Leah Hazard is an actively serving NHS midwife. Having studied at Harvard, she left a career in television to pursue her lifelong interest in women’s health after the birth of her first daughter. She soon began working as a doula, supporting women in pregnancy and attending numerous births in homes and hospitals across the country. The birth of Leah’s second daughter prompted Leah to make the leap into midwifery. Since qualifying, she has worked in a variety of clinical areas within the NHS maternity services, including antenatal clinics, triage units and labour wards.
'My midwifery career so far has been a rollercoaster of euphoric highs and devastating lows, punctuated by the odd small moment of personal triumph, but without a doubt, the proudest point of my career came right at the very beginning. On a balmy summer day shortly after I completed my training, I journeyed to a dim, dusty storeroom in a hospital across town. I gave my name to the clerkess and, wordlessly, she handed me a plastic-wrapped parcel. Re-emerging into the bright sun of the car park, I began to tear at the packaging as I walked, a smile splitting my face as I peeled the plastic back to reveal the reward I’d been working towards for three years: my official NHS uniform. Four cornflower blue tunics, four pairs of navy cargo trousers. God, they were ugly, but God, was I proud. Not for me the battleship-grey garb of the student: I had earned the uniform, and I was desperate to wear it.
Years have passed, and I still wear those same four tunics and trousers. The tunics are frayed at the left breast where I pin my fob watch and the trousers have bagged at the knees, the uniform morphing into a soft second skin with the passage of time. The night before each shift, my iron glides across the familiar seams and pleats, and much as might sometimes dread the next day, I always enjoy a surge of pride as I slide the freshly pressed tunic onto a hanger, ready for a 6am start. And when I wake the next morning, groggy-eyed, stumbling through the dark house as my children sleep, I will be glad of that uniform waiting for me in the hall, and I will put it on once again, and I will still be proud.'
Claire is an experienced and passionate midwifery leader and safeguarding practitioner. She is the former Head of Midwifery at Airedale Hospital in West Yorkshire, which is where the MLU was built. Claire is proud to have supported many midwifery teams to achieve their goals and receive national recognition with a variety of awards including All Party Parliamentary Awards of Excellence and RCM Team of the Year.
'On a cold and frosty morning in early December 2012, as the Head of Midwifery in one of the smallest Maternity Services in England, I received an email that would change the course of birthing choices for women in West Yorkshire.
As a wave of excitement washed over me, and with a turnaround deadline of 10 days ahead, I sought approval from the appropriate members of the Trust Board to submit a bid to the DHSC for monies to build an along-side midwifery led birthing centre and bespoke bereavement suite. Both of these facilities were drastically needed, in order to improve the experiences of birthing mothers in the area, whether the circumstances around that birth be happy or sad.
The days ahead proved fraught, as I entered a world I had not experienced before – working with architects and builders, whilst seeking the views of the service users and staff to ensure that this was truly a gift for all who would use it or work in it. Negotiating, prioritising, selling the vision, telling the story and then finally clicking the submit button filled me with a mix of emotions including hope, exhilaration and enthusiasm – closely followed by anxiety.
Six long weeks of anticipation and expectancy passed, every day spent waiting for the response. And then it came. My bid was approved, and we were awarded the funding required to bring my vision to life (but with one of the most difficult caveats I have ever received, “the work must be completed by the end of March 2013!”).
With less than 8 weeks to deliver a project that would be life changing for so many women and families, the team sprang into action; nerves were tense, and emotions ran high, but together as a unified team with a clear vision, the job was completed in the timeframe required.
In July 2013, on the hottest day of the year, and witnessed by many dignitaries from the locality, prestigious members of the profession, and most importantly, the first mothers to birth their babies in this new facility, came together to celebrate what had only been a dream just six months earlier.
I am unable to put into words how proud I am of this work, the team I led and the legacy we built together, for the local women, babies, and their families to use for a generation to come.'
Rosie Ladkin is a final year Student Midwife, due to qualify August 2019. She also writes the blog "A Girl On A Journey" in which she has documented her midwifery training week-by-week. After qualification, Rosie is looking forward to taking on the incredibly rewarding role of Qualified Midwife full time, as well as maintaining a balance with her love of writing, hopefully with some crossover between the two! Her blog can be found at agirlonajourney.com.
'"You’re nearly there now, really nearly there now". My voice sounded quite convincing; I was pleasantly surprised.
I opened the packet, trying to remember how to put on sterile gloves, and noticed that my hands were shaking; the adrenaline pumping through my body as much as it was through the woman on the bed in front of me. I could see the prize that both of us were working for, a tiny patch of skin with a soft covering of hair – the top of her baby’s head.
She was following her instincts, breathing slowly as each contraction took over her body, and with each one, the patch grew. “Pant, Kate, pant for me” I heard myself say. I really did sound like someone who knew what they were doing. If only someone could tell that to the nervy voices in my head, or my shaking hands.
As her baby’s head was born, she let out an almighty roar, like a powerful lioness - not of pain necessarily, but of sheer empowerment. One final push and my hands caught her wriggly, slippery, beautifully pink baby, who let out the most wonderful cry.
I looked up the woman before me, tears in my eyes and, with a nod from her and her partner, I let the words “It’s a girl!” pass from my lips as I passed her beautiful baby up into her arms. And in that moment, in that quiet room, with only the sound of the early morning birds, there was not just a baby born, but a midwife. What this couple don’t know, even to this day, is that they were my first. My first completely solo “catch” as a student midwife.
My mentor was sitting in the corner of the room, overseeing and ready to step in if needed, but this baby had been born so beautifully that she had been able to stay in her seat. I had done it - helped this woman birth her baby, completely by myself - and the rush that came with it told me; “you have found your calling; this is what you were meant to do.”'
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In her memoir Hard Pushed, practising midwife Leah Hazard reveals what it’s really like to work within a maternity system at breaking point.
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