I am also a voice from down under who joined the list as a midwife and in March I will be starting private practice as a Perinatal Psychologist – and will still be a midwife.
I have had innumerable midwives and midwifery students tell me that they will be seeing me as soon as I start as they have felt marginalised, ostracised, intimidated, battered and badly hurt because of how they have been treated in their practice or because of the dreadful things they have seen women experience – and this is the 21st century………..
I have seen women over the last 12 months of supervised practice who have been left feeling empty, shattered, violated and far worse because of their experiences and not just because of undesirable or adverse birth outcomes. Too many of them experienced births that were deemed a safe outcome for mother and baby, even a normal birth, but within that the mother’s psychological status was not even recognised let alone considered because of competing/conflicting interests between health professionals, outright bullying towards them, aggression and anger, and more……….
My mantra has become —— A safe birth is not enough ——- it is not sufficient to say the baby and mother were ‘saved’, when in reality they will both suffer as the mother is unable to form an attachment to her baby and they can both fall into deep sadness and loss – it is distressing to see. Women carry the burden of their labour and birth for their lives and it will either continue to weigh them down and debilitate them or it can be a joyful affirming memory for them.
Midwifery students are the future of the profession and to see them worn down before they even commence professional practice is a tragedy and often their ‘sin’ is simply being woman centred; midwives who advocate with women and are likewise woman centred pay a heavy price for this as well and they too often are not able to recover from this and suffer for the rest of their lives with a burden of emotional and physical pain.
I have also had medical students share their shock at what they have seen and experienced in the maternity care arena and vow to keep well out of it as professionals.
This is not new – what is wrong with us?
I have avoided naming who did what to whom – the experience inflictions are shared between groups. There are also wonderful midwives and obstetricians in maternity care but sadly not all are wonderful. I have thought about this for so long and considered the possible power of local and national efforts and also been involved in interprofessional teaching between midwifery and medical students but it has not ever been enough.
I think it is time for concerted genuine international address so that the same shared message is disseminated and the same shared strategies are activated globally – it is not good enough for women to be part of this and we can never say births are safe while this continues around and to them.
Sorry for the length – it obviously struck a cord and I thank you for reading this and hopefully thinking about this.
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BIOGRAPHY Heather Hancock RN RM PhD FRCNA FACM MAPS is a midwife and psychologist (specialising in perinatal psychology). Heather has had significant involvement in midwifery research and education including development and coordination of Bachelor and Master of Midwifery programs, and continues to practice as a midwife. Heather has developed home birth and midwifery group practice models of care, worked as a midwife in public urban, rural, regional and remote settings, private settings and women’s homes and conducted evaluations of models of practice. Heather has worked with Aboriginal women and their families in evaluating perinatal health and wellbeing, developing quality indicators for maternity services for Aboriginal women and improving access to continuity of midwifery carer for Aboriginal women in remote communities. Heather has been recognised with Teaching Excellence awards and also been Midwife of the Year; she is a Fellow of the Australian College of Midwives (ACM) and the Chair of the ACM Midwifery Education Advisory Committee. Currently, Heather is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide and is involved in various national and international journals as a reviewer. Heather is also an Accreditation Assessor for Nursing, Nurse Practitioner and Midwifery with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council. Heather is a Mentor Researcher for the Rural Research Capacity Building Program (NSW Institute of Rural Clinical Services and Teaching). Heather is co-author with Lareen Newman of Better Birth which has been revised and is being re-released in May 2013 as an ebook.