This is a post that started as an email to my list. It's from a series of reflections I wrote as coronavirus ramped up. If you enjoy it, perhaps subscribe here.
I run a big midwifery community on Facebook, and we get questions.
The best ones come from our 'Anonymous Qs' form.
Here's a good example:
'I'm an easy listener.
Not one to judge.
But we all have our views on lifestyle choices, particularly during pregnancy.
I would always keep my thoughts to myself.
But I'm worried this would make me a bad midwife because I'm not always a "nice" person..'
It's a brave submission (braver still because the member came out and identified themselves) and it's great that we had a long thread on this.
While there were differences of opinion on lifestyle choices, everyone agreed compassion towards midwifery clients is something you work on. If you're training as a midwife you likely have a caring personality, but you'll still have to remind yourself to be empathetic when faced with certain behaviours.
Midwives are not nuns, and judgement is one of our favourite habits as humans.
One way of getting through the judgement is to look at the research around maternal choices.
Do you remember that controversial study offering clothing vouchers to teenage mothers to encourage breastfeeding?
The researchers were trying to improve dire breastfeeding rates in low income areas.
When this was reported in the media, many were outraged. The poet Hollie McNish wrote about it being 'classist, weird and wrong'.
The issue was paying people to be good mothers was seen as immoral and patronising.
I got a different perspective when I talked to a midwife who was involved in the study.
The researchers were trying to get both money and breastfeeding into areas in desperate need, because they'd tried everything else and nothing was working. It was an emergency intervention.
Whether the breastfeeding/voucher project was a good idea or not is outside the scope of this post.
But, if we can predict with accuracy that very poor areas in the UK will mean lower rates of breastfeeding, to the point where you can choose postcodes to include in such a study, doesn't this show that judgement around people's parenting choices is unfounded?
Less money = everything's harder.
Money is one challenging factor, but there are many others, like lacking family support or mental health.
I've never met a midwifery client who wasn't doing the best they could.
There are many ways of looking at any situation and sometimes what starts as judgement can be a signal to look at the full picture.
A good midwife/mother relationship predicts better outcomes, so if you've got a client who's drinking or taking drugs, you offering supportive care can save or improve lives.
We'll need to remember all of this as we rebuild after COVID-19,