Message from future midwife

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Well, what a surprise it was-and I feel proud to share it.

Zahra sent me a message via my Facebook page, and I am thrilled and humbled that my story is being used this way.  Here it is:

 

‘Hi Sheena,

I have just finished reading your book catching babies and I have absolutely loved it. I currently have three weeks left to complete an introduction to study health in Hamilton New Zealand. The intro to study is the first step in my journey to study midwifery. Next January I will start my three year Midwifery degree. I read your book as part of an assignment I have for human growth and development. We were asked to read a biography / memoirs of any person we found interesting and have to write an essay to determine whether we think the events of a persons life illustrate the adult stages as theorised by Erikson and Levinson. While I chose your book because of the relevancy to my future study of midwifery, I found it not only to be a very good read that I struggled to put down, but it was very interesting to see midwifery and its changes over the years and through your eyes. I would like to thank you for writing this amazing inspiring book. I strongly relate to your philosophies and ideas when it comes to the way you chose to practice. I have borrowed your book from the local library, but I am going to purchase a copy next week, so I can reread it through different stages of my career as a midwife and use it to make sure my care is as good as yours. Thank you, for the book and for the changes you helped make to the practice of midwifery.’

 

Zahra- Future midwife and mother of three.

A-MAZ-ING

Catching Babies: a gift for the Duchess of Cambridge

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I wonder how Kate is feeling. I can remember being at this stage in my pregnancy with my first baby @abglyph, and not feeling at all caught up in the ‘fear of childbirth‘ that now sadly prevails our culture. I often ask myself when did it all happen, this shift in women’s self-belief that they can birth their baby?

I recently asked a 93 year old ex-midwife if she remembered whether women were afraid of childbirth in her days of practise, and she was clear that they weren’t. ‘Oh no, women didn’t seem to be at all frightened of having babies, it was an everyday occurrence. The only thing they worried about was paying the bill!’ That of course was pre NHS, and most babies were born at home. Most women now give birth in hospital, and ironically as medical surveillance increases in the name of safety, women are becoming more fearful.

I was pleased to read that writer and journalist Beverley Turner asked Kate to consider the fact that the Queen gave birth to her Royal babies at home, under the direct care of a midwife.  Contrary to current evidence hospital is now viewed as being the safest place to have a baby, and Kate is following the trend (maybe not her decision?) and will therefore be further cementing hospital birth as a cultural norm. Kate’s Royal baby is apparently going to be ‘delivered’ by two ‘surgeon-gynaecologists’, so it seems problems are anticipated. Although Kate is reported to wanting a ‘natural birth’, having two male doctors in attendance to facilitate her request may not be the best option, and could affect her labour. My words do not intend to further polarise our professions. Both my daughters needed (and still need) their wonderful obstetricians, as many other women do. But those very doctors would agree with me wholeheartedly, that midwives are the experts of normal or natural childbirth. I do hope the medical advisors to the Royal Family, and certainly the two top doctors chosen to be in charge at this momentous occasion, have read the latest evidence on the potential effects of medical intervention during childbirth, and pay heed. Maybe Kate and William are already well aware, and are quietly asserting their wishes. We’ll never know.

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Alan Farthing (left) and Marcus Setchell (right).

I have it on good authority that Kate will be giving birth in The Lindo Wing, which is a private part of an NHS hospital. I am also informed that whilst champagne is on the menu, there are no birthing pools at the Lindo, and the epidural rate is 100%, (although the latter is not confirmed as my request through Freedom of Information channels hasn’t been fulfilled to date). I am hopeful however, that Kate’s alleged decision to use hypo-birthing techniques during labour (many of her friends used Natal Therapy) will keep her focused to achieve the birth she wants. I am less hopeful that Farthing and Setchell have read Spiritual Midwifery.

With the rest of the world, I now wait with baited breath. But my interest isn’t in the sex or weight of our new Royal, but more about how he or she enters the world.

Go Kate! You can do it.

PS

When I met up with the inspirational Alison Baum, CEO of Best Beginnings last month, we decided to send Kate a package, with lots of goodies from Best Beginnings (including info on the new app), and a copy of Catching Babies. I wonder if she’s read it yet? If she has, I hope she enjoyed it.

