What you can do to save midwifery as an independent profession in the UK.

By Ruth Weston and Emma Ashworth

Independent Midwives are in the NMC firing line, and most of the campaigning that you might see is about this. However, the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council), which made this decision, did so without a practicing midwife on the board, and the ramifications of the decision affects every midwife in the UK.

For instance, the NMC have stated, “A registered midwife can only attend a woman during a birth if she has appropriate indemnity cover. The midwife cannot avoid this legal requirement by attending the birth in a ‘non-midwife’ capacity… The only exception to this is when a midwife attends a birth in a personal capacity to support a family member or close friend for whom they have not previously provided midwifery services”. “Services” includes emotional and physical support, meaning that midwives are being banned from attending the births of their grandchildren, or their own babies in the case of male or lesbian midwives if they’ve so much as listened in, or supported their partner through morning sickness.

The NMC is removing the midwifery committee, which advises the NMC on midwifery matters. Its replacement will have no budget and delegatory powers and it is unclear who will be on it and what its role will be within the NMC. As the NMC – the NURSING and Midwifery Council – has overwhelming numbers of nurses compared to midwives, and the way it is now being set up means midwives will be regulated by a completely different professional – one geared to nursing sick people rather than caring for healthy women -without their own voice being heard at all.

There is a huge risk that this will toll the death knell to midwifery as an independent and autonomous profession. becoming subsumed into the nursing profession as another branch of nursing.  This is certainly the way the NMC and the Government legislation is treating midwifery at present and would mean Midwives would lose the status of being THE professional experts in the normal maternal pathway and key care provider. This is not inevitable but as a profession and as parents we must rise up and clearly and strongly oppose  the removal of the midwifery code, the midwifery committee and lack of representation for mothers and midwives at the NMC. The profession has never been in more jeopardy, and never has the care of women and their babies been so much at risk since the formation of the profession of midwifery.  It falls to us to do something about it..

What can I do?
1) There have been several petitions. The writer of this one admits that if it had been less rushed it would be better worded, however, if we want Parliament to take note of the voices of women, midwives and their families then this is a good petition to start the ball rolling, so please do support it. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/178561

2) Share your story of how midwives have helped and supported you. What impact will the lack of access to IMs have on you?  Share on:

Facebook, Save Independent Midwifery page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/443681876022589/

Send to Birthplace Matters who is preparing stories and letters to the NMC through  birthplacematters at yahoo.co.uk

Send them to the saveourmidwvies.co.uk website.

Don’t forget to include permission to share.

3) Tweet!  Use the #savethemidwife hashtag with your messages about how this affects you. You can  tag Jackie Smith of the NMC using @JackieSmith_nmc, and BBC Watchdog (@BBCWatchdog)

4) Write to your MP. The website saveourmidwives.co.uk has important template letters which answer the cut-and-paste responses that most MPs are sending. Find your MP here: http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

5) Join IMUK, the Independent Midwives’ professional body, as a supporting member. It only costs £20: http://www.imuk.org.uk/professionals/join-imuk/

6) Make a complaint to the NMC. E-mail complaints@nmc-uk.org. They have less than 20 working days to respond. It is important to mention that it’s a formal complaint to ensure that you go straight to Stage 2 of their complaints process. If you don’t like the reply, simply respond back, say you’re not satisfied, why, and then appeal the complaint response, escalating to Stage 3.

7) Many women and Midwives across the UK are using their passion, creativity and skills to support independent midwives and to challenge midwifery regulation to do its work better.  Do what you can with the people you can, and watch this space as more developments are in the pipeline.  Thank you!

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Anti D: routine intervention debate

A medicine that offers a life line for a small minority has drifted into being used on a much wider population “just in case”.

If a medicine is good for a minority, then surely it’s even better to use it preventively on others? In this case, it appears that the logic doesn’t hold.

Our blood types are commonly understood – “O” “AB” etc. – and in addition we all have an Rh factor, which is the “positive” or “negative” aspect of our blood type. In the 1960s Anti-D was developed to help combat problems for Rh negative women with Rh positive babies, because an immune reaction to the baby’s blood can cause serious health problems in babies.

