Zach’s fourth birthday is rapidly approaching (how the heck did that happen?!) and I have been thinking back to his birth and early days.
My first health visitor was a man and I did not feel comfortable about discussing contraception, breastfeeding, the sheer exhaustion of having 3 children aged 5 and under. I don’t think it helped that the man wasn’t English and I resorted to that classic English thing of speaking LOUDLY AND CLEARLY.
I didn’t want to share my real feelings with him but I genuinely don’t know if that was due to his gender or nationality. Under normal circumstances this wouldn’t matter but having been through a huge physical and mental experience, I really wanted a woman who would be sympathetic and understanding. All the skill in the world counted for nothing when I needed someone to chat to.
I wonder how it would have been to have a male midwife throughout my pregnancies, if I’d had a chance to build a relationship. My community midwives were all about 15 years or more older so they felt mumsy and reassuring to me. My midwives at the actual births were older for Matt and then young and childless for Anya and Zach: the former was bossy and unsympathetic (until they saw the size of Matt’s head and instantly forgave me for screaming!) but the latter were lovely and supportive. My health visitors, except for Zach’s, were brilliant and excellent at developing a rapport with me.
Based on my own experiences, men are more than capable of the professional side of being a midwife or health visitor. However, birth is a uniquely female experience and I’m not convinced that men can ever fully understand despite all their experience and training.
I asked my fellow bloggers for their experiences with male midwives and health visitors and here is what they said:
I could never really understand why people discount male doctors when going for check ups. However, I sort of understand why people don’t want to have a male midwife based on the positive experiences I had with mine. Personally, I found their own stories of child birth and them understanding the pain (and trauma) really useful. I never felt as though I was being dismissed and knew that they understood me from their own perspective. Having said that, if you had a midwife who didn’t have her own children, you could potentially feel similar to the male midwife. At the end of the day, they’ve all had the same training and I’d like to think that, regardless of gender and own family situation, they’d be professional, but also warm, approachable and understanding.
I did with my first who is now 20 and it was very unusual back then. He was lovely though
I didn’t have one but I’ve worked with a few Male midwives who were excellent at their jobs- it also depends on the person rather than their genitals. Some female midwives are cold and unsympathetic, whilst some Male midwives are your best support.
I was asked if I’d mind having a male student midwife when I was in labour with my eldest son who’s now 13. At the time I refused, I felt very vulnerable and was quite young, I just didn’t want another man in the room. I think if I was asked now I’d be ok with it though. I have far fewer hang ups than I used to!
I had a male midwife with my second baby. He was well-known in the community because he was the only one! He was a lovely guy, however there’s no way I’d have been comfortable letting him give me a sweep. If I see a gynaecologist once, that’s fine. Getting to know somebody across many weeks and then being naked in front of them is quite different! It was bad enough with my first midwife who was a woman. Aside from that aspect, I had no issue.
I had a male midwife for a period with my second. I’m ashamed to say at first I wasn’t sure when I saw his name on my paperwork but as soon as I met him it was like any other health professional and I was sad when the shift rota changed and I lost him! I also had a trainee male midwife after that who was brilliant!
I had a male midwife during my second delivery who was wonderful. He couldn’t thank me enough for allowing him to nurse me as he said so many women on the labour ward refuse a male midwife.
I had a male midwife in my second birth. He asked me as he came in if I was OK with him being the midwife. I didn’t have a problem with his gender, and I anyway had had plenty of male obstetricians “down there” already so a Male midwife wasn’t anything strange. We got chatting and I found he was a career changer, from carpentry to midwifery. After having witnessed his wife’s very difficult labour he wanted to become a midwife. He was great! Very helpful and gave great support, just like any other good midwife, male or female, should do.