When I am an old midwife…

When I am an old midwife…

I wrote the following poem when I was in my twenties, with respect to Jenny Joseph, the author of “Warning!” and with thanks to Pamela Hunt, a dear friend and Farm Midwife who kindly donned a purple top and red hat for the photo that illustrated it, despite the fact that she was not in the least bit old.

I recently rediscovered it and realised that I can proudly say that I do even more of these things now than I did then (and I did quite a lot of them then!)

When I am an old midwife, I shall wear purple scrubs

with red gloves that don’t go, and that make women smile.

And I shall spend the budget on birth balls and essential oils

and nice smelling candles, and say we’ve no money for oxytocics

except in real emergencies.

I shall sit down on the labour ward floor when I am tired

and hide all the monitors and draw flowers on women’s notes

and stick my tongue out at anyone who wants to meddle

and make up for the meddling of my youth.

I will take crowds of slipper-clad women into the corridors

and help them to ambulate, invite them to dance,

and encourage them to yell.

I will wear my hair down and relish being fat

and sew my own purple scrubs

so I never have to scrabble to find big ones

in the theatre changing room.

When I am an old midwife, I shall knit all day long

creating hats for babies, and socks for women’s feet.

And everyone will see me

and know that all is well.

I shall discuss the purple line – loudly – in audit meetings

and put diagrams up on powerpoint.

I’ll suggest the need for an RCT

to evaluate the different kinds of juice

we might offer to labouring women.

I will greet the visitors at the security point

and say, all of you are welcome, birth is a celebration

and do bring the children,

it’s a family occasion.

I will learn to play piano

and lead choirs of women,

chanting and singing whatever their hearts desire.

I shall stick out my tongue at authority

and question any policy

that leaves no room for uniqueness.

But now we must have uniforms that keep us standardized

and do admission CTGs and not be too radical

We must do VEs, keep lots of notes,

and set a good example for the students.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?

So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised

when suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple scrubs.

A version of this article was first published as Wickham S (2006). TPM 9(11): 18.

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