My journey into midwifery wasn’t particularly straightforward. I went to school in Nigeria and studied sciences and I guess my default career was medicine.
I didn’t have the opportunity to figure out if I was good at anything else. When I moved to the UK I decided that I didn’t want to spend six years studying for something that I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to do. Then one day in my A-level class, we watched a video on midwives and my friend turned to me and said ‘You should do that, you’d be good at it’ so I applied to get on the course and the rest is history. When I was halfway through my first year, I received a letter from my dad with a picture of his grandmother, my great grandmother. I had never met her as she died before I was born, but my dad has always talked about her to me.
She brought him up as his mother died when he was young. In the letter my dad told me that his grandmother used to be a traditional birth attendant! How cool is that?!! I’m a descendant of a midwife!! The fact that I knew nothing about what she did for a living and went on to choose the same career as she did is so fascinating to me. My dad told me how she could tell if a woman was pregnant from as early as two weeks and how people would pay her with goats or chickens and anything else they could afford. Sometimes I think about how amazing it would have been to meet her and tap into her wealth of knowledge, ask what herbs she used, if she ever had to intervene or transfer women to the hospital.
Sadly, my dad can’t remember many details about that, but he does remember sneaking into to room and watching a woman give birth. An experience that as a little boy he found suitably traumatising!! If I could speak to my great grandmother now, I would ask her what she thought of this pandemic and of the medicalised care that we in western society are inflicting on pregnant women in our care. I am by no means saying we do not need medical input in midwifery. We all know that in an emergency , the obstetric team is there to deliver life-saving treatment however too many women/birthing people with uncomplicated pregnancies are being led down a highly medicalised path which often leads to coercion and birth trauma.
We need to listen to our women and really hear them and above all we need to go back to the basics of understanding how to be midwives and be ‘with woman’ and that means to nurture, inform, encourage, support and advocate. We need to be able to give our women/birthing people evidenced based information and trust that they will make the right decision for them. We need to remember how to sit in the corner of a darkened room and watch and wait. We need relearn the art of Midwifery. As a student, my mentors instilled a solid midwifery foundation in me and for that I am grateful, but it is becoming harder to uphold this with the over medicalisation of childbirth.
I will continue to do so though, knowing that midwifery is my calling and that it runs through my blood. I’d like to think that great grandmother Elizabeth is looking down on me saying ‘ku ise omo mi’ (well done my child).