I’m writing this on the train coming back from a wonderful Midwifery Student Union Conference in Bristol.
It was an honour to speak and the students did an amazing job organising it (all around placement and assignments too).
The speakers were really good, with excellent information, and perhaps more importantly, were speaking their truth.
For instance, Joy Horner, independent midwife, blew me away with her descriptions of lovingly telling a client that she wouldn’t attend her birthing a breech baby in a yurt because she considered it too risky and suggested a hospital birth. But then she attended anyway, because they would have freebirthed, and her practice is based on the principle of trying to do the right thing, every time.
So all in all, having had an amazing day, and a cup of tea and a piece of cake at my elbow as I write this should mean I’m a happy bunny.
But, annoyingly, I’ve got a drunk bloke with clearly impure thoughts on his mind eyeballing me from two seats down. Sigh.
I have an idea...
Yep, getting ‘The Positive Birth Book’ out of my bag seems to have solved the problem. Drunk bloke has sobered up and is staring studiously out of the window. I'm not sure what it is about midwifery reading material but it tends to do the trick!
I read The Positive Birth Book cover to cover on the journey down yesterday. It’s brilliant, and not just in terms of getting rid of unwanted attention on public transport.
Whether you’re an aspiring, student or qualified midwife I do hope I can convince you of it’s worth.
Here are 5 Great Reasons to Read The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hill
1. I think it’s one of the most culturally important books on childbearing to be published in a long time. There’s lots in it for birth professionals too.
I think many women, not just midwives are getting fed up of being so afraid. Yes, birth and motherhood are mountainous times in life. But there’s a difference between that dread and panic based on fear of unknown risks, and examining the facts and assessing the risks in daylight, which is what Milli Hill does so well.
For instance, though the book is supportive of homebirth, she doesn’t shy away from the fact that the Birthplace study showed slightly increased risks of poor outcomes for first time Mums giving birth at home. But she does this in a positive, common sense way.
She also doesn’t gloss over the fact that sometimes, very sadly, babies die.
But she presents the information so that adult women and their partners can understand the huge life event they’re embarking upon. And if you approach pregnancy being terrified or trying to pretend it’s not happening, you tend to miss all of the amazing things and hand power over to the professionals.
And for many women, this isn’t what they want.
2. I believe it’s crucial for all of us to have some positive reading material to dip into when we need it. Life comes with knocks for all of us and midwives never know when the next experience (whether beautiful or brutal) is coming around the corner.
The Positive Birth Book helped me remember that women aren’t stupid and they know sometimes things don’t go smoothly. It’s just when you marshall the facts they are that midwives are highly trained to deal with emergencies and the vast majority of complications are managed very well.
There’s a feeling of logic, bravery and humility to the whole book that I recognise from the most experienced, positive midwives that I know and having access to that kind of support in book form is very helpful.
3. It’s top-notch writing
The Positive Birth Book is funny, in particular the bits about being called a ‘good girl’ as a cue to be ‘naughty’ and women having talented vaginas that get as big as they need to during birth meaning comparisons of pineapples out of noses are not helpful. I was laughing out loud on the train.
(At which point drunk bloke changed seats).
It’s presented in easy to read chunks and assumes women are clever enough to get it. It doesn’t shy away from evidence and discussing anatomy and physiology like fontanelles and prolactin but it does it in an engaging and sort of ‘upmarket magazine article’ type way.
4. It doesn't stick to the conventional, listing 'masturbation' as a pain relief option next to 'gas and air' and 'epidural'
I've never seen this on an NHS leaflet!
Milli Hill is great at listing all possible options and scenarios, not just the customary.
Yes, of course, we need to handle such a suggestion sensitively as some women will find the thought uncomfortable and even laughable.
But what if masturbation works really well for a percentage of women that have just never known they were ‘allowed’ to feel sexual pleasure in labour? Are we doing them a disservice by not mentioning this?
Milli hasn’t cherry picked information either. She has extracts of writing from Mums that explain in no uncertain terms that transition felt for them like ‘wanting to die’.
But this is framed within a discussion of transition, in that for most women it's is a huge wave of feeling that doesn’t last long and usually comes straight before pushing, which is more manageable.
5. It asks for change while not shaming professionals
Midwives are the first to admit that there is a lot of work to do in terms of improving care for women. Most midwives I know are devastated when they're not able to give women-centred care.
Unfortunately, these shortcomings in the maternity services can lead to accusatory or even shaming pieces of media (and there is no evidence that shame has ever changed anything positively in the long term).
But The Positive Birth Book comes at it from this point of view: maybe if women were highly educated and demanding clients, care would have to change.
What a fantastic, powerful notion. This kind of thinking opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities as once midwives know exactly what women want, they can work towards this.
This is exactly the kind of collaboration that the Maternity Review from last year, Better Births, was aiming for.
If you’re a midwife or student you’ll know lots of technical information, of course, but the balance between serious consideration of evidence and midwifery philosophy, and the hilarity that comes from childbearing situations makes it all slip down really easily. And even if you’re an experienced midwife you are likely to find new information (for example, I hadn’t heard of the Infant Sleep Information Source which is a great site).
As a student midwife, especially if you’re a first year, it’s a pretty amazing catch all to give you a fair idea of most midwifery subjects.
Now I'd love to hear from you!
1) Have you read The Positive Birth Book? Are you a midwife, student or parent, and what was the most important thing you learnt from it?
2) Probably the most important question: would you recommend The Positive Birth Book to a pregnant woman you love?
Your opinion matters as we're all here to examine resources and learn and grow together!
Thanks as always for reading and responding.
You're brilliant for caring so much about the experiences of Mums and babies,
P.S. I can confirm that the 'Bullying In Midwifery: Breaking The Cycle' Conference is going ahead. Topics include why we must stop midwives leaving, hope for the future, and particular cases. Get the support you need and surround yourself with positivity!
If you want to book the day off it's 30th September 2017 in Cambridge.
Subscribe to MidwifeDiaries.com and you'll be the first to know when limited tickets go on sale.