Calling the Midwives: A Personal Essay: WHO Year and the Nurse and the Midwife
Guest Post by MarieC
Marie C is mother to one human, two felines, and a husband, living in Gippsland, Australia. She does aerial fitness in her spare time and has picked up Bullet Journaling as a COVID hobby. She hopes to become a teacher sometime this century and maybe publish a book if she ever finds the time. Her favourite colour is purple and one of her many obsessions is Doctor Who.
January 31st, 2020. 1:46am. That’s when I became a mother.
This is not my birth story though. This is my midwife story. That is, my experience with all the many midwives who contributed to bringing my son into this world safely.
The first midwife I dealt with was actually a Nurse Practitioner at my local clinic. Due to my BMI and a family history of diabetes, I was tested at 10 weeks pregnant for Gestational Diabetes. I tested positive and was hauled in the very next day to discuss the diagnosis. This particular nurse started as a midwife and so she worked closely with the obstetric cases within the clinic and that’s why she’s included in this story.
Now normally after the first trimester I would have all or most of my appointments with the midwives at the hospital. For whatever reason, which thoroughly confused the hospital staff, I didn’t. All my appointments went through my general practitioner (GP), who was also one of the GPs for the maternity ward. For this reason, the next midwife I saw was for my booking in appointment for the hospital and then I didn’t really see any until my 3rd trimester.
In my third trimester, before the birth, I saw a total of 3 midwives. One was for a movement check. I had read all these things about how much your baby should be moving and how not enough movement is the first sign of a problem. My son always had been (and still is) the chillest baby you ever did meet. My husband got to feel one kick the entire pregnancy. Even when he was born the midwives were worried and trying to get him to cry because he only gave one soft little cry and they thought something was wrong because of it (As his mother, I knew he was fine, he just isn’t as much of a loudmouth as me). It was because of the hype around movements and his total lack in that department that I found myself getting hooked up to the monitor and spending an hour poking, jiggling, drinking cold water, talking, and singing just to get this kid to MOVE. The midwife was lovely and encouraging and giving me ideas to get him moving and laughing with me as he continued to not move. She was less than impressed when I referred to him as stubborn though. (Just an FYI, in my family, stubborn isn’t an insult. Saying he was stubborn was like saying he was going to have blue eyes or brown hair. It’s just a genetic trait in our family.) After an hour or so, he finally kicked, real hard, just above my belly button where one of the monitors sat.
The second time I saw a midwife before the birth was for a pre-eclampsia check.
Spoiler Alert: I did not have pre-eclampsia.
One of my husband’s colleagues misconstrued a check to mean that I definitely had it. That was awkward. I had stupidly swollen feet and nothing I did was really helping so just to be safe, off we went at 10’o’clock at night to pee in a cup and again wait for this kid to kick. It was a quiet night on the ward so we got to sit and chat with our midwife and she was just lovely. I remember walking away that night and saying to my husband: “Her. I want her at my delivery.” Another spoiler: I was in hospital for 6 days for the birth with 3 shifts of midwives every day. She probably was there at some stage but I met so many midwives I can’t remember all of their names.
Finally the third was when I went to the breastfeeding clinic for a prenatal class. The clinic is run by specialist midwives called Lactation Consultants (LC). The LCs I dealt with were also lovely and very sweet and gentle. They gave me everything I needed, both in knowledge and equipment, for expressing colostrum pre-birth (not a necessity for all pregnancies, but I was considered high risk due to the diabetes and so it’s recommended so my baby could just have my milk instead of formula should something go wrong, which it did). I also met with them after the birth when I was having feeding issues and they watched me nurse him and gave me tips and suggestions to make things easier!
At 38 weeks, on a Tuesday in January, I went in to the hospital for an induction. My birth story is another essay on its own so I’ll keep it simple. The induction took 3 days. They used the Cervadil tape, Syntocinon drip, and artificially ruptured my membrane TWICE and after 3 days, including 17 hours of labour, my son was born via an emergency caesarean. As previously mentioned, I met a LOT of midwives during my hospital stay. Generally they would come in 2-3 times during a shift to check mine and the baby’s vitals and write down some observations. I’m not going to detail every last midwife I had, but there are 4 that really stood out among the rest.
