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“When autumn starts to dampen into winter …. Should we say the nights are getting dark? Should we thrust our hands into our pockets and anticipate the chill? Or should we say light the fire, draw close, it will not be as cold as you image.”
As I watched the conclusion to this fabulous season—I felt an intense pride with being a midwife. We had the International Day of the Midwife on May 5th and then this past week it has been nurses week. The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife were definitely chosen in an unprecedented time. And what an honor it is to be both – a nurse and a midwife!!
As I watched Trixie give her address to the council - I saw a leader. As a Modern Day Midwife, I reflected and noted important elements that a midwife needs: courage, passion, persistence, connection with your mission, empathy as you advocate for women, babies, families, and your community. Trixie was eloquent as she emphasized that as a midwife (or as a healthcare provider) our work is personal. To the administrators they may be concerned with numbers, trends, and saving money; however, I felt a great sense of pride and the responsibility that we have to continue to put a face and tell the stories behind the numbers and statistics.
Throughout my career I have journaled and recorded all of my births. As a student we had to track our “numbers” to share with our professors. I have all of those beginning midwifery experiences and then I just continued and expanded on it throughout my career. I had my calendar with my schedule and each day at the end of being on call I would come home and pull ‘my stories’ from my pocket and put them folded into my calendar. At the end of the month I would make tallies and write it as a summary of the month and put some of the overall totals in the corner to carry over to the next month. At our monthly midwifery meetings, I loved really looking at the ‘report’ that would come out; but, I truly loved the process of review whereby the ‘stories’ were discussed and processed as a midwifery practice. The conversations were rich and helped inform our practice. We processed and reflected as a team.
At the end of the year I would tally up my numbers and examine things—and all my individual ‘stories’ were there and I would fold them up into the crook of the calendar. Through the years I would go beyond the clinical info and labor flow and birth details — and began to add in a sentence or two for context when I review these when I am old and gray. Sometimes it was small things like a horrible snowstorm and trying to get to the hospital or bigger things like current events. So on a little baby’s birth story there is a footnote that the Cubs won the World Series; while another records that Barack Obama became the first black President; while another recites how my adorable Mazda Miata started smoking as I was driving to the Freestanding Birth Center in Tucson, Arizona, because I knew the family was waiting…it sputtered into the parking lot and I called a mechanic when they were settled. I have 27 years of calendars in a container. Most of the calendars are from my sister in-law, Jackie, as she knows I love babies and birth and each year I get my Anne Geddes calendar!!
Journaling is something I encourage all of my midwifery students to do. I believe real growth can occur from reflection. It is important to journal especially during those pivotal moments within your life or within your career. Those times of change, transitions, and growth –the words bear witness to that experience. I write sometimes to honor a situation; sometimes to use it as an opportunity to search for patterns; sometimes to process or digest an encounter; sometimes to find ways to improve, and sometimes to reaffirm my gut was right when I reread things down the line. In black and white are my successes and challenges (nicer word than failures). With COVID 19 I took out a gorgeous leather wrapped journal. I had gotten the journal when I lived in Chicago and for some reason had kept it for some time special down the line. I opened it up and felt the beautiful paper and I write in it every night. I track numbers and I track stories and events that are important – important to me or from my perspective.
This past week I was interviewed by a fabulous student nurse-midwife, Adrienne, for the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM). They are interviewing midwives for upcoming work that they will be undertaking for mentoring our next midwifery leaders (young new midwives and student midwives). This upcoming fall ACNM will host their inaugural Midwives and Student LEAD (Learn, Engage, Ascend, Deliver) Leadership Development Programs. On the ACNM site it tells how Midwives LEAD is designed to engage midwives in a unique professional development experience that frames leadership as the ability to enhance personal and professional performance, build relationships, cultivate excellence, and sustain energy for productive influence, agency, and motivation to enact positive change. Students LEAD will assist and empower midwifery students to enhance their potential and maximize their performance in developing authentic leadership skills, designing a vision to support their academic and professional goals, improving communication and relationship skills, and setting goals towards contributing to the betterment of themselves and their schools, communities, and professional organization.
When I was interviewed Adrienne asked “as a person entering the midwifery profession, what core leadership skills do you think would be most valuable for my fellow students and me to develop to advance the midwifery profession”? I talked about how we need our next generation to help with change— we need to think outside the box. In my eyes we need midwives to be creative disruptors. This will take all the same elements that Trixie and the nurse-midwives and nuns at Nonnatus house possessed: courage, perseverance, commitment to physiologic birth, woman centered care, and to keep our vision and purpose in the forefront. Resiliency is an important skill for a midwife as we are often still fighting many of the same fights as the Call the Midwife show highlights. Just like the characters we will need to focus on creative solutions. Some of the skills that are needed, in my opinion, are advocacy skills, business skills, increasing access to home birth and out of hospital birthing center births, the need for strong collegiality for smooth transitions if people want or need to transfer to the hospital, communication skills, and good decision making capabilities, and the ability to engage key stakeholders. Midwives need to be able to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and certification. I believe the time is ripe for midwifery.
When I watched this last episode of Season 9, I was proud of Trixie. I think she would be proud of us as we weather the storms and strive to shine in our time.
“The seasons will always turn. The clouds will gather and the cold will come. We will survive them. We will grow regardless of the weather. We will know wonder — where there’s been despair. There will be happiness and we will remember it. There will be friendships that we won’t forget.
Love is the constant … whereby we endure all winters and all storms. It is the climate in which all things can thrive. Welcome the darkness. Embrace it as a canopy from which the stars can hang for there are always stars when we are where we ought to be …. Amongst the faces we love best. Each with our place, each with our purpose as fixed and familiar as the constellations. The darkness is beautiful ….. For how else can we shine?”
Midwives LEAD (Learn, Engage, Ascend, Deliver) Leadership Development Program 2020
Students LEAD (Learn, Engage, Ascend, Deliver) Leadership Development Program
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