It’s been a long long time since I’ve put pen to paper and actually written anything down about my experience as a midwife, I was so reflective as a student and found it so helpful, I’m not quite sure when I stopped but I know I shouldn’t have. Recently a lovely midwife friend, knowing how hard I found being newly qualified, sent me a screen shot of her diary from when she was newly qualified and I couldn’t believe the similarities between how she felt and how I felt during my first year qualified. I really do wish I had my first year qualified documented somewhere to look back on in future and remember all the highs and lows and also, to see just how far we hopefully will have come in terms of continuity in midwifery. It’s been tough being newly qualified and knowing how I want to work, but it feeling somewhat out of reach in a place where caseload midwifery just seems like some sort of abstract idea to many.
So often you hear students or midwives being told its better to do a rotation before going into caseload as it gives you more skills and more practice, supposedly in a supportive environment with easy acces to peers and managers to help you navigate the transitional period from student to midwife and beyond. My experience, however, I feel demonstrates that that is not actually the case and can be particularly damaging for those who know their future career is working in a caseload model.
During my preceptorship year I had the opportunity to do some caseload care, or as close to it as I could. I obviously jumped at the chance and it ended up being the loveliest experience and one I’ll never forget, but what it also did was highlight the contrast in care women are receiving and made me feel, at times, that I was becoming a part of a system that damages women psychologically and physically, as I was simply not able to provide the level of care that I know is best.
To one day be looking after someone at home that I knew, someone who had overcome so much to get to that point and ended up having a pretty amazingly empowering and healing birth with people there that she wanted there, with colleagues by my side supporting me if I needed anything, a cooked meal, access to all the coffee, water and biscuits I needed with unlimited access to the loo, and the ability to just sit down and focus on hand holding when needed. To then going in to do a heinously busy shift the next day on the obstetric unit, being hurried from woman to woman, barely even remembering their names, not getting support when asking for it because everyone was just too busy, having to finish the paperwork of one woman whilst caring for the next, realising I hadn’t given Anti D post birth because it was handed over she was Rhesus positive and I hadn’t had time to check this and running out to a manager and telling them only to be told that’s fine as it was still within the time it could be given so just go give it now… now… when I had already taken over care from someone who was starting to feel urges to push, then locking myself in the toilet and sobbing whilst simultaneously ramming biscuits in my face because it was 4am and I’d still not had a break and I felt faint! That pretty much was the basics of most shifts in my time there and never EVER have I ever had an hour break in a 12.5 hour day!!
The system was breaking me because I knew I didn’t have time to do all of the things we should and just simply feeling like I was providing a skeletal version of midwifery that was nothing like what I signed up for, that focused on paperwork and ticking boxes as quickly and efficiently as I could. The fact I KNEW how much better it could be, made it even harder to deal with.
It was this particular night that, after I’d caught up with all paperwork and done the things I’d missed, whilst the woman and her partner had a nap, I wrote my resignation and quit my first midwifery post!
I didn’t even make it to a year!! 4 months immersed in this toxic working culture providing substandard care was all I could handle!!!
So when people try to tell me that in order to be a ‘safe’ midwife you MUST first be good at working on an obstetric unit I ask, I ask them to think about the comparisons, think about which one sounds safer for the woman, her baby and the midwife? Which one sounds like it has more support available when needed for a new midwife?
When I started writing this I didn’t intend for it to be quite so negative, but rather share an insight into what it’s really like for some midwives. But I can promise any student midwife, midwife or anyone reading this that it absolutely does not need to be this way. I may have left but I’m now working in a job that I love, providing safer midwifery care, meeting women’s needs not the needs of the system and being supported to do so by a nurturing bunch of colleagues who all feel the same as I do about midwifery!