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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

Anaesthetics, Antenatal education, Birth, Breastfeeding, Caesarean section, Change management, Communication, Compassion, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Human rights, Intra-operative care, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, New parents, Newborn, NHS, Nursing, Obstetrics, Paediatrics, Patient care, Respect, Skin to skin contact

The operating theatre tea party – read on to find out more 

This week I was lucky enough to be in the multi-disciplinary team involved in the care of women pre peri and post – Caesarean section . 

Lucky you say ? Aren’t midwives supposed to only be focused on PHYSIOLOGICAL  birth ? well yes that’s one of our roles but we also care for women in the antenatal period – we run triage clinics with the fab support of a skilled maternity support worker – running tests on women then contacting the Dr for advice with the results – pure team work . We also care for women in labour who have complex medical needs , complex mental health issues and we work WITH the obstetric team to find the best plan of care – we do this together with the woman’s input . I am proud of everyone I work with – they give me hope . We also work on birth centres and attend pool births . We are community midwives we attend home births , we support women who have safeguarding issues , women who live under the threat of Domestic violence and women who have disabilities. We manage wards , units , we are heads of midwifery , we are ward midwives , labour ward midwives , specialist midwives  and we are mothers , fathers ,single women/men  , gay women/men  , straight women/men  , married men/women , we are spinsters / bachelors but most of all we are HUMAN BEINGS .  

Each birth I see means a lot to me as a woman, a midwife and a human . I don’t judge a woman because she has a more complex or simple birth than the births I had – I’m in MIDWIFERY because I want women to feel positive about their birth experience and EVEN after this weeks news I am still determined to try my best to promote physiology in all birth settings . 

Anyway back to the operating theatre . 

The team in the operating theatre where I work are so together with the families they meet . They all know the importance of #SkinToSkin contact and how utterly important it is for the woman involved to hold her newborn asap . So the ODP makes sure that the woman tucks one sleeve of her theatre gown under her arm , places the ECG electrodes on the woman’s back and adds a mini – extension to the top of the theatre table so as to give the woman a greater sense of space to hold her newborn . The scrub nurse prepares a sterile space on the cot for the obstetrician to place the baby onto AFTER delayed cord clamping has taken place . The baby is dried on the theatre table and then placed on a sterile sheet on a cot with wheels – the Midwife assesses the baby’s condition at the side of the parents – so they feel involved and the baby is not weighed – we aim for skin to skin contact prior to 5 minutes of age – unless there are concerns with the baby’s health – both parents see the baby immediately and one of them cuts the cord . The other parent is then helped with placing the newborn on the mothers upper chest safely in a prone position and the midwife STAYS next to the woman and her newborn supporting them so that skin to skin can continue for as long as possible , I have piloted this and women who are supported hold their babies for longer – so I leave my records until we go into recovery area . Photographs are encouraged (as many as the family want to take) and also music . This week we asked a woman which music she’d like – we don’t yet have a Bluetooth speaker in  theatre just yet (watch this space)  so I put my phone on as Coldplay was requested . The consultant anaesthetist (Dr Richard Cross ) left the senior registrar in anaesthetics in charge whilst he was away for two minutes . When he returned he was holding a metal NHS supply teapot – we all looked puzzled 😕 . Then he carefully placed my phone into the empty teapot – this acted like a mini speaker and it was just the right volume for the family – but not too loud to disturb the surgeons and the safety in the theatre . 

What I’m trying to say is that this kind gesture was all for the family – especially the woman – we were making memories for her – she’ll always remember that she held her newborn , whilst listening to Coldplay from a teapot – what could be better than that 

Once safely in recovery (transfer to recovery area takes place with skin to skin ongoing ) we encourage birthcrawl by the newborn and praise the infants behaviour as this helps with the maternal connection . The woman is offered water quite soon after (unless she has had a general anaesthetic- in which case we wait until she is safe to tolerate water ) and then a cup of tea ( two half cups so none has the potential to spill onto the newborn ) and some toast which helps with enhanced recovery – we try to take our time with being in recovery as the woman needs more time to bond with her child due to restrictions on movement due to theatre drapes & position . 

