People always struggle to guess what I do for a living, I’ve won more than one round of drinks playing that game. When I finally tell them, 3 pints later that I’m a midwife they still don’t believe it.
Its not much different when I am at work, I walk into the birth-room and the woman says,’I called the midwife not security’; to which I reply, ‘I am the midwife’; she then shouts SECURITY’!
I do kind of get that response, imagine you are in labour, its getting difficult, you’er on the edge of needing an epidural, and in walks this 20 stone, shaved headed, biker looking bloke doing ‘jazz hands’; to be frank I do my best to not do the hands thing, its become a bit of a habit, ‘all the better to reach your cervix madame’!
Being a male midwife is one thing, looking like an extra from the ‘Gangs of New York’ is another. I did have one women, who after she had calmed down said to me that I looked like that actor, ‘oh she said, you know the on the tip of my tonuge…’, I was thinking, an over weight Vin Diesel, or a plump Bruce Willis maybe; I said ‘whose that then’? She said SHREK! I thought to myself, ‘good luck with getting that epidural you were asking for (joking).
I remember when I first started out as a student midwife, there were only 61 male midwives out of 36,000 in the whole of the UK, I’m standing at the foot of this woman’s bed having been asked by my mentor to do my first vaginal examination; my mind is racing, I’m more than a little panicked, ‘please, please let this not be the first time I stumble on the clitoris’!
I am often asked why I become a midwife given how unusual it is for a man to do the job? I do coming from a large family, 5 sisters and 3 brothers and now I have 5 biological children, 1 adopted child and 5 grand-children, maybe this has created a love of pregnancy and birth in me? It does mean that my contraceptive advice is probably crap.
I remember Abbi, my youngest daughter saying to me ‘if I get pregnant by accident you will support me won’t you dad’? I just said to her, ‘Abbi, you have really misunderstood the word accident, you don’t get a penis there by accident…’oh dam how did that get there’! I went on, ‘if you get pregnant because you chose not use barrier methods of contraception of course I’ll support you’, and I have!
It was Abbi, when she was very little who found a condom in our bedroom, she asked what it was and being a full on ‘new age’ home schooling parent I gave her the fullest explanation that I thought a little girl her age could cope with.
All things considered, I was thinking, ‘job well done’ until I overheard her explaining what it was to Joe, her younger brother; ‘Joe, this is a CONDOM’, she is holding it up between finger and thumb, kind of squinting at it; ‘now Joe’, she continues, with an incredulous face, ‘you are not going to believe this, Dad’s willy is in here’!
It wasn’t long after this episode that Joe came into our bedroom one weekend morning and in the most serious of 6 year old voices asked, ‘Mum, Dad, do you think I could watch while you have sex’? I said ‘no Joe, you’ll have to subscribe to the web page like everybody else”.
Of course I was joking, and another full on explanation of the importance of privacy, love and commitment in the context of sex ensued. Judging by his 18 year old behaviour he has managed totally to forgot or disregarded that chat.
My sons grew up in a household where a man being a midwife was ‘normal’, in fact they wanted to be midwives themselves like their dad, until the penny dropped, when they realised that being a midwife was considered a woman’s job their friends would ask them what their dad did for a living and they would say, ‘oh, nothing, he’s unemployed’.
It’s come full circle now and as ‘young’, if a little crude ‘men’ all I get now in front of their mates is, ‘they don’t call my dad ‘fish finger’ for nothing”.
I have over the years been concerned about the impact I am having on my children, and often I find they are following in the foot steps I thought I had covered up. My mother has left an indelible mark on me, having bore 8 children and adopted 1, I have some what followed in her steps and gained a deep faith in a woman’s inner power to birth well with little need for medical help.
She did tease me often about my weight, as long as I can remember I have ‘struggled’ to loose weight and been self conscious about my size, she used to say that my first school photograph was an arial shoot, and that she took me to school in a wheel barrow, a little harsh me thinks.
This mental ‘battle’ with size was brought into sharp focus, when not long after joining a new midwifery team I was invited on one of those ‘out ward bound team building days’; all the others had done their absail down the side of this bridge, it was a long way down, and I was more than nervous.
‘Has that rope got a weight limit’, I asked, ‘you’d get a mini bus on this rope’, the weathered instructor encouraged. By now I am full-on scared, desperate to get out of doing it with out losing face, ‘have you ever had a mini bus on it’ I questioned, wanting to keep the conversation going as long as I could; ‘nope’, he said, ‘you are the closest we have come’!
My weight has never stopped me from playing sports, cricket, football, rugby, tennis anything with a ball really. These skills have come in use at least once in my midwifery career.
I was looking after a women having her 7 baby, she was choosing to birth standing up, a position that make so much sense from an anatomical and gravitational perspective.
Having said all that, being her 7 baby (all born vaginally) she probably would have managed birth standing on her head, she stood and rocked, then birthed her baby, he ‘shot out’ and I had to dive to my left like a fielder in the slips to catch him. I resisted the urge to throw him in the air while shouting Howzatt!