I spent most of my Midwifery training in tears.....
Isn't the world wonderful? I had a bright, cheeky daughter, 7 equine fur babies, travelled the world to places like Goa, South Africa and Thailand and I owned a gorgeous chocolate box cottage. This is where I ran my marketing agency from, contracting for companies like McDonalds, Saab and Lhiost (yes I had to be taught how to pronounce that one as well!).
The sun shone, my world was full of happiness and love.
Memories: My daughter’s birth wasn't a natural birth, but it was a great experience. Birth matters.
My sassy 2-year-old, insisting she could jump the horses like Mummy. At this point I was show jumping internationally, running international events and having great fun.
Posing on a beach in Goa, and visiting a rescue centre in Thailand.
My now 23-year-old, and her horse, Tiny.
Then 2008 happened. The great big fat banking crisis.
The events and marketing industry collapsed. Unemployment doubled overnight; the housing market crashed.
Now you would be forgiven to think that this was my reason for switching careers, but it was that my friends started having babies. It has nothing to do with the crash really. The crash just gave me room to breathe.
The more I listened to their stories, the more fascinated I became in birth, the more I fell in love. I started my midwifery training in 2009.
I have mixed memories of my time as a student midwife. I remember my first “catch”.
The Father asked me what “it” was.
“It's a baby!” I exclaimed, as I handed the newborn girl to her Mother. I was in awe of what I had just witnessed. That's my excuse and I’m sticking to it 😊. We did have a right giggle over that one!
I recall comforting parent whose baby had died, we all cried together. I remember chatting to a pregnant teen mother about feeding, who then had her mother hunt me down to help her breastfeed when the baby was born. Give up my break to help her? of course.
Then there were other memories…
Women being told the baby would die if they didn’t do as they were told. Women being abused under anaesthetic. I won’t continue, I’m sure you get the idea.
The experience a parent would have was total potluck. How can this be right?
My experiences created a firm resolve that something had to be done about the total mess that a lot of parents’ encounter. Whilst I can’t change the NHS as a midwife, I can change how parents interact with this service as an educator. And so, my path diverted towards the world of childbirth education and the connection to mental health. With rising mental health concerns among new parents and rising birth trauma reports, I knew something urgently needed to be done.
For the past 8 years I have been running childbirth classes in several locations across the Midlands. During this time, I undertook research by working with One 2 One Midwives and Independent Midwives, to investigate the best way to impact on mental health through the provision of childbirth classes.
I firmly believe as Antenatal Educators we can make that difference. BUT we need to throw away the old school way of teaching – Pass the doll through the pelvis anyone? If anyone has a single clue why on earth parents need to know about when the baby flexes or when it extends, and to see the doll get stuck part way through, please let me know. Restitution though? yes, but that’s the bit that never gets taught!
How about recognising that Males change both physically and mentally during pregnancy and parenting too? Nope again not covered. They can rub their partners back or sit quietly in the corner out the way.
With the right childbirth classes, we can, not just talk about empowerment and choice, but help parents build resilience for their journey. We can support their mental health, build their support team. We can reduce this prevalence of birth trauma and suicide.
I believe the right Childbirth Education delivered in the right way CAN make a difference.
We also need to prove it though. Through classes ran under the banner of Birth+ we can use the information gathered to adjust what, and how we teach, in order to measure results and make the impact that is so desperately needed. To do this I need a network of sucessful educators...
Will you join me in changing birth?