At the start of the week my wife barely got settled in bed before she was up and out of the house.
She didn’t return until virtually dawn. It was the same thing last night. Well not quite. It was just after midnight when the phone went and she disappeared out of the house in a fuzzy eyed blur. Once again, she didn’t grace us with her presence before any of us had risen, let alone the sun.
My wife is a Midwife. She does it because she is passionate about the welfare of the unborn child, the mother, healthy happy birth and care of newborns and their whanau. She sure isn’t in it for the hours and she doesn’t do it for the money.
That isn’t to say my wife is not well paid. Hers is a decent salary, if not brilliant. She gets an okay recompense for what she does but sadly, however, it is far from a true reflection of her value. Even a glance at her role reveals just what sort of demand is placed on her and those who operate in a similar or same capacity. As a Case-loading Midwife, she will do ten days on, four off…hopefully. Many a time she has to cover for illness or staffing shortfalls or is needed to attend if there are multiple births taking place and it is a case of all hands on deck.
During those ten days, my wife is on call. 24/7. She must have her work phone on her at all times, needs to have reception at all times and cannot be more than twenty or so minutes from the hospital who employ her. This includes her living arrangements for those hours. In her day she can cover well above 100km in order to attend ante and post natal visits, all the while being available for a birth should one occur.
Every baby, every mother and every whanau she deals with is and are different as is every birth she attends. There are separate requirements and necessities and a multitude of this and that’s she has to deal with on a case by case basis. My wife does it all with a proficiency which is only matched by her smile and her purposeful stride. And as you can imagine, quite apart from the pressures and stresses of her role, she always has in the back of her mind the impact of what she does on her family.
So why do it you ask? If the money isn’t fantastic, the job seems to be overly demanding and the scope is often beyond the remit?
Because my wife loves what she does. Because she recognises the value of her efforts, her experience and her care. Because, as liberal wishy washy as it sounds, she can make a difference.
She does. My wife has been in her role long enough to bring a great deal of qualification and experience, particularly as a primary Midwife, in a region which badly needs the type of integrity, skill and ethic she is blessed with. But, I am not here to blow smoke up a part of her anatomy the sun is yet to see. Becasue as great as she is, and she is, there are many out there just like her. Not just Midwives. Nurses, so topical right now, Doctors and Radiologists and all the rest. Kind, caring, hard working, highly qualified and skilled, passionate people.
We have all heard and read the stories of over worked junior Doctors. Now, after some thirty years of silence, we are having our eyes opened to what our nurses are up to, the stresses and pressures they face and the help they need. So much more than simply a question of money. Here it is a small though widespread catchment for the health services to attend to and here also, is a system which offers so much more than the average. Hokianga Health and the Rawene Hospital have something quite special going on and while, like any institute and system, there are faults, there is no doubting good things are being done. The community benefits from the steps taken and the systems put in place and, I can only assume, there are maybe not the same pressures for many of the staff as might be faced in denser population bases.
None of that really helps my wife or other Midwives around the country. Yes, a Midwife can make the choice to operate independently, pick and choose her clientele and weigh up her work/life balance as she sees fit. All well and good, if there is a population which will sustain such practice. In rural environments and small towns, that is not feasible. There are simply not the numbers, therefore the money to be able to stay in business. Which is where people like my wife come into the equation. Alternatively, a Midwife can be employed by a District Health Board and do her shifts, like a nurse, and go home when the day is done with work supposedly out of sight, out of mind.
Can that happen when you work in such a role? Can someone just switch off? To an extent, yes. Experience in any job anyone is passionate about will teach that. But there are elements which can never be walked away from, indelible moments that will stick forever. Shocking, sad moments. Beautiful, harmonious moments.
People like my wife make sacrifices. Many of them. She chooses too and the reward she gets from doing so might not be a financial one, but it carries a worth much greater. Her family must make sacrifices too. We do so because we appreciate what the woman in our lives is doing and why she does it.
Recognition needs to come from elsewhere though. It needs to come from the top. From DHB management and at governmental level. Many of the best and brightest of our nurses and Midwives stay and ply their trades here in NZ, because of circumstance, because the dollar does not rule everyone. But many choose to move on, to earn the bigger pay cheques. Because it gives them a much vaunted leg up. Because a pay cheque, to an extent, can reflect appreciation.
Our nurses and Midwives need our support. Because when we reach for support, it is them who offer it. Gladly, willingly, tirelessly and passionately, and I for one, appreciate it.