‘If I had to give any advice to anyone who felt isolated and different, I’d tell them this: yes, you’re different. That’s good. Difference is magic, difference is wonderful. Trying to be the same as everybody else is a strategy that kind of works in school but when you get out into the world it is your differences that makes you glorious. It is your differences that actually set you apart...’
This is a quote from the writer Neil Gaiman. I like writers, they notice things other people don’t.
I remember feeling different in practice, all the way through from training into qualifying. I wasn’t a girly girl, I got told to ‘put some slap on’ but I’ve never really been into makeup or straightening my hair. I’ve been bookish, outdoorsy, into climbing and running. I wasn’t even that interested in babies.
But I did find the women fascinating.
The irony is, I think everyone has moments of feeling like they don’t fit in, in midwifery. Professor Mavis Kirkham has written about midwives needing to feel like they can be individuals to be able to celebrate and care for women as individuals.
The problem is that because midwifery is so challenging, we want to fit in to have the support of others.
Small group practices are great at fostering truly supportive relationships between midwives. But bigger units mean sometimes, just to make life easy, we pretend that we do/don’t enjoy going out drinking, that we care/don’t care what Kate Middleton is up to or we’re into nice little vintage charity shops, just like our manager when really we couldn’t care less what we wear on our days off.
I’m not saying any of these things are wrong or right, you get to have your own taste. But making an effort to fit in is not belonging. It’s exhausting and feels a bit fake. We need to stay close to each other and be on each other’s side if we want to eradicate bullying and promote kindness.
What would it be like if you could walk into practice knowing you can say that you don’t like Strictly but do like the Scandi crime drama The Bridge, without ridicule or judgement?
Or that you secretly, or not so secretly, listen to The Backstreet Boyson repeat?
Or that for the first time in your adult life, you’re in a relationship with someone who’s the same sex as you, and it’s wonderful?
Because being able to discuss the small differences and still feel like you belong leads to the bigger differences being ok. Being accepted as you. And that, in turn, means we accept the women as themselves. The midwifery workforce will reflect the diversity of the population as a whole.
I also think we should be letting everyone have the (clinically safe) haircut and colour they want, but that’s a controversial one I know!
Sometimes, when people are different from us, it evokes strong feelings. If you’re working in a big unit right now and a colleague or woman is so different from you that this happens, can you get curious about why this is? Is it more to do with yourself than it is to do with the client or staff member in question?
If we can resist assumptions, gossip or making up details about people that aren’t really there, we’ll be doing a good job at building a kind midwifery culture.
It’s worth repeating this last bit: I think we should stay close to each other. We need this.
To kindness in midwifery,