About The Woman Who Stopped Lying

my journey of conscious uncoupling from nhs midwifery Jun 01, 2024

A couple of weeks ago, on May 10th, I caught a story on BBC4 woman's hour about a woman whose life was completely turned around for the better by her decision to never tell another lie, ever. 

When I first heard the intro to the radio segment I thought: 'Oh, she must be a compulsive liar.' But, as it turned out, this was a more relatable story than expected. At one point in my life I had more in common with this woman than I would have liked to admit.

When I was mulling this over, something my former colleagues say to me quite frequently in response to my blogs struck a chord in relation to what this woman had to say.

Radhika Sanghani, the woman on the radio, is just an ordinary woman who, like many of us, found herself on a therapist's couch one day and it was Radhika's counsellor who helped her realise that her people pleasing tendencies were to blame for her habit of lying in order to avoid conflict. 

Listening to the conversation I learnt that the average person lies about twice a day. We mainly do it to please people. As those two women's voices were transmitted into my kitchen via Gerald's ancient little DAB radio, they revealed to me the fact that the value of politeness makes lying culturally acceptable if it protects the feelings of other people. In fact, to protect the feelings of others, lying has come to be the preferred option.

It would be rude not to!

You know, that text message from the old friend you don’t really relate to anymore.

‘Wanna go for a coffee?’

You recognise that you really don’t feel drawn to them anymore.

What will you do?

a) You agree to meet regardless and endure the pain (knowing you'll b**ch about it to someone later).

b) You make up an excuse and lie.

c) You tell them that you don’t feel like it this time and defer.

d) You make a phone call to explain to your friend that you feel you don’t resonate anymore and that it would be best to leave it alltogether.

Having practiced her honesty muscle for around two years now, Radhika went with option d). She talked to her friend with frankness and it turned out her friend felt the same. She'd only been asking Radhika on a coffee date out of politeness.

People appreciate honesty.

That's what's been the biggest learning curve for me through writing these blogs. I have been speaking truth as I know it and when people reach out in disagreement with me, they generally do so very respectfully and constructively. I love the opportunities for exchange this has given me and I truly appreciate a different perspective for consideration.

Many of my former colleagues have expressed to me that some of the things that I have written about over the last ten months really sting. They often feel the need to defend themselves by telling me that they know that the guidelines harm women but the guidelines are directly tied to their livelihoods and the possibility of loosing their registrations, if they were ever deemed to have neglected their duty of care by supporting a woman in an out of guideline choice, justifies their compliance. Nothing is worth their own suffering and, after all, they are feeding families and paying mortgages.

The first time the idea of 'protecting my registration' really surfaced for me was when I was called in to the head of midwifery at the time to be told that I should cancel a Spinning Babies Workshop that I had organised. I had invested quite a bit of money already in inviting the Spinning Babies Trainer to Belfast, booking her accommodation, renting a lecture theatre, hiring caterers for the day and paying for her flights. I was relieved that tickets were starting to sell.

My neck was out for a couple of thousand pounds and I wanted to break even. There was absolutely no way I would cancel this on the say so of anybody and I held my ground.

We had a conversation about what it actually was and about the fact that this was not in any way outside of a midwife's remit or guideline. If anything, having already taken part in a workshop myself during 'My Day Trip To Houston, Texas', I asserted that this would deepen the midwives' understanding of the dynamics between the baby and the pelvis in birth.

My boss told me that it was her role to 'protect my registration' and that of all of 'her' midwives. And I said something along the lines of 'Thanks for that, but I've managed fine so far' and that my registration was my responsibility and mine alone.

This was back in 2016 and since then I have heard this need to 'protect' ones' registration expressed more and more. I think the possibility of loosing their' livelihood is ever present in midwives' minds these days. 

And I totally get that by the way. I am not judging it at all, this is just an observation. All I feel is understanding and compassion for anyone who finds themselves in this conundrum and I also feel hope because I know that there's a way out for anyone who truly wants to find it.

My own experience of this was that over time the very sentiment of 'protecting my registration' over being true to myself and to the women I was hired to care for gnawed away at my conscience and ultimately at my mental health. After this conversation with the head of midwifery particularly I was glad that I was already almost half way through a five-year-plan that Gerald and I had set in motion in order to make our way out of the golden handcuffs. If you are interested in how we got enough cash flow for me to start my own business, you can register here for my upcoming seminar on how we worked our way to more financial freedom. It's on July 4th and that's no co-incidence. July 4th, 2019 is the day I left my permanent midwifery post to start my company and it's Independence Day somewhere! And in case you are wondering, it's not a seminar on how to start an online business! This is our tried and true Five Year Plan that will work for anyone who is currently paying a mortgage or intends to in the future. 

There's an elder midwife whose various teachings and perspectives I have enjoyed over the years and she says this:

'What one woman can do, all women can do.'

Her name is Sister Morningstar and this is something she says to encourage pregnant mamas but, as I see it, this is true for all of us in all situations. 

So if you are feeling fearful or trapped in any situation at all, this is for you.

The matter of speaking truth has been occupying my thoughts quite a bit in the last few years and I have written before about how I felt compromised more and more working as a midwife within the framework of NHS maternity policy and guidelines. 

It occurs to me now that I had changed a lot over the years while the maternity narrative had changed into the opposite direction. Because of that I had slipped into a situation where I allowed myself to no longer be true to myself.

My own journey to honesty and authenticity started the day I decided to become a Yoga teacher and stepped onto my yoga mat at 39 Market Square South at Santosha Yoga Studio in Lisburn.