The people that this drug potentially benefits are:

  • Rh negative women with an Rh positive father of their child
  • Of these women, those who have experienced a trauma such as a car crash or interventions such as a C section during the birth

Originally, the drug was used in the 72 hours following a trauma or following birth interventions to stop an immune reaction in a future pregnancy. However, because studies found that women weren’t being offered the drug after trauma, in 1997 a consensus conference led to a recommendation to give the drug routinely rather than wait for a trauma to occur.

As with other birth culture issues we’ve covered, this is an area with large gaps in the research and a big lobbying pharmaceutical sector to deal with. National expert Sara Wickham has written about it in detail, well worth reading if you want to know more.

If you’re trying to make an informed choice on this intervention, one of the problems is that most of the literature available is produced or funded by the drug companies, rather than being independent. There is a US blog that offers some thoughts to help you (although from an activist not a medically qualified person).

The NHS page on this topic sadly doesn’t cover all the concerns raised by Sara Wickham. For example, if you are Rh negative but your baby’s father is too, then there’s no benefit from the drug, and it says that “it is likely small amounts of blood from your baby will pass into your blood during this time” which Sara points out is a contested point of view.

Rhesus disease can be serious for babies, and Anti-D may well be the best thing for those situations, but routine use of it on Rh negative women means passing the possible side effects onto mother and child without the benefits of preventing Rhesus disease to justify them. Sara points to some evidence suggesting it may even cause the disease in some babies by introducing the antibodies where they didn’t previously exist.

When a Muslim Mother loses a Child

As always I am awed when I meet women and mothers who have suffered themselves and then find it in the hearts and lives to want to change things to ease the suffering of others.  Here is just such a woman, who has lost two children herself but has yet found the strength and compassion to ease the suffering of others.  I commend her story and her work to my friends.  If you are in touch with women who may need the support of Rezvanna’s charity, then feel free to contact her.

Every blessing.

Rezvana says:

Children are regarded as one of the most precious gifts for every parent to hold, love and cherish. The loss of a child is no doubt the most difficult experience for any parent to face. The pain of child loss, however, is one that may never heal as I have learnt over the years.

I lost my son Hashim 8 years ago and Haider Ali just over a year ago. However parents like myself are looking for ways in which to learn to live again and face the reality of life. The feeling of strength, courage and patience is tested daily. During the time of heartache and soul searching, spiritual guidance can be the answer to many lingering questions as I have experienced.

At the time of my bereavement I was offered support by the health professionals and on a number of occasions. However I felt they did not cater for my faith beliefs therefore I declined. Sadly I did not know of any charity  out there that could cater for my beliefs. After 8 months of struggling to deal with my loss I was introduced to Children of Jannah, the only Islamic bereavment support in the UK helping to deal with child loss. Children of Jannah is a charity which aims to support parents to deal with their loss in the light of Islamic guidance. This closes a  gap in  service provision that will benefit many: as we create an environment for families to discuss their feelings and emotions.

Children of Jannah has a personal Facebook page for mothers and fathers separately where they can share their stories and experiences. It also delivers a telephone support line so that parents can speak to a trained volunteer confidentially.

The Imam of Bradford was pleased with the substantial support provided for parents by Children of Jannah, he said:

 “The Children of Jannah is a welcomed initiative that combines the offer of comfort and compassion through spiritual guidance at the time of bereavement. I would like to commend Children of Jannah charity and pray that Almighty Allah reward them for their efforts and good intentions.” Shaykh Muhammad Afzal Saeedi, President Minhaj-ul-Quran International UK

Another Imam said: “I want to congratulate Children of Jannah for producing this much needed information in a clear and accessible form. May Allah (God, the Most High) reward them for their endeavours.”    Imam Muhammad Asim MBE, Makkah Masjid, Leeds

Children of Jannah is the grief recovery charity that could help many other isolated parents deal with their grief. With their motivation and encouragement I have come to terms with my loss, and now I want to raise awareness so many other parents can receive this support. I am now the West Yorkshire Coordinator for the Children of Jannah charity and would like to talk with anyone who knows Muslim parents who may benefit, as I did, from this charity’s support.

