International Day of the Midwife message

05 May 2020

On International Day of the Midwife, an open letter from RANZCOG President Dr Vijay Roach to the women and men of the midwifery profession.


Dear friends,

Happy International Midwives’ Day 2020, a wonderful opportunity to express our appreciation to your profession for the extraordinary care you provide to pregnant women and their families.

The current pandemic situation provides an opportunity for reflection, but this letter has been written and rewritten in my mind for many months now. In October 2019 I delivered my last private patient and on January 1 2020 I walked out of the delivery suite for the last time. I “delivered” my first baby in 1987, as a medical student. Well, actually, the baby went straight through my hands and the midwife caught him! I started specialist training in 1992. My training took me to the UK and Hong Kong, but eventually we came home and I started private practice in 1998. It was an extraordinary career - busy, at times overwhelming, always fulfilling.

The reasons for stopping obstetric practice are many, but the main one was the constant on-call. I haven’t really relaxed for 22 years. My response to the phone is Pavlovian. I’m constantly vigilant, never really present. I don’t regret my career. I’ve loved being an obstetrician. But, 22 years later, it’s time to move on, find time for myself, and my family and friends, and step aside for a young, groovy breed of new obstetricians.

When I left, I did so quietly, almost secretly. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. But I do want to say something now.

I want to say thank you. Thank you to my midwifery colleagues for sharing a wonderful career with me. Thank you for teaching me, for working alongside me, for the collaboration, the mutual respect, the support and comfort. Thank you for sharing the laughter, and the tears. Together we have cared for women and their families during their happiest moments, their darkest hour, their most vulnerable experiences. We have had the opportunity to touch humanity.

The people who sustained me, the ones I looked forward to seeing every day, the professionals I trusted and depended upon, were always the midwives. During antenatal care, in the delivery suite and on the postnatal ward, your knowledge, your extraordinary dedication, attention to detail and professionalism are what underpins maternity care in every community. We can debate the nuances of care, but what unites us is our common goal, care of the pregnant woman, her baby and her family. The details aren’t important. This is not a space for hierarchy. Maternity care must be woman-centred. That means that the woman is central and her needs, and that of her baby, are central to everything we do. Our place in that story is a privilege.

“Midwife” comes from an old English word meaning “with woman”. In New Zealand, while there is no specific word for midwife, the Māori word, kaiwhakawhānau, translates to the person who facilitates the creation of family. Midwives support whanau throughout pregnancy, childbirth and into parenthood. That’s what you do and that’s why we’re here…because you were there for mothers, for babies, for families.

In more recent time, midwives have also taken their rightful place as researchers, academics and thought leaders in women’s health. Medical professionals now work alongside our midwifery colleagues and my hope is that the multidisciplinary approach that we experience at the coalface translates into real collaboration between our professions. Today, for the first time RANZCOG has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Australian College of Midwives (ACM). Recent interactions have taken our relationship with the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM) to a new level. Continuity and a new beginning.

On May 5, on behalf of RANZCOG and, at a deeply personal level, I express my genuine and profound gratitude to the midwifery profession, to the men and women that I cherish.

Happy International Midwives Day.




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