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How do I get my midwife to listen to me?

One month until our due date – so in something between 2 and 6 weeks I will have to have a baby

I’ve had enough trouble coming to terms with actually being pregnant and the fact I have stayed pregnant and that this appears to be a healthy, happy baby and to be honest I have mostly ignored the fact that at some point I’m going to have to labour and birth again

Part of this is hormones – I know I forgot a lot about how labour was in the 18 months between Bigger and Littler being born (I have a clear memory of spending my second labour repeating on a loop that I didn’t remember it HURTING this much) and, reading back over my pregnancy and labour notes, there is an awful lot that I just don’t remember about either child’s arrival

Another part of it is the fear of the unknown – not only do I not know when he will be born, I don’t know if this will be another super fast labour or if it will be totally different from the girls but most importantly I do know that the lovely midwife who supported us before will not be with us

What I do know is that, even if the midwife who is very supportive of homebirth is on shift when he starts coming, is that I am not sure I will be listened to

The community midwife visited us a few weeks back to check the house is ‘appropriate’ and ran us through a list of her views of what we cannot and can do. It felt like a list of rules rather than a discussion between adults and, when I tried to suggest that our views differed and we were making informed decisions, I was told we’d discuss it again, presumably in the hope that I will give in nearer the time?

So many of these things make me feel that I am not being listened to and that worries me about how I will be treated when labouring – will these women listen to me and respect my body and my baby or will they continue to try and ride roughshod over our views?

I can quickly think of three examples where I don’t feel listened to – I’m sure there will be others and that is what worries me

I am told I am not allowed to get in the bath or pool before they arrive just in case a midwife who can’t do a water delivery comes out but what about labouring in water? What about having the security of my own space? What if this is another fast arrival and water is the only pain relief I can access before they get here? What about that there is nothing to suggest that labouring in water is a bad thing if I want to do it?

I am told we must have vitamin K despite our wishes otherwise and our informed decision previously to not give this to our children and have found myself being gently but firmly encouraged to ‘just have the drops’ instead of our response that we don’t want them unless it is a traumatic birth being listened to – we haven’t pulled this decision out of nowhere, we have researched it and talked before deciding and it would be nice to know that when we make a decision it is viewed as such and not as something to be overcome

I’m told I must have anti-D after the baby arrives. Yes I have had it before, yes I am rhesus negative and Mr M is positive and if the baby is positive I might consider it EXCEPT our family is complete – we took 3 years and 4 miscarriages to have this miracle baby and we will not be having another child so, given any post birth injection is only to protect future pregnancies I will not be having it. End of. A response that has been greeted with a smile and an ‘oh go on you must have it just in case, it’s only a little injection’ – again ignoring my informed decision. Part of me worries that I will be unable to stand up to emotional blackmail or just injected without consent

All of which puts me in a difficult place when I try and think through having this baby – I want to know that I am supported by a midwife who I can trust but all of these little niggles suggest that our relationship is only based on me doing what she wants and not on her listening to what we may like to do differently

I hope it will be alright on the night, that I will be left alone to focus on my body and this baby, but I can’t say that I’m terribly hopeful and it is that which is really worrying me at the moment and I’m not sure how to solve this

All the lists and planning in the world are not going to make things better if I find myself having to fight just to be listened to and what happens if they won’t listen to me? How can I insist on being treated as a sentient, informed adult rather than a confused, ill informed child?

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20 comments to How do I get my midwife to listen to me?

  • That sounds awful. There is no way anyone should be disregarding your wishes in this way. I went through this with my assigned midwife for Smallest, though thankfully she wasn’t on duty the night that Smallest was born and the midwife who did turn up was absolutely excellent. I hope that you do get someone supportive and understanding when the time comes.

    • Hannah Brewer

      Me too – there is part of me hoping for another speedy delivery so we minimise the time with midwives but another part of me that is petrified of being without care

