18 things I have learnt in 18 years as a midwife

I have learnt a thousand and one things from birth, birthing women and birth workers but had a stab at my 18 favourites to share with you:

1. Birth is extraordinarily amazing; it still makes me go WOW
2. You learn more from the births you attend than any text book or blog account
3. Never reach too far into a birthing pool; there is a point where you will fall in head first
4. Birth positions should suit birthing women; the often portrayed birth image of the passive women lying on her back, pushing her baby uphill as the doctor/midwife heroically directs and delivers still makes me livid
5. You never sleep as well when you are on call for a birth (and you sound like a bleary dolt when you answer the phone at 3am)
6. Institutional birth language is unacceptable – There are no ‘incompetent cervixes’, only incompetent descriptors. There are no ‘failure to progress’ labours, only a failure in care, support or ability to meet an imposed deadline.
7. Beware the colleague who presents their opinion as fact; the more confidently they assert their opinion the more suspicious you should be. Question everything.
8. You can never have enough towels at a birth, they can be used in innovative and interesting ways
9. If in doubt go with common sense. It makes sense to not clamp or cut a cord before it has stopped pulsating, it makes sense to keep mum and baby skin to skin, it makes sense to be mobile and upright during labour, it makes sense to eat and drink when you need to – generally it makes sense not to interfere unless there is a need.
10. Vernix is the best moisturiser in the world – don’t wash it off but rub it in!
11. We need to stop being so cervix obsessed – they are beautiful but they don’t read the book on how fast they need to open to keep health professionals happy. Vaginal examinations should be an exception not the routine. Observe, be quiet and be patient.
12. Watch where you stand when a women is labouring and her waters are yet to break (and always keep an extra top in your bag)
13. Never be in awe of the (so called) ‘experts’, only of birth and birthing women.
14. Your sense of smell is a tool you will use more than you think; a midwife can identify liquor over urine at 10 paces and blindfolded
15. ‘It’s just the way we do things here’ is the worst (and most dangerous) excuse for poor behaviours and questionable practice. Don’t follow the crowd – be a goat not a sheep.
16. We need to stop fragmenting birth; I look forward to the day when breech birth is just birth; VBAC women are just birthing women and waterbirth is when you get wet.
17. Scrubs are the clothing of surgery, emergencies and high drama TV. They may be more comfortable for staff in hot busy labour wards but I believe they send hugely negative subconscious messages to women hoping to avoid all of the above (especially the high drama TV)
18. Everything is possible. Nothing is impossible