First was Heidi. Heidi had about 3 shifts at least during my stay. I first met her on day 2, when I was really frustrated and sorely uninformed. The midwife that morning had introduced herself and then never came back for any observations. I had been under the impression we would be delivering that day and was laying there waiting to be taken across to one of the delivery rooms. Finally I let my mum in because I clearly wasn’t going. Then we were told 3 different stories as to why I hadn’t been taken over and also when the doctors would be coming to check my progress. Heidi was the supervising midwife that day and also the following day. Heidi is very good at her job and friendly too. She managed to calm me and my mother and get to the bottom of the mix up. She constantly would check on us and inform us throughout her shift both days. Her third shift was a couple days later and so she got to meet my son before we left.
The second was the midwife who looked after me for the worst part of my delivery. Unfortunately I can’t remember her name, but she was a miracle worker and I’m so glad she was there. During active labour, one midwife is assigned to you for the entire shift so nothing goes unobserved and there is continuity of care. I was the only person for her to look after and she was the only person looking after me. She also had been doing this for 20 odd years and was now training others to do it too. She wasn’t just kind and gentle like the others, she also protected me. The doctors were instructing her to increase the hormones again, but she fought them on it. She saw this poor girl, having her first baby, doubled over and crying from the pain that was not ebbing and flowing like it’s supposed to and who was trying every possible suggestion to cope with it: Nitrous oxide, moving, changing positions, exercise ball, water therapy in the shower, massage… She saw me and she put her foot down for me. She taught my husband and my mother a massage technique that was the ONLY thing to truly relieve the pain for even a moment. When I couldn’t do it anymore and I asked about the epidural, she (and my mother) told me that it was okay and that I wasn’t a failure for making that choice. This woman was my hero.
The third was Courtney. Courtney actually knew my husband from school. She was with me in the last hours of birth. She was there as the decision was made that we had to go for a caesarean. She was in the operating room with me and my husband during the surgery. She stayed with my husband as he went with our son to the resuscitation table. She was there talking to me as they took me into recovery and placed a warm blanket on me and told me I could sleep now if I wanted to. She was there when I woke up and rolled me up to the nursery to see my baby. She even made me the best ham and cheese toastie I’ve ever had at 4 in the morning.
I’ve left Vicky for last. I want this to be an honest account of my experience with midwives and if I only wrote about the superheroes, then it wouldn’t be honest. Vicky was one of the midwives I had after the birth and she was the complete opposite of everyone else. She didn’t ask permission to come in or to touch me. If my son didn’t latch straight away, she would grab my breast and his head and make him latch. She spoke of her strong political views and often complained about her work to me. I have never before submitted a complaint about someone, but I did submit one about her.
There are just a few more I’d like to mention:
- The night-shift midwife from my second night who came when I called because I was breaking down and couldn’t handle the combination of Baby Blues and cluster-feeding. She took my son and looked after him while I got a whopping 2 hours of sleep.
- The same night-shift midwife who the next night picked up on a heart murmur that no one else had noticed in 3 days.
- The midwives who came to my home everyday for an entire week while we battled jaundice and waited to hear from the Maternal Child Health Nurse.
- The midwives on the ‘Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby’ hotline who listened to my sometimes ridiculous concerns and advised me whether I could take certain medication or should contact the hospital or sometimes just assuaged my anxious Mum-brain.
- And last but certainly not least, the two student midwives who assisted either through support throughout the pregnancy or during labour itself. They were learning but still so helpful and kind.
Basically, midwives are amazing. It takes a special soul to support an expectant or new mum and to help guide our children into this world safely. Like in any industry or role, there are the sour ones that ruin it for others, and sometimes they’re fine at the job, but the personalities clash. Whatever the reason, you’re perfectly within your rights to ask for another midwife. 99% of them, though, are superheroes and guardian angels. I don’t know where my son and I would be today without them.