want you to start to question the way you speak to women and families that you meet and whether you treat each woman or person exactly the same despite their background , culture , colour, sexual orientation and education. Make an attempt to hear yourself as the woman hears you – be patient and thoughtful with your words and actions . Watch how other midwives speak about the women they care for (at the bedside and in the office ) and monitor one another for unconscious bias .

Did you see someone give the woman everyone recognised from a TV programme better care than the woman who arrived unannounced from the local homeless shelter ?

Please question everything you see and if you talk about it more when reviewing cases of different women you might see a pattern start to occur – that’s what you need to change. Does your incident reporting system include statistics on race , sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity? If not how can such incidents be thoroughly evaluated ?

How do you talk to the women you meet as strangers ? When you show patience, kindness, compassion and understanding you are building on the relationship and helping the woman to feel safe . This behaviour has an effect on the woman’s oxytocin response as her adrenaline and cortisol will be reduced as well as her own fears . You are putting her at ease – becoming a friend . If on the other hand you are brusque , rushed , impatient and critical you will put the woman on edge and increase her fear , pain and cortisol which will inhibit oxytocin production.

Are you pre judging a woman when she phones up the hospital for advice ? Does that judgment impact on the way you interact with the woman ? Do you feel calm or under pressure? Are you more or less patient with her in comparison to someone else you’ve recently cared for ? Are you imparting information and evidence of equal quality or do you feel a change in your own demeanour which may make the woman feel uncomfortable without realising?

Reflect on a situation when you didn’t feel listened to – that may have been a complaint to a store or a the way an employee at a restaurant/ service / shop spoke to you – do you recall how you were made to feel or how you reacted?

Black and Asian women have a higher risk of dying in pregnancy as the November 2018 MBRRACE-UK triennial report shows and as midwives we must question why this is happening as well as campaigning for this tragic disparity to end .

I will leave you with a quote by Paul Coelho

Further reading…

Thank you so much for reading

– Jenny ❤️

Antenatal education, Babies, Being a mum, being believed, Birth, Caesarean section, Charity, Communication, Compassion, Courage, culture in nhs, Fear of Birth, Giving information, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, leadership, Learning, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, Newborn, NHS, NHS Systems and processes, Obstetrics, Paediatrics, Postnatal care, Psychology, Respect, Student Midwives, Teaching, Women's health, Women's rights, Working from the heart, Young mothers, Young women

Midwives – Defenders of women’s rights @JennyTheM ©️ #IDM2019

5.5.19 is international day of the Midwife and my blog is dedicated to all Midwives who have made a difference by defending a woman from any unnecessary intervention – be that anytime related to pregnancy 🤰🏾 antenatally , during any kind of birth or postnatally.

I’ve decided to share three stories which are true experiences written by midwives about defending women. One of the stories is mine but I won’t say which one .

As clinical midwives we are seen as equal members of the huge maternity wheel alongside women and their families, managers, obstetricians, future midwives , maternity support workers and many more – although in reality there is a hierarchy that many within our own discipline and other disciplines are striving to challenge and change .

The truth in plain sight is that just one member of the team is not engaged or equally involved (including the woman) then the intricate workings of the mechanism will be disrupted.

Women and families = get to know your midwife/midwives . Ask questions , be curious. Read books that are informative, recommended and that explain your bodies and your babies abilities with balance and clarity . Try the Positive Birth book by Milli Hill Click HERE to see on Amazon (founder of The Positive Birth Movement) .

Prepare yourself as much as you can. Don’t leave any stone of knowledge or information unturned . Join a positive birth group Click here to find out more . Be aware that midwives are defenders of women – talk to other women and find the midwife that helps you to believe in yourself . You’ll know when you’ve found her – don’t settle for second best. I believe women should rock the boat of maternity services like pregnancy pirates. Try reconnecting with midwife from a previous birth if you have other children – it’s evidence that continuity pf carer will reduce your chance of interventions so ask to see the same midwife at your appointments. Look at the birth statistics of your local units and choose wisely – ❤️ The Which birth guide is a good resource although might need updating Click HERE to view

Managers = be insightful of how staffing levels and skill mix will impact positively or negatively on birth outcomes – when you arrive to help us in our hour of need ask not what we can do but show us what you can do to improve our shift . Stay curious ❤️

Obstetricians = be mindful of the physiology of the female form and how your positive or negative behaviour will impact on the delicate balance of all hormones involved in playing out the birth process . Watch midwives working see them as equals . Stay curious ❤️.

