Before we start, Debs does a ton of free support for clients, students and staff in the midwifery world. If you would like to support her in this, see her KoFi link here.
At the beginning of January 2018, I thought about all the inspirational birth world people I’m in contact with.
I wanted to have a pool of encouraging, motivational interviews on Midwife Diaries which also had 'nuts and bolts' strategies for the midwifery community to draw on.
I developed some questions to send out to those women and men who I know have stories to tell and ideas to add to midwifery's cultural bloodstream.
The response has been amazing. I have some brilliant advice sitting in my inbox and I'm enjoying the meeting of minds that happens when I get to post these interviews.
This week I’d like to introduce Debs Neiger. She's a bit of a bad ass, an independent midwife from the Yorkshire Storks collective. If you're in The Secret Community for Midwives in the Making you'll likely recognise her name; the support and insight from her 20 years of midwifery experience often help us think through controversial topics like breastfeeding, termination of pregnancy and free birth. She loves cats, knitting, walking all by herself and food (good food).
Here we go!
What’s the best money you’ve ever spent on an item or experience that relates either to midwifery practice or your self care as a midwife?
My fetoscope. I bought it many years ago in the US I think. It eliminates/reduces the use of ultrasound during antenatal care and the joy that spreads over mother‘s, father‘s and siblings‘ faces when they realise that the soft thumping they can hear is the baby‘s/babies‘ heartbeat is priceless. It is also a fabulous clinical tool.....just last week I used my fetoscope to exactly determine the position of a set of twins booked for homebirth with our independent midwifery collective. As a team (the mother, me and my fetoscope) we nailed it I think.
*Edit from Ellie: there's a good description of what a fetoscope is and the advantages here (it's essentially a pinard with a headrest and earphones like on a stethoscope).
What is your favourite moment of personal ‘failure’ you’ve experienced in midwifery – something that you now remember fondly or have made a ‘come back’ from?
*note from Ellie...Debs is an amazing midwife. Therefore I love this story as it shows how we can get stuff wrong even if we're brilliant!
Many years ago I worked on a postnatal ward when I answered a call bell from a newly birthed mother. She was sitting on the edge of the bed with her new baby, looking anxious and distressed. She said to me: 'My baby has gone blue.‘ On inspection the baby did indeed look rather blue, so I grabbed the baby and ran to the resuscitaire down the corridor. On arrival it became clear that this baby was blue, yes, BUT also in very fine fettle and rather cross due to the mad dash we‘d just had. I took her back to her mother immediately who was still sitting on the edge of the bed, albeit MORE upset and distressed. It transpired that this baby just had rather a lot facial congestion/bruising from a rapid birth, but was absolutely fine. What the mother actually HAD said to me was: 'I need the loo!‘ The moral of the story: Never assume, even in stressful situations. Ahem.
If you could put a sign up on every labour ward or work place for midwives worldwide, with a big message for every member of staff, what would it say?
Listen to your women and actually HEAR them. Always. They will tell you almost EVERYTHING you need to know.
What is something unusual you do as a midwife – is there something a bit odd you do or love which really helps in practice? (You can interpret this however you want!)
I share a lot about myself. As a midwife who provides continuity of care throughout the antenatal, birth and postnatal period, I build close and longlasting relationships with the women in my care and that relationship is a two ways street. And I like it that way. (I think women do too.)
Caffeine or not caffeine for shiftwork?
Always caffeine. Unfortunately. No plans to change that though.
In the last five years, what is one realisation about midwifery that has improved your practice or life as a midwife?
I have realised that I can‘t fix everything in a woman‘s life. I can help her by providing loving, kind and respectful care throughout her birthing year, but sometimes we have to leave women where they are at. And that is ok.
That last one is profoundly important for all of us. We can try as hard as possible but we can't change people - we have influence at best. That's not to say we don't have a huge impact on women, just that having realistic expectations will help us stay motivated and healthy as midwives.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did. Could you leave Debs and I a comment letting us know your most important realisation from her answers?
And also, do you know of an inspirational student or midwife who you think I should interview? We all know and love some of the big names in midwifery but I’m very aware that many brilliant midwifery leaders do their work under the radar – yet these are people we could learn a huge amount from.
P.S. You may have noticed we had to abandon our midwifery admissions tutor Q and A last week due to some technical difficulties! But we are running it this week - it's now 7.30 pm tomorrow (Thursday 1st Feb) over on The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making - it's on the admissions process and UCAS and you can also ask about interviews, grades and anything else you need to know to achieve your midwifery goals. Join us here.