I want to see my midwife this week and it was not the most reassuring experience. Despite turning up on time and waiting patiently, when I finally went in she said “I was just about to go, I thought you were not coming?” I smiled and told her we had been outside the whole time.
Maybe it was a case of start as you meant to go on for her. I found her surly, completely uninterested and detached. She did not smile, she didn’t seem to want to tell me what she was doing, I had to keep asking about my diabetes test before she confirmed it was normal.
She even handed me back my urine test and told me to reuse the bottle next time. For some reason that really annoyed me – what was I supposed to do? Carry pee around in my bag for the rest of the day? When it comes to maternity care, I have always just taken whatever treatment had been meted out.
This has been a mixture of caring midwives who reassure you and give good advice and those with a bad attitude who speak to you as if you are dirt. I am not sure if it is the hijab that makes people think I must be illiterate or cannot speak English, or if it is just people’s bad attitudes that make them think they can speak to me however the want. I often suspect it is a mix of both.
I remember when I went for a scan for my second child and asked if the nurse could be a woman. The lady at reception was furious with me and told me “this is England you know” i.e. who do you think you are expecting different treatment. I went outside cried, came back and asked again and was moved to a different slot with a female nurse. That experience permanently made maternity care feel like a stressful experience for me, leaving me always expecting the worse.
When I had my youngest, I had to stay in the hospital while his jaundice was treated. It was one of the worst experiences I have ever had. I felt vulnerable and worried for my baby who was also suffering from a dislocated shoulder. I had the doctor telling me to keep the baby under the lights to get treatment for jaundice. Every time I put him down, the nurse would come in and tell me off for not picking him up and feeding him when he cried, asking me if I didn’t care about my baby. I would pick him up to feed him and the doctor would come back and accuse me of not letting the baby get better by keeping him under lights. The two tag-teamed all night to make my life a misery. I tried to tell them what the other was saying to no effect. You can imagine I was relieved to get home.
My aunty recently had a caesarean after a very difficult pregnancy. She literally could not move from her bed for two days and was in pain. Her requests for help with nappies and for milk for her baby were either ignored or treated with impatience. Previously to that she had stopped going to hospital appointments and to her last scan because all the doctors seemed to tell her about was the likelihood of disability as she was over 40 and the option of abortion. Mash’Allah she was eventually blessed with a beautiful, sweet, sleepy, perfectly healthy little girl.
So the indifferent midwife with her can’t-be-bothered attitude was nothing new. What is new is that I have no tolerance left for such behaviour. I regret not picking her up on her poor attitude. I think for too long I have been scared of being blacklisted or refused treatment for questioning the way I have been treated. I think I am past caring now. It’s a shame women have to fight these kinds of battles when they are at their most vulnerable. But as I said to one lady who was asking me what she should do when she felt as if her doctor wasn’t listening to he: as mothers we fight for our children their whole lives, so we have to before they are born too, making sure they get the care and we get the reassurance we need.
I think I might call up today and ask if I can have a different midwife. If not, the next time, I will ask the midwife if she has a problem with me or if I am wasting her time.
As an aside, when a very nice doctor at the local hospital asked me where I wanted to give birth, I rejected the bright shiny new hospital a few miles up the road for the local one which is only slightly less rubbish, saying “I’d rather not die giving birth thank you”. She raised her eyebrows and agreed I would not be a priority there. Seems I was not exaggerating. This report is on my local NHS maternity service mentions the deaths of two women in the maternity ward due to negligence: CQC Criticises East London Trust over maternity Services. And also this: CQC report into North East London Hospital Trust which mentions: “Problems found in maternity services included poor clinical care; abusive and unprofessional behaviour from staff; an absence of learning from maternal deaths and incidents; and poor leadership from senior management.”