Thank you Richard Cross and all the team in theatre for your kindness , laughter , compassion and care 
I hope you enjoyed reading this latest blog 

P.S what I didn’t mention was that there was a language barrier , but kindness , compassion and communication still took place – and the music connected us all ❤️

Happy Saturday -with love  Jenny xx 

Anaesthetics, Antenatal education, Anxiety, Being busy as a midwife, Birth, Change management, Communication, Compassion, Fear of Birth, Giving information, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Newborn, NHS, NHS Systems and processes, Obstetrics, Paediatrics, Psychology, PTSD, Respect, Women's health, Women's rights, Young mothers, Young women

Loss of control – a reason for fear of birth ? 

When any of us are admitted to hospital we lose control . We are unable to get a hot drink when we want one , eat what we want when we want to ,take simple pain relief , go to the toilet , sleep as well as we would at home , get up in the night or stay in bed longer . We are also unable to control what we hear , what we see . We lose our safe place of home and being surrounded by friends and family – it feels lonely and alien to us . This doesn’t mean that we are not able to adapt to new situations it’s just that more than a few things change and this throws a curveball towards us .  The fear we feel is because we feel we are handing ourselves and our bodies , our routines and home comforts over to others, they are dismissed  – this has quite a destabilising effect on our psyche . 

A key part of NICE CG190 guidelines for care in labour encourages midwives to set the scene for women. The section I am going to focus on is COMMUNICATION – which is part of 1.2 Care throughout labour (click on the following numbers to be taken to the site)  CG190 

I have copied and pasted the exact words and written the key words in CAPITALS below to help highlight their impact – does it make you think about them differently ? 

COMMUNICATION 

1.2.1 Treat ALL women in labour with RESPECT . Ensure that the woman is in CONTROL of and involved in what is happening to her, and recognise that the way in which care is given is key to this. To FACILITATE this, ESTABLISH a RAPPORT with the woman, ASK her about her WANTS  and EXPECTATIONS for labour, and be AWARE of the importance of TONE and DEMEANOUR , and of the ACTUAL WORDS used. Use this information to SUPPORT and GUIDE her through her labour.

1.2.2 To ESTABLISH communication with the woman:

GREET
the woman with a SMILE and a personal WELCOME, establish her LANGUAGE NEEDS , INTRODUCE yourself   “#HelloMyNameIs”

explain your ROLE in her CARE .
Maintain a CALM and CONFIDENT approach so that your demeanour REASSURES the woman that all is going well.

KNOCK
and WAIT before entering the WOMAN’S ROOM , respecting it as her PERSONAL SPACE , and ask others to do the same.

ASK
how the woman is FEELING and whether there is anything in particular she is WORRIED about.
If the woman has a written BIRTH PLAN , READ  and DISCUSS it with her.

ASSESS
the woman’s KNOWLEDGE of strategies for coping with pain –PROVIDE  BALANCED INFORMATION to find out which available approaches are ACCEPTABLE to her.

ENCOURAGE the woman to ADAPT to the environment to meet her INDIVIDUAL needs.
Ask her PERMISSION before all PROCEDURES and OBSERVATIONS, FOCUSING  on the WOMAN  rather than the TECHNOLOGY or the DOCUMENTATION .

SHOW the woman and her birth companion(s) how to summon HELP and REASSURE her that she may do so WHENEVER  and as OFTEN  as SHE NEEDS to. When LEAVING  the ROOM, LET her know when you WILL return.

INVOLVE
the woman in any HANDOVER OF CARE  to another professional, EITHER when ADDITIONAL EXPERTISE has been brought in or at THE END OF THE SHIFT. 

Every person who cares for (no matter how short a time ) a woman in labour should follow this guidance and I feel there should be posters up on maternity units in all languages which emphasise that this will happen . 

There are many barriers to communication and one that most midwives, student midwives , maternity health care assistants , obstetricians and anaesthetists agree on is that time, pressure and NHS systems restricts our practice. I want to have laminated cards that go with the analgesia cards to explain why kindness and compassion will also help ease women’s pain . Fear is a huge factor in the perception of pain and if we try to reduce fear we might help reduce not only  pain but also anxiety and then by this we will gain trust and build on positive care. 

