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The Kindness Conference

 

Lunch

Lunch is not provided on the day of the conference.  There are several eateries within walking distance of the university, or you are welcome to bring your own lunch with you. 

Car Parking and location of conference

You are able to park on campus on the day of the event.  A map is here which shows the locations of the car parks.  For ease, we suggest you use the Longside Lane A or B car parks, or the Shearbridge car park.  There are barriers on all entrances to the car parks however security will let you in - just use the buzzer and tell them you’re coming to the Kindness Conference.

The car parks have plenty of spaces and are a short walk from the lecture theatre which is in Horton Building D Wing shown on the map.  There will be maps/helpers around who will direct you to the lecture theatre if you are unsure of where to go.

To see the full-size timetable, please click here.

These are world class conference speakers ranging from researchers, to an independent midwife, to the most experienced and respected consultant midwives in the country.

Speakers each have twenty minutes to present their best reflections and ideas on this subject and after that, we will open the floor for ten minutes so discussion can flow.

Everyone at the conference is invited to bring their questions and thoughts and all opinions and stories will be respected and valued.

A panel discussion will round off the day.

I was sat at my desk on a sunny August evening. It’d been a typically challenging day, up at six, an hour of editing my midwifery novel, then making a video, answering emails and chatting to student midwives, some who were elated and some who were on the verge of giving up. I’d hit the exhausted stage. Day three of working 12 hours+ mainly in front of a screen. I’d used up my reserve and didn’t want to admit it.

I still had a massive to-do list and I was at that horrible stage of feeling too guilty to give up but too tired to get anything done. I had a message from a student who had a difficult mentor, an email from someone angry with me (this happens when you work online – I can’t get it right for everyone it seems, I’m sure you know the feeling) and another from an experienced midwife who was finding a particular colleague really hard work. I felt like I had to respond to everyone immediately but couldn’t. While I value everyone who wants to get in touch, sometimes I’ve had it.

After scrolling through Facebook, reading comments in The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making but not actually being able to respond to anything, I realised I was just pretending to work. Hours can disappear this way.

As often happens in such moments a Brené Brown quote popped into my head. In her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ she describes an evening where she was sucked into social media, frittering time away, but not finding any relief or reward.

She suggests to herself, ‘Do something deliberately relaxing. Find something inspiring to do rather than something soul-sucking.

Good advice that I couldn’t seem to take.

I did manage to log off from Facebook but my problem is that in these moods I need to feel I’m doing something useful. It’s often too painful to just stop.

I decided to do some Amazon shopping. I needed some stationary for the business and these were boring jobs needing price comparison but not much effort.

But after five minutes or so, no useful decisions were emerging from the biggest organ I own, just a dense fog of thoughts like ‘you’re not good enough’ and ‘who d’you think you’re fooling’. Thanks brain, really.

I want to focus on kindness.

30 Days of Kindness in Midwifery

 

Find out why I and others have been writing about kindness in midwifery for 30 days. You might not think you have much to learn on this topic but I bet we'll surprise you.

Self-care

As I filled my basket, I saw one of the films I was entitled to watch on Amazon was ‘Beauty and The Beast’. It was the new version, with Emma Watson.

I considered. I sort of like Disney. As a child I loved Pocahontas, anything where girls got to run around barefoot and go kayaking was a hit with me. But some of my friends know every lyric from The Lion King so I know there’s a level of obsession I’m not at yet. I don’t think I saw the original Beauty and The Beast until I was about fourteen and by then I was an emerging feminist who got very earnest about things like whether or not that kind of plot was glamorising Stockholm Syndrome. Perhaps I hadn’t taken the opportunity to enjoy it.

I’d heard the new Beauty and The Beast was supposed to be good. I did have my reservations. These were basically that watching Beauty and The Beast alone was a bit sad and also, the friend I had discussed it with said it didn’t pass the feminist ‘Bechdel Test’. This asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. But she’d made me laugh by saying she was pretty sure it hadn’t passed because Belle spends most of her time talking to a wardrobe and a teapot, so perhaps it was ok.

I wanted to escape for a while, to watch pretty Emma Watson twirl around and sing in her small provincial town.

