Why do midwives do this?

This won’t be a very long post because for once Grumpy Midwife doesn’t have any clever answers.

A few years back, when Grumpy Midwife was involved in a birth reflections service, a woman told her she was unable to go to the gym since her baby was born nine months ago. Why? Because she couldn’t bear to see the exercise balls, lined up all pink and purple ready for girly sit-ups, because they brought back such terrible memories of her labour.┬áBut it wasn’t the pain she recalled – or fear or indignity – but, specifically and horrifically, the two midwives who cared for her during those hours.

Some time later, another woman told Grumpy Midwife, not entirely in jest, that she felt about midwives as other people feel about bankers or traffic wardens or tax collectors because of how she was treated in labour.

Then, early this January, another story: this time a fellow student on a course; a consultant surgeon whose wife had just had their first baby. Labour was induced on the antenatal ward and contractions started almost immediately. Tentatively, politely, aware of how intimidating it can be to care for doctors and their families, this gentle man asked the midwives to attend his wife; once, twice, three times, for six long hours of patronising platitudes, until her waters broke and she started to push and suddenly it was all her fault for not using her call bell.

Why do we behave like this? How do we manage to inspire at once gratitude and adoration – and fear and loathing?