Posts Tagged ‘compassionate midwifery’

Why I left the NHS and why I don’t want to become a midwife

May 26, 2015

I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, ever.  Until I read the chapter by Robin Youngson in “Roar behind the silence”.  And I’ve had an epiphany.  His honesty about the kind of anaesthetist that he was before he embraced compassion, and the kind of anaesthetist that he is now, his ability to face his shame and his demons, has helped me to do the same.  Thank-you Robin.  Thank-you so much.

When I am honest about the kind of psychologist I was before I left the NHS, and face my shame and my demons, I understand a little better, what went wrong.  I have never liked being a psychologist.  I have always grappled with why I don’t like being a psychologist.

I don’t want to be a midwife because I don’t want to work in an institution that can medicalise, depersonalise, and reduce women to bodies that need to have a finger put inside their vagina regularly to check whether they are “failing” or not.  I do not have the resilience, and I do not have the people skills, to go in and help in the tide of change – that tide of incredible midwives, doctors, lawyers, doulas and so on, fighting the system and building, piece by piece, a better maternity system. Thank-you to those amazing people.

I am clear about why I don’t want to be a midwife.  I don’t want to take on the system. I don’t want to have to witness it any more that I have to as a doula.

But I have never been clear about why I don’t want to be a practicing psychologist. I have never understood this struggle within me, this reluctance to sit in front of some-one in distress and try to help them.  I remember, 23 years ago, in my first year of Clinical Psychology training, sitting in front of my mentor, the lovely Professor Gilbert, telling him that “I’ve made a mistake. I don’t want to do this job after all”.  We didn’t understand my reticence.  I stuck at it. But I spent the next 13 years not enjoying my work.  Then, I left the NHS and began to apply my psychology to a different arena – that of “normal” people, people who are not in distress looking for me to solve the problems for them.  I began, finally, to enjoy my work. Why?

I have just read a chapter by the inspiring Robin Youngson in the amazing book “Roar behind the Silence” and all is clear. I’ve literally had an epiphany, and I’m sitting here, very excited, and very moved.  Waves of relief and emotion are washing over me.  I’m trying to formalise it and understand it as I write.

And I’ve realised that there is so much wrong with the way that I was trained in clinical psychology.  I couldn’t understand what was wrong, I couldn’t see what was wrong, and so I couldn’t address it.  I just felt uncomfortable the whole time.   And it seems so obvious to me now.  I was taught to be clinically detached.  I was part of a system that differentiated between “them” and “us”.  This suited me, because I am not particularly good at being warm and open when I first meet some-one.  And yet, it didn’t suit me, because I never enjoyed my job.  I always felt the responsibility of being the “expert” in an arena where I knew deep down that the person was the expert, and the problem was society.  How could I sit in front of some-one who was distressed, and pretend that they were struggling because of some fault in their thinking style?  Or try to help them in a little bubble of a therapy room, when I knew that it was their family, or their society that was crazy?

I remember the discomfort when I had to reject a lovely present that a client with Down’s Syndrome had given me. (I had been told never to accept presents, so I didn’t).  I remember not even questioning, during preparation for my interviews for a place as a trainee, why I was advised never to say that I “want to help people”.   I remember hiding all traces of my personal life, and not divulging anything during therapy because I was taught that that would spoil the transference (or something like that).

So, I left the NHS, which felt a little like severing an umbilical cord.  People envied me, and told me I was brave.  The change in me was very quick.  I began to free myself up to be warm, friendly, open and honest as a person. I no longer needed to be “clinically detached”.  I began to enjoy my job. Yippee. I could accept gifts.  I could have a laugh with people, chat to them about me, tell them it was okay to phone me before the next session, and so on.  Of course, I could have done all those things before I left the NHS, and all the good therapists that I know did it right from the start.  Just like all the good midwives don’t necessarily stick to the rule book, and they might get reprimanded for the times when their compassion got in the way of their diligent note taking.  The NHS is working on increasing compassion as one of the 6 C’s.  We know that compassion makes for resilience and job satisfaction.  It’s certainly helping me enjoy my job.  I ditched the detachment and opened up to compassion.  Thanks Robin, for spreading the word.

To find out more about Compassionate Midwifery workshops for all birth professionals, go to www.yourbirthright.co.uk/birth-professionals/. 

Mia Scotland

Clinical Psychologist, Birth Doula and Hypnobirthing practitioner

Compassion is for sissies, right?

April 29, 2015

Wrong.

Compassion is for strength.  After all, if you want to help people, you’ve got to have the strength to actually do so.

But can you be “tough” and “caring” at the same time?

Absolutely you can. There’s a stereotype that “soft” and “caring” are not compatible with “tough” and “resilient”. There’s also a view that being tough means not taking care of yourself, because only “softies” need to take regular breaks and rest up after a hard day’s work.