Midwives = be aware of why you are a midwife. Embrace your role as not to

“do to”

but to

“be with”

to defend,to stand up for ,to support, to strengthen and to keep safe. Unite the team with your passion for all births❤️. Stay curious

Maternity support workers I am thankful for you all – you do support ❤️- your gratitude towards the midwives that make the toast and tea for the family and ensure rooms are left clean before transferring women from them . (we do ask other midwives to follow our suit) as we know you always have work to do within the scenes and behind them – running the operating theatre, birth-room turnaround time , restocking , clinical work, bringing the team together , being aware of all areas . The camaraderie and team work you display so strongly within your discipline is a benchmark for us all . Stay curious

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Three stories of defending

Read on reader ….

Story one

The elective premature Caesarean birth – a courageous Midwife

All eyes upon me , the baby is only 34 weeks old . The mother’s instinct to hold her newborn is tangible I hear her breath . The paediatric team stand around the resuscitaire , prepped , ready, waiting and impatient. Something inside me tells me “give the baby to the mother , give the baby to the mother” After delayed cord clamping I cocoon the newborn in a warm towel without touching and within seconds I’m helping the mother with her first embrace. Time stands still. I monitor the baby closely but without words for colour , breathing , heart rate (with my stethoscope) tone and reaction , a saturation monitor on the baby’s right hand (pre-ductal) reassures me. All is good . I offer to take photos of mum dad and baby, mum and baby , baby’s hands touching mum , many photographic variations evolve in so little time . I look across at the paediatrician- she knows me, trusts me – she smiles at me and nods mouthing “it’s ok” . Five or more minutes have passed – mum knows it’s time . Dad carries his newborn to be seen by the team . Mum is crying not with sadness but with joy that hers was the first skin to touch her newborns , then her partners – this is how every new beginning of life should be – we Midwives must step aside but wait in the wings ready to prompt or assist- our silent presence is reassuring to the family ❤️

It was all worth the fear – afterwards I hug the paediatrician and say “thank you for trusting me ” the mother scrolls through her photos in disbelief that her only ever precious child started its journey against her skin – I am a defender ❤️

Story Two

The “Failed” Induction challenging a decision

“Can I help ?” I offered “Oh great” replied the ward Midwife “we are so busy!! Can you go with the consultant to see the woman who’s Induction didn’t work ?”

I’d been sent from labour ward to help on the antenatal area . The consultant was counselling an elderly primigravida ( over 45 years old) . The woman “Joy” (false name) was being told that two attempts at induction and due to her age that a caesarean would be for the best . I was sent to get the consent sheets . I’d just completed the AQUA shared decision making course and I was keen to put what I’d learnt into practice.

The time on the clock was 16.55 so bear that in mind .

What happened next was that the consent forms were handed to the woman after the risk of Caesarean was explained . The woman dutifully signed the consent forms and the consultant left the department. Something inside me told me this didn’t feel right . My instinct and experience made me go back to the woman and her partner. I asked them if they were okay with everything. In fact I went as far as saying “are you okay about your Caesarean birth?” They both voiced their concerns but felt they haven’t been given a choice. I wanted to discuss further so I went to the phone and rang the consultant to return . The phone call did not go well -the consultant was quite irked that I’d phoned told me to check the clock and to ring the consultant on call.

I rang the on call consultant who came and discussed further the choices the woman had with her and her partner . She opted for an attempt at labour following artificial rupture of her membranes which would all take place on the labour ward .

To cut a long story short the woman progressed to 5cm dilatation and remained there . She was very pleased with the fact that she’d experienced labour and been listened to . Her caesarean birth was a positive unhurried experience.