And you know what? I did it. And it was the right decision.

Something about Emma Watson being fiesty and the magic of flying feather duster lady, in particular, hit the spot. I went to sleep that evening with a lighter heart.

Without your consent?

I was sat at my desk on a sunny August evening. It’d been a typically challenging day, up at six, an hour of editing my midwifery novel, then making a video, answering emails and chatting to student midwives, some who were elated and some who were on the verge of giving up. I’d hit the exhausted stage. Day three of working 12 hours+ mainly in front of a screen. I’d used up my reserve and didn’t want to admit it.

I still had a massive to-do list and I was at that horrible stage of feeling too guilty to give up but too tired to get anything done. I had a message from a student who had a difficult mentor, an email from someone angry with me (this happens when you work online – I can’t get it right for everyone it seems, I’m sure you know the feeling) and another from an experienced midwife who was finding a particular colleague really hard work. I felt like I had to respond to everyone immediately but couldn’t. While I value everyone who wants to get in touch, sometimes I’ve had it.

After scrolling through Facebook, reading comments in The Secret Community For Midwives In The Making but not actually being able to respond to anything, I realised I was just pretending to work. Hours can disappear this way.

As often happens in such moments a Brené Brown quote popped into my head. In her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ she describes an evening where she was sucked into social media, frittering time away, but not finding any relief or reward.

She suggests to herself, ‘Do something deliberately relaxing. Find something inspiring to do rather than something soul-sucking.

Good advice that I couldn’t seem to take.

I did manage to log off from Facebook but my problem is that in these moods I need to feel I’m doing something useful. It’s often too painful to just stop.

I decided to do some Amazon shopping. I needed some stationary for the business and these were boring jobs needing price comparison but not much effort.

But after five minutes or so, no useful decisions were emerging from the biggest organ I own, just a dense fog of thoughts like ‘you’re not good enough’ and ‘who d’you think you’re fooling’. Thanks brain, really.

I was initially reassured by one of the lines in the film delivered by Emma Thompson, who plays Mrs Potts, the teapot. She says ‘People say a lot of things in anger. It is our choice whether or not to listen.

Considering the email in my inbox, this was good to hear. In the morning I started to gain some traction with all my challenges and I got some positive feedback from some student midwives who were using my community.

One said ‘You make me feel not crazy, like other people feel the same’ which made me so happy.

But then I had to return to the angry email and try and work out whether I’d done something wrong and what to do about it. Negative bias means being criticised will always make more of an impact than being praised.

Mrs Potts’ advice didn’t seem to be working in the light of day. I was beginning to wonder if I wasn’t tough enough to be working online.

Days of frantic typing to people with lowered inhibitions (research shows this is how we behave on the internet, as slightly inebriated and able to say things we otherwise wouldn’t) were getting into my head and dragging me down in my scant free time as well.

Beauty and The Beast hadn’t been a bad film, a bit of romance never goes amiss and the effects were pretty amazing. I also like Emma Watson, she has to be one of the most experienced and talented actresses her age. Just being lost for a while is fine and I hadn’t been expecting great philosophy.

That line from the teapot, though, made me think about Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest serving first lady of the USA. She was a feminist too, one who shares my real first name.

Remember her quote ‘No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent’?

It’s another line about not letting people’s words and behaviours affect you.

But in my first year as a qualified midwife I had many experiences of feeling inferior.

Who doesn’t in such a huge new role? Just making it to work and finding scrubs that fit me felt like my main success most days. Forgetting the name of misoprostol in front of my supervisor, accidentally calling the paed team during a resus when they weren’t needed (cringe) and getting locked out of the computer and having to call IT twice in a row because I’d forgotten my password were all on my list. I definitely knew these experiences were normal as I was in good company with other newly qualified midwives.

Big job, big feelings of inferiority, right?

I remember being in one particular inferiority moment, though, with a co-ordinator I found terrifying. She was a strong character and I’d learned not to cross her.

I had to give her an update about a woman I was caring for. I forget why, but there was some concern about her baby and induction had been decided as the best course of action. This midwife asked me what her dilation was.

By this time it was ward round and a crowd of doctors was standing at the desk listening to me. I took a big breath and did my best to sound like a competent professional who knew her stuff.

