Here I am at Kingston and St Georges midwifery conference, 2018. Today there will be ten talks and events exploring the concept 'I Have a Voice' and I’ll be reporting on each of them in ‘Notes of Midwifery Voices’.
I talked to third student midwife Hollie Johnstone just before she spoke and she was nervous. But she's here because she believes in what she wrote.
This poem had been created from real words spoken by a woman after her birth. This woman more than approves of Hollie using her language to create art which shows what she went through.
Do No Harm
I am a woman hear me roar,
Just like a lion, strong to the core,
Intelligent, kind and so much more
Than a mother behind a labour room door
A hospital number hooked up to machines,
With midwives and doctors calling me 'she',
Never using the name that was given to me,
Not once using manners which I thought were free
To you I'm a problem which need to be solved,
A mother to be yet so uninvolved,
In the care I'm receiving but dare I be bold,
When the questions I ask are met with a scold
So I do not ask questions...sad but so true,
Because when nobody is listening to you,
Except for your partner and he is scared too,
There is nothing left as a woman to do
The respect that was given when I was first booked in,
Was only for show, now it's shoved in the bin,
Along with my birth plan your patience wore thin,
You'd think compassion in this place was a sin
Hours pass by and I feel baby near,
Forced to be checked, a change in expression is clear,
Reading your face I succumb to the fear,
A sterile gloved hands of the doctor appear.
Please just explain to me what has gone wrong,
Has my body been in labour too long?
Is that why the heartbeat I hear is not strong,
Amongst jargon being repeated like a song.
All of a sudden I hear an alarm,
Any sense of stability I had is gone,
I'm scared and in pain as I try to disarm,
Those forceps in hand which work 'like a charm'.
'Keep pushing!' you cry, but I don't know how,
Chin on my chest, hold my breath, but don't frown
My body is tired; I've got to stop now,
My strength has escaped, it's over...I'm out
You pull and she's here, I mustn't want more,
Than a beautiful baby...but I'm broken and sore,
Nine moths build up, this is what I asked for,
A healthy baby girl for us to adore
I got what I wanted or so you have said,
But being catheterised and strapped to a bed,
Was not the image I held in my head,
And was not explained as it happened instead
Using phrases like 'I need to' not 'I recommend'
Left me feeling like an animal chained in a pen
Whilst you professionals on which I'd learnt to depend,
Violated me from beginning to end
So I am a woman but I no longer roar,
Still with my blood strewn on the floor,
You joked with my partner, I'll forget this, I'll want more,
'Another baby!' I cry, it's a thought I abhor
Hollie did an amazing performance of this via video - I really hope she publishes this at some point.
We’d love to hear from you - are you here at the conference? What was the most insightful thing you learnt from Hollie's work?
Or what was the best thing you learnt from this post – leave a comment below!