‘My wife said I should let someone else take on their fight as it was clearly making me ill, but I didn’t listen.
In fact, the pressure of working in this toxic, back stabbing environment had a devastating effect on my homelife. I have always enjoyed a social pint, but the stress of the bullying had me wound up like a coiled spring ready to snap at whoever came near me.
I would stay awake at night with what I had been subjected to during that day or what might happen the day after running through my head. Having a drink, or should I say a few each evening on returning from work, made me fall asleep heavily and I avoided being awake for most of the night. A combination of the alcohol and my foul mood meant that when I walked into the lounge at home at the end of the day, my children would walk out one by one until I was on my own. I used to sit and listen to them and my wife talking and laughing in the dining/kitchen without me. They wouldn’t have done that with me there.
Even the family dog spent less time with me. So I just sat and drank until I fell asleep. This meant that I would not get into our marital bed of an evening. In fact, my usual place to sleep was on the sofa over most of the three years and certainly in the last 18 months. With hindsight, I think I was depressed to some extent. I read an article by Carolyn Hastie about how a student midwife she knew had committed suicide due to the bullying she had been subjected to. I can honestly say that I never considered doing anything as brave as taking my own life. However, I definitely went to sleep at night on plenty of occasions hoping that I would not wake up in the morning. My reasoning behind this was that my hell would end.’
Not everyone is going to commit suicide or become depressed because they’ve been bullied. But some will.
This reflection is from an experienced consultant midwife Ian Kemp who suffered years of bullying and who will be speaking at the Kindness Conference. Hearing stories like this is key.
The student midwife Ian is referring to is called Jodie Wright. I first heard about Jodie a few years ago when I spoke alongside midwifery researcher, lecturer and change maker Carolyn Hastie, at The Physiological Birth Conference 2014. You can read her story here.
The fact bullying is in midwifery at all should make us worry about our rights. I agree with Carolyn Hastie when she suggests midwives are a burdened community, fighting to advocate for women when they are continually denied the resources and self-care they need to give the type of care they want. You get bullying in many oppressed groups.
It’s an absolute tragedy that Ian felt he didn’t want to wake up in the morning and Jodie felt she had to kill herself.
It’s an even bigger tragedy if we don’t learn from these lessons.
If you’ve felt that despair and wanted this exit strategy, please don’t follow that path. We need you too much in this fight for kindness. Here’s the Samaritans number. Or The National Bullying Helpline number:
We want to hear about it so we can learn. Tell those feelings to eff off, from us, the group who care deeply about your experiences, who want things to change.
Come and find the ones who value you and we promise we’re working on all this.
For everyone else, please remember how vital this conversation is. We haven’t even touched on the issues that come out of this for women and families.
To kindness in midwifery,