I rattled off her history to show how impressive I was and then said, ‘She’s 1cm dilated, about 60% effaced, still firm, baby is right occiputo posterior from my palpation.’

The doctors nodded. Some of them were medical students. Phew, I was more experienced than them at least.

The midwife briefly talked to an obstetrician and then said to me ‘Perform an ARM on her’ and turned away.

I pressed my lips together, unsure what to do. She talked to the doctors for a while, clearly still able to see me in her peripheral vision, but ignoring me. I started to sweat. An Artificial Rupture of Membranes would be really tricky with a cervix so high up and I had no faith in my ability to get through that tough ring of muscle. I didn’t want to put the woman through that pain. I wasn’t sure if breaking her waters was the right course of action clinically, it seemed a bit severe. But also, I knew I wasn’t the best person to perform an ARM.

The midwife turned back to me and said, ‘Is there a problem?

Yes,’ I said, ‘I don’t think I can do an ARM. Her cervix is too unfavourable.’

She said, ‘You’ve just told me she is a centimetre dilated. If that’s the case, of course you can do an ARM. Are you unsure about your vaginal examination or something?

Well, I hadn’t been until that moment. But with all the doctors looking at me my cheeks were aflame. She sounded furious.

I just, um, I’m not sure..

Because there’s a guide here, we can go through vaginal examinations if you’d like...

And so she taught me using a plastic model what a vaginal examination felt like, in front of the whole ward round, which was mortifying. I knew vaginal examinations. And I still couldn’t do the ARM afterwards. I was humiliated and felt all the doctors saw I was incompetent.

According to Eleanor Roosevelt, and to some extent, Mrs Potts the teapot, I was supposed to be in command of what I listened to, how I was feeling and how it affected me.

I heard this instruction throughout my time working clinically as a midwife. Stick and stones. Develop rhino skin. You have to be a tough old bird.

Though on occasion I could grab onto this logic and block out some forms of unkindness, and sometimes it even felt like a choice I could be proud of, it took a lot of energy. Shouldn’t this emotional energy be spent on being a better midwife, and caring for the women, I thought?

When it came to intense criticism, especially when it was unfair, or harsher than necessary, it still dropped down into my soul and stayed there, sometimes ruining my confidence for weeks.

Another Level

As I progressed through my first year as a newly qualified midwife, I talked with midwives who were older and wiser than me.

I began to realise that many had been through a rough training ground. It seemed to produce two different kinds of older, experienced midwives: those who basically walked around with wings and a halo and were the most amazing people I’d ever met – and those who breathed fire and poked you with a pitchfork when you were trying your hardest.

One midwife told me that back in the old days the aim was to get students to cry, otherwise it wasn’t thought to be effective teaching.

There was still a huge hangover left from that.

I kept plugging away but all this was very concerning. I believed in the profession, the empowerment of women and the incredible births and women I saw every working day sustained me. But I kept seeing this poor culture pop up.

Sometimes it was really ugly and I saw other midwives reduced to tears. I felt unable to do anything about it at first. Every so often I’d interject, but in the face of such experienced, valued professionals being unkind, I felt powerless.

It all came to a head one night when I’d tried my hardest to uphold the reputation of a particular midwife.

A woman who this midwife had looked after was questioning a piece of her care. I was very professional, very complimentary but I did go through a leaflet with the women so she knew her choices.

This, apparently, was the wrong thing to do. The next shift I tried to talk to the midwife in question about all this, to make sure there were no misunderstandings and the informal chat ended with her screaming a few inches from my face that she was reporting me to the NMC.

I felt like an immature, naive idiot who wasn’t cut out for this role at all.

The reporting never happened, it was just a threat. And another midwife found out about it, gave me a big hug and told me I was fabulous, that she’d been bullied and it was terrible, but not to worry. We were a team.

This moment of connection and support was a flash of warmth and light.

Moments like these saved me in ways that I can’t describe well in words. The research backs this up and you probably know it already. There are moments of aliveness and belonging in midwifery that makes it all worth it. You will find colleagues walking the path with you who will be there when you need them.