The youngest reader of Catching Babies?

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Aimee Tweddle, aged 12years reading Catching Babies

I loved it when this tweet came through from @Clairesmidwife : @SagefemmeSB Mw in the making? My dd (12) avidly reading your great book. Like mother like daughter I hope🙂

Claire’s 12 year old daughter Aimee had picked up my book and started to read it unprompted…and apparently she’s loving it! I have asked her to do a review when she’s finished, as I’d love to get her perspective on the story. Amazing.

It’s good that Aimee will be reading about real life events, and the importance of respectful maternity care. 

I wonder if Aimee is the youngest person to read Catching Babies? 

Letters

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Ever since Catching Babies was published I’ve received letters from readers. The latest one was sent to me via Headline publishers, and they had marked it ‘fan mail’.

I don’t see these letters as fan mail. They are mainly from women who have had a baby and with some particular trauma or incident. This recent letter was exactly that. The Mrs S had tragically given birth to a stillborn baby in the 1960’s. She never saw her baby girl, and she was unaware what had happened to her. Only last year did this mother write to the hospital to ask for more details, and she received compassionate care and assistance, including information on her labour record and where her baby was buried. She was given a copy of her baby’s birth certificate, and the opportunity to write in the remembrance book.

When I give talks to groups around the country about my career, this story of horrendous loss is often told to me in a quiet corner by a woman who has experienced having a stillborn baby. In my book I recount my mother-in-law‘s (Marie) traumatic first birth; a little girl born asleep whom she never saw. Rosemary (the baby) was never mentioned at all, and Marie grieved for her until the day she died. Marie went on to have four boys.

Today, it’s a different story. Whilst tragedies continue to happen, parents are encouraged to spend time with their baby, and they are quite rightly involved in all decisions. Support for bereaved parents isn’t as good as it should be, although national organisations such as SANDS offer a valuable life line at such an emotionally devastating time.

Back to my letter. It seems Catching Babies prompted Mrs S to approach the birth place of her baby girl to find out more, and now she has peace.

I can’t think of a better reason for being pleased that I wrote the book after all. What do you think?

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Skipton Tangents; more talks and bookings!

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I have been having great fun visiting WI’s, Mothers Unions and charity events following invites to talk about Catching Babies, and other group talks are booked for next year…in fact my diary is getting full!

This photo was taken after a very special evening with the Skipton Lady Tangents, which I learnt is the name of Ladies Circle members who reach 40! Heather Longbottom, the group member who invited me warmly welcomed me into her fabulous character filled home, told me that many of the members had been friends since their 20s. It was obvious the group were close as they were happy to share their birth stories with everyone once my talk was over, which was very enlightening. I seem to learn so much at each meeting I attend…I had never heard of the ‘Tangents’ nor attended a Mothers Union meeting, so lots to be gained!

Another great review!

I was thrilled to recieve a ‘tweet’ last week from @cassam10  to say that she had reviewed Catching Babies…and I was delighted to read what she thought. It’s always good to know that my book is still being enjoyed by so many, and that readers find time to write about it!

The letters are still coming in from far and wide from readers who feel compelled to put pen to paper and to get in touch with me. Some come via Headline, the publishers, who kindly forward them on to me.

There are those who feel connected to me through the midwifery profession, others who have had difficult or positive birth experiences and want to tell me, and individuals who simply have the desire to let me know just how much they liked reading about my life and career. It never fails to amaze me and I feel totally humbled. One very special letter arrived today, post marked Buckingham Palace….

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Tomorrow night I am attending the Deli Med book club in Preston as a guest and am looking forward to meeting local women who have read my story..I wonder if there’ll be lots of things to debate?

Did HM The Queen receive her copy of Catching Babies?

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It’s the Diamond Jubilee year, and the month. I couldn’t be part of the celebrations in Blighty as we are visiting our lovely Dutch family.

But I was extraordinarily lucky enough to be invitied to HM the Queen’s house…to celebrate with her!

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How good is that….and before I went to the Garden Party I sent Queen Elizabeth a copy of my book, Catching Babies.

