Billie Hunter has written extensively about the emotion work of midwifery on how we manage our emotions so we can provide the best care for women, sometimes putting on a face or an act. This week at uni we are looking into the compromised neonate and immediately I find my self working hard emotionally, putting on my face. Trying not to cry.

I was prepared for the topic, I had seen the lecture titles but I was not so prepared for impact of a picture of an intubated baby would have, a baby with a cannula, IV lines going in, a catheter drain coming out. Holding back my own emotions becomes a challenge. On a cold January morning in a room of women I know well, but maybe not well enough to break down in front of, I realise, that this will be a big part of my own emotion work as a midwife. Holding it together when I know how much it hurts, how bad it is and how it feels as if your world has ended.  I am also sure that this will help me. I will be reassuring and supportive, not because I will share my story with the women I care for, but because I know that, eventually, it will  get easier, you will adjust to this different kind of future. That even though every single day that you live for the rest of your life, someone will be missing, but every single day of your life you can live to make them proud. The pain will lessen, the tears be less frequent and you can be happy and enjoy things again. And I can comfort them because, nearly four years on, I know this to be true. I also know that sometimes, it’s not just me that’s doing the emotional work. It’s the expectant mum who’s had five miscarriages already, it’s the dad that’s already supported his wife through a still birth, and it’s the mother who cannot fathom how to support her own daughter when she is already grieving the loss of her grandchild.

I am thinking about my own experience this week. Reflecting on which aspects of the care I received really helped me and which aspects made the process harder. This is my starting point for how I can really help women and their families through a heartbreaking time…