Learning

I eventually worked out how to cope with a lot of things. There are techniques you can use for coping with difficult members of staff.

Having clear boundaries is very important.

This stuff can be taught, you can get some finesse in terms of what to say and your body language (even if this doesn’t work 100% of the time, I think EVERY aspiring and student midwife should be taught these as they’re very helpful).

But this wasn’t what moved me forward. It was realising that I’m actually not wrong for feeling hurt and shamed when someone is being aggressive and unfair.

It’s a biological reaction that occurs far too fast for us to do anything about it. When we’re talked down to, or shouted at, much of the time it hits us in our vulnerable places and we have to practice reflection strategies (which again, can be learnt) if we want to climb out of the feeling.

Willing ourselves to just be ‘resilient’ or ‘not let it get to us’ simply doesn’t work in my experience.

Eleanor Roosevelt married her fifth cousin once removed, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She was a great woman who was a politician in her own right and broke tradition by inviting hundreds of African-American guests to the white house, advancing the civil right movement.

But her quote ‘No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ might have come from a very difficult place in her life.

Her husband had several affairs and there is some evidence that she might have been gay but forced to live in a heterosexual marriage.

I think she was an incredible human being, but I also think she was very hurt.

No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ is a reaction from someone on the offensive. It also puts all the responsibility on the person being treated badly. It’s a bit like saying ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks’ and the honest truth is living that way is not sustainable without being damaged, it takes immense effort as we all want approval and to belong.

I don’t want you to always be on the offensive as a midwife. It’s too exhausting, especially when there’s a culture of support out there that outstrips anything I’ve ever known.

There are kindred spirit midwives out there just like you who want to do the work alongside you.

You need your supporters

Perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt had no other choice but to tolerate an unjust situation. I believe that in modern midwifery, we have other options.

I was talking with an experienced midwife from the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM). I’d met her at an ARM meeting, chatted over Jammy Dodgers and had read some of her work in the ARM journal. I knew she was one of the midwives with wings.

I’d phoned her to talk about the conference (more on that later) and we’d discussed how to get the word out.

She told me about a philosophical idea she found helpful, Rudolf Steiner’s ‘thinking, feeling and willing’ that make up a threefold human being. The idea is healthy humans need balance between all three aspects.

In midwifery, we often refer to this idea as ‘Head, Heart, and Hands’.

I realised that the midwives with pitchforks were probably used to leaving their hearts out of the equation, with poor results for those working alongside them, and probably for themselves too.

It can be painful to bring your heart into things. We’re sometimes taught that midwives need to remain clear headed and having our hearts involved can mean we make poor decisions or get distracted from the complex physical skills required.

But what if all of these things need to be in balance? Isn’t ‘compassion’ one of the 6Cs?

What if we made the ‘heart’ bit of care just as important as clinical competencies?

It’s not a new idea, the emotional side of care has always been understood to be important in midwifery, but I still haven’t seen a solid strategy put in place for supporting this in practice.

Having your heart involved with care leaves you open to getting hurt and if there are staff capable of being scathing at your workplace, it makes for emotional insecurity. If we want a profession that cultivates kindness, that has heart involved in the balance of care, changing the culture is important.

I want to address the culture in midwifery.

Previously I’ve put a lot of emphasis on bullying and drawing attention to unjust behaviour. I’m passionate about this and anger can be a great starting point for change.

I also think the stories of those who have been bullied need to be listened to, they’re important as many midwives who have been bullied can teach us strategies for coping and inspire us by the way they have changed practice despite these challenges.

It’s also unjust to deny these things happen, not being heard is so painful.

But while there’s nothing wrong with saying the word ‘bullying’ and getting sunlight on the issue, I don’t believe that anger can keep us going through this process of change.

If we want to transform midwifery and have the good culture rise, we need to focus on solutions.

I want to focus on kindness.

The tools and strategies.

When there is a transformation and a culture changes, we like to attribute it to one all-important turning point moment. Like Ina May Gaskin and her schoolbus of birthing women.

We think of this as the beginning of empowerment of childbearing women and physiological labour care being reintroduced into the developed world.

But change isn’t like that.

Change happens after thousands of conversations, connections being made and the physical presence of supportive people who understand what needs to be done.