I did it for several reasons, but mostly I thought she may like it.

And my local newspaper mentioned it in a report.

The midwife effect, memories and being REAL

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This week I attended two book signing events, one at Whalley Library and the other at Waterstones in Preston.

What struck me most about talking to the men and women who came was that no matter how long ago the birth of their baby was, they remembered every detail of the event as though it was yesterday and were eager to share it with me. 

Rita was one of the women. She had written me a letter and handed it to me in a sealed envelope just before she left. I waited until I got home and sat down with a cup of tea to read Rita’s words. The letter opened by saying ‘I am currently reading your book with great interest and enjoyment, though it has confirmed the anger and upset I have felt for the past 37 years regarding my poor treatment and lack of care….’ Rita went on to detail how she was 31 when she was pregnant with her first baby and deemed ‘high risk’, how she didn’t want to be induced two days post dates as she felt healthy and how she was shunned by the staff for having that opinion. She then gave an explicit account of how she was given an injection of pethedine when in labour and it made her sleep. The midwife (she describes her as small and stood on a stool) hit her and told her to wake up and ‘push’.

There are so many more strands to this sad story, just as horryfying. The cruel midwife’s actions are unthinkable, and had an everlasting effect on Rita’s life. I often talk to midwives about the impact they have during those intimitate and uniquely special moments when a baby is born, and how their words, actions and body language resonates through generations. I will speak to Rita again as she left her number, and because she told me that writing the letter had helped her to feel more at peace. Her troubled memories shouldn’t be.

 

Veroncia Hall, my lovely yet long lost friend came from Didsbury to the Preston book signing. Veronica features in Catching Babies as she was one of the influences on me choosing to become a midwife. Veronica came with Marion, another friend from the ‘old days’ who has recently and delightfully come back into my life. It was fabulous to see them both.  Veronica went to the children’s section of Waterstones and brought back the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, and she turned to page to page 10. ‘Listen to this’ she said….’I love this passage, and once had to read it at a friend’s wedding’. 

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. 

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.

I had never heard or read this before, but I will certainly remember it. I bought the book. Afterwards my special sister in law Gill and dear friend Lynne went to meet Marion and Veronica for a glass of fiz on Winkley St, another unexpected suprise! We will certainly return there!

PS…I met John Welshman in Waterstones, the author of Titanic: the last night of a small town. Friendly and interesting, John is a historian and works as a senior lecturer at Lancaster University. He told me has also written another book about evacuees during the second world warChurchill’s Children . I shall be purchasing both books, and look forward to relishing each one. 

 

 

Charity talks and Catching Babies

 

 

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Yesterday I did the first talk about my book, at the amazing East Lancashire Hospice in their fabulous conservatory, to raise funds for the ongoing care of patients.

I have been invited as a guest speaker to other events, but I was apprehensive because this was the first time, and although I am used to public speaking it felt different. I knew so many people who were going to be there to listen to me speak, and felt worried that my tales wouldn’t be interesting enough. So I was pleased to hear this morning that the event was a huge success, and my input was enjoyed by all. I had some fabulous surprises, colleagues from the old days came…my Aunty Kathleen who is the last surviving Dixon of her generation (thanks so much Aunty you made my day) and a very special card from Mrs Channel! It was almost like a reunion. And what better way to spend an afternoon, raising much needed funds for a very special place? It was truly an honour to be involved. 

The event “Afternoon of Inspiration’ was the brainchild of Jennifer Quinn, the daughter of my lovely friend Pauline, who is working as a fundraiser at the Hospice. What a fullfilling position. There was a very poignant address from Gill Leacy, one of the Trustees of the organisation. Gill made reference to the connection between birth and death (linking my talk to hers) as she sadly lost her husband 15 years ago and he had been a patient at the Hospice. She talked about Blackburn Birth Centre being next door, and described some of the events around the birth of her son 50 years ago.

In the end it was lovely to talk in public about my book, to mention my Mum and the inspiration she was to my sisters and I. And also to describe how the book has given me the opportunity to reflect, to ‘join the dots’ and to leave a story or two for my children.

Now for the next. Hopefully now I won’t be as anxious…