Saturday, September 13, 2008

A midwife's struggle

A midwife who has ceased her private practice wrote this letter, which is shared on this blog with the writer's permission:
"I have been wanting to become more involved but have absolutely no energy, can't even think very straight at present and consider that I am in some part burnt out, whether by life in general, or the experience of my foray into homebirth or both - I really don't know. I believe very strongly though that I will recover and have the energy and passion once again to be a force for women, babies and families. At present, I ache with the pain of the daily abuses I see being condoned in the name of safety. I am getting along in the postnatal wards, and take some small measure of satisfaction from the response I have to being kind, compassionate and patient with the women that I see there.
"I feel I want to weep most of the time, but the reality is that I need to continue to provide for MY family and this is my profession. Sounds like martyrdom when I think about it, but I really do get a lot out of being able to let families know that it doesn't have to be this way and that they have rights."

This story is not unusual. Many midwives are longing to be part of a more humane, woman-centred midwifery care structure, but the realities of their lives and current maternity services are like a restrictive fence that they can see through but not pass through. I want to thank the midwives and others who are working to reform maternity care for all women. I would also like to honor and encourage the midwives who have given it a go, but not been able to find a place for their dream yet. Keep your dream. Keep your midwife identity. Be ready to be 'with woman' when the opportunity presents, even when that opportunity is a shift in the postnatal ward of a hospital in which 50% of the women are post caesarean.

Remember the Bible story of Noah and the great flood. We are told that after the rain had stopped and the waters began to recede, Noah sent first a raven, then a dove out of the ark, and they came back, not being able to find a place to nest. After seven days Noah sent the dove again, and it came back with a freshly plucked olive leaf. After another seven days Noah sent the dove a third time, and this time it did not return.
The midwife who tries to offer a better maternity service for women, and is unable to sustain it, is like the dove who returned with the sprig of the living olive tree. She can see the possibilities, but is not quite ready. The time will come when that dove leaves and is able to set up her own nest.
Joy Johnston


Joy Johnston said...

I am posting this for a midwife who wrote to me:
I had only found your Victorian Midwives blog today. Thank you ... it is hard keeping the faith in the face of the adversity that arises in the system and the apathy of some who seem to have no conscience or awareness of their actions. I relish the information and look forward to seeing if I can make it to some of the education on offer.

doulabelly said...

Joy, I am a Doula in Ballarat and I have heard these words from many midwives. They work with compassion, kind words and gentle touch, never showing how exhausted they may be. They keep the idea of 'womans power to birth' alive, which is not easy, especially in the hospital setting. Where would we be without these beautiful women. Thankyou!