Midwives. What a splendid breed you are.
While some of the national days we celebrate are, quite frankly, questionable, International Midwives Day on May 5 is not one of them. Midwives deserve to be celebrated for the crucial role they play in society: ushering new life from the womb to the wider world, all while minimising risk and fear, and empowering women to embrace and triumph in their unique experiences of labour.
Midwives don’t only hover bedside for labour, of course. They are the point of contact throughout those nine months prior. They help in the days and weeks following with myriad motherly topics, from breastfeeding to sleeping, baby’s weight-gain to mum’s recovery. They are the warm hand on the shoulder, the caring gesture, the calming voice, the knowledgeable advice.
In Australia, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, there are 32,529 registered midwives (679 of whom are non-practising) helping with about 311,000 births annually, according to latest, 2016 data. Of these midwives, 89.1% are female and 10.9% are male.
Midwives, you studied for a minimum of three years at university, but there’s something innately special about someone who chooses this career path. It’s unlikely I’ll do it justice in words, but you have a formidable combination of grit, compassion and know-how, that sees so many of us through one of the most challenging, formative and enriching seasons we will ever face.
In March this year, the International Code of Ethics for Midwives came into effect for Australian midwives. There’s a line included that gives me cause for concern:
“Midwives may decide not to participate in activities for which they hold deep moral opposition; however, the emphasis on individual conscience should not deprive women of essential health services.”
We all know what this is referring to. And I say, midwives, keep focusing on life. On catching babies and holding mums’ hands. On helping women navigate beyond their fears of not being good enough, old enough, strong enough, stable enough…
You’ve been trained to bring life into the world. How can we possibly ask you to abort lives that have already begun?
Listen to why one experienced abortionist decided she could no longer continue.