As I moved my body on my yoga mat more and more, released my soft tissues and lay in stillness for the pre- and post movement reflections I revealed, bit by bit, what I know to be true and in doing so I had no choice but to start coming clean.

Now pretty much everything I do is focused on Essentially Birth.

In case you didn’t know, running a business is basically a 24/7 self-improvement course. Authenticity is key, your clients will catch you out if you are being dishonest, particularly if your business is in touching their bodies. Between my yoga and entrepreneurial journeys, giving up my midwifery registration became inevitable.

Midwifery moved so far away from anything that I believed in that eventually the only place where I ever lied was in my role as a midwife.

That day I signed a student’s assessment form about a year ago was one of those occasions.

We only spent one day together because her mentor was on a day off. I observed her closely as she took a newly pregnant mum and her husband through a booking interview.

She was meticulous in her approach and her skills of organisation were excellent.

Her manner was kind and polite.

She moved through the booking topics fluidly and she was fluent in all the things that ‘we advise you to do’.

‘Oh, you are vegetarian, that means that we advise you to take an iron supplement.’

‘Avoid eating liver products because of the Vitamin A content.’

‘You have a family history of diabetes? Oh, okay, we’ll refer you to do a glucose tolerance test (GTT).’

‘Oh, it’s your first baby and your mum had pre-eclampsia! That means that we prescribe Aspirin for you.’

By all accounts she aced it, particularly for a first year student, and I knew that this is the kind of conversation that women have frequently when they first present in pregnancy. Watching her I realised that this was more or less all that was expected of me, too, and for me this wasn't enough.

Not enough by far.

I had been struggling through these interviews trying my best to give perspective on each and every single aspect of the booking process, I tried my best to ‘facilitate informed choice’ a quest that had been a lot easier when I first started out. Since then we have added dozens of risk factors and assessment sheets to go with them. It became impossible to get through all the ins and outs in time but given that the premise was that practitioners themselves don't question any of it let alone share any information outside of the NHS leaflets, the allocated hour for a booking interview was deemed adequate.

I strived for something like this:

'We will now do a risk-assessment. This is where I determine your so-called risk factors for developing certain pregnancy complications. The term 'risk factor' is used to describe an aspect of health that can increase your chances of developing the complication. It is important to know that the potential to develop the complication in question is present for everyone. The complication may be major or minor in nature and the increase in risk when a factor is present is generally marginal. The intervention may not always prevent the complication from occurring. The best way to decide if you want to go ahead with any of the interventions you are offered is to ask how likely it is for the average pregnant woman and how much more likely it is in the presence of the risk factor. Also ask how the proposed remedy or intervention reduces this risk and what the risks are of the intervention itself. You want to know absolute data such as 'one out of every two hundred women so that you can compare the data objectively'.'

I'd then move on to iron deficiency anaemia which is an elaborate topic all of its own. It's by far more complicated than you've got anaemia here's some Ferrous Fumerate. For starters Iron Bisglycinate is far more bioavailable and more easily tolerated than Ferrous Fumarate which can be hard on your tummy. 

Read my blog post ‘It’s Free?’ for more detail on this topic.

Moving on to:

Here’s our usual dietary advice. We advise you to avoid liver products but a recent publication by a pregnancy nutritionist has put this practice into question. Liver contains Vitamin A in the form of retinol and retinol…’

Every single part of the puzzle that makes up mainstream maternity surveillance, as I have come to call it, has a much more elaborate story to it than you are told by most practitioners I know, doctors or midwives, and I realised that outside of one or two exceptions, I’d choose none of it. I would curate my own pregnancy care in much more detail because, as I see it, the maternity system is crude and ‘health’ is not its focus. Not yours, not your baby’s.

You can see why that day with a student midwife was another occasion I counted my blessings that I had started to pave my way out. It wouldn't be long before I finally cut my ties.

There's no way I would ever be able to make it through a clinic on time if I was to be true to myself. And if I was to be true to myself I would share information that would inevitably lead those women who explored the topics in more detail to decline aspects of routine care. That's not what my employers wanted and its not what I wanted. It felt entirely out of alignment at that stage.

After the booking interview I told the student that she had done a good job. And although she truly had according to the standard that I had been asked to measure her against, I didn't truly feel that this actually was a good job. 

Watching this student do this booking the way she had been taught by her mentors was a true revelation. It showed me that it was time for me to move on.

This was to be one of my last shifts as a midwife ever.

If you feel out of alignment for whatever reason and you have caught yourself out on a lie recently come see me at my Five Year Plan seminar. You'll get a step by step plan to set the foundations for change. Having a choice feels great whether you actually make a change in the end or not. Click here to enrol.

I have also just opened my books again for enrolling to my R.O.A.D. To Birth Community. You can see me at my pregnancy massage clinic in Belfast or at my pregnancy massage clinic in Dungannon for regular massage sessions. My R.O.A.D. To Birth package includes access to my online program and to my community WhatsApp group. Send me an email to [email protected]

 

Would you like more of my writing? You can! I have written a book called¬†'7 Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Needs To Hear Before Giving Birth: The New Midwife‚Äôs R.O.A.D. To Birth‚ĄĘ Hypnobirth System'.¬†

It offers perspective on common misperceptions about pregnancy, birth and risk and it gives you my R.O.A.D. To Birth hypnobirth system that my clients have used for years. It shows you how to Recognise and Release your Fears, Overcome obstacles, Accept what you can't control and Do the work. 

Get The Book

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