Lockdown is getting me down. I want a man. No I want a few men. Sorry – apologies for being hetronormatative. I wouldn’t mind a few young women as well, maybe an older woman so long as she’s fit enough to sleep in an uncomfortable chair overnight.
Antenatal ward is now my least favourite place to work. Since COVID there are no visitors allowed on either the antenatal or postnatal ward. When someone is in labour then one birth partner is allowed to be with them. They can stay for a few hours after the birth but then they have to go.
On postnatal ward this is difficult. On antenatal ward it’s a nightmare. Some people are there because of health issues in their pregnancy and that’s a hard enough time to be alone. Many however are in early labour or being induced. So they are having frequent abdominal cramping without even the honour of being allowed to be ‘in labour’ proper. And they are on their own.
The other night I raced between 5 women who were all in pain, anxious and alone. I did my best to reassure them whilst covering half my face with a mask and only touching them with gloves on. Imagine running up to your mum after falling over and she only gently dabs you on the shoulder after hurriedly getting a pair of marigolds on. That wouldn’t have stopped me crying I’m sure.
Also all the women being induced in the hospital have some issue with their pregnancy, so a big part of my brain is thinking about their blood pressure, symptoms, blood test results, fetal heart trace. Medical stuff. Being a midwife is always a weird balance of soft comforting skills and harder technical skills. Part mum part half-arsed doctor. But these poor women didn’t have anyone else. They needed full mum and I was just too stretched to give it to them.
It has ,at least, brought into sharp focus the use that birth partners (normally men) have to midwifery. There are still quite a few midwives, often older women who will complain about men getting in the way on the ward. Even they have to admit now that it’s much easier when you have someone else offering support, and fetching food or water, and being a pair of arms to give someone a hug.
Towards the morning I checked in on one of the women who was in because she had had some bleeding. I wasn’t anxious about her as I knew her bleeding had settled and trusted her to have let me know if it had got worse, so she had been pretty much ignored overnight.
“Hi, did you sleep ok? Any more bleeding? Is baby moving ok?” I blasted her with questions so it would sound like I had actually been doing my job when I handed over care.
She dutifully answered and then said, “It was busy last night for you wasn’t it, it must be very difficult at the moment. Well I suppose it’s always a difficult job.” Then she drifted off but with an expression of someone trying to think of some other way to keep the conversation going. In my addled exhausted state I didn’t understand at first and then I got it. She was lonely, she was stuck in hospital alone and hadn’t had a proper conversation with anyone face to face for days. And we were pretty much ignoring her because she wasn’t in pain.
I wanted to sit with her, have a nice human conversation and I probably would have done. But then the buzzer went. Bed 4a asking if she could have another dose of codeine so that conversation never happened…