A few weeks later I came face to face with the first consultant one my day off – I’d come into work to attend a two hour study session . The consultant openly criticised me in front of a new senior registrar who I’d never met before – belittled springs to mind . “Thank you for overruling my decision to plan a Caesarean without labour” were the words. I stated clearly that the best way to clarify the situation was to determine how the woman felt – “are you invited to the naming ceremony of the baby ?” I asked “no” was the consultant’s curt reply – “well here’s my invite” I said (by coincidence I’d found it in the staff mail box that day) . The consultant went quiet and walked away . I am a defender ❤️

Story Three

Rebalancing the birth hormones

I met Nasrit about one hour into my shift in the morning. (name changed) . The community midwives has brought her in because her labour had slowed then stopped. Nasrit was having her third child, she lived with anxiety and panic attacks which were inherited from her childhood . My opinion was that her fear had disrupted her birth hormones – I discussed this with her – she held my hand tightly . I went to the midwives station and put Nasrit’s name on the board – as I did I could hear staff chipping in “does she need an ARM?” “Get the syntocinon running when the Reg arrives ” “is she actually labouring ?”

I pretended not to hear the comments . I was going to go back to Nasrit, Nasrit’s partner and Nasrit’s mother . My plan was to try and get Nasrit into a birthing state of mind . I wanted to make her at home. In giving her possession of her room I made her space – no lights , quiet , no interruptions and a haven for her birth . I keep a set of battery powered fairy lights in my locker and I’m trained to use aromatherapy. My key goals were to make sure I had everything in the room that Nasrit needed and nothing in the room that anyone else needed -there were going to be no interruptions. I used a blend of lavender and frankincense in hot water as a room infusion. I explained to Nasrit how aromatherapy would work. I then turned off all the lights and switched on the fairy lights . As an equal I explained to Nasrit and her family how relaxing can help oxytocin and that anxiety can hinder by producing cortisol and adrenaline . Nasrit was with me . I sat and held her hand (at her request ) we all waited without talking . I reiterated that there was no pressure . It took about 15 minutes for Nasrits heart rate to drop from 96 to 68 – she was breathing more calmly .

Over the next two hours Nasrit’s labour recommenced and soon she was holding her newborn skin to skin . I never left the room .

All was well

I am a defender ❤️

Summary

So the reason for my blog is for you to try and reflect on your own practice as a midwife and find those times when you were a defender. Look to see when you recognise fellow defenders through their words and actions . Try not to ask “does this feel right for the woman ? ” “is the woman’s face reflecting agreement or disagreement ”

Stay curious and keep defending

❤️We are defenders❤️

#IDM2019

Post script dedication I’m dedicating this blog to all midwives in hardship – whether physically, emotionally or financially. The Cavell Trust is a charity that helps nurses , health care assistants , maternity support workers and midwives Click HERE for more information

Thank you for reading my blog .

Yours in midwifery love

JennyTheM ❤️

Stay curious

and like Professor Lesley Page (@Humanisingbirth on Twitter) be the leader of the dance ❤️❤️

Anaesthetics, Antenatal education, Babies, Being a mum, Birth, Breastfeeding, Caesarean section, Change management, Communication, Compassion, Courage, culture in nhs, Fear of Birth, Giving information, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Human rights, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, leadership, Learning, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, Newborn, Newborn attachment, NHS, NHS Systems and processes, Obstetrics, Postnatal care, Skin to skin contact, Student Midwives, Women's health, Women's rights, zero separation

The birth of my son

25 years ago today I gave birth by Caesarean to my second child . A boisterous boy to compliment my daughter who had been waiting to become a big sister for over 5 years .

I was so excited about going into labour as I was now a midwife – I “knew” what to do – I felt positive and excited .

A few weeks before my due date I suspected my baby was breech and told the consultant “Oh Jenny why are you doing self palpation ? “It’s obviously cephalic” he said (I didn’t know I was going to have a boy ) – “stop worrying!!”

Off I went on my merry way .

