We all know that in the modern era of equality we live in when choosing a job it shouldn’t matter what sex you are. However, despite this you wouldn’t be blamed for being a bit surprised at the idea of a male midwife. But, as we chat to Chris from independent midwifery service Happy Bump, he explains how this job role isn’t as unusual as you would think for a male.
The first male midwives began training in 1977 and in 2007 there were 134 men on the midwifery register. Now male midwives make up just over 10% of the total register but when Chris first decided he wanted to become a midwife he found people were slightly confused.
“Both my parents were in the medical profession which probably has some bearing on things but the main draw was when I witnessed a baby being born at the age of 11. The event was life changing as anyone who has experienced it would tell you. From that moment onwards I knew I wanted to help be a part in delivering babies. I think the career advisor at my school found it difficult to comprehend as my work experience which was supposed to be at a hospital transpired to driving a tractor around the local golf course.”
Undeterred Chris carried on his track to become a midwife gaining a grounding in medicine training as a nurse before going on to train as a midwife in Southampton.
“The course took two years to complete and then I had my wings so to speak. I moved to Reading and got a job on the labour ward. I then took a job working in the community caring for women antenatally and postnatally. Some of the women I cared for wanted me to be at their births so I made myself available to attend some times on my days off.”
Chris has now been a midwife for five years, delivered near on 500 babies and gone on to help couples 2nd and 3rd babies into the world.
“I consider myself to be a very lucky individual indeed, sharing the experience of birth with the families I care for gives me such a buzz and handing them there baby at the end tops the whole experience off.”
During his five years as a midwife Chris has had wide a range of reactions from families.
“Being a male midwife is still not a common position to hold and for some families it may even come as a shock that a male can be in that role. Common questions I get are shouldn’t you be called a ‘mid husband’ or isn’t midwifery a woman’s job? Midwife actually translates to ‘with woman’ so, a mid husband would be ‘with man’, and although in some cases the man needs more attention than the woman!”
Chris believes that being a male midwife is no different to being a male obstetrician or gynaecologist, as their training is the same and they are all striving for the same result of birthing a happy baby and mum. Chris’ desire to ensure that mums, dads and babies have a happy birthing experience inspired him and his wife to start their new business Happy Bump Limited.
Happy Bump also offers antenatal and Post natal classes that are lively, informal, relaxed and offer honest, realistic advice from an experienced practising midwife under the governance of the nursing and midwifery council.
"A lot of the women I care for have the same questions and fears when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. Sometimes doubt comes in to their mind that they will not be able to cope when it comes to the labour. My experiences of being a midwife have taught me how incredible women are when it comes to having babies. The inner strength and remarkable stamina that women posses still amazes me whether it is a short birth or a marathon induction they have the ability to cope through almost anything. I would not like to speak for all men but the physical and emotional changes which occur through pregnancy are enough to make me dizzy let alone getting through the labour at the end."
As a male midwife Chris is particularly passionate about getting father’s more involved in the birthing process.
“From my personal experience a father who involves themselves and is not afraid to show willingness will understand the process of child birth and be in a position to support their partners more so than they could imagine.”
However, despite the modern age we live in, Chris still often finds that its not easy for men to be apart of the delivery experience.
“Even though men are encouraged and sometimes expected to attend the birth they are normally in no better position than they were 20 years ago to support their partners. There has been no push to educate fathers to help them fill the support role and there is very little available for fathers to prepare themselves.”
To help prepare fathers Happy Bump Limited are running expectant father classes and one to one sessions, which are designed to help inform expectant fathers of the reality of childbirth, and how a little knowledge can empower them to be more involved in supporting their partners.
“I want to address the main fears fathers might have and lay out transparently what actually happens when the contractions begin. Fathers don’t always feel conformable asking questions during mixed antenatal classes so I want to give them a forum and environment where they can ask questions without worrying is this is a ‘silly question’.”