Children of Jannah logo

Website: www.ChildrenofJannah.com  Email: westyorkshire@childrenofjannah.com       Mobile: 07870660035                 Charity no: 1145936

The chime of the anniversary bell

Why is it that when the hot summer weather comes and everything in the garden is in full and healthy spate, I begin to mourn. There is that heavy feeling. I don’t know what it is, for a while, and then I remember: it is 2 weeks away from the 4th August – again. The 4 th of August, the death day for all my lost babies. Why did I always lose them on the same day? the same time? What is it about this time of year? I don’t know.

What I do know is that as the seasons turns from winter to spring from spring to summer, each year I have a moment when I must turn and remember, remember my little lost loved ones, speak to their souls, and speak to mine too.

And I have to do it. My body compels me, even in my busy happy life, it compels me with gentle but firm tug, to turn aside, be still and remember. My friend tells me her African friends would say I need to visit my bush spirit. It is not to be morbid, not to drag up the past, but in a sense to ensure that it stays in the past. Acknowledged, remembered, and given its place, the losses of the past need not spoil the future or dominate the present. Except today of course, when the call comes.  It is to stay well that I need to pay attention when my body chimes the anniversary bell.

I reflect that it keeps me human too. Working on a strategic level, campaigning and lobbying, running a business, I can lose touch with Real Life, Real Things –  that is, where humanity touches humanity, where mother reaches to mother, woman to woman. These days, these special days when my bush spirit calls me to sit down with my dead loved ones, keep me human, keep me listening, keep me whole.

The blanket: a work of love in wool

Dear Kath,

Today Bram said thank you for that lovely blanket you made for him as a gift before he was born. He said thank you because, for the first time, he really appreciated what he had been given.

It happened like this: I wandered into my eldest son’s room this evening to continue a desultry conversation before he settled down. I saw his crocheted blanket on the floor and picked it up. I said convesationally: “Did you know that this blanket is handmade”. “Really?” He asked surprised. “Yes” I said. “It was hand crocheted for you by a lady called Kath.” I threw it onto the bed. He took it and with shining eyes began to wrap himself in it, looking at it this way and thatwith curiosity and pleasuer as if he had just unwrapped it for the first time – which I suppose in a way he had. “Yes, but how did she do itThese stitches!? It is so big, so very big. It must be very difficult. ”

I laughed. “The stitching isn’t difficult, but it would have taken a long time to do. But she wanted to do it. She made it even before you were born and came up on the train to give it to us, for you.

He was suggled right inside it now. “Who’s Kath?” he asked.

“When me and Dad were so young,” I said, “And just married, and did not have much, and were struggling to make our way in the world living in Sheffield, Kath and Ben took us under their wing and were our friends. They were the same age as Granny and Grandpa are now I reckon. But they were fun and we had some good times. Ben made wine . . . ” and I stopped as I remembered us drinking so much of it that we could not walk home!

Is that where Dad got the idea of making home made wine himself?” asked Bram pulling me back into the present.
“Yes! I guess it was influential.” I laughed again, remembering.

And that was it. I left a boy contented and secure snuggled in a bundle of memories. And for the first time he really appreciated his blanket for what it is: a work of love from a good friend he does not know and has not met. He understood the value of it and was so pleased. What was just a blanket has become a treasure, a web of love to keep out the cold and the loneliness – and I could see that he had ‘got it’. I wanted to to tell you becuase more than any thing that is the best thanks you could get from my lovely young son. And it is the thanks I want to share.

And one day,, I too will make a blanket to wrap a young child up with love.

Snowed in

5th December 2008

War weary and battle torn I needed a break and today I got one: We were snowed in. So there was no school, no school run and no office.

We could sit in bed for 2 hours and still be in work for 9am. We had extra 2 hours in the day as we did not have to collect or take kids to school. The children played in the snow (as the primary school children are not allowed to do!) And there were mishaps and tears sometimes but lots of fun as well.

