An open letter to the heroes of our NHS and why we should be so grateful these dedicated women and men work tirelessly under extreme pressure to save lives:
I don’t remember your names but you were there on two of the most important days of my life. The arrival of my beautiful children was an overwhelming and exhausting experience. From the second I saw them I was filled with such love and so caught up in their tiny features that it was easy to forget to be grateful they arrived safely and full of life.
You were the calm in the storm as I struggled through contractions, tried desperately to push and became so overwhelmed by the pain that I very nearly gave up.
My first labour lasted 19 hours. Contractions weren’t too bad during this labour and gas and air saw me through the hardest parts. But it’s a long long process. I was full of nervous anticipation. My first midwife and a student midwife who were with me for the first few hours created a calm and relaxed atmosphere. You made jokes, listened to me, jumped up to catch my vomit in a pan when I suddenly threw up and held my hand when it got too much.
When it finally came time to push another midwife had come on shift. Try as I might nothing was shifting this baby. We later learned the cord was blocking her exit. Finally a doctor was brought in. You calmly took a look at what was going on and gently explained my baby needed a little help. You explained I needed a forceps delivery but emphasised all was still well with my baby. Both of you were so calm as you prepared your equipment. Another member of staff pushing an incubator arrived. The significance of that only hit me after the event.
When my baby was finally pulled out by the forceps I lost it. I screamed in pain and begged for help. The midwife stepped up. You got in my face and urged me to breath, to push at the right time and to stay calm. You got me through it. When my baby was finally born she screamed straight away and the incubator was wheeled out the room. I needed stitches which the doctor performed. You were kind and gentle at all times.
Post birth I had to stay for four nights due to high blood pressure. I also struggled with breastfeeding but the ward’s midwives were there day and night to provide support. You did so much to make me feel calm. When I broke down because the noise of the ward meant I was getting no sleep you put me in a private room as you could see I just needed to rest.
With Bubba Two I began my labour in a midwife-led birthing unit. My lovely midwife had to rub my back during every contraction when they kicked up a notch. You must have been knackered but you never let me down. You checked baby’s heart rate constantly. You had two patients to care for, one of whom you couldn’t even see. I am amazed at what skill and instincts you must have to do this job. Then I began to bleed. A lot. You explained I needed to be moved so a doctor could have a look. You got me to another ward where a consultant, a former nurse who had retrained, examined me.
By this point the unbelievable pain had taken over and I was in panic mode. The agony had sapped my energy and I found it hard to focus. You, the consultant, looked me in the eyes and brought me back. Reminded me how to breathe, reassured me I was in safe hands. I asked for an epidural. A kind anaesthetist arrived very quickly, smiled when I blurted out “I love you” and got ready to administer the pain relief. Her timing impeccable, Bubba Two chose that moment to crown and I was out of time. No epidural for me.
I was scared. Scared of the pain I was experiencing and scared of what was to come. But the midwife and consultant held steady. You calmed me, looked me in the eyes, held my hand and encouraged me to push at the right time. “Your baby is nearly here,” you said. “You’re about to meet your baby.” At last she arrived and my relief was enormous. Again she cried immediately. A healthy and happy baby. You put an arm around me as we posed for a picture taken by my husband with our precious baby. It must have been a tiring few hours for you but you never stopped smiling. Your positive demeanour got me through the most physically exhausting experience of my life.
These are not traumatic births by any stretch but they were to me and I am so grateful for the support.
So what did I have to pay you highly trained professionals to give me and my babies first rate care plus emotional support and a bed to stay in for multiple nights? Nothing.
In the UK it is so easy to forget how lucky we are to have a national health service. Yes we pay into it with our taxes. However the service is open to all, regardless of how much you earn or if you’re working at all. It’s not like health insurance where you have to keep up with payments or you’re locked out.
In the US the average cost of medical care to deliver a baby is £2,700. Think about that. If you have two kids that would be more than £5,000. Instead I’ve not had to pay a penny for the help you gave me and that is another thing I am so grateful for. At no point did I have to worry if I would be able to afford your help. Imagine having that worry on top of all the others that expectant parents suffer.
If we lived in a different place or time, the outcome of bringing children into the world could be so much more precarious. According to the World Health Organisation nearly all newborn deaths (99 per cent) occur in low and middle income countries, particularly Africa and South Asia.
The quality and access to care makes every difference. The training, experience and dedication of healthcare staff is critical. You save lives, the statistics speak for themselves.
So thank you. Thank you so much for caring for me and my children when we were at our most vulnerable. You are true heroes.