A Midwife in My Pocket!

We do like to celebrate midwife entrepreneurs. When Emma Cook got in touch to say she’d written a book, a guide for parents, we jumped at the chance to read it – and to ‘Shine the Light on’ Emma!

Emma Cook, Midwife

Emma qualified as a midwife in 1999, and has worked the majority of her career in the community, being privileged, she says, to attend many home births.   In 2014, Emma won a national award for her ability to mentor student midwives (Congratulations Emma!) She has a thirteen-year-old son who features heavily in her book….

A Midwife in My Pocket: Midwife’s Heart-Warming New Book Guides Parents through Pregnancy, Birth and “New Baby” Life

This book is a 100% practical, 100% honest guide to the entire process of pregnancy and being a new parent. Based on my own experiences of motherhood, as well as my 15+ years as a midwife, the guide will help any parent prepare for the most amazing journey of their life.

Emma said:

‘After having a child of my own and meeting thousands of parents as a professional midwife, I was well aware that pregnancy and parenthood is fraught with many confusing questions, unknowns and anxieties. However I have learnt that information is power; and I try to offer reassuring words, allowing parents to settle back into their role and thrive with their new baby. I’ve been wanting to write a book for many years, particularly after giving birth to my own son and experiencing the struggles first-hand. My midwifery work is so rewarding, and I’m incredibly proud to now be sharing what I’ve learned with others.

I have written the book in such a way that I hope readers feel that I am chatting to them, addressing the subjects that pop into their minds between their visits to and from their own midwife. It is full of practical advice that readers can access whenever they want to. The chapters cover from the earliest part of  pregnancy, through to birth, feeding, settling and enjoying their new baby.  There are insights into how I felt during my pregnancy, and in the first few weeks with my new baby…. even midwives can feel vulnerable!It feels like a dream to actually have it published, and the response from colleagues and women has been really positive!’

Reviewers have said the book is:

‘Written with true warmth and dignity and there really is nothing else on the market quite like my book’.

‘This is a comprehensive and truly down-to-earth guide that walks parents through the entire process of pregnancy, birth and infant care’.

‘This book is like my pregnancy bible at the moment! There is no preaching like some pregnancy books, and doesn’t weigh you down with medical jargon! So well written, and easy to read! Thank you for making my pregnancy a whole lot easier to understand!!!!!’

Every day I meet anxious mothers whose babies are not breastfeeding properly, and they become riddled with worry. After explaining that what’s happening is completely normal, the resulting relief is immense.

I would like pregnant and new mothers (and fathers/partners) to use this book as their ‘best friend’, to read it, dip in and out of it, but most of all use it to guide them on their incredible journey.

Note from us:

Thank you Emma, for sharing a little about your fabulous book with us…we are delighted that it is so popular, and obviously a success!

We love your book. We especially like the fact that the information is to the point, not prescriptive, and very insightful. The ‘did you know’ facts and ‘top-tips’ are so useful, easy to digest and clear. It’s no wonder there’s been so many rave reviews. There are many excellent books and mobile apps (and some not so good!) for mothers, fathers and parents on the market right now, and this books is up there with the best. Congratulations Em, on using your knowledge and personal experience to help others, keep on going! Your work is greatly appreciated.

The book can be purchased here, and Emma can be reached via Twitter @Emthemidwife  and on A Midwife in My Pocket on Facebook!

An ‘unconventional’ choice: what do midwives do?

Welcome Claire!

Thank you so much for being our special guest, and accepting this invitation for me to interview you for our ‘In conversation with’ series….what an honour!  I was incredibly interested and excited to read about the subject you have chosen to study, as many years ago I worked as a consultant midwife, and one of my responsibilities was to support women to have the birth they wanted. I did this by working closely with women, and with midwives and obstetricians. Together we ‘pushed boundaries’ – which wasn’t easy, when ‘fear’ was (and still is) prevalent, and influenced the actions maternity care workers took on a daily basis.

So let’s here more!

I know you are studying for a Ph.D. at the moment, can you tell us about the topic have you chosen and why?