Well, psychology is making new ground in this area, and I find it all really exciting.  It seems to be the case that those of us who are kindest to ourselves, cope the best.  So, you don’t need to “have a word” with yourself, or mentally beat yourself up to get the best out of yourself.  On the contrary, you need to be a compassionate friend to yourself .  When you have been made to feel foolish, you don’t tell yourself “crikey, what on earth was I thinking, I can’t believe I made that mistake, others must think I’m an idiot” because that isn’t what a compassionate friend would do. A compassionate friend would sweep you up in her arms and tell you that we all make mistakes and that you’re amazing just the way you are.  Similarly, you are not more valuable to the NHS if you don’t take regular breaks, or if you work beyond your shift hours. This is because you are in danger of making yourself weaker, and of not keeping yourself strong enough to be a gem of a worker.  If you are not compassionate towards yourself, your compassion towards others will run on empty at some point.

So, you can stay tough and resilient at the same time as being kind and caring to yourself.  You can be tough and caring at the same time. This is what compassion is. Tough and caring.  And it is very good for our mental health, for the health of the nation, and for keeping us strong enough on the inside, so that we can help others on the outside.

Compassionate care and marketing: things I love and hate

March 2, 2015

mia brochure photoArrgghhh!  I’m having a bit of a crisis with telling others what I do.  It’s called marketing and I absolutely hate marketing.  I’m stuck on the part about  “how do I actually get people to GET what my workshops are about, before they’ve come along to EXPERIENCE what they are about?”

People come back a lot to my workshops. But why do they come back? I don’t actually know, and any good marketing consultant will tell me I need to know that.  Okay, how do I go about that? I do feedback forms.  They tell me that people “loved it”, found it “inspiring” and “really useful”.  But I’m still left not really knowing.  It’s sometimes the same in therapy. People change and turn their lives around, but I’m left thinking “which bit actually made the difference?”

And the answer is in the question. It’s not one bit that does it.  It’s the package.  I use hypnosis in my work, and that means that I focus on how people feel more than what they know.  So, my workshops aren’t so much about what facts you learn.  You can learn facts by getting on your computer.  (And then, when you’ve got off your computer, if you’re anything like me, you can promptly forget them again).  I’ll give you an example of what I mean.  I heard a talk by the wonderful Sheila Kitzinger a few years ago.  She had me completely entranced.  She moved me.  But when it came to tweeting some parts of what she had said, I couldn’t remember a thing that she actually said!  She had immediately put me in a state of hypnosis with her storytelling (she didn’t know she was doing this to her whole audience, or rather, she may not have labelled it as “hypnosis”).  I came away feeling powerful, excited, enthused and motivated to change maternity for the better. Hypnosis works at a deeper level than your cognitive, rational mind. It transforms how you feel.

So, in my workshops, we integrate the facts bit. If it’s about compassion, I give you the science and physiology behind compassionate caring. I give you a working definition of compassion.  I tell you that there is a very important difference between compassion and empathy, and that you need to know the difference to protect yourself from burnout. But I also work at the emotional level.  The workshop is designed to enhance your motivation and excitement.   You leave feeling that you are an amazing midwife already, and the course helps unlock that potential even more.  I leave you wanting to get back to work, and be excited about your next appointment.  It also translates to home life, not just work.  I leave you wanting to go home and cuddle your children or your dog.  I leave you feeling encouraged.  Not just because it feels nice to feel great, but because research shows us that it makes you a more compassionate midwife.  Win-win.

UK Film Premier “The Face Of Birth” at DeMontfort University

September 2, 2013

ImageI was invited to DeMontfort University this afternoon, to be part of their initiative to address compassion in childbirth.  We watched the lovely film, which was followed by a panel discussion.  Shirley Smith (Lead Supervisor of Midwives), Cathy Warwick (Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives), Christina Oppenheimer (Consultant obstetrician in Leicester), Diane Menage (independent midwife) and Mara Tonks (Midwife Manager, UHL) were among the panel. Here are 6 memorable quotes, both from the film itself and from the panel and audience.   

1. “When I see a pregnant woman, I always tell her, you are so lucky.  You’re about to fall in love” (from the film)

2. “Birth is an intensely private and personal experience” (from the film)

3. “Women are being scared, and women are being scarred” (Shirley Smith)

4. “Women want Choice, Continuity and Control” (Diane Menage)

5. “We all need to get militant” (Rocky May, “we” being midwives, with a view to improving care for women).

6.  “We should be proud.  And we should be excited” Cathy Warwick, talking about UK midwifery and it’s future. 

I learnt a few new things.  I learnt that Leicester have gone from having one birth pool which is broken, to having six brand new pools, in the space of a few months. And they are being used!  Whoop whoop.  I learnt about research which outlines two ways of thinking, or philosophies, which predict the likely-hood that a woman will choose a VBAC over a repeat c-section.  One is “motherbirth”, which regards good mothering as being about protecting mother so that mother can protect baby.  The other is “childbirth” which regards good mothering as being about sacrificing yourself for the good of your baby.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22169525 You can guess which philosophy leads to which choices, can’t you?

And, once again, I got a taste of how caring and compassionate midwives are, in the face of ever increasing demands and pressure from the government.  I have to say, that they are somewhat deluded about how some midwives behave in reality (maybe only a doula or student midwife really gets to see this), but on the whole, British midwives are, indeed, a force to be proud of. Thank-you for the invitation.