The Midwife’s Survival Guide: The Secret to Surviving the System and Loving What You Do

International day of the midwife
Picture of Bere Horthy

Bere Horthy

Doula & Registered Nurse

Being a midwife is an incredible profession that allows you to support women and babies through one of the most special moments in their lives. 

However, the system can be challenging, and it’s important to know how to navigate it to provide the best care possible. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the flaws of the system and the realities of being a midwife, as well as tips for surviving and thriving in the profession.

The System is Flawed

Rachael Reed is right; the hospital is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do – making sure that your baby comes out safe and sound. 

But the system is flawed in so many ways that it’s hard to even know where to begin. 

The hospital is so focused on physical health that they completely forget about the emotional, social, spiritual, and cultural well-being of the mother and baby. 

It’s like they’re saying, “Hey, congratulations on giving birth! Now get out of here so we can take care of the next one.” 

That’s not how it should be, and it’s not how it has to be.

midwife rally
Source: Metro

The Reality of Being a Midwife

Being a midwife is an amazing job – you get to help women and babies, bringing new life into the world. 

But it’s also a physically and mentally challenging job. 

You have to follow hospital guidelines that don’t always follow best practice, and you end up spending more time with paperwork than with the women you’re supposed to be caring for. 

Most people think that being a midwife is all about catching babies and being in those beautiful, intimate moments with the mother and child. 

But the truth is, that’s more in line with what a doula does.

The word “midwife” literally means “with woman,” but the job of a midwife is much more complex and demanding than that.

As a midwife, you have to be both the midwife that the family needs you to be and the midwife that the system needs you to be. 

It’s an exhausting job, and I take my hat off to all the midwives out there who are doing this work day in and day out. 

They deserve our respect and appreciation for all the hard work they do, and the love they bring to the world.

student midwife
Source: Matthew Thompson

Becoming a Midwife

So, you’re looking into becoming a midwife? 

First things first, know your story and stick to it. 

Maybe you had a traumatic birth experience, or perhaps you just have a passion for helping women through their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey. 

Whatever your reason may be, hold onto it tightly, because you can lose sight of it very quickly.

Being a midwife is not just about delivering babies. 

It’s about loving, caring for, and advocating for women through their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

But let’s be real, being a midwife is no walk in the park. 

You can’t afford to be complacent and get things right only half the time. 

You need to be on your game 100% of the time, because the experiences you provide will leave a lasting impression on the women and families in your care. 

If you don’t do your job well, you risk being part of the system that is leaving women traumatised, and that’s a weighty burden to bear. 

But don’t worry, we’re not trying to scare you, we’re just trying to emphasise the incredible responsibility that comes with being a midwife.

When you start your midwifery course, they’ll teach you the most up-to-date practices, and the highest standard of care – how it should be. 

But when you enter the workforce, you’ll realize that many of these practices aren’t being implemented. 

Don’t lose hope, though; use your knowledge to question and challenge the system to help bring about change.

How to Survive in the System

Welcome to the team. 

Surviving in the system can be challenging. 

However, there are a few things you can do to make it easier. 

First and foremost, take care of yourself and surround yourself with ‘your people’. 

Attend conferences, workshops, and webinars that interest you to expand your knowledge and meet like-minded people who are going through the same thing as you. 

Find people that you resonate with and build connections. 

It’s the external stuff that can help you survive in the system and enable you to provide effective care to the mothers and families you care for, while giving back to your community.

midwife rebellion

There Are Two Types of Midwives

When you become a midwife, you enter a battle.

You can either choose to give up on attempting to change the system to how it should be, and submit to the system and comply.

This means going with the flow, following the policies that are laid out for you, and trying not to rock the boat or cause trouble. 

It’s the “easier” way, and you stay protected by the system by staying compliant and knowing your place in the hierarchy. 

If you choose this route, that’s ok. 

The system is hostile to anyone that tries to work against it.

The battle is fought by midwives who challenge the system, and try to change it for the better. 

This is the second option.  

And if you choose it, you must be confident and remain strong in your pursuit. 

The battle that you’ll fight is not only against the hierarchy but also against the bullying that happens between midwives in the system. 

If you’re the one who wants to do good and change the system, you’re likely to face hostility from other midwives and the hierarchy. 

Midwives that are going with the flow hate it when others try to bend and break the rules.

There are positives to being in the system, though. 

You’ll have the opportunity to build your clinical skills, such as managing postpartum haemorrhages, taking bloods, and neonatal resuscitation. 

If you choose to go into private practice later, it’s also great for forming relationships that you might need later on in your career. 

Especially if you need to transfer a mother into the hospital for a higher level of care. 

However, you can’t go into the system swinging and putting up a fuss because, in the end, it doesn’t help anyone, and It’s unprofessional. 

If you do, there’s likely to be a lot of pushback, and you’re going to dig yourself into a hole.

Valuing the Journey You Take to Become the Midwife You Want to Be

Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do to get to where you want to be. 

In midwifery, you’ll most likely be starting your career in a job or hospital that you don’t want to be in. 

This may be because they require you to gain certain skills before entering the job you desire, or there may not be a position available at the time. 

But if you take every opportunity to build relationships and learn skills, it will pay off in the long run.

If your goal is to become a private midwife, you’ll need to complete 5,000 hours in the system to gain the knowledge and expertise required to be successful and safe. 

But don’t just endure these 5,000 hours, make the most of them. 

Build an amazing skill set to give the best possible care to mothers and families. 

Remember, the journey you take to become the midwife you want to be is just as important as the destination.

IDM 2023

Today we celebrate you!

All in all. 

Whether you’re a midwife or a student midwife – Know that you’re all doing an amazing job loving, caring, and supporting women and families in the system and outside the system. 

It’s important to keep reminding yourself about what it means to you to be a midwife and why you chose this path. 

Stay strong and passionate and keep your cup full. 

Connect with people and groups of people that are like-minded and will support you and raise you up. 

The system is brutal, and it can really affect you if you let it. 

So, do what you need to do, make the most out of every situation, and stand up for what you believe in. 

The birth world is changing one mother, one midwife, and one baby at a time. 

Thank you to all the midwives out there – today we celebrate you. 

Keep on fighting the good fight and know that you are appreciated!

Bere Horthy

As a doula and nurse, Bere's mission is to empower and educate women, families, and fellow doulas to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey.


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