Amber the NowBaby midwife, shares how working as a home birth midwife is incredibly varied and can be challenging at times, but she admits,”I absolutely love it!

Firstly, a bit about Amber

I’m Amber, NowBaby’s Midwife and practising midwife in independent (or private) practice.  I offer pregnancy advice and full continuity of care throughout the antenatal period, labour and birth and up to one month postnatal. I have been an independent midwife for 10 years now. My main areas of expertise include home birth, water birth, active birth and vaginal birth after caesarean section.

Life as an on-call home birth midwife is very different to a midwife doing shift-work.  With shift work, you know when the end of your shift will be, you can pass on your women to the oncoming (fresh-faced and lively) midwives and go home and get some rest.  As a home birth midwife, you are on call 24-7, through Christmas, birthdays and every special occasion.  You can be called at any time and you have to be prepared to drop everything and go.  I’m there not necessarily from the very start of a labor (I try to arrive once active labour has started, which is sometimes hard to judge), but I’m often in regular contact with the family in early labour and then once there, stay until the very end plus a few hours, and women can easily have 2-3 day births.  I remember my very first labour as a home birth midwife.  I was called out 5 nights in a row and when labour finally established, I was with her for 36 hours. Just a few short days later I was with another woman for 27 hours.  These really can be long work days to put it mildly.

Called early to be at the home birth…

Thankfully I work with my wonderful midwife partner. We sometimes go to births together or stand-by and back-up for each other, so if needed, we’re able to cover each other and take some naps on the couch during these marathon births, but even so… it’s a whole new level of work-induced sleep deprivation (although not nearly as bad as being a new mother, since these periods of extreme sleep deprivation are not ‘every’ night, just every now and then). However, when I come home from a 36-hour birth, I’m not always able to fall into bed and pass out for a day.

I have other work commitments and a life of my own to run.  And there are all your usual every day jobs that need doing and women who need to be seen for their antenatal and postnatal visits, no matter how much you’d like to cancel the entire day and just sleep.  But I’ve been lucky so far to have been able to usually rest and recoup physically and emotionally at least little bit after these long labours.

It is a completely unpredictable way of working.  Last night I was called around 3:00 am to attend a first-time mother in labour. Having just come away from a long birth, I was wholly prepared to show up and stay with her for another 14 hours or so (at least), but her labour was taking a different turn. The baby arrived promptly after only approximately 5 hours of active labour, and 45 minutes or so of pushing.  In fact, when she started pushing and said she could feel the baby starting to come out, I was thinking that’s great but I’m sure there is still ages to go.

But I put on my gloves and lowered the mirror in the water (she was in the birth pool) and lo and behold, I could see the top of the baby’s head! I love water births and this was no different – it was pretty spectacular.  The head came out nice and gently, the shoulders followed quickly (with a surprise hand up by the head – superman style!), and I guided the baby between the mothers legs.  She reached down and lifted the baby up out of the water and held her close to her chest. We all gazed in wonder at this lovely new arrival while the baby loudly told us exactly how she felt about her new change of scenery.  It was beautiful.

And the best part is it’s just so fabulous to get to develop a relationship with your clients and be able to reassure them that, yes, you will be at their birth, a luxury I never had with my last job since it was shift work and I could never guarantee to the women that I would be the midwife working when they happened to go into labour.

The pace of this way of working is also completely different. While I may only be booked in to see a few clients a day, which on paper looks as if it should be a walk in the park compared to the 26 women I was expected to see in a single day at my old job, the visits are so much longer, more in-depth and more intense.  I can offer the luxury of unhurried appointments in the comfort of a client’s own home, allowing plenty of time for questions, discussions and preparation for the birth.  I believe that this level of midwifery care is something every woman deserves and I will continue to strive towards this aim.

Amber – NowBaby’s midwife November 2016