Qu: What in the early days first attracted you to midwifery?
FDS: I came to the United Kingdom from Jamaica when I was 18, to train to be a nurse. The advice I had been given was to get myself qualified in midwifery, paediatric nursing and theatre nursing. But as soon as I started in midwifery, I knew that was where I wanted to stay.
I chose to start work in Devon, in the south-west of England, because I thought it would be the warmest part of the country! But soon I moved to north London, and I began to work in Tottenham. This district is famous for its football team but it is not an affluent area. There is a strong sense of community among the people who have lived there for generations, and also among newly arrived families. I began to appreciate how midwifery in the community works and I was inspired by the midwives who worked hard to give the women the best chance of a good birth.
This made me realise how midwifery should be in the community and of the community--everywhere in the world!
Qu: Which aspects of midwifery have most interested you?
FDS: As I've said, my heart is in midwifery practice and in the community especially, but I wanted to gain experience elsewhere, so I went on to work both in education and in management. I had often asked myself, why can we not provide the same quality of care to a woman in hospital as she would receive during a home birth? As a manager, I was able to offer a service which aimed to be truly woman-centred, so that the actual birth setting was less important than the relationship between the mother and the midwife.
I've always kept in close touch with my own family in Jamaica and listened to the stories from older relatives about the births of children. It's fascinating to compare my grandmother's experience--all home births with a midwife--with my mother who had obstetric care in a hospital. I chose to have my three children at home, which was unusual at the time, but home birth rates are now rising again.
Another current aspect of midwifery that sometimes concerns me is that women are 'labelled' with problems ... they may be regarded as teenage mothers, obese women, drug-misusers, and so on. Some midwives make a specialty of providing appropriate care in these situations, and this can be very helpful, but we should not lose sight of the fact that they are mothers and need more than ever the continuity of care that midwifery uniquely offers. Women with mental health...