WITHOUT A DOUBT IT WAS having my own babies that inspired me to become a midwife. Late in my first pregnancy, I was told my baby was breech (bottom first) and I was recategorised as “high risk”. I suddenly woke up and took responsibility for doing research, based on a strong instinct that I wanted to try and have her naturally - I changed hospitals at around 38 weeks and had a very straightforward and beautiful normal birth. I went on to have my next three babies at home, all with the same wonderful midwife, Caroline Flint, who inspired me to think about training as a midwife myself and so I applied to do a direct entry midwifery diploma and, when my youngest child started school in September 1995, I went back to school too!
EVERYDAY MIRACLE I have always loved working with people - I was a social worker before I had my children - and midwifery seemed to offer me the perfect combination of doing something I loved and, as a caseload independent midwife, wrapping it around my life with four children. I have been able to work with, and be constantly inspired by, women who all cope with the journey into motherhood in different ways but birth is essentially an extraordinary, everyday miracle - and I get to witness it on a regular basis.
SAFE SPACES I believe that women are perfectly designed for birth and that we just need to stop constantly interfering and undermining them. If we could simply provide continuity of care from a known midwife, in quiet, intimate and safe spaces, it would enable women to grow in confidence through their pregnancy and “get into the zone” in labour, allowing the normal hormones of labour to flow, with good transfer/ backup in place for when it’s needed. In summer 2013, we launched an employee-owned social enterprise called Neighbourhood Midwives to provide a relationship-based midwifery service - continuity of carer for women and their families. Although we provide a private service at the moment (to build our track record and “prove the concept”), our ultimate vision is to be commissioned through the NHS to offer this type of care to any women who would like to access it.
We are going to be launching a pilot in the North East of London later this year. Ideally, what we hope is that we can scale up to eventually grow lots of small, self-managing teams of midwives. In an ideal world, many more women will be able to access this type of care and midwives will have some different options to work in very rewarding ways with a sustainable work/life balance.
Annie qualified in 1998 and was an independent midwife for over fifteen years. She is now CEO of Neighbourhood Midwives (neighbourhoodmidwives. org.uk), and author of The Homebirth Handbook
1 Take ownership for your decision making in pregnancy (based on information and advice from people/sources you trust) - you will be the one looking after this little person once he or she is born so it’s important to take responsibility right from the start.
2 Ideally have a midwife you can get to know and trust to look after you throughout your pregnancy, labour and birth.
3 Once you have those two things sorted, relax and trust your instincts and your body. What will happen, will happen!