My current study centres on exploring midwives who actively choose to facilitate women’s unconventional birth choices whilst working within the NHS. By unconventional, I mean women’s choices that perhaps are outside of guidelines or where women decline recommended care.  Largely, this topic has been born out of my previous Master’s research that explored why women choose to freebirth.  The findings in that study demonstrated many unfortunate examples of poor midwifery care, namely around women feeling their choices were restricted and some even experienced coercive and threatening practices such as unnecessary referrals to social services.  Listening to the women, whilst also being a practicing midwife with a range of experiences (good and bad), I wanted to turn my research questions around and to actively seek out the midwives who are managing to facilitate true woman-centred choice, as I know they exist!  I am particularly interested in the midwives practising this way whilst facing the tensions that all maternity professionals face; busyness, poor staffing, guideline-centric care etc.  I felt that by exploring the experiences of midwives’ who are managing to facilitate women’s unconventional birth choices, it can be used for other’s to learn from to benefit women’s experience of maternity services.

Are you allowed to tell me any of the preliminary findings at all?

I can tell you that recruitment was a great success!  I had over 80 inquiries, and have recruited 45 midwives to the study.  The midwives are from all over the UK, working in a range of roles; community, hospital, specialist roles and they also range from Band 5-Band 8.  This is particularly useful going forward as all midwives working in any part of the service will benefit from the findings, as they will be relevant to a wide scope of practice. The midwives were invited to write an account and/or be interviewed so that together, we could explore practice stories of caring and facilitating women’s unconventional birth choices.  This was to ascertain what the midwives do, how they do and also why they practise in that way.  The birth choices women made were hugely varied such as; declining inductions, actively pursuing home birth or access to birth centres whilst with medical or obstetric conditions or declining certain observations during labour.  Consistently, throughout the interviews was the importance of relationship building between the midwives and women, where open, honest conversations were central to the care planning and caregiving.  It was interesting to note that some midwives worked in continuity models of care and others did not which is also useful as it helps us learn how to practice woman-centred care even when continuity is not available.   As you can imagine, the scope of the findings will facilitate a wide range of knowledge generation to learn about complex midwifery practice.  But for me, what has been so exciting and inspiring is hearing the commitment of the midwives’ to woman-centred care even in very unusual situations, something I think we can agree will help us move forward on the Human Rights in Childbirth agenda.  That is all I can say for now, as data collection is still ongoing!

What are your personal thoughts about women choosing ‘unconventional’ births?

My personal thoughts about women making ‘unconventional’ birth decisions are that arguably many of the decisions shouldn’t be deemed ‘unconventional’ in the first place!  If choice is a true choice, then it is reasonable to consider that a number of women will decline our suggestions or recommendations. Evidence suggests that women are sometimes steered into compliance which I feel is unacceptable, I firmly believe and am committed to women making their own autonomous decisions.  Unfortunately, I feel a side effect of increased maternity surveillance, fear of litigation and the overuse of guidelines means that women are increasingly categorised into simplistic notions of high or low risk, which are not always helpful for either women or maternity professionals.  By women pushing our ever narrowing boundaries in maternity care, they are teaching as valuable lessons in birth physiology and birth psychology.

What are your plans for the future?

What a tricky question!  Well, I feel that my work is only just beginning and there will be many unanswered questions following this particular study which means continuing my research path.  I am passionate about exploring ways we can learn from our colleagues to create virtuous cycles of improved midwifery practice and woman-centred care.  I hope to establish some future collaborations with other midwives and researchers to drive this work and that of others forward.  I endeavor to maintain clinical practice as I love working with women and their families, I just hope there are enough hours in a day!

Do you have any suggestions for related reading material or video links/websites?

I have to toot my own horn here! Please come find me HERE  to receive updates about this study and follow these links to my recent publications regarding freebirthing: https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-016-0847-6 and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0266613816301231

I also have to mention the fabulous Birthrights, a particular source of inspiration.

And finally……If you had the power to change 3 things in maternity services, what would they be?

I would employ more staff to reduce the relentless workloads midwives face, that way they will be able to provide appropriate, timely and compassionate care to ALL women, and not be on the brink of burn out.  I would introduce a no blame compensation scheme immediately, the fear of litigation has caused many unintended negative consequences.  I would want midwives to have their rota’s at least three months in advance, midwives need and deserve to have a work-life balance, manage childcare and other family commitments.  Valuing and looking after midwives is an essential component to improving women’s birthing experiences.

Midwife and PhD student Claire Feeley

Well Claire, I loved reading about the inspirational and courageous midwifery practice, and I feel sure there’ll be a great response to your very important study.  Your findings will be particularly important as we move from statutory supervision of midwives, to the new Professional Midwifery Advocate role, as I believe ALL midwives will need encouragement and support to be true advocates for women, and to facilitate the choices they make, safely.

We’ll be waiting with baited breathe!

You can find Claire on Twitter