Fast forward to my term appointment with my midwife (I had started to have a few niggles but I was determined not to rush into hospital and previous complications meant a home-birth wasn’t an option) . My midwife confirmed my concerns – the baby is breech and there’s nothing in the pelvis at all . I was sent to the hospital – I felt annoyed with myself .

About 5 hours later I was in theatre having a spinal in preparation for a Caesarean. In those days the false evidence of the vaginal breech trial was forced upon many women – I was frightened into having a Caesarean – I truly felt robbed .

I took it all on the chin and decided that it as a midwife would be an asset to have experience of normal birth and Caesarean. This personal experience of mine would help women to know that I’d understand and support them through any birth .

At my Caesarean my son was born – I saw him for less than a few seconds and he was whisked out of theatre into an ante room . There he was wiped down, rubbed, touched and handled by midwives. Then my son was measured,weighed, given vitamin k dressed and wrapped up . I didn’t hold him for 4 hours and I wish I’d been able to.

Not having skin to skin contact in the Operating theatre hasn’t affected the relationship I have with my son . I did however long to hold him whilst I was in theatre and kept asking where he was and when I could see him.

Not having skin to skin contact has made me determined to educate women and those who attend birth in the operating theatre as to why skin to skin it’s so utterly important- it’s a physiological norm for human mammals .

Each time I’m with a woman in the operating theatre I don’t feel angry or upset about my experiences- I just feel very thankful and grateful that times are changing and that skin to skin is becoming normal in the theatre environment.

Skin to skin was never mentioned to me at all for my son’s birth – God forbid a woman would want to hold her baby whilst being operated on in the 1990s !!

Well thank goodness times have changed and that there are lots of brilliant midwives, theatre nurses , obstetricians, anaesthetists and operating department practitioners who know why skin to skin matters . In helping families they are changing the system. They realise that birth in the Operating theatre isn’t about “their theatre” functioning in the same way it always had done but about making the Operating theatre a “family space” .

Once I got to the ward a dear colleague of mine (who has since retired) came to see me and asked me if I’d had skin to skin contact. I hadn’t even fed my son yet!! – luckily my son was a sturdy 8 pounder . My lovely friend passed my son to me so that I could take his sleep suit off , explore his skin , check his fingers and toes , gaze into his face and start our journey as mother and son . He was soon breastfeeding and I felt relieved that my friend had supported me .

If you are wondering whether I’d be such a protagonist for skin to skin if my second birth had been different? I know I would be !! The infamous Dr Nils Bergman set off my interest in why skin to skin matters for all newborns and he instilled in me a duty to spread the word.

I am really proud to have helped many women to overcome their doubts and fears about skin to skin in the operating theatre and I hope I continue this journey with many more families.

This blog is dedicated to my son and daughter who have made me the mother who I am .

Happy birthday son ❤️.

Thank you all for reading.

With love

❤️Jenny ❤️

Babies, Being a mum, Birth, Breastfeeding, Caesarean section, Communication, Compassion, Hospital, Human kindness, Human rights, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, Newborn, Newborn attachment, NHS, Obstetrics, Skin to skin contact, Women's rights, zero separation

SkinToSkin poem © by Jenny Clarke

it really doesn’t matter where you are

Home , hospital , Operating theatre, birth-pool or sat on a star 🌟

The ultimate way for a baby’s life to begin

Is right next to her mother in SkinToSkin

Your baby doesn’t care what she weighs

Read and digest the ATAIN study – we adore what that says

SkinToSkin contact for babies 37 weeks or more

can reduce unplanned admissions to special care- that’s the score

It helps stop separation of you and your baby

That’s a fact – no ifs,buts or maybe

Prolonged SkinToSkin makes you more of a team

So that baby can understand you (and vice versa) – see what we mean ?

SkinToSkin is no fad, craze or latest trend

SkinToSkin makes mother’s better mothers that’s why @JennyTheM is here to bend

your ears soon in Breastfeeding Week.

