It’s been over a year and a half since I’ve written on the blog, or even written at all, because 2019-2020 felt like a very sad year with so many losses for midwifery (the closure of Neighbourhood Midwives & One to One Midwives & the loss of My Midwife & Me indemnity insurance for Independent Midwives) and I just couldn’t bear to write about it anymore. I stopped all the reading and engaging I had been doing before and just stepped back. Then Covid hit and on top of this was dealing with a lot personally, so because of this, I had to take some time out and this is the bit I wanted to talk about. This is quite a personal post, but bear with me as there is a reason I’m sharing it on here.
Because of my personal circumstances, I could not cope with being on call and for 3 months I didn’t work at all, so I didn’t feel my voice mattered or deserved to be heard. I genuinely felt like, after all this time and work I had done with the campaign, that my opinion and all that I had written and worked on in that time made me an imposter, a phony, a failure, all because I simply needed a break. I know now I was being incredibly unkind to myself, but thankfully was surrounded by people who made up for this.
Throughout the duration of this campaign, I would often hear from midwives who feared the roll out of continuity of carer, sometimes because they’d tried it in the past and had been burnt out (which we’ve now learnt from), sometimes because of the fear of the unknown or sometimes because of personal circumstances. I have never become burnt out by this way of working, which I believe is because I’ve only ever worked the way that is stated as being the way that works for midwives as well as the families they care for. Even after the majority of 18 months 24/7 on call as an Independent Midwife the on calls, which seems to be the main concern about caseload care, did not cause burn out. I have however experienced needing to work in a different way because of personal circumstances and I guess I wanted to remind people that this is OK. Your mental health matters, your families matter, your life matters.
I did eventually start working in the NHS at an incredibly supportive trust, but it took me months (during which time I was undergoing counselling and an NLP course) to slowly build up to be able to work full time and a couple of months more (and some trauma focussed therapy) before I felt truly fulfilled at work. It was only then that it felt appropriate to consider an opportunity that involved caseloading and on calls, because it was only then that I felt I had the capacity in my heart to provide caseload care. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to or that it wasn’t important for me, I miss the way of working terribly, it was just that my mind had been occupied in a way that meant I just needed to work within a set period of hours and for the rest of my time to be for me personally. I needed time to heal through my personal difficulties to be in the right headspace to be there for women and birthing people the way that they deserve. I felt very grateful that I had spent a lot of time working on myself personally over the last few years so I was able to recognise that I needed time to heal. Its important that we are able to be self aware enough to recognise when this is needed as otherwise it can mean we bring a negative energy into the birth space, which can reflect on how we feel about work, which can lead us to think it’s the job that is making us feel this way when it isn’t, we just need a break.
I knew I was feeling back to my old self recently when a woman and her partner were gushing at how wonderful their experience had been when I was discharging them (I hadn’t cared for them beforehand) and they asked what it feels like to be a midwife, what it feels like at the end of a shift when you walk out of the birth centre doors to go home… my mind quickly went back to the night before, when I’d got in my car to go home and had just taken a moment to think about my day and the wonders I had experienced, so I told exactly what I had felt at that time… it feels like a warm hug.