It was June 2015. I was working as a midwife within a caseload team and I loved my job but my husband and I made the decision to leave our bank-balance-draining rented flat in London and move in with my parents. We’d been wanting a baby since we were married but Mother Nature had had other plans, so we figured that wasn’t happening, let’s move home and save some money, so we might one day become home owners.
We put everything in place- I changed jobs (thankfully I was still working at the same hospital but I had to leave my job in the caseload team because it was too far away for me to be called out to births), we gave in our notice to our landlord. We were all set. And then… well then those two blue lines appeared on the pregnancy test and our lives changed forever. The thing that we’d been wanting for what felt like an eternity had arrived and just as we’d made other life plans. Now I could go into all the details of how the timing was less than perfect (and as most parents know the timing is almost NEVER perfect) but today I’m talking about the care that mums receive during this profound time of their lives from their wonderful midwives.
Having worked in a caseload team I knew what the absolute ‘dream’ scenario was when it came to antenatal care. I knew what it meant to me as a midwife to be by a mum’s side throughout her pregnancy, her birth and those early days of motherhood. I knew the connection I had with some of those mums would never be forgotten and they would always have a special place in my heart, even if I didn’t necessarily see them again. I knew all of that. I also knew that my local hospital did not offer that kind of care. I knew that the reality was I was going to be going along to antenatal appointments and seeing a different face each time and that filled me with dread. What if the midwives didn’t understand my way of thinking? What if they didn’t support me in my decisions? What if they just rushed through each appointment, like we were on a factory line?
I wanted with every piece of my soul to be under the care of my friends in the team I worked in, I wanted to go to the hospital I worked in for my scans and my appointments. I felt safe there and I knew I would get the amazing care that every mum deserves. The thing is- it was now about an hour and half away from home and I just knew that the reality was that that was not going to be practical when I went into labour.
So, I sent of my self-referral form online and I waited. I waited for that appointment to come through and for me to meet one of the many midwives I knew I would meet through my pregnancy. The first appointment was with a wonderful midwife, she was calm and understanding and caring. She took the time to answer my questions. She was great. Then at the end of the appointment she said those words that I had been longing to hear- “when shall I book you in to see me again?”. She was going to book me in to see HER again! Woohoo! I wasn’t going to be seen by random midwife after random midwife. I was so delighted.
And so it was. I saw her for all of my appointments (all but one when she had been called to home birth the night before, and so was understandably sleeping the next day!). Seeing her each time made such a difference. I knew what to expect from her, I began to build a trust with her and I felt safe with her. She was overly supportive of my decision to plan a home birth and arranged everything for me.
I remember our final antenatal appointment together. I was just past my due date and she mentioned the subject of induction. I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do if I got much further past the due date but I knew that I just wanted to wait and see how things went. She mentioned booking a date for it and I was so nervous and unsure- she calmly reassured me and said “it’s fine, we can talk about it next time- if there is a next time”. Her relaxed attitude and failure to cajole me into an intervention I wasn’t ready for made me even more grateful she had been my midwife. She has grown to understand me in the same was I understood her.
Thankfully just a couple of days past that appointment, I went into labour. I phoned the on-call number as I had been instructed to do but there was no answer. Slight panic. Then complete calm- I phoned my midwife and she answered immediately. She said she would arrange for the on-call midwife to come out and see me. I was a little worried as I had never met her before but my midwife said without prompting- “she’s amazing, you’re in really good hands” and that was all that was needed. The midwife that I had grown to like and trust told me I was in good hands and I felt relaxed again. And indeed I was, I had a wonderful midwife look after me and deliver my baby girl on my living room floor. Well, in fact, I had 3 midwives there- 2 from my local hospital and 1 of my best friends from the hospital I was working in. It was incredible.
I was lucky enough to then see the same midwife that had looked after me throughout my pregnancy for almost all of the postnatal visits too. I feel so lucky to have had the wonderful experience of continuity throughout my pregnancy and afterwards too, even though I didn’t have my midwife there for the birth, it still meant so much to me.
I think my pregnancy would have been very different had it not been for her. The anxiety of seeing someone new at each appointment, the dread of having to explain your medical history over and over, the worry of someone not respecting your wishes. All of that swerved by the familiar face of one lovely midwife.
Please join the campaign for continuity of carer for all women, for the benefit not just of the women but for babies, for families and for the midwives too. You can do so by following the campaign on Facebook, sharing the campaign on social media using the hashtag #continuitymatters or you can email your story to share on the blog to email@example.com