Archive for December, 2010

Christmas Day came and went. Absolutely frenetic, much wrapping paper, steam, yes steam is my major impression of Christmas Day because of all those pots bubbling away, full glass of red wine over my oatmeal coloured carpet and then peace when all the little people were asleep.

Work was busy and foggy with numerous offers of mince pies. I have been desperately trying to ‘book’ a newly pregnant woman, twice we have made appointments and she has phoned minutes before them to cancel, I almost know her phone number off by heart now as I’ve rung her so many times to reschedule but been met by her voicemail. She has left me a message to tell me that she needs to see me before her scan, I KNOW, but when I return the call guess what, voicemail. Hubby is now getting annoyed with it as I am always phoning her, yes on my days off. Get up in the morning, phone. In the car on the way to the DIY store (we are going to decorate and put down a new floor in the shower-room), phone. Cooking dinner, phone. As I was so desperate to speak to the woman I’ve been leaving my work phone on, bad mistake as I keep having to answer it. Swine flu, that is the number 1 topic. Last year I was quite reticent on advising women to have it, I gave them the info and told them to make up their own minds, this year I am swaying toward the ‘it’s probably a good idea’ stance. In my mind I feel somewhat happier about reinforcing the party-line as the vaccine has been around for a year, babies have been born to Mums who had the jab last year, and so far I have not been made aware of any adverse outcomes as a result of it. Next in the things to phone your midwife about is ‘I’ve got a cough, what can I take?’ Now, presumably these coughing ladies will have to go to a pharmacy to purchase the medications I suggest, how about asking the pharmacist? I have recollections of an ad campaign encouraging people to speak to the pharmacist and chemists now have a ‘consulting room’ for that purpose, why ask a midwife when there is a highly trained person who is far better placed to advise?  One of the phone calls was from Children Services asking me if I had seen someone, who I had never heard of, and who there was a meeting about on Thursday. Oh b****r, my heart dropped. After much questioning it turned out that they were giving me the name of her child, who has a different surname to her, my shoulders relaxed. Yes, I knew her, I had seen her, she was ‘co-operating’ with the maternity services but no, I couldn’t come to the meeting as I don’t work that day and, where usually I will attend these meeting if possible on a day off, that is one of the days when I have the boys and they hadn’t given me enough notice to rearrange childcare. Had they got a creche? No. Now I’m consumed with guilt, female thing, but they really should either give more notice or consult with ALL parties on when is a convenient time.

Homebirths are in the news again, apparently doctors are trying to put women off them. Why are the RCM and NCT suddenly getting hot under the collar about this, doctors have always tried to put women off them. When I say ‘doctors’ I actually mean G.P’s, obstetricians, well the ones locally, are supportive as long as the woman fits the criteria for a homebirth, i.e the pregnancy is low-risk. Cathy Warwick, RCM leader, calls for a ‘seismic shift’ in the maternity services and recognises that midwives are unable to offer choice. Sorry, Ms Warwick but we do offer choice around here, and the rest of the service suffers as a result. Yes, we need a shift, seismic or otherwise, but something definitely needs to happen, and soon and not just to enable more women to have a home birth but to allow that to happen without depriving other women of the care they deserve and putting midwives under so much pressure of work that they leave.

So, on this last day of 2010, I wish everyone a wonderful 2011. My resolutions? To carry on with my diet, I have lost over a stone, and lose the 3lbs I have put on over Christmas! To allocate some ‘me time’. 


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Christmas at home

This is the first time in 15 years that I have not been working Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Years Day. I am working one of the bank holidays but not any of the traditional days of celebration. Fantastic. The lead up to Christmas has been super busy at work, mainly due to staff sickness and the white stuff which has been deluging our area. This double whammy has hit community staffing hard, not only are our numbers down due to midwives calling in sick but also some colleagues unable to get out and about due to the road conditions but because the unit is also suffering from a shortage of midwives they have been pulling community staff in to cover. That leaves us very, very short staffed and so, what with that and travel taking much longer because of the snow and ice, we are all working long, long days to cover all the commitments. Bring on the spring, or perhaps not as we have an expected baby boom locally in April!