It’s likely that years of work will need to go into kind midwifery culture being promoted. Years have passed since that red-faced moment where I was taught to do VEs in front of ward round and it’s only now that I’m standing up with the clarity I need to address this in my own way.

We live in a culture that’s obsessed with getting things done quickly. But almost nothing worth doing can be achieved fast.

I would love to be able to give you every answer but we don’t have them all yet. There are many good questions around how best to organise midwifery and the individual strategies we can use to change practice for the better and care for ourselves.

There are also some amazing teachers and experienced midwives you can learn from about all this but they frequently offer starting points for discussions, rather than tips and tricks.

When it comes to what we don’t know, it’s a great thing that we’re all considering these topics deeply and together.

Midwifery culture isn’t going to be changed by the actions of a few professionals in charge. We think that a top-down approach is the only way things will happen, but that’s only a part of the story. Your own reflections and realisations will be just as crucial.

But you can tell who the midwifery culture experts are as they don’t shy away from the issues. They are happy to say ‘I don’t know, let’s talk about it’ and start detailed, deep conversations about behaviour in midwifery and what it means to professionals, women and society.

I think anyone who’s interested in midwifery right now wants to be part of these conversations. It’s an instinct towards kindness that feels right.

Individuals alone thinking through how to change the culture is not going to do it. If we can keep the dialogue open as we interact with and move through the profession, this will make the change.

Kindness

Midwives have always been a funny lot, independently minded but also part of a clan. I love this about the profession. It’s the knowledge that you can be your own person and also belong.

The bullying behaviour in midwifery concerns me greatly. I’ve heard so many stories about a lack of support, shouting, put downs and the erosion of confidence.

While we’re supposed to be practising in a profession of profound kindness and respect, there is gossip, exclusion and meanness.

Why does this happen?

In my opinion, it comes down to scarcity, exhaustion and hierarchy.

Scarcity is easy to understand in a profession so under pressure. Resources from sanitary towels to doctors are carefully rationed. It makes for tension; when you feel there’s not enough to go around it’s hard to be generous with your emotions.

Midwives work shifts, often don’t get breaks and are under immense emotional and physical pressure with often no chance of an escape, even if it’s really needed. They’re exhausted.

And hierarchy means staff are ranked, which means people of low status are particularly vulnerable to poor behaviour and are sometimes not listened to.

And yet there are pockets of midwives all over the country who have each others backs, fighting for women’s right together. These are practices where they all have wings.

What would happen if we were copying these midwives, communicating openly, collaborating, being honest with each other? Treating each other with the same kindness regardless of hierarchy…

The support structures at the moment often can’t facilitate this kindness. This is an invitation to be part of making something that can.

We’re hoping to prompt the beginning of a change made by experts, midwives, aspiring midwives, students, women and families, and other professionals. There are so many who feel just like you and are on the same journey with the same questions. We’d love you to be involved.

So much of getting the good culture to rise will be about individuals practising kindness and learning techniques for managing poor behaviours. It will also be about selfcare, as midwives have a deeply internalised behaviour of putting their own needs above others’.

I’m sure you realise by now that this is about more than just preventing those at the bottom of the hierarchy from being treated badly, or preventing midwives from leaving the profession.

There’s a deeper layer, something hard to pin down in the research or even when we talk about it, but it’s just as important. It’s about what’s right for midwifery but as pretentious as it might sound, it’s about what’s right for society.

It’s the difference between midwives practising in their current environments and practising in environments they deserve.

It’s about midwives being able to bring their true selves to work.

It’s the difference between standard NHS care and what’s possible when midwifery is the best it can be, that life changing balance between head, heart and hands.

Most midwives don’t talk about it day to day, they’re too busy getting on with things. But also, talking about how midwifery should be requires bravery and honesty. These are uncomfortable, uncertain conversations as they force us to look at midwifery as it is right now and what that means in terms of our society and what we choose to prioritise.

 

30 days of 'Kindness in Midwifery'

If you’d like to read more of the thoughts of myself and others on this topic, I’ve decided to publish an email series, in the run up to the conference.

