Grumpy Old Woman or Wrung out Dish Cloth

No I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks. And those of you who receive the monthly ‘Choices News’ Emailing will note that it also, is two weeks late.

And I have no excuses. None at all.

I just did not want to do it any more. There was no dramatic or tragic event, there was no overwhelming increase in my work load, I was not particularly distressed or depressed.

No, I just ground to a halt like a pushchair in the sand. I wanted to go no further.

I just wanted to close the blinds on the world out there, do my own thing, hide in my hidie hole, pull the douvet over my head.

In fact I still do. And it has taken considerable effort, and the lack of too many distractions today to make me write this blog.

Hmmm. Methinks there is a touch of burnout here. What do you think?

Burnout can hit us like a bulldozer into a wall, but often it slips into our lives silently as a shadow crosses our path, and we are not aware of it until we are quite literally curled up in bed with the douvet pulled over our heads.

And it can hit us when we have a sudden increase in workload – or like me, here, it is a slow accumulation of the pressures experienced in daily life. And one day something inside you ‘puts her barrow down’ and won’t budge.

Good for her! – I say. At least one part of me was listening to my body and soul screaming for a break!

It is interesting that my yoga classes finished about 6 weeks ago for the summer and my slow deterioration can be marked from then. My weekly yoga was the discipline of relaxation, and detachment. It gave me space to breath and relax, but it enabled me to put my busy life demands in proper perspective.

How we need those spaces in our lives! And if we are doing over time because we want to make the world better as well – Sisters! don’t we need some space to just breathe the air!

Summer yoga classes begin again on Monday next week. And I am going to away for the night after this blog, and finally it is school hols so no more 6 am starts for a few weeks.

And I have written my blog at last. And the Choices mailing is done.

And I must take time to breathe this summer time, to hear the birds sing, watch the children play, take my shoes off and breathe the air.

And dear readers! Banish the shadow of long tapered, slow burnout. Take time this summer to breathe and you will bloom.

Much love


P.S. To subscribe to the monthly Choices emailing go to

A Call to be Bolshie

At the birth of my third baby the midwife commented “Third time around Mums are so bolshie – they won’t do as they are told”. This was when I yet again refused to sit up to have my pulse or blood pressure done until ‘the next contraction was over’. I had a deep sense of well being and was focused on birthing my baby with ease – these ‘examinations’ were an irritating and painful distraction. And I had the confidence to tell the midwives to push off ( with all due respect of course!)

Last week I went to a fab waterbirth study day done by Dianne Garland (cf details below) and the evening before I had the opportunity of dining with her and the organisers. Well as happens tends to happen, as the food went down and we relaxed the funny stories came out – Dianne told us about her colleague only just managing to retrieve her computer (with all her lecture and resources in it)from the Israeli bomb disposal team, when she left it at the local post office. And Sarah told us how she send an 80 year old couple on a 24-30ies holiday.

I can’t remember recounting my own embarrassing incidents(!) but I found myself telling the tale of having a ‘how to breastfeed my baby video’ pressed upon me by my then midwife, when I was pregnant with my fourth child – having breastfed the previous three! My response was just that – and to comment that it was not videos that would raise breastfeeding rates but proper support (ie postnatal care) for breastfeeding – and women are not getting this. Needless to say this exchange was a symptom rather than the cause of our difficult relationship.

But then again I found myself talking ( not all the time this was over the course of an evening!) about the postcard campaign and my plans to present the cards en masse with a flourish, of standing up at the Foundation Trust AGM and asking why the Trust was not supporting Homebirths or why the appalling lack of continuity of midwifery care was being tolerated. And in the humour of the meal it was pointed out that I was a stroppy woman.

And I reckon I am. Not because I am bitter or unhappy. I love life and have faced up to many of the tragedies and difficulties of the past, and enjoy the good things I have now. I reckon I am stroppy because I know how easy it is to offer good customer service – because it is my daily job – I know how easy it is to give choice, and options even within a limited range. I know what it means to be treated and listened to, with respect. And because I do it, and because I receive it from many areas of my life I expect it from those working in maternity care – consultants, doctors, midwives, auxiliaries – and I expect that as the woman carrying the baby that I should be the centre of care.

I am impatient, with a system that punishes and castigates good practice in midwives and hacks away the choices women can make. I am impatient with the continuing hegemony of doctors and consultants too many of whom continue to act like gods and do not listen, understand or respect either the women or the midwives they see every day. I am impatient because I know how costly bad maternity care is to the women and children who suffer under it, both personally in my own experience and as I listen to the pain and the stories of others.

We women do not deserve this and neither do our babies. And it needs to change, and we as women have to be responsible for our own liberation. And so we need to be stroppy if that is what it takes, we need to ask questions, write letters, demand the care we and our families deserve – because our unborn children, our daughters and daughters in law depend upon it.

And so utterly exhausted with another day of being bolshie (in my spare time of course over and above work and family) I crawl to bed. In the last couple of days I have sent out 20 cards and added 8 to my pile. I have met with three other ‘user reps’ to look at an effective strategy to have real user involvement in consultation – focusing around the formation of the required Maternity Services Liaison Committee. I pray God this will not be a committee but a movement, a working party towards understanding, mutual respect and positive change for women – because O Lord save us from another bloody committee! Finally tonight it was the Choices group – a fantastic evening where women felt empowered realising they had more options than they had been offered or were aware of. These women are wanting to take responsibility for their own health and birth and babies, and why should the maternity system not let them?

And this time I really should go to bed!

Dianne Garland, Midwife Expert and International Waterbirth Lecturer. Her website is