pregnancy

A midwife's letter to new mothers: "I'm sorry I can't do better, you deserve better."

Today’s post is an anonymous contribution from a midwife working in the National Health Service (in the UK). I publish this to help her find an outlet for her feelings and to draw attention to the looming crisis that maternity services face as more midwives are leaving the profession than joining, funding is being cut and morale is at an all time low.

Mothers and midwives must stand together to protest this state of affairs before the service breaks down all together. #enough

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Dear new mother or mother-to-be,

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that my clinic was running over because we don’t have enough staff, and that you had to wait in a hot, stuffy room with a rumbling stomach or worry about how you were going to get to nursery pick-up on time.

I’m sorry that you have never met me before, and that you have seen a different midwife at each appointment. I would love to offer continuity to you but that is not how the system is set up. I don’t like it either.

I’m sorry that when you came for your induction, you hadn’t been properly informed about the myriad procedures and protocols it involves and how long it can take, or how much of a toll it can take on your energy levels, your mental wellbeing and your patience.

I’m sorry that my job sometimes requires me to hook you up to machines, strap monitors around your belly, put needles in your arms, and fingers into your most intimate places. Birth shouldn’t be like this.

I’m sorry that I see so many women on each shift, I sometimes forget your name and end up referring to your bed number. I swore I would never reduce women to numbers when I was a student.

I’m sorry that I rarely have enough time to sit with you and help you learn how to breastfeed. Instead, I offer advice and support in two-minute snippets, or send in a maternity assistant.

how to cope being a midwife
"I’m sorry that you have never met me before, and that you have seen a different midwife at each appointment." (Image: Getty)

I’m sorry that you are always kept waiting….waiting for the midwife or doctor to see you, for the baby to be born, for the pool to fill, for the anaesthetist to come, for the bed to be cleaned, for your discharge paperwork… for some sense of individuality and control in this whole process.

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I’m sorry that I sometimes forget the little things that you ask me for — an extra pillow, a cup of tea, some warm water to change your baby’s nappy — because I have 1001 things that I need to do and sometimes those things slide down to the ‘if I get time’ pile.

I’m sorry that I wasn’t my usual patient, smiling self when you were needing lots of help, or wanted to ask lots of questions… sometimes I am so exhausted that I am unable to mask my tiredness, so hungry that I can no longer concentrate, or so sad because I’m missing my own children.

I’m sorry that the failings of the government to adequately fund and support the NHS means I’m often too stretched and stressed to give you my absolute best.

LISTEN: Mamamia's pregnancy podcast, Hello Bump discusses the differences between public and private hospitals (post continues after audio...)

I’m sorry that sometimes I think of giving up, because this job is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I’m sorry that you don’t have better, that I can’t do any better, because believe me, YOU DESERVE BETTER.

But please know this…

I care.

I care that you want to know your midwife. I want to know you too.

I care about your choices, your wishes and your consent. I want you to be autonomous.

I care about your birth experience. I want it to be positive and empowering.

I care about your baby. I want to help you bond.

I care about helping you breastfeed. I want you to succeed.

I care about you, even when I’m not able to adequately show it.

We should not be at odds with each other. We want the same things. But ‘the system’ has created a wall between us, preventing us from truly knowing one another’s lives and joy and struggles.

Midwife means ‘with woman’ and unless we do something to get back to the core of that, to the sense of rapport, familiarity and respect that is the very foundation of our millennia-old partnership, I fear our historical bonds will be forever broken.

We must demand change. We must demand our rights. We must demand better.

I will not stop talking about it, I will not stop fighting for it, and I will not let this system break me, no matter how close to the edge it pushes me.

And for that, I am NOT sorry.

This post was originally published on The Birth Hub and was republished here with full permission. To read more from The Birth Hub, please visit their website.

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