In support of independent midwifery

 It is crunch time and myself, David and Aquabirths as whole has decided to take a stand so that our sisters and daughters and friends may also have the choice of the excellent care of the independent midwife and may be able to obtain this truly holistic midwifery-led care on the NHS.

Join us in writing to your MP. I downloaded the letter from their website at I did but then ended up writing my own – and here it is . . .to inspire and encourage you to do the same ( husband optional!). This is not about what you or I could or would do but about enabling us to have a choice, and have a choice of practice styles, the right to give birth how and where we wish with the professional of our choice.

Changing the way the wind blows


Dear Mr Davies

I am writing following on from the Finlay Scott review and in support of the Independent Midwives practising in the UK today. I have had the pleasure and privilege both to work with independent midwives as colleagues and as a client of theirs. IM Michelle Whittle of Yorkshire Storks helped me set up the voluntary support group Choices in Childbirth and facilitated our monthly meetings for 7 years, her colleague IM Jo Twyman has taken over where she left off.

The depth and breadth of their knowledge of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and latest medical evidence has always impressed me, as has their generosity of spirit and professional practice. When birth pool customers tell me their midwives are independent ones I am relieved knowing that they will get all the support, knowledge and skill required to offer them a home waterbirth if it is at all possible.

As a client I chose Michelle Whittle because having had four babies on the NHS we had come to the reluctant conclusion that it was not safe for me to continue having babies within the NHS system. To have the normal and healthy birth and have the support we needed if things did not go well we needed to go to Independent Midwifery. At the time we paid 15% of that year’s income (with four small children) to cover the cost of their care and it was worth every penny for the good birth we all had and not having postnatal depression for the first time in three births.

It has been a grave concern of mine and my husband, that this exemplary care and midwifery good practice would be lost as a choice to the women of the UK through new insurance legislation and a lack of will on the part of policy makers and bureaucrats at Westminster and Whitehall. We are therefore writing to ask, nay demand, that matters are so arranged that these fantastic, highly committed practitioners have the insurance they need to continue to practice as they are currently doing as independent midwives within current guidelines. We also ask that commensurate with their implementation of Maternity Matters and the new Health White Paper, the care of these midwives will be available as a choice for all women via the NHS as alternative willing providers of care.

We should not have had to pay the heavy financial burden to receive that level of care, it should be available on the NHS. We would argue that with their excellent outcomes combined with the reduction in admin and staff costs associated with NHS staff this would be an excellent choice both for women and babies and a cash strapped UK economy. We would ask therefore that you: take the matter forward with the relevant people at the Department of Health, that you keep us informed of developments, and help us lobby effectively for these amazing midwives who deserve accolades rather than brickbats.

With every good wish Mrs Ruth and Dr David Weston Further information can be obtained at

Please Note: We write this on a personal level but also as a business partnership committed to providing services for and lobbying for, good births for all women and their babies. We want to add the full weight of our business Aquabirths Ltd and Aquabirths at Home in support of the continuing choice of women to receive care from an IMUK midwife. The outcome of this issue will make no positive difference to our future business (but raising it in this official way could have a negative effect) it is simply because our ethos of promoting the best birth for mothers and babies, demands it.

Changing Roles – for a change!

I have been reflecting in the last week about whilst trying to change the way the wind blows  – in the same direction –  we can find ourselves cast in contrasting roles.

I think it struck me most, to the point of needing to take a few minutes breath, when I found myself in the role of mediator twice in two weeks trying to bring harmony between passionate professional mothers supporting mothers and NHS professional midwifery.  What has happened I wondered to the radical, ostracised from the Trust for her outspoken views? In this new role, being trusted by two groups who find it difficult to trust each other, can I pull off progress without selling out to the Mums we serve and the change we wish for?

I think there are different roles or tools within the movement to change the way the wind blows.  And some of them overtly contradict each other, they need different people to play them simultaneously, and sometimes as the need demands it we need to drop one tool or role and move on to antoher to effect the same change we are looking for.  The knack is to know when to move roles and how to keep your own integrity within the games that are being played around you. 

To describe the classic campaigning roles I find myself turning to my previous life as an academic theologian – to the prophets, the seers, the campaigners the change makers of Biblical times and places.

There is the John the Baptist: the voice calling in the wilderness.  Utterly outside the mainstream, removed physically and structurally, speaking an undiluted message of principle and change.  Often poor or penniless, you can gain fame, notoriety  – people came many miles into the wilderness to hear John’s message – or be completely ignored.  It can be lonely and isolated.  And if the authorities decide your time is up then often you have little to defend you except your moral high ground!

We need these campaigners who set the benchmark high that say nothing less than one to one midwifery will do, that birth is normal and does not need routine medical attention, that calls the anti feminine technocratic, power holding medical industry to account. 

There is the Prophet Isaiah, 1St Isaiah if you want to be correct.  This was prophet and statesman, and whilst still preaching a challenging message to the authorities of the time (EG. the Lord says “ When you lift your hands in worship I simply see the blood on them!”).  Yet he also held their respect and in times of crisis they turned to him for advice and guidance, which he provided with statesman like leadership.

Here is independent minded engagement with the system, whilst in touch with the prinicples, here is a man working daily in the reality.  A man who manged to place himself in a role of leadership and respect within the ruling classes of the time.

There is a role for passionate, clever, politically astute mothers and midwives to get involved in the reality of the system, who are known and respected for their independent views even whislt being vehemently opposed, who whilst asking for the moon are willing to work in Doncaster.

There is Nehemiah – the city builder.  Here was a prophet who could have stayed safe in exile in the court of the Emperor but returned home to a ruined native country to rebuild it.  He led the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple with steely determination, excellent organisation, and probably force of character. Against difficult odds eg no money and opposition from local groups who saw a rebuilt Jerusalem as a threat (does this sound familiar?)

We need  the John the Baptist’s of our world, to call to account, to point to the weakness and the badness in the governance and care of our maternity services.  AND we need people who have the ability and the willingness and resilience to roll up their sleeves, get in there and build a system, or unit from scratch and against the odds.  These kinds of people (both kinds ) need lots of support and lots of patience from other people!

The suffragette movement had all these roles played out in the movement, with the radical chain wearing, hungerstrkin radicals that hit the headlines with their strong simplet message, to the mainstream movement that could lever in change using the impled threat of their radical wing.  There were the middleclass and upper calls women and men who used their influence and position to change, and there were the mill workers like Hannah who built grassroots support and campaigning on a mass scale.  There were the skilled negotiators and policy writers getting the act through Parliament.  All these roles were needed to bring about a watershed change in our history and consciousness as women and citizens.  And many women played more than one role, and many women showed considerable and asacrifical courage and resilience over many years.

We are part of a birth movement, a birth movement that is worldwide, a movement that seeks to change in asimilar concious shifting manner the act of birth to make it womanfull, soulfull, life giving.  We need to take on the roles required and respect and support one another – especially those at the sharp end taking on the difficult and most exposed postions on the campaign spectrum.  We have the gifts of co-operation, tenacity, patience borne of our childbearing and midwifery roles, we may also need to learn political guile and organisation, enterprise and hard headed strategy.  But we need to build a powerful passionate prophetioc birth movement, and we need to be fulfilling the roles it give us today. 

  • Think what you can do (not what you can’t)
  • Be strategic about using your limited time and resources
  • Use all your guile and cunning to influence the people you can influence (someone else can influence the rest)
  • And connect and network and support others to grow the movement to change the way the wind blows