Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Looking forward

with Poppy and baby Lucinda
This blog is taking a new direction.

The time has come for me to prepare for retirement from my full professional role as a midwife, and it seems fitting that I commit this part of my life experience to writing in the way that I have been following for most of the past 20 years.

I have been writing midwifery blogs since 2007, and recording my journey as a midwife since a decade before that (The Midwife's Journal)- before we had blogs.  I have always sought to write with openness, while realising that my topic is often about private and personal matters.  In recording my own thoughts I have attempted to explore issues that will be relevant for midwives and women, as long as midwives attend women.  And although midwifery is the constant theme that gives me a reason to write, giving colour and texture to everyday events, the over-arching theme which offers limitless opportunities for reflection and comment, is life.

My life is being lived within my family and community.  The challenge I face in writing about preparation for retirement from being with woman  is that I do not want to be retiring (yet) from making an active contribution to life.  As I look forward, I hope that in relinquishing the most physically demanding aspects of midwifery practice, I will be able to find new ways of using my skill and passion.

I would like to identify themes that are important in this part of my life journey, and return to them from time to time.  Themes such as
  • the passage of time
  • ageing
  • relationships
  • health
  • ...
I would like to be able to answer questions that arise.

I would like to be able to comment on changes as I see them in the midwifery profession, and in childbearing.

Recently I was visiting a mother after the birth of her baby, as she reflected on the births of each of her children.  I have been privileged to attend her, in her home, for four of her five children. 

Even as the addition of each child to their family is a time for joy and thanks, there is also a sense of recognition of the great claim each child makes on the mother's energy and life.  This energy is claimed by the little one in early pregnancy, when nausea and retching can leave a mother dehydrated and unable to function normally.  It's claimed in the late pregnancy, when the weight of the child within, together with the relaxation of ligaments, lead to physical pain and exhaustion.  It's claimed in labour, as the mother approaches the time of giving birth, and relinquishes control to the massive natural physiological events that are about to take place.  It's claimed each time the baby takes the breast: self-sacrifice for the sake of the offspring.  It's claimed each time the mother puts aside her own interests for the needs of her child, over and over again, to a certain degree for many years to come.

The work of a midwife is parallel to motherhood.  Each episode - from early pregnancy; through nesting and preparation; through labour and birth; and through the establishment of a nurturing relationship that meets the needs of both mother and child - claims that special caring energy from the midwife.

And just as women reach a time when our bodies cease to bear children, or when we, as managers of all the resources given to us by God choose to cease bringing babies into the world, the midwife is aware of her own time limitations and physical boundaries.

For me, the awareness of a boundary has become evident in my ability - or willingness - to accept the unknowable, unpredictable nature of each birth.  In order to be a midwife I need to be ready to get out of bed in the night, or miss a night's sleep completely - to attend a woman in labour.  Sleep is interrupted by a loud telephone ringing sound, and I spring out of bed, fumble with the phone, and eventually say hello.  The voice at the other end of the line may be familiar, or I may take a moment to work out who is calling.  Then I must get dressed, gather my equipment, supplies, and anything else that may be needed (such as the knitting bag), take an apple for the home journey, and possibly some roasted almonds to nibble on, and head out.  Once on the road I need to be sure of directions - the home visit at 36 weeks usually sets up a plan in my mind. 

When I return home, 6 hours, or 16 hours later, or more, the physical challenge continues.  Exhaustion leaves cold feet, poor circulation, and often sleep is evasive.

The work of midwifery - supporting and working with the mother, and checking the baby's progress and wellbeing - does not challenge me as much as the physical and emotional demands of the job. 

As I think about the time when I will have no more bookings for births, I know there are a good number of younger midwives who are keen to provide the service. 

As I look forward, I think the midwifery profession is in a better place today than it was in 1973, when I graduated, or in 1993, when I commenced private practice.  I also know that there is a great deal of work needing to be done, in protecting, promoting and supporting women's and babies' natural processes in birth and nurture.

Thankyou for your comments

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