It told how many grandmothers have written to me, contrasting their own labors over 30 years ago in effective consultant-run services, with the distress, danger and lack of continuity experienced by their daughters under the care of a midwife. At the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Sheila’s grandson was unable to come out as he had the cord around his neck and it was too short for him to be born. “The midwife told us that everything was going according to plan,” recalls Sheila.
“My grandson’s life was saved because a head nurse poked her head out the door to say she had just come on duty. To his question, ‘How are you?’, my farmer son-in-law answered: ‘If it was a lambing, I would say that it is going really badly.’
“His comment caused the staff nurse to call a doctor and my grandson was cut off, it was too late for a caesarean. Fortunately, he suffered no harm, unlike another baby who was born in the same unit two weeks later and suffered severe brain damage. I have often wondered if this poor woman had the same midwife as my daughter or just one with the same ideology. I will always be grateful that a staff nurse did not bow to the higher purpose of midwifery.
What could be a better goal than getting a baby out alive? You would be surprised. The word ‘ideology’ keeps coming up in your descriptions of midwives. Just like “chippy”, “defensive”, “cruel”, “famous aggressive”, “territorial” and “thick”. Yes, some midwives are wonderful, but as one ex-midwife who left because of bullying from her senior colleagues told me: “The nice ones who really care always leave.
How qualified are those who remain? Midwives were fully trained in nursing before specializing in midwifery. Not anymore. “I’m sorry, but they just don’t have the critical care knowledge or experience that they once had,” complained one consultant, “and very often they are too slow or too stubborn to admit that a labor is not progressing as it should and the fetus is in distress.
It’s not just the baby who is in distress. “Allison, do you remember that episode of All Creatures Great and Small where James Herriot helps a calf into birth by putting an arm inside a cow and pulling?” Lindy asked. This visceral and bloody scene, Lindy told me, was re-enacted when her grandson was born late at Princess Royal University Hospital in Orpington. After a 37-hour labor (and late at 42 weeks pregnant), Lindy’s daughter, Tanya, had repeatedly asked the midwives if she could have a C-section, and was told she couldn’t. not, “and that she talked too much”.
“Even when it was clear the baby was in distress, no plans were made for a caesarean section. The doctor was only called when the midwife whom Tanya had first seen on Friday evening returned for the Saturday evening shift and was surprised to find her still there,” says Lindy. “Early Sunday, Tanya finally had surgery and a cupping cup was used without success. Eventually, the doctor thrust both arms up to the elbow inside Tanya and dragged Harry out. In the process, the baby was deprived of oxygen in the brain for some time and did not breathe for five long minutes after birth.
A lovable boy, clearly adored by his grandmother, Harry suffers from ADHD and autism and is obsessed with death. Tanya remained incontinent. Her mother says she was far too traumatized to press charges.
There are many more stories like these. Too much. I return to this subject today because your emails have convinced me that pregnant women in the UK are at an unacceptable risk. According to the latest figures, of the 193 NHS maternity wards in England, 80 are deemed ‘inadequate’ or ‘need improvement’. This means that 40% do not meet basic safety standards. How can this happen in a first world country?