I talked at an amazing conference last week (it was put together by The Infant Loss Foundation, do go if you ever get the chance). I loved meeting everyone but there's still that stomach swoop moment when the room goes quiet and you have to start talking...
Then I try hard to remember that the moment isn't about me. It's selfish to get nervous. Far better to enjoy the ride and put all of your attention on the people who have turned up to learn.
From speaking to some amazing professionals at the conference, I don't think that nervous feeling ever goes away, in midwifery, public speaking about midwifery, or anything else worth doing.
There's always that terrifying moment of stepping into the arena.
Today's post is written by Mums who appreciate midwifery care. I think it helps sometimes to put your attention on the women and what they're saying, to get out of your own head.
This helps with the nerves that can come with midwifery (it's a huge role!).
Also, we get so overcome by the tiny details that we forget that most women have a positive experience with care in the UK and that's amazing when you think about the lack of resources.
Not that there isn't always work to do and improvements to be made and there are a few suggestions from Mums on this list.
Sometimes this kind of snapshot of what Mums say about midwifery care over coffee can offer those lightbulb insights...
Just like the Better Births report suggested, voluntary organisations have a big part to play in midwifery care in this country and we should listen.
The Lovely Mum Crowd was started online by Jess Ellis. It's is now a series of meets across the country for Mums to support each other. These suggestions came out of one of these meets.
Here are The Lovely Mum Crowd 8 pieces of honest feedback for midwives, both good and bad:
1. Tell Me 'You're Doing So Well'
One Mum said:
'Regardless of who else was in the room when I was in labour the one voice that I always tuned in to during contractions was the midwife. When the midwife told me I was doing well I actually believed it, it gave me confidence that I could and would get through the labour even when the contractions became much stronger and more difficult to manage. Rather than panicking those four words, 'you’re doing so well' kept me calm.'
As a midwife your praise is powerful.
2. Birth Plans Are Important (even when the birth doesn't go to plan!)
This piece of paper is a crucial part of a Mum feeling in control and like they can make decisions. A midwife going through the birth plan when they take over care and meet Mum for the first time in labour acknowledges a Mum's choices.
3. Pain Relief When Asked For
I'm sure this isn't a surprise to any midwife or student. Mums said they started to panic when they asked for pain relief and didn't know if it was coming. This can be hard if anaesthetists aren't around to get an epidural going or it's tricky to find another midwife to check pethidine etc.
Leaving a Mum without pain relief if they want it is a nightmare situation for midwives too! But it's good feedback to have. If Mums know that midwives are treating their pain relief needs as the priority they may feel more able to cope until it arrives.
4. Celebrate Even The Tiniest Bit Of Progress..
Labour is unpredictable and we've all used the 'we don't have a crystal ball...' phrase, because it's true. But even if progress is slow or augmentation is needed and chosen, reassurance and positivity is key. Mums in this group were reassured by the midwives reiterating that their efforts meant something.
This is consistent with evidence suggesting phrases like 'failure to progress' can be demoralising.
5. Shift Change Suggestion
This is a lovely one that is sometimes is in a midwife's control. The Mums in the group understood when a midwife had to go because of a shift change during labour.
But if a midwife popped onto the postnatal ward to say Hi and congratulations, and meet baby, it meant the world and more.
6. Infant Feeding
This is a global issue with midwives and women caught in the crossfire.
Mums talked about choice, especially if they chose to artificially feed.
This comment is poignant: 'I chose not to breastfeed my baby but the midwife looking after me after I had given birth presumed that I would breastfeed... I think every midwife should support the choice of the mum...'
7. Ask About Emotional Health
Mums who suffered from postnatal depression or another form of mental ill-health after their baby was born commented that they felt their situation might have been picked up on sooner if their midwives had asked how they were feeling emotionally.
This should be done anyway in line with NICE postnatal guidelines: emotional, social and physical health should be asked about at each visit.
It's not a surprise Mums feel less looked after in the postnatal period. It's something the RCM have been discussing for a while.
8. Three Words: Reassuring, Calm, Supportive
These were the three words that the Mums in The Lovely Mum Crowd who offered feedback referred to again and again. They said that midwives are people that Mums cross paths with for a short amount of time but this time counts for so much; they are the moments that start to shape motherhood for them.
I hope you found this honest feedback helpful. I also hope you know how deeply appreciated you are as a midwife.
I'd love to hear, which of these points was most insightful for your practice?
Is there anything we should know about? What's difficult in practice right now?
Or are you a Mum with some other insights to offer? Or a student who has made a difference in some way and would like to share your experiences to help others do the same?
If you want to mention The Lovely Mum Crowd to a mother you know, they currently have meetups in Edinburgh, Surrey, Cambridge and Suffolk and Winchester, Epsom and Clapham are on their way.
p.s. Are you a Midwife Diaries subscriber? Along with these blog posts I also send out a quick email once a week with some insights and info I only share there.
I have a very exciting bit of free training for any aspiring midwives coming out soon (wish I could tell you more but I need to sit on it for now). You might want to get on the list if you like these posts or especially if you are wanting to become a midwife soon!