The new generation of midwives are plucky and cool, with nothing but you and your baby’s wellbeing in mind, explains Summer Litchfield
Clemmie Hooper looks like a pop star. “When I turn up on expectant women’s doorsteps and tell them I’m their midwife, the most common reaction is: ‘Wow, you’re so young!’” Forget the middle-aged and matronly, out-dated midwifery of old; there’s a new breed about, and Clemmie is most definitely one of them. Aged 30 with two daughters aged four and seven, she writes the popular blog gasandairblog.com and is all for a more women-centred approach to delivering babies.
“I would never dream of telling a new mother how she should be doing things because we live in a culture where everything is so much more up to the individual,” Clemmie explains. “Women are a lot more empowered to make decisions about the birth they want and they are also a lot more educated about what’s available thanks to the internet. As midwives, we have to be equipped with the latest information to be able to serve our women to the best of our ability. That means guiding them through their journey without bias and influence, yet supporting them every step of the way to achieve the birth they want.”
While the traditional approach to midwifery favoured the ‘on your back in hospital’ rule, the new attitude is ‘whatever makes you happy’. Whether that be upright and active, in a birthing pool, at home by the sofa or all of the above, modern midwives like Clemmie (or midwifeyhooper, as she’s known on social media) are in touch with that.
“I’m part of the new group of modern midwives using social media to promote all things midwifery-related and to share views and wisdom with others,” says Clemmie. “I try to keep on top of the current climate in relation to pregnancy and childbirth so I’m armed and ready with the most up-to-date evidence-based practice when advising women. Gone are the days when I would wait for my monthly subscription of The Practising Midwife magazine to see what’s trending. All I have to do is go online to get feedback from women out there who have been there, done it and got the T-shirt.”
One of the growing trends that today’s modern midwives, like Clemmie, are up to speed with is hypnobirthing. Hollie de Cruz and Suzy Ashworth recently launched the Calm Birth School – the world’s first hypnobirthing video course – and, although they don’t deliver babies themselves, they definitely fit the bill in terms of looking more like they should be working in fashion.
“We work with so many women who have successful careers and busy lives,” says Hollie. “These are intelligent women who know what they want. They are educated and determined, and they are looking for a way to apply this to the way they are birthing. They do something like our hypnobirthing video course which gives them all the tools they need for a calm and comfortable birth, and then they have the confidence to seek out caregivers who will support them in their choices. The majority of today’s midwives love seeing women embrace their births and will do everything they can to help them create a positive experience. Midwives worth their salt approach birth as a natural event rather than a medical one. Communication is the key to creating the best experience for each woman and her baby.”
Another midwife who would agree with this is Natalie Lee, who is currently focusing on her own blog StyleMeSunday.com, and bringing up her two daughters, but hopes to return to delivering babies when her girls are older. She observes that one of the main things that’s changed in recent years is that you need a degree to be a midwife. “After that, listening skills are key,” she says, seconding Hollie of the Calm Birth School. “It sounds obvious but bringing a baby into the world is so much more of a collaborative experience these days and women should be involved in all aspects of their care.”
But ultimately, times are a-changing. “Practices in midwifery are evolving all the time,” says Clemmie. “I can understand how it must be hard for midwives who qualified 20 years ago to change what they have always practised. New technologies, methodologies and tools are constantly cropping up which are designed to make midwives’ and women’s lives easier and make birth experiences something to look forward to, not to fear.”
First published in 2015.