International Day of the Midwife 2017 - Blog

May 5 is the internationally recognised day for highlighting the work of midwives. The International Confederation of Midwives established the idea of the 'International Day of the Midwife' following suggestions and discussion among Midwives Associations in the late 1980s, then launched the initiative formally in 1992.

Emma Campbell is a Charge Midwife who works in NHS Lothian, and in the blog below she highlights her thoughts on what’s important to her on this day of celebration. Please let us know what you think,and join in the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Why did I become a midwife? The honest answer is that there was no single moment in my life when I thought I was meant to do this job. When studying for my Midwifery degree at University I remember asking myself the question: “would I be a midwife for the rest of my life?”
I vividly remember arriving for my first shift in the antenatal ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston as a newly qualified midwife. Here I was, in the job I had been trained to do, with one other midwife, faced with the challenge of looking after a ward full of pregnant mums. I remember every minute of that first day, and yes it was scary and slightly stressful (as most first days typically are) but ultimately I loved every minute of it. I can honestly say that since that first day I have never looked back and wondered why I am a midwife, or if I always will be, because I feel utterly privileged to be in a job that I truly love.
I have now been a midwife for 13 years. Some superstitious people might think that 13 is an unlucky number, but for me it has real meaning. It has been within this 13th year that I gained promotion to Charge Midwife and was a part of a team that won the Health Hero award as part of the Celebrating Success awards.
The Health Hero award was presented to the SANDS (the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) team. This team included my manager Lynn Rose, medical photographer Gill Thomson and me. Although we were the recipients of this award I feel that it recognises the superb work that all staff working within maternity services in NHS Lothian have achieved to improve bereavement care for those families who have experienced pregnancy loss. This award clearly highlights the excellent working relationship between the maternity unit at St John’s Hospital and the charity SANDS Lothian. This relationship was established 5 years ago and the care that these two teams of people provide for bereaved families has gone from strength to strength through collaborative working.
On a personal note, every birth I am present at is a true privilege. This is also true when caring for parents who have lost a baby. I have witnessed the hysteria of grief, heard the cries and felt the pain of these families on numerous occasions. Although these precious babies are taken too soon from this earth I feel privileged as a midwife to have the opportunity to provide these families with the compassionate care and space they need at this difficult time. I recognise that I am an important part of the story for these families and share their experiences. I have held and dressed their babies. I have sat with babies in their last hours before death alongside parents when they find they cannot face these moments alone. I take comfort in knowing that I am able to give these families some peace as the midwife who can simply give their baby a cuddle and love as they die.
The truth is that this is one of the hardest parts of being a midwife. I will never forget any of the families and babies that I have cared for in these circumstances. I take a little part of each family I meet with me on my journey through life. This is what empowers me to continuously look for ways to make improvements to bereavement care. I would love to be able to say that in the future no one will need to suffer the loss of a baby as modern medicine will find a way to stop this from happening. Until that time comes I want to ensure that I take all that I have learned from the families and babies I have cared for and use it to improve bereavement care and educate others to help them cope.
Midwives often hide their true feelings behind a mask. They have to be able to leave a room filled with grief and attend to another mum who needs support with her newborn baby or care for a labouring woman. We learn how to carefully manage our emotions and feelings in situations such as these so that we can get on with the job we love to do.
So, what gets us through this? I think the answer is simple; we get each other through this. As midwives, we know what each other feel, we know when we need a cuddle, we know when we need space, we work together and we support each other. We understand how it feels to stand in a room with a mum and dad as they say goodbye to their precious baby or hold their baby as we take photos of them to acknowledge that their precious angel’s had a place in this world. We place these babies with love in our knitted blankets, Moses baskets and shawls and say our own goodbyes. These moments and feelings we keep with us forever.
Being a midwife is challenging, demanding, thought-provoking and exhausting at times, but we carry out our duties with the care and support from our midwifery colleagues. On this International Day of the Midwife I want us to celebrate how much we love and respect each other. I know from personal experience that there have been days when the support of my colleagues has helped me through difficult and emotional times. I respect my fellow midwifery colleagues in every way and I feel honoured to be a member of this profession. So, I say to every midwife, you are a very special person and you have an equally special place on this earth. Be proud and celebrate!