On International Day of the Midwife …

As is so often the case with births, our story of how Munchkin was born did not, in any way resemble, the plans we had for her arrival. But what I have had to take away from our ‘birth story’, is not what did or didn’t happen, but simply the extraordinary and exemplary care I received from our midwife.

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Here in Gloucestershire the approach to midwifery and birth is an especially holistic and open-minded one. Home births are well-supported and natural approaches to birth encouraged. Moving from London to the country meant we met our midwife in month 8, late by anyone’s standards, but, despite this, we instantly felt a rapport with her. She did all my midwife appointments with me at my home, spent sometimes over an hour chatting to me, explaining the differences in home or hospital birth to R, and making sure we were ready and prepared. With her support, we planned to have the baby at home, and were happily, and excitedly making plans for Munchkin’s big day.

However, it was not to be. I simply would not go into labour naturally, and after three weeks of waiting, I sadly agreed to go into hospital and be induced. I cannot tell you how terrified I was. I knew I didn’t want to labour and give birth in a hospital, and I knew induction would be hard, painful and that many decisions would be out of control. Seeing my fear on our final appointment before checking into the hospital, my midwife – a senior, community midwife, who has not worked in a hospital setting in years – said: “I’ll come in with you and get you settled in.” She then phoned the Delivery Suite at Gloucester for me, and, on finding out that they were busy, offered to come in and be my own, personal midwife for as long as it took, just as long as they could find a room for me.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain that this is incredible care for a national health service. My midwife was doing everything she could to ensure that the birth we’d planned together, which included her being there throughout, was going to happen. In the ensuing hours, again and again she proved how incredibly committed and supportive she could be, advocating for us against the insane strict time pressures you are put on in a hospital setting, explaining things to R, encouraging me when I felt beaten by the system and trying her hardest to ensure we had a natural birth. Her positivity and warmth, and her tough stance to the other staff, was nothing short of incredible. In some of the hardest and most painful moments of my life, I was beyond reassured by her. In short, she held me up, when I thought I would sink.

In the end, she stayed with us till midnight (having been up at 7am that day), only leaving when hospital ‘procedure’ became too invasive for her to be able to stop it. Munchkin was born, by emergency caesarean, less than two hours after she left, and, as hard as I find some of that, I remain, nearly a year on, overwhelmed by her kindness, her grace and her strength.

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When we were finally discharged from her care, I wrote to her to say thank you. I was understandably emotional, here is an extract from that letter:

“This is a note to say a very heartfelt thank you for everything you have done for our family… since I arrived in Gloucestershire and throughout the rest of my pregnancy, the birth, and the first few weeks of Munchkin’s life, I have felt so supported and nurtured by you. And – never more so – than during her birth when you went so far over and above to support us and try to ensure that we had some semblance of the birth we had wanted. While things may have turned out differently than we had all hoped for, I cannot tell you how much easier you made things for me in those last days and hours before we checked into the delivery suite and how comforted I was by knowing you would be there with us, and by your calming presence in those early stages of labour. I know how delicate the situation was for you as well – navigating the strict procedures and progress markers on the ward and advocating for us at every stage. I want to thank you from the bottom of all our hearts for being there. I don’t know if my words can ever convey my deep gratitude for all that you made possible for, and during, Munchkin’s birth, but I honestly know that we could not have done it, or felt so resolved about it, without your support, kindness and help.”

I remain eternally thankful for her – and for women like her – who, in every sense of the word, care for the women they work with.

My feelings about my care, my treatment in hospital and the demented guidelines for women in labour are another story entirely. This is not the place for them. What I wanted to point out here – on International Midwife Day – was simply how extraordinary it was for us to receive the kind of care that I would only expect from the private sector.

Put simply, our midwife is a walking angel.

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