The birth of Antenatal Training UK
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 my first waterbirth, the little boy who stared up at me through his mother thighs waiting for the moment he could fully wriggle into the world. 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….. Trigger warning - Please skip the text in the box below.
There is something about seeing no less than 9 student doctors come forward to do an unconsented vaginal examination, while the woman is sedated. Hearing your midwifery mentor tell a woman her baby will die if she does not do as she is told, seeing an unconsented episiotomy preformed, parents being scared into inductions in case baby dies (but not on a Saturday, Sunday, Bank Holiday or over Christmas - work that one out!) and above all hearing stories and seeing parents come away from their experience full of shock.
This changes you. It changes and rearranges everything I believed Midwifery was. I worked out that, (unless you are strong like some of amazing Midwives I have worked with), it takes around 7 years from qualification to become an institutionalised Midwife. I also knew I could not do it.
It was breaking me after just two years, and I was not willing to take the risk that I'd end up like them.
Ever heard the expression - You dont know, what you dont know? It is especially true for our parents. Childbirth classes are designed to essentially support their knowledge so they can make appropriate decisions in their care. Simple? Nope. You see a parents experience is "PotLuck". Ideally a Midwife should discuss all care options and the parents should be central to that care. Only that doesnt happen - fear of litigation, fear of going aginst policies, differing policies, time, culture of bullying - I could go on, but you get the idea.
My experiences created a firm resolve that something had to be done about this. And so, going into my 3rd year, I withdrew from my midwifery degree to focus on childbirth education. With rising mental health concerns among new parents and rising birth trauma reports, I knew something urgently needed to be done. It was very clear to me that as a childbirth educatior I could really make an impact that I couldnt in any other role. Interestingly enough, four of my old student Midwife friends, have turned from Midwifery to Antenatal education - THE POWER OF THE EDUCATOR RULES!!! lol.
I firmly believe as Childbirth Educators we can make that difference. 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?
For transparency, I have described my story to allow others to understand what the maternity world is like, and why my experiences and knowledge base diverted me into childbirth education.
It is not intended to imply that I am a qualified Midwife.