Grumpy Midwife’s Swansong

Grumpy Midwife is moving on.

There may or may not be future posts – so (just in case this is a finale) here are Grumpy Midwife’s three wishes to the Good Fairy of maternity care.

Please make midwives listen to women.

Don’t just do this as part of a damage-limitation exercise; do it because women – those having babies and those whose babies have long since grown up – are the reason midwives exist. Women want what is best for themselves, their babies and their families; physically, emotionally, socially. Midwives exist to articulate, negotiate and realise these needs – especially for those women who are otherwise voiceless and powerless. That is the function of midwives, whether we are designing a new maternity unit, writing a policy or assisting with breastfeeding. End of.

Please make midwives get along better with doctors.

When GM started out many moons ago, obstetricians were seen as the enemy; it was obstetricians who oppressed midwives, stymied women’s choice, and thwarted natural childbirth. Thirty years on, midwifery is a strong, autonomous profession turning away applicants, women’s choice is embedded in national policy, and natural childbirth – well, Grumpy Midwife is not too sure what is happening to natural childbirth but she worries equally about Musketeer Midwives and defensive, policy-bound practice.

Sound professional relationships depend on mutual respect and whilst there are shining examples of confident, inspirational midwifery leadership Grumpy Midwife sadly feels that midwives do sometimes let the side down. We seem to take an almost masochistic pride in being busy; too busy to review and reflect, too busy to consider if we could be doing things better – so busy in fact that being busy is now embedded in our culture, our expectations and our management of ourselves and our services.

This attitude has to change if midwifery is to command respect as a critical, intelligent profession. Professional development is not a skive; it is necessary and integral to sound practice. Midwives should demand (and mangers should facilitate) time for audit, research and reflection. Training and development should be priorities rather than add-ons; academics and educators should be welcomed rather than marginalised – and all midwives should have the skills to understand and promote midwifery research with authority and pride.

Please make midwives be nicer to each other.

Grumpy Midwife is terminally fed-up with the perpetual, relentless bullying of junior midwives  – and part-time midwives, community midwives, independent midwives, specialist midwives, older midwives, thoughtful midwives, slow midwives (possibly any midwife whose heart doesn’t leap with joyous excitement at the sound of an emergency bell on labour ward).

This bullying is insidious and ubiquitous. It poisons relationships with women and wrecks careers and lives. It disrupts teams and impacts on service provision. It is perpetrated and condoned from the highest levels and is an embarrassment and shame to the profession. It has to stop.

UK midwifery has much to celebrate in the early 21st century – but there are no grounds for complacency and significant reasons for concern.

Good luck.





4 thoughts on “Grumpy Midwife’s Swansong

  1. Please don’t stop! I love your posts and wish I knew you in real life. It’s so heartening to read what you write. Well done and thanks SO much for giving me hope that there are sensible, sensitive midwives out there! Best wishes Amanda


    • Thanks so kind of you, Amanda! Yes – there are definitely lots of sensible and sensitive midwives out there (the majority, for sure) and I wish I could have written a more upbeat post celebrating all you do. However, when I sat down to write it I thought about the last few years and I realised that certain fundamental issues have not been resolved – and may be getting worse and could eventually pull the profession down.

  2. And so say all of us. I retired last year. 30 yrs was enough. Please could you sign and share petition at end of piece about retired MW RCM fees. Thanks.

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