How does having children of your own change your perspective as a midwife?

When I was training to be a midwife, I trained with a variety of fabulous women: school leavers, grandmothers and mothers of children.

We all came to midwifery for a variety of reasons but all bought a different perspective to profession.

“I didn’t really think that whether I had children, or not would be an issue for the women that I cared for, until one day a woman on my caseload, said ‘ I don’t want you to be my midwife, how would you know what it feels like to give birth”.

At the time I was a bit taken aback. I explained that I had completed a degree, had experience throughout my training and if she had experienced a heart attack, would she expect the nurse to have experienced a heart attack to offer her care? (Funnily enough, I recently spoke to a cardiac nurse who said it is a common question from those that she is caring for as to whether she has ever had a heart attack!)

So this made me think; does lived experience mean a different level of care, a deeper professional relationship or common ground that results in a different outcome for those that we care for?

Roll on 7 years and I had my daughter. I realise that I am potentially going to be biased to my own experience, but overall I think experiencing pregnancy and childbirth has resulted in me having more empathy, a little more understanding (especially to the transition to being a new mother), more awareness of the potential difficulties with breastfeeding and how postnatal depression is something that needs further discussion.

I don’t know what it is like to have an instrumental birth, a caesarean section or a baby that ‘feeds like a dream’.

We are all going to be shaped by our own experience, but I also realise the importance of not sharing my experience (unless asked) as every woman is writing their own version of their story, which will have a different ending to mine.

As a midwife that likes to build relationships quickly (and this is often done by finding common ground) this has been difficult!

Although I may have a different understanding now than I did before my own pregnancy and birth, I still stand by my initial thought that you do not need to live that experience to give care – in fact sometimes having your own experience can make you (unknowingly) biased.

Even if someone has the exact same experience as me, they will process that experience in a different way.

Personally however, I feel that experiencing pregnancy, birth and being a mother has not just made me a better midwife but a more compassionate, patient and empathic woman overall.

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Emily Seddon

Emily is a midwife with many years of experience. She is passionate about supporting midwives of the future. As a clinical mentor, student link and being on university interview panels, she knows what it takes to get a place!

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