The word ‘midwife’ is composed of the old Middle English words ‘mid’ meaning ‘together with’ and ‘wife’ meaning ‘woman’. A midwife was literally a “with-woman”—that is, “a woman who is with another woman and assists her in giving birth.”
My Journey into Birthwork
Since a child I have been fascinated by the process of pregnancy and birth. From pretending to give birth to my baby doll, to creating a caesarean scar on another doll following the birth of my baby brother I was in awe of this process we encounter as women.
Only in 1999 after having had two of my own children I realised I might never again be part of pregnancy and birth. Like an epiphany, I felt the calling to be a midwife.
As I read Childbirth Unmasked by Margaret Jowitt, learning properly for the first time about the hormonal interplay so easily disrupted by the medicalisation of birth, I knew what kind of midwife I would be. The feminist within me was set alight, and so began many years of love and tears to stay true to the calling in my heart. To be ‘with woman’, at her feet, serving, supporting, and ferociously defending the right to autonomy in childbearing.
Three years, one new baby girl and the loss of my father followed, graduating as a midwife with Bournemouth University in 2002.
Those three pivotal years of my life, focused on developing true ‘with woman’ skills in physiological birth, waterbirth and out of hospital birth. I was privileged to spend time as a student with several independent midwives, including the late Tricia Anderson, and Mary Cronk. They taught me that birth is inherently safe and our bodies can be trusted to do this work.
Midwife or Doula?
In 2003 we packed up three little children in one small caravan and travelled to Spain where I worked in the highly medicalised spanish health system as a midwife. It was here in Malaga I attended my first doula training “Paramanadoula” with Dr Michel Odent. My belief in undisturbed birth was cemented later that year attending the birth of one of my fellow students as her independent midwife. In an oxytocin filled bathroom as she swayed in the twilight, a new dad caught his own baby.
I was invited by the local breastfeeding group to present a talk ‘Physiological perspectives of Normal Birth’ examining the WHO recommmendations which was attended by over fifty lay and professional people. Speaking in spanish on a stage with a mic was certainly a challenge but how can we not share the knowledge we learn to benefit others and make change possible?
Since returning to the UK I have worked with women as a midwife independently and within the NHS, believing in the inherent power within them to make informed choices and birth their babies in the way that is right for them.
But midwifery isn’t ready to let me go just yet.
My Philosphy of Birth
Birth is probably safer than it has ever been. The knowledge of science has been used to benefit women and their babies, however I believe this should be used judiciously and with full regard for the individual, their own health, with respect for not only the body, but mind and spirituality too.
I have full understanding and respect for evidence based care, but feel we should remember and honour a woman’s’ innate physiological ability to birth her baby.
I also believe we should consider all forms of evidence.
Birth is not just about randomised controlled trials. It’s about being human, sharing stories, and the effects of culture and belief. Mind, body and something transcendent.
- beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience
- surpassing the ordinary; exceptional
- existing apart from and not subject to the limitations of the material universe
Learning and growing is a love deep within my bones. Some of my adventures…
I am a community midwife, serving the women of West Cornwall, attending homebirths as part of a great team. I’m also studying an MSc in Advanced Midwifery Practice and am really excited to be joining Kate Woods, co-creating and faciliating the Conscious Birth Educators course this year.
Once a year I also teach a module on the Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training Course in Cornwall with Amy-Yoga.
This is my only tattoo. On my lower forearm.
On tough days, bare below the elbows…
a daily reminder why I do this job.
Breathing Out a Baby..or not. The Mother magazine (2014)
Reflections on Midwifery in Spain. RCM Midwives. 2007 Sep;10(8):384-5.
A Taste of Freedom. Association of Radical Midwives, October 2006.
Feminism and Birth – guest blog on The Birth Hub, Maddie McMahon.