Jonathan Cliffe is a midwife at Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Cheshire and a member of the British Journal of Midwifery Editorial Board. Jonathan studied midwifery at Bangor University, co-founding the Bangor University Student Midwife Society, and going on to graduate in 2015. In early 2015 Jonathan was shortlisted for Student Midwife of the Year in the Nursing Times Awards.
“…it would be difficult to describe a typical day or pinpoint a specific part of my role that I enjoy the most as every day brings something new (quite literally). No two births, no two days and no two women are ever the same. Every day is a special day…”
Achieving more than I could ever have imagined as a midwife
Originally from Warrington, at the age of 15 I left secondary education without formal qualifications and no career aspirations, and I was once told I would never achieve anything. However, with determination, hard work and support from family, friends and the staff at both my further and higher education institute, I’ve achieved more than I could ever have imagined. This includes completing a skydive earlier this year in aid of Mummy’s Star, a charity that helps women affected by cancer during pregnancy.
I am now currently employed as a full time registered midwife, based in the delivery suite at Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where I work alongside a great team of midwives and obstetricians (including the midwife that was present at my birth just over 23 years ago!).
Embarking on my midwifery journey
I embarked on my midwifery journey in 2012 at Bangor University, North Wales. I cannot recall a moment where I decided to become a midwife. My personal statement started with: “The miracle of childbirth amazes me” and I think when I applied for my midwifery course, I was under the illusion that midwives just “delivered” babies but I learnt very quickly that this was not the case.
I was naive in my thinking and it wasn’t until I was accepted onto the course and started the wonderful journey that I realised, yes midwives attended births, but they did much more. Obviously there was highs and low of my midwifery education, and I am under no illusion there will be highs and lows of my midwifery career, but all in all I am proud and happy to be a midwife.
I have had the great pleasure of being involved in many exciting projects, during my time as student midwife; I sat on several committees for quality improvement within education and student experience. In 2015 I was also one of 24 students to partake in the annual Florence Nightingale procession at Westminster Abbey.
Now as a qualified midwife I’m still actively involved in exciting activities. I was recently invited to present at the Royal College of Midwives Annual Conference and also in March 2016 I was invited to join the Editorial Board of the British Journal of Midwifery.
I will be starting my master’s degree in early 2017.
The role of a midwife: A privileged position
Childbirth is one of life’s greatest miracles. From the formation of the unborn baby to the mechanisms that take place to welcome the newborn into the world, the role of the midwife is a privileged position and, for majority of the time, midwives share the moment when a woman becomes a mother. However, being a midwife is far from just being present at a birth.
Regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), midwives are lead practitioners, specialists in low risk pregnancies and are educated to detect deviations from the norm during pregnancy and childbirth. Being a midwife means being there for women; supporting, advocating, listening and empowering women during the whole childbirth continuum is a vital role midwives play within maternity services all over UK.
Midwifery, at times can be unpredictable and therefore it would be difficult to describe a typical day or pinpoint a specific part of my role that I enjoy the most as every day brings something new (quite literally). No two births, no two days and no two women are ever the same. Every day is a special day.
Part of the 1%: Being a man in a female dominated profession
It is true, midwifery has predominantly always been a female profession, and in fact prior to the mid-80s, it was illegal for men to practice as midwives. In 2016 midwives are still predominantly female. Why this is, perhaps a stereotypical perception of society, or a long standing history of midwives being female; I have no real answer, but slowly more men are entering the midwifery profession.
Women have choice; choice about their care, where they have their care and who provides their care. This should never be forgotten. I very rarely encounter issues within practice regarding the fact I am a man providing midwifery care.
As a midwife you have to be sensitive to women’s needs, physical, emotional, mental and cultural needs, so respecting their choice of care provider is an important aspect of midwifery care. I have a duty to respect the choice of a woman if her choice is to have a female midwife provide her care.
In the time as a student midwife and as a midwife, I have only hand a handful of occasions where this has happened, and the women’s choices were due to personal cultural or traditional reasons.
Gender equality at work – let’s start at the beginning
I think we have to start at the beginning. I few months ago I cared for a women who told me about her nine year old daughter. Her daughter wanted to fly a plane and become a pilot, but when she was asked by her teachers what she wanted to be when she grew up, her teacher’s response was: “Only boys can fly planes.” A sad moment for this young girl who had her hopes set on flying planes. Luckily she had encouraging parents who did not let this moment dampen her dreams.
Educating the young of today will surely bring about change in attitudes to gender equality, ensuring children know that their possibilities are endless in their lives and their careers. If they want something, they should go out and get it. Educational institutes need to be educating and empowering young people to aim high and not let stereotypical barriers hold them back from reach their own aspirations.
Advice to those are who interested in becoming midwives
We’ve seen a huge influx of media related television dramas, documentaries and comedies surrounding the midwifery profession in the past few years. My advice to anyone wanting to fulfil their hopes of becoming a midwife is to dig deeper; a midwife does far more than just “deliver babies”.Although a vital part of their role, assisting at a birth is a small part of the overall role and responsibility of a midwife.
Aim high; places on midwifery courses are few and with changes to the NHS bursaries some may feel they cannot afford university. Anybody wishing to pursue their dreams of becoming a midwife should keep going, stay positive and fundamentally, not give up!
Midwives acting as ambassadors for women along the childbirth continuum
Maternity services have been in the spotlight across the UK recently, historically and I am sure in the future there will be many changes to maternity services. Whatever happens next with maternity service in the UK, midwives have a duty to act as ambassadors for women along the childbirth continuum.
In today’s society midwives are often faced with the ever changing nature of day to day practice, the demands of meeting targets, completing paperwork, staff shortages, reconfiguration of maternity services and the constant Government financial budgets which impact maternity and healthcare services across the UK. Yet above all this, it should still be the hope of all midwives to support, listen, advocate and empower women in their childbirth experience.
Sharing precious moments
It is an immense privilege to be a midwife. I always aim to place the needs of the women and their family first. Midwives are privileged people, who get to share precious moments with women and we are entrusted by them to play a vital role in their childbirth experience. I’m also a keen supporter of Kate Granger’s #hellomynameis campaign for this reason.
— Jonathan Cliffe (@JonathanCliffe8) May 16, 2016