I’ll send you an email every day for 30 days. In this email series you’ll learn about many of the people I’ve talked to and the ideas we’ve come across in our pursuit of cultivating kindness in midwifery.

-If you want to hear more from the professionals I’ve been talking with, this email series is for you

- If you want to know more about the research and how it applies to preventing bullying in midwifery, this email series is for you

- If you have tons of birth world knowledge and experience but are still frustrated by the culture, find it flooring you some days, and want this to change, this email series is for you

- If you are a midwife or student who is experiencing hard cultures at work, especially if you’re thinking about leaving, this email series is for you

- If you are an aspiring midwife who has a sense of dread about all this, but can’t quite put your finger on all the issues, decide whether midwifery is indeed the right path for you, or can’t work out how to prepare for the cultural challenges, this series is for you

-If you want to join a movement of people who are wanting to promote kindness in maternity care, this email series is for you

Subscribe to Midwife Diaries to get the emails (if you're already subscribed you don't need to do anything else to get them). We’ll start on the 25th September.

There'll be discounts for anyone wanting to attend the conference for email subscribers too!

Introducing ‘The Kindness Conference: Getting Positive Midwifery Cultures To Flourish’

I want to tell you all about an event myself and Bradford Midwifery Society are hosting.

 

The Kindness Conference

About six months ago, a Facebook group was started called ‘Say No To Bullying In Midwifery’.

The stories from students, midwives and others prompted me to start putting together a conference to address the issue.

World class speakers volunteered who wanted to share their research, wisdom, and most importantly, have real conversations about what’s happening and how to change it.

The Kindness Conference is a way for us to spread the information and evidence but also to connect as we grow and do this work.

Not only do we have some of the best informed midwives and professionals globally, we also have a conference format allowing everyone who wants to voice their concerns or thoughts to do this.

 

The set up:

These are the kind of discussions that make the difference. If you so wish you are welcome to just listen and draw your own wisdom from the day. We’d love to hear your questions and voice too, if this is something you can do. It might be you have just the idea or experience that we all need to hear about.

Bradford University Students and Lecturers can attend this event for a much reduced fee (£5 for union members, £10 for non-union members, and the funds will go to Action on Postpartum Psychosis, a much needed charity).

Tickets will be reserved on a first come, first served basis.

Please subscribe to the MidwifeDiaries.com to hear about discounts through the 30 days of 'Kindness in Midwifery' emails.

Registration will open at 9.30 am and the event will start at 10.00. We hope to be finished by 18.00.

Tea and coffee will be available as will cakes to buy. You’ll either need to bring your own lunch or buy lunch from the variety of local cafes and shops.

Babes in arms are welcome and we will of course be going for a bite to eat and a drink afterwards and you're very welcome to come - it'll probably be at the infamous Brew Haus which is where all the midwifery students hang out.

Who Is This Event Right For?

Aspiring Midwives:

If you’re preparing yourself for your career in midwifery, and want to be able to identify bullying and know exactly what to do and how to get help, this conference is for you. We will be covering the logistics of university and union support. The behaviour and body language you can have in your toolbox to combat bullying and to promote kindness will also be very helpful to you. We want you to have the best experience of training possible as you learn to care for women and families. We also want to welcome you to the profession, we’re delighted you’re joining us!

Student Midwives:

In one study 36% of student midwives got bullied. We know you come into the profession so excited, often having left excellent careers to come and care for women and families. We want you to have the tools necessary to look after yourself and to change the future of the profession you are joining.

At this conference you can learn from amazing midwives how best to avoid being bullied, what to do if it does happens, how to look after your mental health and when to report behaviour. You can also learn to support others and be a leader right from the start of your career.

You can go in with eyes open and your toolbox full.

You will also learn a lot about UK midwifery and what it takes to be part of those governing and leading.

Qualified Midwives:

You’ll get tools and strategies from those who have been there, hear about the research and support you can get from unions and there will be a lot of time allotted to questions for specific solutions.

Anonymous questions can be submitted, not something done at any conference I've ever been at.

Bullying can also make you feel very low and lonely and this is the place to be heard and believed.

if you're wanting to be a midwifery leader, having the skills to address bullying is important. It will improve outcomes for Mums and babies if midwives are happy and able to communicate and think well.