As the  midwifery workforce we must start to say to ourselves “how would I feel ? ” another question which is used on the Nye Bevan leadership module is this …. 

Lets keep sharing our ideas and thoughts and if you have any more relating to CG190 – tweet using #CG190 or why not write a blog or design a poster ? 
Thank you for reading and please leave comments , I always value them and they help me to reflect and grow . 


Yours in midwifery love 

Jenny ❤️

Against the odds, Anaesthetics, Antenatal education, Babies, Birth, Breastfeeding, Caesarean section, Change management, Children, Compassion, Courage, Giving information, Helping others, Hospital, Human kindness, Human rights, Intra-operative care, Kindness, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, MatExp, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, New parents, Newborn, Newborn attachment, NHS, NHS Systems and processes, Obstetrics, Paediatrics, Patient care, Postnatal care, Respect, Skin to skin contact, Student Midwives, Teaching, Women's health, Women's rights, Working from the heart

The Caesarean experience 

How good is the approach to women who have a caesarean to birth their babies ? Do all NHS trusts routinely give the same care to each woman and newborn or is it tailored to each individual ? 

I am passionate that the caesarean procedure is also a positive uplifting experience for the woman her partner and their newborn . 

I get upset when I hear stories from different midwives at various NHS Trusts that skin to skin contact at Caesarean section isn’t routine or perhaps not discussed antenatally . From today I’m championing that skin to skin contact should be a priority for ALL WOMEN AND BABIES in the operating theatre and I’m doing this for several groups of women including those who

1. Were totally unaware that  skin to skin contact at caesarean was possible . 

2. Hear stories of women who held their baby skin to skin perioperatively when own their babies are older and they missed out on it which leaves them feeling robbed and upset. 

3. See photographs of babies in skin to skin contact during caesarean and they didn’t know they could take photographs 

4. Realised that skin to skin is possible but they weren’t given the choice 

5. Feel sad that the baby’s other parent wasn’t encouraged to hold their baby skin to skin during the caesarean operation . 

And this blog post is also for any woman who has an assisted birth in an operating theatre – I’m going to help you challenge NHS systems and change the birth discrimination between normal birth and birth in theatre . 

Why am I calling this BIRTH DISCRIMINATION

In my opinion every woman who gives birth should have the chance to hold her newborn in skin to skin contact even if only for a few minutes perhaps because the newborn requires transfer to neonatal unit or the woman feels unwell peri-operatively . 

Women who have a normal vaginal birth are more likely to hold their newborn for longer and separation from their newborns during the ‘golden skin to skin  hour’ will be less likely to happen. However, if a child is born in the operating theatre separation will occur within half an hour because of risk assessments meaning that the baby is moved as well as that within some NHS Trusts phones or cameras are not allowed in theatre and here are my thoughts on this matter which is close to my heart . 
We can no longer ignore the birth discrimination that exists between normal birth – where the woman has prolonged uninterrupted skin to skin contact – and assisted birth . It’s the role of everyone who is involved with birth in the operating theatre to work together to reduce and / or eliminate this birth discrimination.  I’m talking about midwives , anaesthetists , paediatricians , obstetricians , neonatal nurses , ODPs , maternity support workers coming together to form multi-disciplinary teams to plan how skin to skin contact length and opportunity can me maximised and separation minimised . 

We are all aware that skin to skin contact is beneficial in numerous evidence based ways (just go onto google scholar and search “skin to skin contact at birth”  to both mother and baby. It is NOW time to take action and assess each woman and baby individually instead of adhering to a ‘one size fits all’ approach . Of course there are women who may have to have a general anaesthetic – so consider this from the baby’s point of view – and work out a way that the other parent might be able to provide skin to skin for the newborn . 

We are in 2017 and now is the time to make change happen – talk about this to your MSLCs , the labour ward forum meetings , MDT meetings and be pro-active – together we can all make a difference 

Thank you for reading – jenny ❤️

To be continued …..