Mum Diary: Why Won't Midwives LISTEN?

Just after the Duchess of Cambridge gives birth in a private room, our mum blogger asks why she was left to deliver in a hospital corridor…

When it was announced that the Duchess of Cambridge had been admitted to hospital to give birth, Twitter erupted with excitement.

But among all the jokey tweets and questions about whether it would be a boy or a girl, one tweet really stood out for me. “So it’s about now they’ll be sending Kate home because she’s not dilated enough,” it read.

Kate may've been lucky enough to have a private suite, but most of us don't [Rex]
Kate may've been lucky enough to have a private suite, but most of us don't [Rex]

The Duchess of Cambridge looked radiant on the steps of the Lindo Wing [Getty]
The Duchess of Cambridge looked radiant on the steps of the Lindo Wing [Getty]

That really made me chuckle because, for most of us non-royals, that’s exactly what happens; you show up all breathless and in labour, and the busy receptionist barely glances up before suggesting you go home for a bit and have a nice warm bath.

Which is one of the reasons I ended up giving birth by myself in a hospital corridor…

Never Trust A Woman In Labour… Apparently
With both my births, my waters broke before the contractions started, but with my second baby the midwife refused to believe me.

She smiled sympathetically and told me: “Some mummies, when they really, really want their babies, imagine that their waters have broken. Some even pretend they have broken so they can get induced.”

Wow. I knew mine had gone, but I hadn’t thought I would have to bring in the bedsheets to prove it.

Eventually I persuaded them that my waters really had broken, putting my unborn baby at risk of infection if we didn’t hurry things along. I was admitted the following day to be induced but my appointment was at 10pm and my husband was sent home, as it “could be days yet”.

The midwife wouldn't believe that my waters had already broken [Rex]
The midwife wouldn't believe that my waters had already broken [Rex]

Within about half an hour of being left by myself in a ward full of sleeping pregnant women, I was contracting. I timed them and found they were coming every two minutes, so I went and found the midwife. “Aww, poor pet,” she cooed sympathetically. “You’re not in labour, go and have a bath.”

Despite having had a baby before, I assumed she was right because she seemed so very confident. So I went and got in the bath only to keep having contractions, now about 40 seconds apart.

“Hmm, this is a lot like labour,” I thought. So I went and found the midwife again. In her defence, apparently I should not have been able to walk down the corridor so close to birth. Although, her other defence was that ‘every birth is different’, so I am not quite sure why she felt so certain.

Anyway, I couldn’t go back to bed (you know, because I was in labour), so she left me in a corridor to ‘walk it off’. And that’s where little Olly arrived. Alone in a dimly-lit corridor, clutching a chair, I suddenly had to push, so I screamed: “Help! I’m having a baby!” like I was in some hammy soap opera.

I can still remember how calmly the midwife ambled down the corridor, shaking her head at my shouting, arriving literally just in time for Olly to slither into her arms. I remember what she said as well. She said: “Oh.”

My baby ended up arriving in a corridor of the hospital [Rex]
My baby ended up arriving in a corridor of the hospital [Rex]

Busy Busy Busy
When my husband arrived half an hour later, pretending he wasn’t relieved to have missed the birth bit, he asked why his wife had given birth in a corridor. It seemed a fair question.

“It wasn’t a corridor,” insisted the midwife, “It was a waiting area – there was a chair.”

Anyway, what mattered was that Olly arrived safely. I had a straightforward birth and I expect the walking around, warm bath and lack of a bed to lie down on probably helped with that.

And, while I will admit that I thoroughly disliked that particular midwife, in general they have all my sympathy. If they seem busy and overworked, it’s because they are busy and overworked. That’s not their fault, in fact they are coping admirably with an overloaded system and rising numbers of complex births. The Royal College of Midwives has described it as a “chronic midwife shortage” and there are warnings that some maternity units are regularly being pushed to breaking point.

So I cheerfully forgive the midwife who was a bit short with me, and the one who told me to ‘get on with it’ when I asked her how to change a nappy with my first baby (I honestly had never done it before, not even on a doll). These women do a job that I could not do.

Most midwives are working furiously hard every minute of every shift. But wouldn’t it be nice if they occasionally, you know, believed us?

A Labour Of Love
Because the thing is, I know at least eight recent mums who had similar experiences. They showed up at hospital and were told it was much too soon for pain relief or even to be admitted, only to find they were actually 10cm dilated and ready to go. Or they rang the ward but, because they spoke calmly rather than screaming, they were told to stay at home and ended up giving birth on the kitchen floor.

One mum I know insisted on being examined when they tried to send her away, and ended up having the baby in the examination room. And I expect that plenty of people reading have similar stories.

So this is a plea to our wonderful midwives. You work hard, you work long hours, you deal with life-changing situations every single day. But sometimes you need to just trust us, the women you are caring for, because we do know what labour feels like.

And because I don’t believe for a second that Kate would have been left to give birth in a corridor.

Do you have a similar story? What was your baby’s birth like? Share your tales using the comments below.

[Mum Diary: Why I Don’t Discipline My Children]

[Mum Diary: Stop Saying ‘Wow’ To My Kids]