Have you ever felt a bit alone in wanting to do amazing things for Mums and babies?
Maybe like being so enthusiastic is naïve?
If so, 'The Roar Behind The Silence' was written for you. I think this book can do wonderful things for the hearts and souls of midwives and future midwives.
When I talk about this book I sometimes struggle to summarise it, and I ramble, so in this post, I'll get straight to the point and tell you why we should all read it (multiple times).
It's a hard book to summarise because it's so deep. The chapters are short but they're heartfelt, emotional and written by a highly educated and informed group of professionals, students and mothers.
It's sort of like an exceptional day at a conference, it's the best thinking of all of these experienced people in one place.
The book's editors, who were also responsible for collecting the entries, are Soo Downe (Professor of midwifery at the University of Central Lancashire) and Sheena Byrom (midwifery consultant and OBE). They've tackled some of the most complex, challenging issues in the maternity world right now.
Medicalisation and fear can't be explained in just a few words.
But Sheena and Soo have produced an uplifting and fascinating guide to providing excellent care for women and babies, within a challenging childbearing culture.
I want to tell you about the midwifery language that's in the book.
We've talked about negative phrases such as 'failure to progress' and 'poor maternal effort' on Midwife Diaries before now.
But there are other midwifery words that I've used in the wrong context pretty recently.
Did you know that 'guidelines', 'policies' and 'protocols' are very different things?
It might seem a bit picky to point this out, but the chapter by Julie Frohlich (consultant midwife) and Rineke Schram (a chief medical officer) made me realise that these are important words to get right if you want to promote women's rights.
A ‘guideline’ is a recommendation based on evidence, like when to offer blood tests during pregnancy.
A ‘policy’ is a hospital/trust rule, like not wearing dangly earrings in a clinical role.
A ‘protocol’ is a set way of doing things to help keep things safe, like how to take blood using sterile technique.
But you can't have a policy or protocol on something like a high-risk woman not being able to labour in water - this would be a 'guideline'.
The difference between these words is all-important as women must hold all the cards during their midwifery care. They are allowed to accept or decline any part of care, so when it comes to women's decisions you can only have guidelines.
The next chapter I want to mention is by an anaesthetist called Robin Youngson. This seems to be a lot of people's favourite chapter.
He trained in the UK and now works in New Zealand. He's from an engineering background and from the sound of things is a very skilled professional.
But at one time, Robin was one of those difficult to work with people that we've all come across. He was grumpy and unhappy.
Robin's chapter is breathtaking because it's about how he learnt that empathy with staff and women helped him lessen complications, make epidurals more straightforward to administer, and even seemed to make the pain relief work better.
Robin was inspired to change his attitude by an older, very ill and joyful patient who made jokes at him about g-strings. He decided that if this patient was so ill and still managed to have a good time then it was all a matter of choice.
His new way of being was so different that he was accused of having a 'personality transplant' by the staff around him.
I love this chapter because it's proof of concept: a good empathetic attitude actually pays you back as a professional, as well as being better for women and everyone else around you.
A really interesting line in this chapter was about when the old 'grumpy' Robin went into rooms as an anaesthetist. He said he sometimes felt like the 'wicked' doctor coming in to disturb normal birth.
That's a tough crowd to walk into. It made me realise once (again) that no matter how qualified and unruffled a doctor or anyone else on the team seems, they are all just people wanting appreciation and recognition for the work they do.
You can achieve an awful lot just by being kind to everyone.
There are many other topics in 'The Roar Behind The Silence' too.
The international chapters are brilliant, it's really helpful for midwives to have a bird's eye view of what's happening globally in terms of maternity care.
If you're in an affluent country, this can help with gratitude.
I remember coming back from India and being really grateful for everything the NHS has to offer.
The chapters of the book on Brazil and China are great reminders of how far we've come and how brilliant care in the UK often is. I'm pleased to report there's great progress being made in these countries, with compassion, dignity and empathy for women in mind. You might even be inspired to work in a developing country as a compassionate midwife yourself one day.
The chapter on Holland is fascinating too, the care is so different and so women centred. It's interesting to see the challenges and changes in these different places.
I'll leave things there but I've barely scratched the surface. 'The Roar Behind The Silence' is a gem and I hope you find time to read it.
It's only £3.99 on kindle which is pretty amazing! Click here to buy it on amazon.
Now I'd love to hear from you. Leave me a comment letting me know:
1. What was the most important insight you got from this post, purely from reading a review of 'The Roar Behind The Silence'?
2. If you've read it, could you tell us what the best bit was? What did you learn? Did you find inspiration and encouragement that you'll be taking into practice?
I hear that Sheena and Soo will be bringing out a new book soon called 'Squaring the Circle' which is all about helping women achieve their goal of a normal birth, within a medicalised culture.
Keep your eyes peeled.
I hope you have a wonderful week, whatever you're up to, and keep digging deep because if you have compassion and empathy to bring to women and families, you're needed. And happy International Day of the Midwife for Friday!
Much love, Ellie x
P.S. Have you heard of Mary Cronk? She's an amazing midwife who taught many to stand up for women's choices, especially around breech birth. You can see her in action on YouTube here.
She's very ill at the moment. If you'd like you can join her Facebook appreciation society here. If you can send some love and light to her and her family (or maybe even a card), this would be very appreciated.