  • Oh my gosh. There is so much I want to say to this I might have to write a whole post!!! Ok to start with remember this is YOUR birth, NOT the midwives. All midwives can ‘do’ waterbirths… some don’t like to. If they do not like to they should not be attending homebirths because many of them happen to also be waterbirths. Again, it is YOUR birth and you can do what YOU want. You can give birth on a trapeze from the ceiling if you so wish. As for vitamin K, unfortunately most hospitals have target numbers like 98% babies have vitamin K… they may try to persuade you (but a GOOD midwife wouldn’t) that you HAVE to have it. You don’t. You can choose IM, Oral or NONE! YOUR CHOICE. Be clear you have read the research, you know what is it and what it is for, and you have made your mind up. It is more important babies have vit k after a complicated birth, not a nice normal homebirth (which you WILL have). And it doesn’t have to be immediate, it can be any time in the postnatal period, you can always change your mind!! Anti D, well actually I do personally advise that, even if the woman says she will not have any more children. I’ve been with a woman who was so sure they were done that her husband got a vasectomy (not always 100% effective), got pregnant and had devastating consequences. BUT again, your body your choice. They cannot FORCE you to have anti D. Are you caseloadeded?? I.e. have one midwife who will be on call for your birth? If so I’d ask to change midwives ASAP. If not, it could be any midwife that comes to your birth… you need to be prepared and have a birth plan and make sure anyone who will be at the birth is aware of it. Things like vit k and anti D you don’t even need to discuss till afterwards, so it won’t disturb the birthing process. The last thing I have to add, phone your hospital and ask to speak to the supervisor of midwives on call. Make sure you know what you’re going to say. They work to protect the public and can liase between women and midwives to help you get the best birth experience. If she isn’t as supportive as you would like then ask if they have a consult midwife for normal birth – she will DEFINITELY help you but not all hospitals have ones that are specifically to facilitate normal birth. If the hospital doesn’t have one you can ask to speak to the head of midwifery. These women aren’t scary. They are midwives themselves and have the power to help both you AND the midwives. They need to know if women are being told things like ‘you HAVE to have vitamin k’ or ‘I don’t DO waterbirths’ so they can make sure midwives have more training in those areas, so that more women (especially vulnerable women who might not say anything) don’t go through the same thing.

    Phew. Told you I had a lot to say. Sorry, and I hope it makes sense trying to condence it into a post comment!

    Feel free to send me an email or message if you have any other concerns or questions! xxx

    • Hannah Brewer

      Charlotte – this is super helpful – thank you

      Lots of food for thought and some things I need to dig into (especially about case loading, what happens if ‘our’ midwife isn’t available etc) and then I can start to work out how to address some things, sitting back and assuming it will all work out is not going to solve things)

      I know we have a consultant midwife for normality (met her with Littler when we thought we were going into hospital) and she was incredibly constructive – would be a good place to start if our next appointment is as unconstructive and, as you say, so that they can address the training

      What really worries me is that I am probably in the more informed / articulate end of the scale so how are other women being treated?

  • That sound atrocious. The only suggestion (apart from independent midwife) I can offer is a doula who knows your wishes and can communicate them when you’re in labour. I found the hardest part this communication as I was unable to. When I laboured with my first, I was in a pool and none of the midwives in the hospital were trained to do a water birth, so I had to come out for birthing, but I laboured for hours in that pool and it wasn’t an issue, so I don’t get the argument at all. Also put something in writing, with clear words, so that they can’t just sneak an injection in because these things require consent, they can’t just do it. I’d also maybe contact the manager to ensure that you’re listened to. All you propose sounds totally reasonable to me and I find it odd that your midwifery team is acting in such a way. You really shouldn’t have to worry about this and it’s putting extra stress on you, so would definitely not just wait it out. Good luck!

    • Hannah Brewer

      We’ve considered an IM (all retired around here thanks to the insurance debacle) and a doula but, if I have another fast birth, can’t really justify a doula who may not make it before the baby… (although I am hoping he takes longer than his sister, please!)

      My birth plan now has a statement that consent is to be given positively and after we have been informed of options and that it is not to be assumed for either me or the baby – hopefully when we walk through it at the next appointment all will become much clearer


  • Clare Rudd

    As Charlotte said, this is YOUR birth – no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. Feel free to get in the bath, or do what you want – it’s your choice. Why not call and specify that you don’t want her in labour as someone who hinders your labour is not helpful. She has to follow your choices. Her opinions are insignificant. Happy to chat if you want to, or talk about doulas x

  • Oh dear. I hate that feeling of someone not listening to me. I think the previous commenters have some good suggestions. I was thinking that when you speak to the midwife again, let her know that you don’t feel like you were listened to. Tell her exactly what you’ve told us. This is your third child, you’ve been through it before, you’ve done the research and you want to be heard. It’s a fine balance knowing that when something goes wrong they have the expertise to handle the situation but when everything is going to plan, there is no reason why the mother’s wishes cannot be taken into account. Having been there before I can totally commiserate – it’s not easy standing up to them as they can be very adament.

