During my midwifery training I had the amazing opportunity to work alongside an independent midwife. This opened my eyes to a whole new world of midwifery care. I absolutely loved my time working with this midwife and as soon as I became pregnant I knew that this was the model of care that I wanted for myself. My mentor was unable to deliver my baby as she was away when I was due however she referred me onto one of her colleagues who was able to take on my pregnancy.
'My midwife' Mel is an absolute gem! I was so lucky to have such an experienced and knowledgable midwife caring for Me, Ian & Oli through my pregnancy. A common belief is that having a private midwife would be for a low risk, straight forward pregnancy. This was me in a nutshell at the beginning of my pregnancy; young, healthy, no medical or surgical history. As my pregnancy progressed I fell into the 'complex' category as Oli was diagnosed with CF. This was difficult for me to get my head around. I think theres such a huge emphasis put on midwives in regards to 'natural' 'normal' pregnancies and births that I was so heavily influenced to think complex is bad or wrong.
Early on we had planned that I would either give birth at home, at the birth centre or hospital. I was relaxed and like most of my plans in life it was pretty fluid. When we found out about Oli's diagnosis we were referred to the tertiary maternity hospital for pregnancy care and my subsequent delivery. This was a confusing time for us, we didn't know if we kept seeing our midwife as well as the hospital or where we go from there. We were suddenly put in a box..were we cut off from midwifery care because we didn't meet the criteria of a low risk pregnancy?! Of course not, Mel explained things to us and suggested more of a shared care approach which we jumped at. Thank goodness we did.
Having an independent midwife is like having a friend pop over every few weeks for a cup of tea to talk about all your questions, concerns, life, family, relationships, anything. Throughout my pregnancy I developed a friendship with Mel that I will always cherish. You know that feeling when you meet someone on the same wavelength as you? You aren't being judged or feeling as if you are trying to explain things to someone who isn't listening. Our visits often ended over an hour and were somehow finishing with my sister, Mel & I discussing our favourite tv shows.
Fast forward a few weeks and Ian & I are sitting in the waiting room at the hospital for 3.5 hours waiting for our appointment. (This may sound completely biased and like I don't appreciate midwifery & obsetrtic care in the hospital setting. That is completely untrue! It's where I worked afterall! I'm 100% grateful for these services in keeping myself & Oli safe and well cared for). I'm called by a midwife and instructed to do my weight and wee sample. When I return to her desk she asks if I have any concerns, "no" I respond. CONCERNS?! Of course I'm bloody concerned, Look at why I'm here! My baby is SICK! I say no because I know this midwife doesn't know me, she doesn't know our situation, our story, how we got to be sitting in front of her. Why bother pouring my heart out to her in my allocated five minute appointment slot! I'm handed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression score to fill out. To this day I find the questions on this form so irritating. I read through a document I've seen a thousand times... in the past 7 days have you blamed yourself for things going wrong for no good reason, have you cried more for no good reason, have you felt anxious depression etc. etc. for no good reason. Hmm well, yes all of the above! But for no good reason?! I think I've got a pretty good one! I'm referred onto the psych department for my high score. The midwife asks me to sign the hep b injection, vit k, newborn screening, and hearing test forms. She follows this up with "...but your baby will be in the nursery so you probably wont need to worry about that anyway..." This really rubbed us up the wrong way. At that point in time there were no issues that would mean Oli needed to be taken away from us. When Ian asked why she explained that because of the CF he would probably have issues breathing at birth. Hehe poor girl obviously doesn't understand acute respiratory distress vs. a chronic lung condition. It feels quite unnerving when the care provider knows less about the illness than us! We waited another 45 minutes to see the doctor who did a quick consult then we were free.
As you can see, the differences in model of care are huge. Being treated as a number vs. having the same care provider who is on 'your side' can make a huge difference to your overall experience. As a midwife I believe that continuous midwifery care is essential for a woman during her pregnancy, birth and beyond!. After all women are designed to grow a baby and give birth and midwives are trained to be 'with women'. Being pregnant is not a disease, illness or ailment. A midwife is the perfect person to guide and care for a woman and her family during this time. Regardless of the 'complexity' of the pregnancy, I believe support and care from a midwife in partnership with the medical model of care as needed is essential.
I found the most beneficial time I had with Mel was postnatally. As I've written about here I found myself in a very difficult position when I first became a mum. It was a very surreal feeling to go from all the attention being on me and Oli as a unit to suddenly just on Oli (understandably!) At my request I was discharged five hours after giving birth to Oli. I was offered the visiting midwifery service for two days following my birth. I declined this as I knew Mel would come and visit me regularly. This was such a godsend! Not only did I receive midwifery care and support during the time Oli was in hospital; five weeks in total. But when I bought Oli home we also had visits for weights, help with breastfeeding and emotional support. To have someone who I had met at the very beginning of my pregnancy and who was aware of everything we had been through was invaluable when we were having such a hard time, this meant not having to answer questions or explain anything. I find that our experience was traumatic enough without having to relay it to 1000 different people. Help with breastfeeding was also a massive part of the care I received from Mel. So many mums will be only too familiar with attempting to learn breastfeeding in the hospital where 50 different midwives will give you varying advice only to be left feeling lost and irritated.
I cannot encourage mums-to-be out there enough to access a midwife for their pregnancy, birth & postnatal care. I most definitely have Mel on speed dial for my next babies! The benefits of continuity of care provider have been well researched and proven to have beneficial effects on both mother and baby. Every woman deserves to have the one on one care and beautiful rapport that is developed between a midwife and family during pregnancy, birth, and beyond. Having a baby and creating a family is one of the single most amazing things that happen to a woman, why not cherish and give this experience all the attention it deserves with a midwife.