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Summary

Strongest advocate, best friend, expert, cheerleader and chief photographer. Before, during and after labour the role of a midwife is second to none. 

The Secret Midwife reveals the highs and lows on the frontline of the maternity unit, from the mother that tries to give herself a DIY caesarean to the baby born into witness protection, and from surprise infants that arrive down toilets to ones that turn up in the lift.

But there is a problem; the system which is supposed to support the midwives and the women they care for is starting to crumble. Short-staffed, over worked and underappreciated - these crippling conditions are taking their toll on the dedicated staff doing their utmost to uphold our National Health Service, and the consequences are very serious indeed.

©2019 The Secret Midwife (P)2019 Bonnier Books UK

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Heartbreaking for all the wrong reasons 😭

This book is full of inaccuracies. Given the fact it’s ghost written, this is probably down to shoddy proof reading - or did “Pippa” not proof read her own book before it went to print?

The main inaccuracy is the title - The Secret Midwife - It should be titled The Secret Obstetric Nurse. She comes across as the type of “midwife” who lives on the adrenaline and excitement of the job - like living in a tightly edited episode of One Born Every Minute. She pays lip service to having an understanding of the wider social and deeper psychological elements of why the women we care for make the decisions or do the things they do sometimes. However she clearly does not. She blames women for being “stupid” and “stubborn” when they don’t listen to her superior knowledge and training. She comes across,apparently unashamedly, as judgemental and sanctimonious. So long as women are following her advice and allowing her to be the heroine she’s happy. Chapter 5 left me with a headache and sore jaw with the clenching and seething I did!

As other reviews have said, the second half of the book comes across as one giant moaning session about The System and Management. All of her complaints in this respect are very valid and I would not be surprised if the unit she worked in was one which has subsequently gone on to be under an independent investigation and subject to special measures. I have been lucky enough to train and work in a country of the UK where labouring women are ALWAYS provided with 1-1 midwifery care and it is never acceptable to give more than one labouring women to a midwife, even though we are one of the busiest maternity units in Europe. Even with 1-1 midwifery care, it can still be extremely busy and stressful for all the other reasons “Pippa” talks about. I have trained and worked in exactly the same timeframe as “Pippa” describes yet her management/acceptable working culture seems utterly archaic. This is certainly not reflective of a UK wide culture. Perhaps she needs to put her heroic efforts into changing that culture for the women and fellow midwives in her area now that she has gotten her moaning out of her system in her book.

I’m sure most midwives have had non-midwifery people say to them “oh, you should write a book!!” Because for sure the events that happen to us and life stories we come across are fascinating, hilarious and terrifying. However, the vast majority of the most interesting things that have happened in my career could never be published in a book without the express permission of the women involved because they are far too identifiable. This leads me to think that many of “Pippa’s” stories are composites or embellished for dramatic effect. Even in our own private reflections we have to do as nurses or midwives in order to be allowed to continue to register with our professional body we we are allowed expressly told - do NOT include identifiable information. (spoiler: How many women have walked into a maternity unit with their grandmother carrying a baby in a Tesco Bag for Life?)

This book left me sad for many reasons:

Sad for my profession that anyone reading this as a student midwife to be thinks this is a good book and reflective of how the job is. Similar to people watching One Born Every Minute and thinking “oh! Being a midwife looks so exciting!!”

Sad for “Pippa” that her Managers allowed a situation that affected her mental health to deteriorate to such an extent. Life is short and children are children for such a short time and her relationship with her family and child have been affected by something that should never have happened

Sad that the system Pippa has trained and worked in have not allowed her to become a Midwife. She sounds like a great Obstetric nurse though.

Sad for the women “Pippa”
Judges in her memoir

Am glad that “Pippa” has found writing this book useful as a therapy and it’s helped her.

Read this book if you want to feel better about the unit you work in as a midwife. However, don’t buy it thinking you’ll learn anything about midwifery.

22 people found this helpful

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So many inaccuracies! Good description of burnout.

This is in no way reflective of current midwifery education. In fact it reads like Pippa trained very many years ago. How did she get into university without A levels or equivalent? How was she qualified at 20? The midwifery degree is one of the most difficult and competitive that there is.
Really misleading and as a current student midwife I’m actually disappointed that people will read this thinking that this is the way thing are today.
The comments on a third year who can’t catheterise doesn’t ring true at all. We’ve completed 2 years of skills, assignments and exams at that point plus around 2000 unpaid clinical hours working in the hospital. Unless she had a previous awful mentor who took all of her confidence?
I almost gave up reading when it said baby runs out of room towards the end of pregnancy which is just so dangerous. The comments about catheterising & ‘incubation’ instead of ‘intubation’. Calling a mum stupid and stubborn. Then starting the next chapter by talking about being an advocate for women and their choice. This all made me angry!
The stories about some of the mums, Sally for example her story had no resolution, what happened? The Polish workers story too, so judgemental & felt like a lack of compassion. We have to raise awareness of safeguarding issues to try to help these women. I really hope both of those were followed up by someone to get the help the obviously needed.