If you’re a newly qualified midwife avoiding bullying can mean the difference between staying in the profession or not, or at least feeling good at work or not.

It's also not going to be a depressing day, we have good, uplifting talks and funny moments too, some of these midwives are so positive it's like a super power.

Practising midwives can network and make friends and know where to get support. You'll have information about the grievance procedures and how best to go about this if you choose, how to complain in a group and so on.

Coming to this conference counts as one of many small acts which will help to change midwifery culture to being kind.

Maternity Care Assistants:

Many MCAs face bullying.

As an MCA attending this conference, you’ll get tools and strategies from those who have been there and survived, hear about the research and support you can get from unions and there will be a lot of time allotted to questions for specific solutions. Anonymous questions can be submitted, not something done at any conference I've ever been at.

Bullying can also make you feel very low and lonely and this is the place to be heard and believed.

It's also not going to be a depressing day, we have good, uplifting talks and funny moments too, some of these speakers are so positive it's like a super power.

Practising midwives can network and make friends and know where to get support. You'll have information about the grievance procedures and how best to go about this if you choose, how to complain in a group and so on.

Coming to this conference counts as one of many small acts which will help to change midwifery culture to being kind.

Doulas and birth educators:

Doulas and birth workers support women with their choices so can find themselves in complex positions in terms of staff and hospital guidelines. I’ve heard many stories from these professionals who have faced challenging behaviours.

Attending the Kindness Conference will mean you have a better idea of what to say and how to behave to manage these situations, how to care for yourself, and you will have the confidence of knowing many professionals respect you and want you as part of the team. Many midwives and students experience bullying, it's part of a bigger problem.

Understanding the pressure on midwives and the poor culture will also help you advocate for women better.

Immediate Changes and Long-term Culture Shift’

As you’ve probably realised, what you’re reading is really an open letter to anyone wanting to help kindness flourish in midwifery.

I’m writing this part of the letter at my sister’s house, the day after a meeting in Bradford with the midwifery society who are running this conference with me.

It’s 6.30am, before anyone else is up and today is my sister’s baby shower.

I’ve scored major Auntie points by being the one to buy The Very Hungry Caterpillar. But it’s also been very hard explaining to my sister and her partner that I’m involved in putting together a conference on changing the culture of midwifery and addressing bullying. Bullying in a system that they’re going to be using to welcome their first child.

We all have good reasons for wanting to be part of this.

My favourite aspect of planning this conference have been talking to those who are working on these issues. There are people doing incredible things, gaining experience and insight on promoting kindness and positivity in midwifery. Bradford midwifery society are also beyond excited and wanting to get the message out to as many as possible.

This conference is likely to be different from others you’ve attended. We’re not afraid of digging into the hard issues and talking about the realities of midwifery culture right now.

But we’ll also be sharing some of the most inspiring, insightful and clear ideas for improving midwifery culture as well as tools and techniques that you can use to support yourself in practice right now. We want you to feel supported in your work because you’ve learnt from the best at the conference.

These are uncertain times for midwifery, and they’re becoming more uncertain. But I believe there’s the potential for powerful change in this uncertainty.

All questions that can be answered by our experts speakers will be. Any questions that I, the Bradford Uni society and the expert lecturers and speakers can’t answer will be discussed in depth. There will be no areas deemed as unsuitable to talk about, when it comes to building a midwifery culture that supports and surrounds women and families and honours midwives. I love midwifery and this conference is about walking into the uncertainty and the difficult areas together. Because that’s what you do when you love something.

The Kindness Conference is not about being angry and complaining about the issues. But nor is it about denying there are changes that should be made.

When it comes to midwifery, we’ll only makes changes together. I hope you’ll join us. You can also subscribe to Midwife Diaries to get the 30 days of 'Kindness in Midwifery' emails where we can explore these issues further.


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NB: All identifying features and aspects of this story has been changed. Sharing details that aren't my own won't ever be in the nature of my work.

3 Responses

  1. Mary

    This will be an amazing conference

  2. Melody Green

    I would love to attend this event Ellie, but I am down in Essex. I hope you can arrange to come to London? That would be great. Xx

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