So as this week, on International Day of the Midwife, we march in London for the very existence of midwifery as we know it, here are my logical reasons, well-rehearsed over 10 years for NOT becoming a midwife:
- The intolerable pressure and realities of the NHS (system, resources, hours etc) You know the drill. Heard it all before.
- Being able to have more influence on maternity services from the outside as an advocate and doula, than on the inside. This one has been a particularly powerful narrative.
Add to this my longer list of fears (and yes Andrew’s fears too..), starting, “If I became a midwife, what if…?”
…The NHS swallowed me whole and spat me out a conformist?
…I was to die of sadness and exhaustion battling a system from within?
…My children forgot who I was?
And What If..
…My age – i’m nearly 43 – my mildly renegade character and propensity to seek out freedom and the Big Picture rendered me useless or impossible to work with? (yes, you can hear the outrageous assumptions rattling around in my head)
Phew..better out than in. As my grandmother used to say.
Plus, I have no idea whether i could EVER be even handed enough to site a cannula.
All pretty compelling eh?
How curious then, that on Sunday 15th Jan this year, after a few weeks of gentle prompts in my spirit to “look again”, and a loud clang that evening at church to “Look now!”, I sat down at 10.35pm to peruse the Kingston Uni/St George’s website, only to discover that the deadline for 2017 was midnight. That very night. Yes, in 1 hr 25 mins.
Caught up by an overwhelming compulsion to defy the odds, I laughed inwardly and challenged God, “If you want me to do this, you’ll have to help me..”. At 11.35pm, 14 pages of UCAS form and a 29 minute personal statement later, I realised that a reference did indeed need to accompany the form, complete, before I could press the button.
Cue more “impossible without divine intervention” prayer, a cute “You’ll think I’m barmy, you’re probably asleep BUT…” text to our local consultant midwife, who immediately replied, “I’m breastfeeding, but I can multitask”. What a woman! What a God! Witness 11:53: button pressed. I was so overwhelmed by this improbable move, that I couldn’t sleep for two hours and didn’t tell my husband Andrew for two weeks… Two months to the day later, an interview and a call from the Uni to say they’d love to have me..
So what’s this all about? and where might it be heading? This is what I spoke out in preparation on the morning of my interview, squinting into the sun in Richmond park. BORE warning. Heartfelt, but interview prep none the less…
This is the high dream: that I might use ALL of who I am made to be – the woman, the voice, the mother, the coach – to bring refreshment and possibility to midwives who are losing hope. I am not one to hold back, as you know, from thinking deep and wide, believing anything is possible.
So this is an invitation, to come with me, with us as a family, on this journey. You can do that by
- keeping me accountable to remember the spirit of gratitude I started with. I’m grateful for those who have inspired me. For you, midwife Godmother Sarah; you too my very own midwife Frances. For you midwives I have worked alongside as a doula, who have poured out heart with a hefty dose of soul, and occupied your natural and rightful place of standing for ‘yes’ and ‘why on earth not?’ in a system which tends towards the opposite. Grateful also for you, my community of doula colleagues in the UK and back in the UAE, who have taught me so much about sacrifice and commitment, especially for you Sally-Anne my doula partner of 5 years. I’m grateful of course, as I take this new step, to you all 50 families I have had the joy of supporting over the last few years as a doula, as your babies arrived, and as you emerged more fully as parents.
Helping me remember my intention to enter this phase with humility, curiosity, and a freshness of mind. And help me recall my intention too to find pleasure and discovery amid the younger generation in my student cohort, some of whom may be barely 3 years older than Robin, our eldest.
How might you help me remember?
Stop me in the street. Write me a card. WhatsApp me with a wassup? Throw off the shackles of Britishness and be direct. Challenge me. Sign up for my Midlife Midwife musings at wildrubies.co.uk to stay in touch
- Help us pay for the course and the childcare we will need. This year is the first year that midwifery direct entry costs as a full degree. And with 60% placement time too, Ione will need morning, afternoon and unpredictable childcare, costing around £4-5,000 a year on top of fees. If you feel inspired to give, click my JustGiving page here. Even a very small sum would be a huge encouragement. You are indeed my tribe of witnesses on this journey.
And if you’re wondering if I’ll be coaching mothers anymore, then yes! I will have a very limited number of spots for Bold Mothers Birthing Something Brilliant as they reimagine their work lives. Coaching for me is like a full immersion refreshing wild swim. I can’t NOT do it! I’ll also, where possible, be continuing to coach midwives and nurses deeper into their leadership and sense of purpose.
And what of doula births? I’ll be drawing a line under my doula years..for clarity’s sake, and sanity’s too!
I’d truly love to hear your comments. Write below or email me direct on firstname.lastname@example.org.
And feel free to tell me it’s a crazy idea…