We made Christmas decorations in the afternoon. And we made a fire and kept it running all day so no extra heating. And I crocheted for a couple of hours after answering emails and such. And I got some things done: ordering presents from LLanraeader Post Office, booking February half term break, sorting the invites for the Christmas party, organised some basic stuff for the Christmas service I am doing a week on Sunday, all things I would have not got done otherwise.

Finally in the evening after disappointment at turning up to yoga and there being none I had a cuppa with the friend I had gone with and came home to David. Then I said “Lets go out for a walk in the snow – it is cold and still and clear and fresh.” So we shouted up to Hannah, and went, just half and hour around the block. There were no lovely views, too many lights for the stars, but beautiful, beautiful, nevertheless; with our boots crunching in the snow, the feeling of good strong walking through 6-8 inches in places. Not talking too much – companionability.

And so quiet, peaceful, and thankful for this gift of rest at this time of year I write my blog before retiring to bed. Thankyou God. Ruth

Building Cathedrals – our invisible work

I was forwarded this story and it made me weep – as I too feel that my real work goes unappreciated and I constantly feel guilty for not achieving the heights of super-mum. I share it, hoping that it will encourage and inspire you as it did me. Otherwise find another story that suits you better.

Invisible Mother…..
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’
Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this?! ; Can you open this??

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!?

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well.
It wasn’t; hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given i t to me until I read her inscription:

‘To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fuelled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam . He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it.. And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness . It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

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

Ruth

P.S. To subscribe to the monthly Choices emailing go to www.AquabirthsAtHome.co.uk

Photo Madness

Today against all our best instincts and breaking a personal rule never to accede to invitations to ‘free’ photo shoots that precipitate an invitation to part with large wodges of cash to actually own the images produced – yes we went on a free photo shoot at Arts Photography somewhere on the far side of Leeds from us (at least it felt it with five children and a birthing pool to transport there!

I went with apprehensive optimism, David setoff downright opposed to such a mad venture, children like a pack of rats in a sack. David had forgotton about the pool so we had to ‘pick it up on the way’, we were stuck in traffic, the ‘Tom Tom’ directed us to a back passage between two shops, before we tumbled out of our cars and decended on the unwary agency.

Thankfully we found them human and humane – children were giddy but Gemma calm and lively at once coxed and directed our chimps into cute and cheery poses in and out of the pool. Horrendous hype had been our past experience and we were relieved. Nevertheless tension was high (even with supply of excellent tea in stylish cups) for me until we tumbled forth from the studio with none of Gemmas’s equipment damaged, and no child psychologically scarred for life.

Arranged a viewing for a month’s time when I have recovered the nerve.

Leopard Bras and Silence

Whew! What a week or three we have had. So posted nothing.

I have had fever for three days (went to the Christmas crib service in my pyjamas covered by my coat!), Christmas was one long round of relatives. The bliss of New Years Day doing nothing seeing no one. And then 2nd January faced with our office in a cupboard, no phone, no broadband, all the office move to finish and customers to serve.

On Thursday this week I bought 18 bras, agreed a price for another business and signed a three year contract for a telephone service. On Friday I was offered a directorship on a social enterprise, we chose a school for my son, and chatted on Radio Leeds.

But I am still here and I have baked cakes – for sanity, creativity and taste! Grasmere ginger bread, and apple cake (which was delicious with cream) and I altered an old recipe to make the most delicious ginger biscuits I have made yet. I thought they were anyhow – and 4 trays of them disappeared pretty quick.

Tonight I went to a party. The party was birthday honours for a friend – we met when I was University Chaplain and she was Women’s Officer. How the world moves on! My 5 children and her three. Our stories of birth and loss. It was a good evening – quiet, gentle and affectionate.

So here I am in the early hours able to contemplate a blog, uninterrupted and unburdened.

So thankyou
for challenge and excitement and possibility
Thankyou for cashflows and budgets and strategic planning.
Thankyou for Radio Leeds, for leopard pattened bras and birthing baths.

And thankyou for home, for family
For glasses of wine, good food and friendship
Thankyou for conversation and story telling
Thankyou for the night’s silence
Thankyou for peace
And time to enjoy it.
Thankyou

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