Work, that’s behind me now until Tuesday and currently all my efforts are focused on Christmas. Yesterday Amy and I spent the day together and I prepared her for the joys of being an adult at Yuletide; we spent 2 hours in a supermarket doing the final shop for ‘the day’, have I said that everyone is coming to us, 8 adults and 7 children? Yes, the supermarket was busy but it took us so long for a couple of reasons, we had Hubby with us and he kept getting lost and as it was so busy we had difficulty locating him again but the main cause of the protracted visit was Amy being in charge of the handset scanner. Excellent way to test patience, mine and other shoppers. Having returned from the endurance test of the Christmas shop and put everything away we made some rocky road, Nigella’s recipe, some choc chip oat cookies and the brandy butter, in the middle of this culinary orgy daughter phoned and, having discovered what I was doing, asked if I was alright as I am not known for my love of cooking. Cheeky! Having made the brandy butter I then had to clean the entire kitchen, in 34 years of constructing this alcoholic confection (my favourite bit of Christmas fayre), I have never, ever managed to stop the icing sugar from escaping in copious amounts from the mixing bowl and coating every surface, including my glasses and the cat.

Today Amy and the boys arrived at 8am, and immediately got every single toy out. I decided to take advantage of them playing happily and got the ironing board out, halfway through a mountain of pressing I was reliably informed that they hadn’t had breakfast yet, porridge and toast all round, down from the table and they disappeared upstairs to play. Ironing finished I tackled the bathrooms, voices downstairs and daughter had arrived with Jack (just lost his first baby-tooth) and Izzy, then shortly afterwards son, DIL, Evie and Joshua arrived. Lunch was cobbled together. With my house rapidly being trashed I started clearing up the detritus from lunch and pondering on when I was going to manage to ice the Christmas cake. Son then asked that I weigh Joshua, apparently he hasn’t been weighed since I did it when he was 2 months old, he’s now 6 months, in fact he’s 6 months today. Happy half-birthday Joshua. Scales out, Joshua naked and 2 things happened, as my baby grandson lay giggling on the scales he wee’d all over my trousers and the front door bell rang. My niece and her 2 children had arrived. The next 3 hours are a blur of noise, mess and food preparation. Amy was heard to observe that the house was like a playgroup, great-nephew replied that it wasn’t since they are organised. Caustic, but true. When everyone had gone Hubby and I had dinner then I iced the cake and he went down to the supermarket to buy an additional turkey, I’m sure that a 6Kg bird is big enough for us but he is certain that we need more, I think he is anticipating more diners for the festive meal.

Right. Up to date now. Synopsis is that I haven’t blogged for ages because work is busy and I’m finishing late; home is busy due to something called Christmas; there is deep snow outside and a lot of viruses, including swine flu, are doing the rounds.


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The end of a saga

Many moons ago I embarked on a tortuous journey through the turbulent seas of the ‘choose and book’ quest. It started innocently enough when a friendly being, the GP, laid out the requirements to complete my task. I had at my disposal a trusty computer and a telephone to aid me in my pursuit of treatment, even so I was very nearly thwarted on many occasions. The denizens of the Appointment lines placed many obstacles in my path, but I outwitted their bureaucratic maze and finally achieved my destiny. Today I set out on my final task, to be released from the gaze of a poorly organised, modern day barber’s shop. After 90 minutes of expectation I was summoned into the sanctum, and 10 minutes later I was officially a free woman and with my task completed I bade farewell to my sawbones and stepped out into the bleak midwinter.

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Yep. Sitting here waiting for the phone to ring, I’m on call. On call is really a poor description, ‘in waiting’ would be more appropriate as recently it’s 90% certain I will be answering the phone and driving off somewhere at some point during the night. Last time it was because paramedics were refusing to take a labouring woman in to hospital, even though she was ‘high risk’, because her contractions were too close together! Off I went, in freezing fog, arrived 40 minutes later and discovered that the woman was in early labour. Only problem was that I then had to go in the ambulance with her to the maternity unit, then get back to where my car was, then get home. Nearly 4 hours in the middle of the night, and I’m still not really quite sure why. Then last week it was to the local Birth Centre because they hadn’t got any cover for that night, the week before it was to a homebirth. Once again tonight the Birth Centre has no cover, I wonder what time I’ll be called?

