Watching and waiting

Watching and waiting… working outside the stranglehold of time

Jan 1, 2022 | Reflective practice

Are we caught in an illusion of time that has us as hamsters in wheels? Is there another way to live and work? This midwife says yes…

Our lives are dictated by time. From the get-go it seems we are in competition with the clock. Trying to get things done; wanting to stay out to play when the clock says it is time to come in; getting to appointments; completing tasks within expected time frames at work; school runs; assignment deadlines; mealtimes; timetables. Is it any wonder that we have societies (particularly in the most ‘developed’ parts of the world) in which we are plagued by stress, anxiety and all the fall out from this?

And the curious thing is that it is us that have set it up this way. Time is a human creation. One that has us in its grip from a very young age.

Now take the profession of midwifery. A job that is often highly pressurised timewise in busy birth units with high turnovers. The pressure to turn things around really fast is acutely felt.

I haven’t met a midwife who enjoys this or who thinks it improves the care we give, so is it worth exploring how we have come to this?

Is it simply staffing shortage or is it a top down performance pressure that leads to the resignation that there is nothing to be done about it?

A lot of the skills of a midwife are in watching and waiting – actually safeguarding a space to allow natural processes to unfold. When we feel the pressure of time keeping, the grace of watching and waiting can be hard to uphold.

How can we support ourselves and each other in this?

I observe on a daily basis colleagues caught between a rock and a hard place. We know both that the performance time-based model doesn’t work and that the physiology of birth requires oxytocin, which is a time and stress-free hormone. Do we work in a way, one to one with clients and with our colleagues, that honours and respects the space needed for birth? Holding ourselves steady when we work in a time-based world; alert to it but not ruled by it?

We feel the mismatch between the standards of care we know to be truly supportive of birth and the pressures from outside. And need to remind ourselves that we do have the choice in every moment to advocate for those in our care, stick our necks out if need be and safeguard respecting and honouring women and their choices. The more we do this the more we expose how contra ‘rush’ is to the true work of midwives and the flow of birth for a woman’s body and that there is a profound depth of skill and midwifery wisdom in ‘watching and waiting’ that needs to be appreciated, honoured and revered.

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