I have read all the research by the SkinToSkin geeks

I am giving you the evidence and it’s right up your street

So make plans , prepare for SkinToSkin don’t leave it to chance

When your baby gets SkinToSkin she’ll move about – a newborn birth dance

SkinToSkin sets off behaviour ,keeps baby’s calm

Us humans are mammals -made to keep our young warm

So at birth just consider how your baby will feel

SkinToSkin will tell her –

YOU ARE the real deal ❤️

© @JennyTheM 27.3.19

My next blog will be about the need for correct positioning for mother and baby (or other mother and baby or father and baby ) in order for SkinToSkin to reach its full potential and benefits ❤️

Antenatal education, Babies, Being a mum, Birth, Children, Compassion, Hospital, Human rights, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, Newborn, NHS, Postnatal care, Respect, Skin to skin contact, soeaking out, Student Midwives, Women's rights, Young mothers, Young women, zero separation

Newborn babies – photographed without their parents – my bugbear

Everyone who knows me knows that I promote , research and present about SkinToSkin contact . I know exactly why it matters to mothers , fathers and babies .

Just recently I’ve noticed an advert for an upcoming ITV series “Delivering Babies ” in which Emma Willis stars as a auxiliary nurse assisting on a maternity unit – the profile photo shows a picture of Emma holding someone else’s baby without any of the parents in the photograph – this is what prompted me to write this blog .

One particular bugbear I have is seeing a baby on a photograph with a health care professional without the mother or father being included in the picture .

I have discussed this with many future and new parents and explained that they are the guardians of the newborn – protecting it from unnecessary exposure to anything . At most schools there is a social media policy which prevents the posting of children on social media sites . However the same rules don’t seem to apply for newborn babies.

I see many programmes about pregnancy, labour , birth and the postnatal on TV which I choose to critique. Some I have given up watching through exasperation that the baby is not seem as a child of someone .

I have had heated debates with maternity managers , future midwives , midwives , maternity support workers about why a baby should not be photographed without any of its parents . I ask them this question “if you had a baby would you want it’s photo to be on someone else’s social media account , mobile phone or perhaps even framed on a sideboard in someone else’s home that’s not even related to you ?”

Just google “Midwife” and numerous photos will pop up of midwives holding someone else’s baby . There’s even one from Call The Midwife – time to rethink why these photos exist and consider the human rights of the newborn ?

Below are two collages I made following a google search – who are these babies and were the parents asked for full consent and counselled thoroughly about the fact that their babies would appear on internet searches ?

My other concern is WHO takes the photo ? If it’s on the parents phone and given to the midwife as a gift does that make it ok . What is consent ? Eg “could I have consent to use this photograph of me holding your baby to post on social media / put into a frame at home , look back on and wonder who that baby belonged to in 20 years time ” OR “could I have a photo of you as a family with me in the background which I will treasure and treat with respect , I will not post it on social media and it will remain a midwifery memory for me of meeting you ?”

In taking photos we must consider

Is it necessary ?

Please leave your comments below

Yours in midwifery love

@JennyTheM

Babies, Bereavement, Birth, Compassion, Dying, Grieving, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Kindness, Labour , birth, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, New parents, Newborn, NHS, Obstetrics, Patient care, Post traumatic stress disorder, Student Midwives, Women's health, Women's rights, Working from the heart

A Midwife’s heart and caring for families through stillbirth ❤️

This is a very difficult blog to write . Yesterday someone highlighted a tweet to me about midwives and how they deal with the impact of caring for a family who may have to face the loss of a baby . It was to do with midwives knitting hats for stillborn babies .

I have been a Midwife to many women whilst they birth their baby who has died before labour starts . It broke my heart each time I cared for these families. However I saw the fact that I was allocated to care for them as nothing but a true privilege and joy . I wanted to make the moments they had with their precious child special , full of love and memories . I helped them take the best photos . assisted them through washing their babies and also knew that I had to give them time to grieve and to communicate to them through deeds not words that I was “with them” totally . I cried with them , held them whilst they sobbed , even laughed with them – which may sound strange but it’s true . I cooked for them , made endless pots of tea and I washed their feet . I saw in these women & men a strength that can’t be put into words on a blog . I recall walking a couple through a labour ward to a bathroom with their stillborn son , so they could all be together in the bathroom whilst the mother took a bath – they insisted I sat with them ,so I did – on the bathroom floor – I know these memories are as special to them as they are to me.

