The sad news of the death of a dear midwifery colleague of mine, Tricia Anderson, has made me reflect on her life as a midwife and in turn reflect on my own life, especially as she was the same age as me. Tricia was an inspiration to me and many other midwives. She was a great advocate of normal childbirth and breastfeeding. She was extremely articulate and could cut to the bullshit, but in a way that did not offend but rather was challenging in a supportive way. She had a fabulous sense of humor, and was passionately committed to the women-centered midwifery care.
Tricia and I worked together in Salisbury, UK, in the early 1990s. I remember how excited we were when the 'Changing Childbirth' report came out in 1993, the first of its kind from the government that supported women-centered care. This was followed by meetings with the midwives who had set up caseload midwifery in London. Tricia and I were amongst the midwives who campaigned for caseload midwifery at Salisbury but unfortunately, the manager of the maternity unit at the time was not very open to the idea. Tricia went on to work in Bournemouth as a lecturer and independent midwife. I came to New Zealand to carry out caseload midwifery in Gisborne*.
What I especially valued about Tricia was her writing skills. She wrote many articles and book chapters but the one I really remember and made me think hard about my practice, was an article I still recommend to all students and midwives about what is midwifery intervention and how it affects the outcome of labour and birth.
Now I know we all are aware of medical interventions such as induction of labour, epidural, artificial rupture of membranes and so on. But do we think about the actions we consider as 'good' midwifery actions as interventions, and consider the effect they may have on labour? For example, positively reinforcing spontaneous pushing; placing a warm compress on the perineum; even physically 'being there' with a labouring woman; asking the woman to change position; encouraging woman to have 'skin to skin contact' with baby. In Tricia's article, she examines what we do as midwives and leaves us with the challenge to think about what we do: are we being interfering midwives to the detriment to the outcome of a woman's labour?
Anderson, T. 2002. Peeling back the layers: a new look at midwifery interventions. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, 12 (2): 207-210.
*Stewart, S. 2001. What’s it like to work in . . .
Image: 'midnight sun' Josef F. Stuefer