These on calls are starting to stress me out. It seems that as I get older, and perhaps wiser, I dread them and anticipate more problems, mind you, that might have something to do with more women with ‘problems’ booking homebirths. I must be the biggest pessimist as I lie anticipating the phonecall, imagining all the different scenarios I could find myself in, and then, when the electronic ring shrills out my heart leaps into my mouth and virtually flies around the room. That’s the worse bit, the waiting, the trying to get to sleep. Once I’m on the road, in action, and especially once I’ve arrived I’m in the present, no more imagining, or dreading, just a woman to help and support. Yes, things could still not be ‘normal’, but facts are easier to deal with than the imaginings of a sleepless midwife.

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Childcare season

‘Tis the season to be jolly, or alternatively to step up to the plate and take care of grandchildren whilst their parents are being jolly. Last week it was a 6 and a 3 year old who stayed with us from Thursday through to Sunday whilst their Mummy and Daddy went to Amsterdam. Only their Mummy and Daddy never made it past the airport check-in hall, their fight was cancelled due to the weather so they stayed at home, alone. After a busy weekend I was on-call on Monday and was called out until 2am, by the time I finished work on Tuesday I was feeling slightly tired.

This morning the boys, 3 years old, and their sister, 5, arrived as usual at 7.45am and they are staying tonight as it is their Mummy’s Christmas do and their Daddy is at college until late. In the morning their Mummy will come and pick the boys up, I will have already taken their sister to school, and then I will shoot off to pick up the 2 year old grand-daughter for the day so that her Mummy can finish her Christmas shopping. Thank heavens her baby brother is still breastfed as otherwise I would be having him as well.

Saturday sees Hubby and his golfing chums having their Christmas tournament. This gives me a free day, apart from going to watch grand-daughters Christmas concert, but it does mean that I will have to prepare all the spare beds for his friends as at least 4 of them stay here overnight when they have these sessions.

As a result of the non-stop work/childcare I have bowed out of the usual family, celebratory meal for Hubby’s birthday on Sunday and have opted for a buffet instead, less stressful and easier to prepare in between other commitments. Then it’s work and on-call again on Monday. As I’ve been called out the last 3 times I’ve been on-call I don’t rate my chances of having an uninterrupted nights sleep as being very high, but you can always hope.

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Midwife wanted

This email arrived in my inbox at work the other day, interesting opportunity for a midwife in the North.

Dear Manuela,

As I explained in our phone conversation earlier I have been commissioned to ghostwrite an uplifting memoir of a modern day midwife for Headline and wondered if you could help me to find a suitable case study whose story I would write on her behalf. The book is to be written in first person narrative and will be uplifting, heart-warming, touching and life-affirming – a real celebration of a modern day heroine.

Ideally the midwife in question would be from the north of England and working in a community. She would be aged between 42 and 53, would have worked as a midwife for at least 15 years and have children of her own. She needs to open, warm and a good storyteller. She will receive payment as the author of the book and will be expected to do PR to promote it. 

My publishers have asked me to come up with a shortlist of suitable midwives for this project and I would be very grateful if there was anyone you could put me in touch with. I’d also be very interested to read the press release about Lindsey Reid.

Many thanks,

Charlotte Ward

Freelance writer

I have a few queries. Why a ghost writer? How much would the midwife be paid? Why the age constraints, especially as that rules me out? Hang on, is that age discrimination ;)? Why the location in the North? Do northerners have more interesting lives and experiences than those from other parts of the UK? Then there is the gender issue, why a female midwife? Male/female, we all do the same job.