Midwives do not routinely get counselling post events like this – fire workers and police staff do so is the NHS missing a clue ?

In 2006 I reflected on an incident at work where a woman came in to be induced and when I put her on the CTG monitor, we discovered that her darling son was not for this world . I was devastated and had to arrange childcare so that I could stay with the woman & her husband post my 21.00 shift finish . Another thing. that also hit me hard was that the friend I asked to help me with my young family had no qualms about saying yes – I later found out that the reason was that she had given birth to a stillborn son many years before (she told me that she felt by helping me she was helping the parents of the stillborn baby ).

As I left the couple to go home much later , I wept from sadness for them and their empty arms as well as emotional exhaustion and was told not to cry by a senior member of staff. I couldn’t go into work the next day .

What transpired was an article about my reflection by Rosemary Mander . The mother became a friend of mine & I helped her with a SANDS event – I went to her sons funeral and this connection helped me to cope as much as it did her to have someone who saw her son like she did – as a beautiful boy .

It’s so important that we see our role as supporting parents through sadness & also happiness . The midwives who choose to knit hats are simply trying their best – they might not know what else to do – it’s s coping mechanism. You can’t train for events like these just like parents can’t prepare for this to happen to them .

I’d like to thank Rosemary Mander for writing around my reflection in 2006 , the mum & dad of the darling son that was born asleep for giving consent to publish my reflection all those years ago (you gave me the courage to show my emotions to other parents) and also to my friend for her kindness in caring for my family whilst I stayed with the family ❤️

Also thanks to @kwelsh1 for showing me this powerful sculpture by Albert Gyorgi called “Melancholy ”

it sums up how any parent who loses a child must feel

Antenatal education, Being a mum, Birth, Caesarean section, Compassion, Courage, Fear of Birth, Giving information, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Human rights, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, NHS, Obstetrics, Respect, Skin to skin contact, Student Midwives, Surgery, Women's health, Women's rights, Working from the heart

Fear of Birth – A Poem

I didn’t want a labour -everyone in my family knew

I did want a baby though

-my desperate feeling was not new.

I’d always been nervous,fainted at the sight of blood

told myself time and again that at birthing I’d be no good

My husband eventually won me round

We started trying for a baby but my mind couldn’t rest

So many ifs and buts and a maybe

we were pleased when we found out the positive test,

Inside my body though I felt so stressed

I had a tightness in my chest

I almost wanted to shout & shriek (no one seemed to listen)

I tried to talk about Caesarean birth with health professionals through the weeks

-somehow they didn’t hear me -I felt soft , so ridiculous so weak.

I couldn’t express my feelings, my fear of giving birth

I felt anxiety would pass to my baby -I had no sense of worth .

I went into labour I was scared and full of fear

my husband and my mother were with me it helped me to have them near

I failed to express myself to the doctors that I just couldn’t do it

But it was as if my words couldn’t come out- I truly almost blew it .

What happened next was down to the perception of my midwife

She saw the turmoil I was in recognised my inner strife

She stood side by side with me , told the Drs what I’d said

She was my birthing advocate – my saviour through the dread

A plan was made they’d finally noted every word I’d spoken

I was going to have a Caesarean section it was as if I had awoken

Don’t presume my fear had simply run away

I was worried ,scared and still not quite sure what to say

During the birth I could not look or speak or move

But when I held my baby skin to skin I was overwhelmed with love

My child was born and passed to me – I had achieved so much

And to the midwife that heard me through the tears – THANK YOU – for your listening touch

You really made a difference to me and my family

I don’t know how I’d have coped if you hadn’t stood side by side with me

@JennyTheM 16.5.18

Dedicated to Yana Richens OBE @Fearofbirth on Twitter for raising the profile of women who have fear of birth and for teaching Midwives and future Midwives strategies to help women ❤️ thank you ❤️

12.5 hour shifts, Being a mum, Birth, Breastfeeding, Hospital, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, NHS, NHS Systems and processes, Night shifts in the NHS, Obstetrics, Student Midwives, Women's health, Women's rights

Jenny’s mutterings , midwives childcare and 12.5 hour shifts ….

