When I started my midwifery journey, I entered it with this fierce passion and a strong belief that I was going to 'change midwifery services'. Three years of training knocked most of that out of me, and moving into Independent Midwifery enabled me to start practising the 'midwifery' that I had read and dreamed about. My choice to be an Independent Midwife is under threat; insurance issues and EU rulings have seen to that, and within 12 months if there is not a solution found, it seems, that the only choice that may be open to me is to return to the NHS.
Apparently, as a registered Midwife, I am an autonomous practitioner; I am accountable for my actions, the advice I give, the women in my care; I have to maintain my knowledge base and demonstrate that I keep up-to-date; I have to attend study days that are relevant to my sphere of practice; I have to work a certain amount of clinical hours each year; and I have to keep up my registration (and pay my fees) with the NMC. In short, in order to say 'I am a midwife', I have to work bloody hard at it! And yet, and yet, my right to choose how to work is not being recognised. The only midwifery (potentially) that will be 'legitimate' will be within the system of the NHS, and whilst there are amazing and wonderful NHS midwives out there, it's 'the system' that scares me.
So, what about being an autonomous practitioner? Well, it seems that the rules that govern me as a midwife don't quite fit into the NHS system; I would not be free to choose my working hours; I would not be free to choose who I care for; I would not be free to choose the study days I attend (unless the 'off-duty' enables that); I would not be free to choose what I wear (please - tunics? talk about putting a barrier between woman and midwife!); policies and protocols would dictate my practice - not the evidence and to support women in choices that would challenge these would, I fear, be a daily battle. Burn-out in the NHS is high, midwives work long hours with little or no breaks, morale is low, staffing issues create stresses on midwives trying to juggle 2 -3 women at once. Choice? I don't think so.
If women are going to get the care they deserve (based on the evidence and one-to-one care) and have the chance to 'reclaim birth' then it is essential that midwifery remains an autonomous profession, that midwives have the right to choose how they practice (remember, we are already well-governed), and that all maternity provision is not handed over to 'the system'.
Loosing Independent Midwifery will not just affect women; it has the potential to change midwifery in a way that I can not even bare to think about, it has the potential to remove the woman from the focus of care, and to remove any form of choice - whether that choice is a home-birth, an epidural, a caesarean section..........
What can you do about it? Tell every woman, every person, everybody that you talk to about Independent Midwives; share this page on facebook, email to it to 10 people you know, and ask them to forward it to another 10 people, and another 10 people, and another 10...... tell them about the brilliant NHS midwives who cared for you, who held your hand, and then tell them that if Independent Midwives disappear, so too might that midwife who 'was so lovely' to you. Because, if you don't tell people, and we disappear, the real tragedy will be that one day, choice will simply not exist for women or for midwives.
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,“Well, I made a difference to that one!”