Modern day heroine. Tee hee. Read a few parenting websites and you will soon see what the Mums think of midwives, and it’s not as heroines. How exciting though for the chosen sage femme (I just love that french word for a midwife).

She will have to tread carefully though, and I suspect that her every word will be subject to much examination by her Trust. What makes me think that? Well, as an introduction to the forwarded email was an advisory – Any midwife interested in this project should contact their Trust press office to discuss the opportunity. That should be an interesting conversation!

Oh yes, Lindsay Reid is a writer, researcher and midwifery historian.

Well, any midwives reading this who would like the opportunity to become a published authoress should contact Charlotte on charlottefreelance@gmail.com

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A thing of beauty

This morning Hubby was busy doing his hunter, gatherer thing which involves chopping and splitting logs. I was lurking indoors, recovering from intensive Grandparenting, by indulging in on-line consumerism, when there was a tapping on the window. Hubby was gesturing toward the back-door and by a certain degree of mind-reading and assisted by years of playing charades I interpreted his posturing as indicating I should open the back-door. My Hubby is one of the most accident prone people I know and as I moved through the house to get to the door I realised that he had been cupping one hand and looking intently at it’s contents. Oh lordy, he had been using the chainsaw and had already nicked his nose, had he now managed to chop off a finger? Was that what he was holding so carefully? That would be why he couldn’t open the door. I increased my pace and grabbed a phone as I passed. A list of items flew through my brain; plastic bag; ice cubes (blow I haven’t made any in the new freezer); frozen peas then; clean tea-towel, I flung open the door and looked into Hubby’s cupped hand and there it was –

Hubby has come across it whilst wielding his chainsaw, so it had sawdust all over it and my task was to clean it up. I did the best I could using a fine-haired artists paint-brush and then put it back in the driest, most secluded part of the woodpile. How had it survived the snow and cold? Lovely to see something so delicate, beautiful and summery in chilly December.

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Thank you to those who voted/responded to my request for opinions, the results seem to echo the findings by professional surveys in that the majority considered the same midwife throughout labour to be of most importance. To be honest I was expecting that this wouldn’t be the conclusion. From my perspective as a woman giving birth, I couldn’t have cared who was there, as long as s/he attended to my needs, was competant and treated me like a real person and not just another ‘case’. It does throw up dilemmas though, we are supposed to be aiming at ‘one-to-one’ care during labour, but that doesn’t mean same midwife throughout, it just means that one midwife is only caring for one woman at a time. To then move to one-to-one care by the same midwife throughout is really throwing down the gauntlet, not sure how that could work even with a ‘domino’* system. There are days off, annual leave, sickness etc. and then there is the length of labour itself. Anyway, it has certainly left me with more than enough to ruminate on!

* Domino – The midwife who has provided throughout pregnancy then accompanies the woman to hospital and stays with her until after baby is born.

I have been laid low by yet another tooth abcess, according to my dentist it is down to grinding my teeth, something I am doing a great deal of recently. Working, whilst coping with tooth throbbing and jaw and ear aching, plus unable to take the pain-killers I yearned for was difficult but I am eternally grateful to one of our healthcare assistants who appeared at my clinic and helped it run to time by doing all the non-midwifery stuff. There is a box of choccies waiting for her to acknowledge her thoughtfulness toward a flagging colleague.

I have a Google alert set up to notify me of news articles, blogs etc which mention ‘midwife’, it also alerts me to posts on sites like Mumsnet where members have included ‘midwife’ in the title. On occassion I have rsponded to threads, generally to give advice but this week I read a thread which, at first, I was just sad about as the woman was not happy with her midwife. Then I read the replies, and I got really irritated by the tone of some of the respondants. What I should have done was clicked away from it but instead I put fingers to keyboard and fired off a reply (I blame the toothache). They gave as good as they got, the original author amended the title, but the tone was still so unsettling from some that I wish I hadn’t done it. It really makes me realise how little people understand the struggles within the maternity services now and are happy to keep demanding more from an already close to disintegrating system.

Memo to self, don’t read these sites, and if you do think once, think twice before replying.

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