This blog is for #70MidwifeBloggers and I was inspired to write it by my two grown up children . When I look at them and the way they treat other people I always think “you did good Jen”

I have worked in the NHS for almost 40 years , so I was IN IT for ten years before I became a parent .

When my daughter was 6 months old I returned to work as a Ward Sister on a medical ward in Oldham Hospital (now Penine Acute Trust) . Part of the reason for my return to work was to prove to myself that I could be a good mummy and a good nurse. I have always liked a challenge and do I regret my decision ? Yes and No is the answer .

When I first thought about child care for my daughter there was no “on site” hospital nursery. Both my parents had died when I was younger. To go back to work meant I was driving 25 miles each way to start at 7.30am – was I mad ?

I was blessed – I found Gaynor a former nurse who totally understood my predicament. I managed to get my daughter ready put her in the car drop her off at Gaynor’s house and pick her up after work . I chose Gaynor as she was close to the hospital and I instantly connected with her . When I was on a late shift which ended at 21.00 I’d get to Gaynor’s to find my daughter ready for bed and a breastfeed and then I’d feed her at Gaynor’s house , pop her into the car (yes I had a car seat ) and drive home . Lots of times I arrived to find washing done for me / a meal to eat / a cup of tea / a hug and a huge welcome . Gaynor was also a mum and her children loved my daughter as much as she loved them . One particular thing about Gaynor was that her mum and dad owned a nursing home ( we are talking traditional family run home full of love , activities and good food – this was 1989)

Gaynor regularly took my daughter to the nursing home with her and she made the residents day – I also went to the home and felt like I’d grown a new family – his lucky we were .

My son was born 5 years later and I was also lucky with his childcare – he went to Maureen who I met when I had to find childcare in a new area to start my midwifery in 1991 and she became Auntie Maureen to both my children .

My blog is really to raise awareness of working mothers and fathers in the NHS and my question is this —

“Do 12 hour shifts have a negative impact on families NHS workers family love and home dynamics of NHS workers ? In fact if someone works a 12 hour shift they probably get up at 6am and get home around 10pm or later – that’s 16 hours of being up and active / put another day into that = 32 hours then three long days together = 48 hours – do you see where I’m coming from ?

If a child does not see its own parent for three whole days does it have attachment implications ? Has anyone done any research on this ?

IMO the 12 hour shift is seen as a money saving initiative for the NHS – 6 shifts covered in three days – bargain !!

However a bargain ain’t a bargain unles you can prove it saves money.

I hear both many sides to the arguments about 12 hour shifts but I also hear of staff who work 12 hour shifts “pacing” themselves , resting more on shift and I wondered if those working 8 hour shifts ever thought of “pacing” themselves at work ?

More research and evidence is coming out about long shifts , that they can be a contributing factor in thyroid disease, cancer , heart disease , burn out and long term sick . Perhaps it’s time to analyse data on nursing and midwifery sick leave to see if the NHS sick leave has improved or worsened since 12 hour shifts became a “thing” .

I have juggled child care most of my children’s lives and thank fully it’s been ok – even the time I caught one so called childminder pushing my daughter across a busy road by placing my three year old daughter across a pram!! I was actually a driver on that road (working as a community Midwifery student ) , so I went straight to her house and removed my daughter then & there . I rang my community manager in tears and she gave me two days of compassionate leave to help me arrange new childcare, this is how I stumbled onto Maureen – she embraced both my children into her family and like me she loved art and baking , so my children saw her home as an extension of mine .

