Ask any Mumma who has given birth how they view their midwife and you are sure to get a range of emotive responses. It is, after all, a highly emotive time in anyone’s life!
I for one felt nothing but supported, loved and cared for by our wonderful midwife! And I am saddened that she no longer works in this role and when it is time for us to grow our family again, I will have to go with another midwife… if I can find someone who has space.
Now stay with me… please read this and pass on. The more we can raise the awareness of the this issue, the more chance that maybe just maybe we can change the situation.
In the last few weeks there has been a lot of noise around the amount that midwives get paid, when I heard how little it was, I was shocked. In New Zealand, there is a minimum wage for those 16 or over, $16.50.
Take a guess what many Lead Maternity Carer’s (LMC) are reporting their hourly rate to be after all the work they put in…… $7.23 (sometimes even lower, particularly for the rural midwives)!!!!!!
Now it is important to note, I am talking here about the independent midwives, the LMC’s who are with you throughout your pregnancy, birth and visits you for the first six weeks post birth also. I’m not talking about the midwives based in the birthing centres and hospitals that work their shifts then go home (although these midwives deserve just as much attention! Just stating this for the purpose of the monetary calculations here). The LMC’s are required to be on call 24/7 and unless they have paired up with another local midwife to have as a backup and provide the ability to take turns having a weekend off, they get no time off, because we all know how much babies come when it suits them and not on a nicely timed schedule. The LMC’s get a set amount, (which is less if the baby isn’t the Mumma’s first by the way) which doesn’t change dependent on how many hours of care are required, so if you have a complicated situation or need extra reassurances from your midwife they don’t get paid any extra. Out of the amount they get they have to pay their own expenses, travel costs (even more of a cost for the rural midwives), all costs associated with their clinic, equipment, phone costs, insurance, ACC cover, advertising, accountancy fees, stationery, annual practicing certificate costs, ongoing education costs (compulsory), midwifery standards review costs (compulsory), indemnity insurance (compulsory) etc etc. They are not entitled to holiday pay, long service, sick leave, or bereavement leave. The only way they can get this time is by partnering with another midwife and having an agreement between themselves as a backup for each other.
Because babies have the unique ability to decide when and where they want to make their arrival, as an LMC they must be available at all hours. Add into that a concerned Mumma who needs extra visits at short notice in the lead up to the due date (like I did!) because they are concerned they haven’t felt their precious bundle of joy move much, or the first time Mumma who swears black and blue that she is in labour and has the midwife come around to check but turns out she just has Braxton Hicks (also me!) and then the midwife comes around again and again in the days leading up to the birth just to help set a new Mumma’s mind at ease…. so many hours and visits involved that doesn’t change the fee she will receive for being your midwife at all!
It takes an amazing person to be a midwife, a caring personality is a must and also a must is the innate ability to calm an anxious Mumma who has worked herself up to the point of hyperventilating! They have such an important role in our lives, ensuring the well being of both Mumma and baby both physically and mentally. That’s no easy task!
I have a very good friend who is a midwife and when I asked her why she is a midwife this was her response…
“As a midwife you get to be a small part of a sacred journey with women and families as they transition to parenthood with their new addition. Whether that’s their first baby or their 11th, it’s always just as sacred. I have the absolute privilege of working with women in some of the most important times in their lives. I love being able to help parents gain confidence in their abilities. I’m privileged to journey with women and their family in some really challenging and heartbreaking experiences too, trying to help make their experience as positive and empowered as possible. It is not my journey, but theirs, and what an honour to be involved in that! There may be huge demands and stresses in midwifery but I loved my job and the essence of it is absolute joy and so rewarding!”
See what I mean… it takes an amazing person to have chosen this life as a midwife, it is not just a job!
So it’s sad to hear of so many midwives walking away from this job, not because they can’t do it, but because they are grossly underpaid for what they do and there is a spiral effect where the more that leave, the more pressure is put on the remaining LMC’s in the area which makes their job even more incompatible with having a life.
I can’t tell you how many posts I have read in my local facebook pages of a new Mumma-to-be frantically searching for recommendations for a midwife in the area who might be able to take her on, because they are all fully booked and cannot possibly take on anymore clients safely. Some areas in New Zealand don’t even have a midwife! Te Anau has no midwife, Wanaka now only has one, I’m sure there are many more areas that are struggling to cover the demand for their services but this is extreme.
How did it get to this point?
If nothing is done soon to counter this problem, what will the future look like for a new Mumma-to-be???
A woman should have the right to choose who will be her carer throughout her pregnancy and birth, she should have the right to decide on a midwife that she is comfortable with and who supports her decisions, not just be forced to book with the first midwife that can fit her in. Even then a woman should have the right to have someone who has the time and the resources to care for her as she needs rather than be overworked, underpaid and overtired as a byproduct of the situation forced upon her.
A Midwife should have the right to a safe working environment where she can have a life outside of work, earn enough to support herself and her family, where she can get enough sleep and isn’t overworked to the point of insanity, where she can be there for her kids too because she isn’t feeling pressure to take on extra clients because there is no one else to take them on, where she doesn’t have to turn Mumma’s away because she can’t possibly take on anymore safely. A midwife has the right to not feel stretched beyond capacity. A midwife has the right to take time off to prevent burnouts but this often isn’t possible.
Now I know what you may say… they chose this job, they can suck it up and deal with it, why make it my problem???
Well… It actually makes good economic sense to put money in midwives. The UN High Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth states that investments in nurses and midwives results in triple return of improved health outcomes, global health security and economic growth. I’m no economist so I won’t go into this but basically it makes sense to invest in nurses and midwives.
If you are wanting to help, have a look at the petition that closes 29 April 2018 to urge the Government to support New Zealand’s midwifery system by fully funding the co-designed funding model developed by the New Zealand College of Midwives and the Ministry of Health.
I know there are many worthy causes out there, this one is close to my heart and I wanted to share it.
Together we can make a difference!
Until next time friends,