Arguably one of the best jobs in the world, sitting here now I actually can’t think of a single job that would give the same tear-jerking moments, the adrenaline rushes and the relationship ties that bind you to a couples memory for a lifetime.
To see a birth is on most peoples bucket lists, one of life’s true miracles. And yet a midwife would not only see, but be involved in hundreds in her career, for those of my colleagues who have been a midwife longer than I have been alive, those numbers would be knocking on the thousands. That in itself is a testiment to the role; once you start you stay. Today on the International Day of the Midwife, Midwives across the world will be celebrating all that they love in the role. I’m going to be throwing it back to where my love for it first began, those 8 years ago.
I will never forget the first time. It was with a couple who were having their third baby. I stood in the corner of the birthing room, aged 21, 3 months into my Midwifery degree with a wealth of waitressing experience, A- Levels and 18 months of motherhood under my belt. I had been to one birth before and I was high on gas and air at the time and definitely did not have a clear view of the business end.
The mother was lying on her side on the bed. She had beads of sweat on her cheeks and her husband had a flannel that he placed just above her brow. This woman was fierce and powerful yet so vulnerable. She looked down to the midwife who was leaning, gloved hands poised ready for the baby to arrive. “I can’t do this… I can’t do this!!!” the woman cried, eyes wide searching for reassurance. The midwife gave her a smile that calmed all in an instant, “You ARE doing it… you are ready to meet your baby.” This wasn’t the first time during her labour that the midwife had spoken encouraging words. I had watched throughout as she wiped her mascara from her eyes, rubbed the bottom of her back, wet the flannel, given a drink through a straw. Only ever leaving the room to go to the toilet herself or have a quick slurp of a cold tea. A bond had formed and as this baby was now nearly here, that trust was needed now more than any. At that moment, the midwifebelieved that the mother could do it, giving her the confidence to believe in herself. And with that, as a contraction built, the mother closed her eyes, curled herself forward whilst holding her leg behind her knee. Determination in her face as her contraction peaked and her body instinctively pushed down.
I watched in awe as this thick set of black hair started to emerge. The mother continued to push as a head was born followed quickly (in true third baby fashion) by the baby. The room erupted with love as the mother opened her eyes, reaching out for her baby, with an expression reserved only for this moment. The baby placed onto her chest now taking his first breaths of life with a cry, wrapped by her arms like a blanket. This family; mother, father and newborn all crying into each other.
Chills ran up my body, hairs standing on end as I stared in amazement of what I had just seen and without realising tears spilled out from my eyes onto my cheeks. Amazing as it was, it wasn’t the baby being born that made me feel like this, but that look of the mother and father setting their eyes on something they had only just met but already had tonnes of love for.
After a few minutes had gone by the midwife said, “ Aww look, the students crying!!” I smiled, embarrassed, the new parents looked over and laughed. The sister in charge (who was present for the birth) said without even looking up. “If the students going to shed a tear, she must leave the room.” I gnawed through my lip and rolled my eyes up, not wanting to leave the room!
We keep Mum and baby’s safety at the forefront but alongside this the midwife has many roles, mascara wiper, hair tyer, shoulder leaner (both metaphorically and quite literally) tea and toast connoisseur, cheer leader, the list goes on. All this contributes to help families get to the point where they hold their baby for the first time and I’m sure I speak for many midwives when I say, after all those years later, I still bite my lip to hold those happy tears back!
(NB. This photo taken by Chui King Li was taken at my own birth. I think it summaries the support you get in labour amazingly)