I have many good friends and am lucky to be blessed with a close family. I rely on them all to bolster me through the good times and the bad times in life, the same as most people. However who do you talk to when you've had a bad day or week at work?
It isn't so easy when you are a midwife to talk about your bad days. There is patient confidentiality to consider - you can't always share your great days let alone the bad ones. If you don't agree with your boss then most people have someone they can blow off steam at. When you are a midwife though, a bad day can be due to a variety of different reasons and not all are easy to discuss.
There can be the bad day where you started the day with a headache, had a bad nights sleep and then had care of a lady who was frightened and screamed through her labour and whilst you try your best to support her, it might be her way of getting through it. I want to be clear here that I'm not blaming the woman for screaming and neither am I saying the midwife doesn't care or want to help...just that it can be hard going.
Then there are the hard days where you don't stop...you don't get a break because it's just too busy. You left home at 7, barely had chance to have a wee or a drink and return home exhausted by 9. And potentially facing having to do the same again the very next day.
And then there are the days where you care for a lady where the pregnancy has not been successful - either due to still birth or an abnormality perhaps. You can walk away proud of being a part of someone's journey, supporting them in heartbreaking circumstances in the best way you can but it can be such an emotional roller coaster too. Now I can't talk for other midwives but I know that for me, the first time I dealt with this situation, it changed me. It came home with me, it interrupted my dreams, it made me hug my children closer and it almost made me wish for another baby of my own to hold and cherish. It's not something I can talk about with friends and family....and not just because of patient confidentiality but also because it's not really a part of midwifery that people generally want to hear about. I have friends who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, thinking of having their own children, have relatives or other friends having children and baby loss is not an easy topic to talk about. I want to be sensitive to them and their own fears about pregnancy and birth. For the same reason I don't really talk too much about obstetric emergencies, instrumental deliveries, unexpected admissions to special care or anything else that might frighten them.
I am often told what a lovely job I have and yes it is so true but there are also the days when I could almost scream that it isn't so lovely all the time. I don't sit cuddling babies all day....I deal with life and death. Having said that...I love my job and I find it a real honour to do what I do. The human body continues to amaze me with the miracle of life. The women in my care inspire me and put me in awe of their strength and courage.
I am lucky to have fantastic friends who are also midwives who I can talk to, as well as my supervisor and staff who were on shift with me. They help me to debrief and talk it through and share their experiences with. They help me to find ways to manage and cope. And my friends and family support me still...even though I can't always talk about it much, I know that they are there for me.
So one bit of advice to any student or newly qualified midwife out there, don't bottle up these experiences and think you are the only one finding them tough because you aren't. Talk to your fellow midwife friends, your supervisor or someone you can trust.