Anyway I’d just like the NHS to seriously consider why going back to short shifts might be the answer – it also costs more to pay a 12.5 hour Midwife as if she works both Saturday and Sunday her after tax salary can be from £600 upwards more than someone working short shifts – so think again NHS

The 4 days that the long shift staff do not cover need to be covered – whereas when we all worked 8 hour shifts some staff would volunteer to stay late – this is impossible and dangerous on a long day .

thank you for reading

Yours in love and light ,

Jenny ❤️

Babies, Being a mum, Birth, Caesarean section, Communication, Compassion, Courage, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Intra-operative care, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, Learning, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, Newborn, Newborn attachment, NHS Systems and processes, Obstetrics, Student Midwives, Women's health, Women's rights, Working from the heart

Making a sacred space for birth

This blog is inspired by the women I have cared for as a Midwife and also the wonderful Spirituality and Childbirth book book by & Dr Susan Crowther and Dr Jenny Hall . The women I have met and cared for in my midwifery career have helped me to invent new ways of working for and with them.This experience has shown me that in order to achieve a special birth experience we must be connected with the woman . The value of approaching each woman with a different perspective but the same professional compassionate values regardless of their mode of birth is the core of individualised care .

It’s taken me all my midwifery career to reach this point and I am still evolving.

Making a sacred space for women and birth is something that we should all consider as midwives. How many times do we enter a room of birth to find the light shining brightly the window blinds up, the CTG machine on full volume and the sounds of the hospital permeating into the room ? Who has the right to enter the birth room ? Perhaps now is the time to talk about consent and to ask women whether they want people to come in and out of their room for non-essential reasons such as trying to find equipment or the medicine cupboard keys . Do your labour wards and your birth centre rooms have a curtain after the door to maintain the dignity and privacy of the woman and her partner and to keep the sacred space? Are the room, it’s people and contents treated as “our” (Midwives and obstetricians ) space or as the woman’s (family , partner , newborn) space. Do we GIVE the space to the woman she enters the room? Saying “this is your room , this is your space I am your guest” or is it seen that we take control of the area ? What exactly is the solution? . I think one of the answers is to start by questioning ourselves as to how we are behaving. There are guidelines to help us give evidence based care and evidence shows that dark quiet rooms , aromatherapy , touch and the continuous presence of a midwife are all beneficial for women in labour as they give birth . How do we transfer this to a birth in the operating theatre or an area where women with a higher chance of intervention are cared for ?

Do we need a new guideline that encompasses making a sacred space ? I think so .

We must celebrate that midwifery care is still an essential core aspect of birth in the U.K. and share our stories . To summarise the work of Dr Trish Greenhalgh – each person we care for shows us new evidence and this can be individual evidence – it doesn’t need to be large scale. Therefore if your compassionate care works then that’s your evidence .

My tips for making a sacred space are

  • Explain to the woman why a newborn appreciates a peaceful place to arrive in
  • Ask about aromatherapy try to stick with no more than three essential oils as using more can dilute the effect
  • Look at the lighting in birth rooms – can the lights be dimmed – find a lamp to give you some light for record keeping
  • Take all that’s required into the room and make yourself an area that does not intrude into the woman’s space but that also increases your time in the room
  • If the Drs come into the room and require extra lighting turn it down after that requirement ends and try to use local lighting instead of general lighting
  • Use a drape in theatre to create a skin to skin tent where the new family can bond and take photos and don’t leave them to do your notes – do that later . Keep a check on the mums and baby’s condition regularly.
  • Use massage to help increase the woman’s own oxytocin levels and darkness will also enhance the melatonin / oxytocin effect .
  • Stay calm and talk quietly – try not to disrupt the woman’s hormones which are affected by noise .
  • A sacred space means comfort , calm , love and kindness must be tangible within that area – it’s not about the space as much as the atmosphere- the way you help a woman to achieve this will have a long lasting positive effect not only on her self value but also impact you in your own practice in a wonderful way .

Please think carefully wether you are a hormone disruptor or a hormone enabler .

Be a true Midwife .

This blog is not to tell you how to be but to provoke thought on our practice and try to help you and others to see how we can effect a positive change for women in their birth settings

Thank you for reading

Yours in midwifery love 💕

Jenny ❤️