I had such a lovely blog planned for you all last week. I was going to show you some of the fabulous vintage I’ve found whilst being pregnant that I hadn’t even been able to try on. I was also going to share my most fantastic Puttanesca spaghetti recipe.
It turns out that my son had other ideas. At 8.10am on Sunday 20th January, almost 3 weeks ahead of schedule, my waters broke in Room 400 at The Groucho Club, Soho. Cue a dash, in fur and heels, to UCH with a rather surprised husband in tow.
We were met there by our fantastic Independent Midwives, Jacqui Tomkins and Mal Soomessur.
“Independent Midwives?” I hear you cry. “Lili, what are these Independent Midwives of which you speak?”
Well, my darlings, these divine women might just be the most wonderful thing that I have ever had the luck to stumble across. My husband and I had been with the NHS up until 28 weeks, we’d been met with negativity, brusqueness and in the case of one rather stressed midwife, downright rudeness. Whenever we mentioned ‘homebirth’ or ‘hypnobirthing’, we were met with blank stares, ‘tuts’ and the ever popular squawk of ‘gas & air’. They couldn’t even assure us that we would have met the person who would be helping us.
Now, I don’t know about you but to see me in my absolutely altogether requires dinner and a show, at the very least!
I was sure that, unless medically deemed necessary, I didn’t want a hospital birth. I wanted a Hypnobirth in my own house, on my own terms, allowing my body to guide me. The NHS were sure that I should be giving birth in their charmingly named ‘New Beginnings Unit’. Eventually we came to the conclusion that we weren’t even in the same library as the NHS, let alone on the same page. Which left us with a conundrum – what to do? Thank heavens for Google – we discovered ‘Independent Midwives’ – Midwives who work independently of any hospital, or NHS trust. These wonderful people held the same values that we wanted for the birth of our son. We wanted our boy to come into the world in a peaceful, relaxed and non-medicalised way within the safety and security of our own home.
We met with Mal Soomessur (BTW, her website/philosophy is bloody great and sums everything up perfectly!!) and Jacqui Tomkins and from our first meeting with these warm and effervescent women, we knew that we wanted them to be a part of our story. Our first appointment was 2 and half hours, we chatted, drank coffee, laughed and they approached my bump, my husband and I with courtesy, kindness, respect and a wonderful hands on, down to earth attitude. Plus, our cats took a real shine to them and I believe you should always value the opinion of a cat.
It was a shock when my waters went some three weeks early, but after some firm negotiation with the hospital we were allowed to go home. I’ll save my joyous birth story for another blog, but suffice to say it was incredible. My husband and I couldn’t have done it without our Independent Midwives, their support was invaluble. Our son, Rafferty, was born on Monday 21st in the morning, safely, calmly and at home.
Now to the crux of this blog. Although a little complicated, bear with me!
The service offered by Independent Midwives (IMs for ease of typing!) is shortly to become extinct. Our Goverment, governed by Europe, is making it illegal to be registered without insurance. Now this is fine for other healthcare professionals as insurance is easily obtained but no such insurance exists for IMs. This means that from October, the choice to use this incredible service will be taken away from women. I can only see this as a backwards and useless step.
The government is bound by European directive that says that all member states must ensure the same level of indemnity cover for each citizen across all borders. However, every member state has a different way of implementing maternity care. Some will have limited state medical provision and others like Germany will have none. It has been agreed that each member state’s government will be allowed to choose how they implement the agreement to provide indemnity cover.
That means that our Government could help IMs comply with the ruling, if they wanted to, however they seem to be disinclined to do so. This reduces the choice for women and families even if, like me, they choose to opt out of the system and take responsibility for their choices.
The Royal College of Midwives could also help the IMs but they have chosen not to as I’m led to believe that they feel that the NHS is somewhat undermined by the gold standards of care provided by the IMs. A standard which the poor, under-funded, overstretched NHS cannot achieve.
The bottom line is that if the choice to use IMs disappears, then the NHS has no comparative service and can provide all the mediocre care it wishes.
IMs are also the keepers of vital midwifery skills that have been lost to the NHS as a whole. Normalising twin and breech births can only happen if there is a confident, competent practitioner helping a woman through. If those skills are unavailable then it becomes unsafe to offer women choice over their birth process and we are left with what the NHS offers now; Caesarean section only.
In 1994 the Royal College of Midwives discontinued Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) for IMs, stating that it was too expensive and members were not in favour of the increase in premiums. By 2002 there was no commercial insurance available either, as the premiums were far more than any IM earned, not because of high payouts, but because there were simply not enough IMs (roughly 80 and falling!) to pay premiums. Up until today IMs have been practising midwifery with no PII but with the knowledge and agreement of the women for whom they care, but the directive takes that choice away from women.
The solution being fielded by the Coalition Government is through Social Enterprise or Franchise and Private Companies using the “Any other provider” status to contract IMs into NHS trusts. This doesn’t really solve the problem for women like me who want to choose care outside of the NHS and also for those Midwives who prefer smaller, manageable caseloads that work around their family lives. The selection process is also rather vexatious; no first timers, no twins, no breech, no previous c-sections – the list goes on.
The campaign group for Independent Self Employed Midwives has asked the Government to look again at The EU directive or help source Professional Indemnity Insurance that is workable and affordable.
These are not women who have woken up one morning and decided to be midwives.
They are midwives with 25/35/40 years of midwifery experience who have left the NHS as it does not cater to creative thinking or naturalisation of birth, rather seeking to medicalise it.
To stop them from being registered would be a huge loss to the families they can help. It also leaves women with less choice.
For women, like me, who want to labour peacefully in their own home with minimal medical intervention, checking, coaching etc the choices are, sadly, to be limited from October.
I think it is totally wrong for a male-led Government to take this choice away from a woman at the time in a her life when she needs confidence, security and reassurance. Also to lose the skills of these incredible Independent Midwives would be a travesty, a tragedy, and an utter loss for all concerned.
I laboured for 14 hours. At home. No drugs. Just breathing, reassurance and gentle expertise. I couldn’t have done it without their quiet confidence giving me the confidence to believe in myself.
There is a petition and a number of Facebook pages linked below that are looking at how to campaign and think up other solutions but they are running out of time…..they need women to stand up and say NO to the reduction in our choice of carer and provider.
Don’t let the Government take this choice away from me, from you or from any woman.
Sign the petition here