There is, of course, one momentous positive about being a midwife. It’s such an obvious one that it almost goes unmentioned a lot of the time in midwifery circles. Yes, it’s lovely to help to empower women; yeah, it’s great to be an autonomous professional and all the other stuff but really, honestly, it’s pretty straightforward. This is our job’s unique selling point: midwives get to see an actual real, tiny, human being emerge from another human being – that is quite mental, as well as an honour and a privilege.
We are not even just passive witnesses – with any luck, we are helping this event to happen. This could cue a massive debate as a nice, natural birth doesn’t need any intervention at all. But let’s avoid that at the moment and assume we have helped. Maybe by creating a perfect supportive atmosphere that feels homely but offers the protection of wisdom and safety. At this stage in my career I’m happy if I just feel I’ve said some nice things and not dropped anything really important on the floor. For whatever reason women seem to feel incredibly grateful and talk as if the miracle (and I’m happy as an atheist to steal that word because nothing else comes close) that what they have just done could not have occurred without me.
So not only do we get to witness an astounding event that beats even a really good David Attenborough and seems to feel incredibly moving however many times I see it, but we get the credit for it. I’m sorry but I feel moved to use an exclamation mark !!!!!. That’s better….
I think that one of the dangers in midwifery is to start believing your audience (who, remember are pretty much out of their faces on natural hormones and possibly quality pharmaceutical products) and feel that it really could not have happened without you. It could all become a dangerous god-complex, helping to create life on a regular basis. That’s an accusation often thrown at doctors but I think midwives could develop a less arrogant but still very twisted version if not careful. Maybe it’s why doctors and nurses sometimes call us “madwives”.
So if you’ve had a good birth experience and you feel like sending in a card to your midwife please do. It will cheer her up immensely and she can even take a photocopy of it as evidence for her revalidation by the NMC. Both important things. But maybe don’t say “I could never have done it without you,” because there is just no way on earth that’s true. Midwives just smile sympathetically whilst following protocols – it’s not always easy but in no way does it trump creating life.