Jocelyn Toohill first started working in maternity services in the late 1970s, a time when women were given an enema and had their pubic hair shaved because it was thought to be important. When breastfeeding was strict and regimented, mothers and babies were separated between feeds, and a caesarean section was only performed as a life-saving intervention for the mother or baby.
A lot has changed since then and nowadays Jocelyn is no longer working clinically; she’s the Director of Midwifery in the Office of the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer. Following the release of a new series of videos promoting midwifery - one of Joce’s passion projects - we asked her to reflect on what it means to be a midwife. Here’s Joce in her own words:
PICTURED ABOVE: Jocelyn Toohill as a graduate
I became a midwife because I was fascinated by the miracle of life. How a beautiful little human could come into this world under the power and strength of a woman. But even before that; how conception occurred, the splitting and multiplication of cells, how the woman’s body grew and adapted to accommodate her growing baby’s needs. To witness the strength of women to grow, sustain life, give birth and continue to nurture, and that this all occurred naturally and beautifully, held me in awe.
To me midwifery is both an art and a science. As a midwife, getting birth right and investing in women is also tied up in feminism, human rights and of course politics. It also means understanding the privilege and responsibility this role brings. Being humble, respectful and honouring women. The understanding that no two women will be the same, no two babies will be the same, no two births will be the same, and therefore no two days of your work experience will be the same. As a midwife we continually learn from women and adapt our skills to her circumstances as well as learn from new evidence. Consequently, every day is a new learning and growth event for a midwife as well.
We don’t often realise the birth of a baby is also the birth of a mother; it’s the catalyst for a family. Birth is a physical, emotional and spiritual (mind, body, soul) event. Holistically these three components are needed for the woman to be empowered to undertake her continued role as a nurturing mother, and for her family to grow. I’ve learnt that when women are not well supported during this time, it impacts her health, her baby’s health, and that of the rest of the family. Midwives support life, save lives and contribute in a positive way to a family bonding. And because families are the backbone of our community, midwives have a much broader role in building strong and healthy communities than just caring for them from pregnancy to up to six weeks postnatal. The midwife’s role is foundational to lifelong health.
Yes – a lot has changed. Like the evidence - it has got stronger and stronger for midwifery care, it’s compelling for every woman to have access and receive care from a known midwife. And some things have remained the same: life is still a miracle that must be honoured and nurtured. Women are still awesome in conceiving and growing and giving birth to their babies. And the difference is midwives. Midwives save lives.”
The Office of the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer recently launched a series of videos and resources to promote the role of midwives in our community. Thank you to our valued participants (midwives and consumers) for helping to bring this project to life