    As for the water birth part of it. The rebel in me would get in the tub before the midwives got there. If your births have gone really fast, then the waterbirth will hopefully be less traumatic. If you’re in the water when they get there what are they going to do? If they’re trained midwives then they should be able to catch the baby wherever you are.

    Best wishes to you!

    • Hannah Brewer

      Is a good point, reminds me of a situation at work – child / adult vs adult / adult behaviours – if I let her make me feel like a child there is an imbalance and I need to reassert that I am an adult and to be treated as one

      I think I’m going to get in the tub / pool before she arrives (if it’s anything like the others she won’t be here long before the baby anyway) – thinking it through it gives me my space, some privacy and pain relief and if I don’t want to get out….

  • Wow. I am really concerned that your midwife has made you feel this way and I think the commenters above have given some really good advice. I had a personal experience of how midwives opinions can really vary. When I was pregnant with my first child I was told there’s definitely no way you can have a homebirth on a narrowboat. Naively I believed that first midwife, but luckily later in pregnancy a different midwife told me everyone has the right to the birth they want to choose. I subsequently went on to have two homebirths on a narrowboat accompanied by lovely supportive midwives.
    When the community midwife visited our home before the first birth she cheerfully told us they’d attended births in all sorts of homes, boats, and ramshackle houses with floorboards missing. They had a very ‘can do’ attitude.

    I would put your birth plan and choices in writing to the hospital, including a simple list of bullet points of your preferred choices and request that these be put into your hospital notes so that they are provided for the midwife who attends you on the day. If you can afford a doula that may make you feel more supported. If you feel able to explain to the midwife concerned how she made you feel then I think you should make it known. If not I’d consider contacting someone superior to her because as you say, you have made informed choices and these are possibly being ignored. 🙁

    • Hannah Brewer

      Thanks Peggy – we are seeing ‘our’ midwife again on Tuesday and hopefully it will go ok (also means the girls get to meet her, does mean there are several days when I will NOT be having the baby when she can’t get to us) and we can talk a bit more about reality rather than checklists

      If not I am going to start thinking about how best to nudge things towards what works better for us – I have a birth ‘wishes’ list printed out and Mary Cronks phrases to stick on the fridge!

  • Isabel

    Hi, I agree with much of what has been said above and hopefully I only have a couple of points to add… Though I am a waffler!

    Firstly, I do think you should have the anti D, although I feel the midwife put her point in a rather patronising manner which is not okay!

    However! Legally nobody can do anything to you or your baby without concent and there will be one hell of a shit fight if they do. So to be honest as has already been stated do not worry about it until the time comes.

    There are legitimate reasons why a midwife would prefer you not to get into the pool too soon. As I’m sure you are aware (you seem like you will have read up thoroughly) getting in too early can slow the progress of your labour. They are also probably terrified that if you give birth in the pool before they arrive, then you may do so without the baby remaining submerged. So I’m guessing you are being told the standard line here. Ultimately that’s up to you, but what you could do is try a shower instead it has a very similar effect and I have known women to labour for hours in there!

    Biggest thing is do not worry, that will mess with your b

    • Hannah Brewer

      Thanks Isabel – I know what the risks are of getting in the pool but with super fast births before I am not sure that waiting for the midwife is an option (she only arrived 2 minutes before Littler) and I know how beneficial I found the water when I did use it

      I do accept they have to have a party line but do wish they would listen, work out if you have researched and informed yourself before applying the cookie cutter approach

  • Isabel

    Grrrr trying to write on my phone! Body. Good luck x

  • In my experience with NHS midwives I unfortunately found that they are not trained to look at the individual but to make decisions on what is best for the broad mass. Naturally, that can differ greatly from what you want or need.
    If at all possible, try to hire someone who will act as your advocate. A doula is much less expensive than a private midwife, but can stick up for you when you can’t.
    Apart from that: massive congrats, I am very happy for you. xxx

    • Hannah Brewer

      Totally agree MetMum – it does feel like a one-size-fits-all approach

      We have dithered over a doula – it’s a lot of money, especially if I another short labour – so far I am memorising Mary Cronk’s phrasebook and popping her quotes on the fridge! Hopefully it will all be ok on the night

  • This just isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. You can see why people opt for Independent Midwives. Within the NHS midwives so often have to tow the party line rather than actually be “with woman”. Same as Metropolitan Mum, I wonder whether a doula might be an idea? It’s horrible not to feel listened to especially when it’s your body and your baby.

  • […] Except we haven’t yet complained, despite the issues I have blogged about previously… […]

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