Independent midwifery did not become illegal in October 2013 as we had initially feared. We were given a stay of execution until February 2014 when professional indemnity insurance becomes linked to midwifery registration. Independent Midwives UK have worked tirelessly and have secured an affordable insurance product, but it will not work without government financial backing. So our future is still very uncertain. Just this evening I was discussing the way forward after February if we cannot continue to work as legal independent midwives. What will we do? What will we call ourselves? How can we continue to support women in their choices? There are still so many questions and the government are not giving us any answers. We are hoping for the best, whilst simultaneously preparing for the worst.
Having to explain this ludicrous situation to prospective and former clients has been the hardest. How silly it must sound when I say “I know I was your midwife last time, but I may not be able to be this time”. I have not become unqualified or a dangerous practitioner, but will not be able to call myself a registered midwife unless the government help us get insurance, which most Independent Midwives and their clients know does not increase the safety of our service. What will those women who do not want NHS care do then?
The up side of this is that midwifery knowledge and information is being reclaimed by women in their communities. More and more women are taking responsibility for their births. Some choosing to go without midwifery care during birth rather than face disrespectful care from a stranger, some relying on friends, family or doulas to support them. The end of Independent midwifery will only serve to accelerate this process and drive true midwifery underground. The vast skill-set that is contained in the independent midwifery community will be lost unless we share our knowledge freely. We must keep this knowledge alive and educate others in the ways of being truly with-woman.
I will continue to do all I can to help women make informed choices about how and where they choose to birth. My pregnancy group continues at its new venue of the red brick building. Along with other practitioners I will be running regular workshops as well as pregnancy and postnatal information drop-in sessions, and one to one midwifery consultations at affordable rates. I will not abandon women who are in need of compassionate care even if I lose my title of “midwife.”
I’ve been contemplating how my role as an Independent Midwife may change if I am no longer able to legally practice after October this year, and have had somewhat of an epiphany.
I left my birth centre job recently with a plan to be an Independent Midwife once again, and started searching out information which would help me continue to make a difference to birthing women if I could not practice midwifery. I certainly didn’t have a plan in mind when I left my paid work, in fact I had no idea what I was going to do next, but it is starting to become clear now. I’ve embarked on the birthing from within mentor training, attended a very informative “when survivors give birth” course, and spent a transformative weekend in deepest Wales with some wonderful doulas. I’ve had great fun adding to my skill set, but the real catalyst last week (as it always has been) was in the form of a pregnant woman. Well several actually, but the first one sparked my interest in helping those in need of good care. She told me the usual, and very sad story, of an intelligent pregnant woman being told she must x, y and z or else the midwife would get in trouble, The baby may be in danger, and the midwife would not be able to provide information for government statistics! Unbelievable if you’ve not heard as many of these stories as I have. Unfortunately, to me it was yet another pregnant woman who’d made a very informed decision of declining a particular test, who was then harassed by a midwife who needs reminding that these tests are not compulsory! Luckily my friend knew her rights and refused to be brow-beaten, and made an informed decision not to see this midwife again.
I then attended a radical herbalist’s gathering and was asked to share some midwifery information during one of the workshops. To my dismay even well informed, questioning herbalists think they have to ask permission to do as they choose in childbirth! “Will they let you do that?” was the question asked after I’d shared the information. My answer is always “How would they stop you?” That was the last straw (and the piece of the ‘what shall I do now?’ jigsaw that I’d been looking for) I’m afraid. I was mulling over the many links between good herbalists and good midwives, and noting how both use the word ‘radical’, and then it hit me, Pow!
Radical as in Radical Midwife pertains to the root or origins. A return to the basic values and midwifery skills which are being gradually eroded as we are consumed by the medical model of childbirth. I’ve felt a growing need to retain these valuable skills for some time now. I need to return to grass roots midwifery to serve women who are not best served by an overstretched NHS, and I have a burning desire to share as much information about childbirth rights and choices as possible.
How I’m going to do this is a many pronged approach, which will be so satisfying (but not financially great).
- I am planning to spend time with a very experiences colleague of mine who has decades of midwifery know-how, and has helped about 1,500 women to give birth. We will be documenting these experiences to share with midwives and women.
- I today started a grass roots midwifery information service from my campervan in my local supermarket carpark. Taking midwifery information to women in my community.
- Last month I reactivated my Association of Radical Midwives (ARM) group meetings to share experiences locally.
- I have set dates for my drop-in pregnancy group as there seems to be a need locally.
- I will teach birthing from within birth preparation classes.
- I will continue to work on my book with the hope that I can help women make childbirth choices that are right for them.
Most of these services will then become a part of the Red Brick Holistic Health Practice when we have a permanent place there in the Autumn- watch this space for further details.