Each Thursday morning in school terms, weather permitting, a little group of women get together to play tennis in a back yard in Mont Albert. This group started more than 30 years ago. I have been in the group for about 20 years. The tennis court is situated in a lovely garden, and the owners have generously welcomed our little group.
Readers of this blog will probably wonder what that has to do with midwifery. The answer is nothing. But it has a lot to do with community, and it's one of the parts of my life that I enjoy and value. Being a member of a tennis group means that I have made a commitment to being with that group at a particular time, whenever I can. It's about being responsible to others, to the best of my ability. These women are not particularly interested in my midwifery practice - although they listen when I tell my stories, and they are accepting of my sometimes unpredictable hours. It's good that I can go to the tennis court and leave midwifery at arm's length (as far away as the mobile phone, that is) for a few hours each week.
A midwife with a personal caseload has a problem with commitment to other events - we are, at times, unreliable. We put the mothers and babies first. My children will tell you about their birthdays when I left the family to celebrate, while I headed out to a birth.
Last December, when our daughter Bec was getting married, I did the right thing and arranged for another midwife to cover my practice. On the afternoon before the wedding day I was enjoying the company of my sisters and other relatives who had come to Melbourne. We had 'open house' for tea that night, and I had prepared salads to go with meat done on the bar-b-q. The phone rang, and my client Paula said she thought her labour was getting started.
I phoned my backup midwife, Jan. Jan's reply when she answered the phone was, "You just caught me, I'm on my way to a birth." OK, plan B isn't going to work. There's no plan C, so I had better go back to plan A.
Of course my sisters and their families were able to manage without me, so I said a quick goodbye, and headed out. I had to make my way through peak afternoon traffic, and by the time I got to Paula's home she was holding a very beautiful newborn girl to her breast. The placenta came without difficulty, and I did the paperwork. By the time I got home the family were all enjoying each other's company, and someone had put aside a meal for me.
Readers of this blog probably realise that stories are my way of telling my midwifery knowledge to others. The point I want to make today is that each midwife needs friends and community linkages that are outside her commitment to mothers, babies, and birthing. For me, it's our Church, the tennis group, and of course, our wonderful family. It's not so much that they need me, as I need them.