I have to say the 2nd half was a lot better in its description of burnout. I am a mature student and experienced burnout in my previous career as a teacher so that all really did ring true. Unsupportive, ineffective management are rife in lots of public sector areas! I could relate completely and it was a really accurate description of stress and depression. Also good that writing helped her therapeutically & Will sounds like a fantastic support. I just wish someone had proof read properly before publishing.

Hard pushed is a great book about the realities of midwifery & I also really enjoyed the language of kindness & the courage to care by Christie Watson. I would recommended reading those for a more rounded view.

6 people found this helpful

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Very judgemental and shocking

I got as far as chapter 8 and thought I can’t listen to this anymore - quote from this chapter “she looked normal, not rough at all no tattoos or piercings” so basically she was saying people with tattoos or piercings were lesser than others! My daughter is a great mother, has a good career, contribute to society and has TATTOOS and PIERCINGS, glad her midwife was judgemental!

3 people found this helpful

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We must fight for our NHS.

Amazing, sometimes harrowing but so true. Please listen, and then go fight for our NHS and stop voting Tory I beg. From a fellow NHS worker.

1 person found this helpful

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very gripping

very gripping story, showing the struggle of the NHS midwifes, and what is needed to help them, and were the financial focus is lacking and the support our NHS needs.

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Absolutely brilliant

What an amazing book. So glad I read it and it gives a brilliant insight into what life must be like as a midwife. Excellent!

1 person found this helpful

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A Rhea judgemental midwife ….

Was hoping for something a bit less preachy but then remembered it was written by a ‘secret midwife’. No real revelations here but a lot of superior chat about inadequate mothers and ‘know more’ midwives. Disappointing but predictable I guess having met a few midwives.

1 person found this helpful

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really enjoyable

I really enjoyed this book. its very insightful into the pressures on the NHS.

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Excellent

Excellent book confirming just how phenomenal the NHS midwifes are.
Thank you for all you do. I am truly grateful from my own experiencex

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loved it

struggled to out it down. nine words remaining before I can submit this review

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  • Greenie
  • 12-07-21

Such a good book!

The story and narration were so captivating that I had to keep listening! Best book I’ve listened to in awhile. 100% recommended!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Nicole
  • 14-05-21

Yes!

Exceptional narration from the moment I started! Couldn't put it down. Can easily get lost in the characters.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Kirsten K.
  • 29-03-20

a must read

At a time when single payer health care is being so hotly debated this is a must read. you still may not get care, but that will be due to shortages. And for those working in the system management support or lack of itmay or may not change based on what you are accustomed to

2 people found this helpful

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  • Reading Grandma
  • 25-11-21

Compelling read…even as an RN in the U.S.

The Secret Midwife is well written and poignant, sharing the heartfelt experiences of a dedicated professional in the UK! As a nurse myself for over 50 years I found it to be compelling’. Having birthed two babies I know how important the person who assists in those milestone experiences is to a woman! I know the national health system in the UK makes it a bit different but this is an excellent book and I enjoyed it very much!!

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  • Ann Sherman
  • 01-01-22

A Must-read!

This was written by a midwife and I’m a nurse in the USA but I believe this book illuminates the challenges providing care wherever people have a need. Birth, death, ICU, the floor, Surgery…the top heaviness in managers and the decrease in the people providing direct patient cares is universal. I listen to Audible while walking my dogs; I cried heartbrokenly and snorted tea out of my nose while laughing while listening to this book. It touched me deeply, especially now as we all try to deal with devastating waves of Covid infection. This is a must-read for any healthcare provider or anybody who may be a patient some day.
Yes, a patient, not a “customer,” as my “management team” tells me I care for nowadays. (Insert eye roll here!)

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  • Natalee Hartwig
  • 18-12-21

US nurse-midwife

Thank you for this book, Pippa. It’s sad to know that healthcare everywhere has become short-staffed and too heavy. Solidarity from across the pond.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Yvonne Sorensen
  • 06-12-21

wow.

I loved the book. But is shows how real health care works! A real eye opener

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  • Kim Cooper
  • 05-12-21

The Secret Midwife

This book was so close to my heart. I’m not a midwife but have been laboring women for 37 years in the US. I felt as if she was talking about me at times..staff shortages, administration woes, feeling unsure of myself, exhaustion , on meds, the list can go on. When will the patient and her baby become a priority, when will nurses have a say as far as staffing goes. I loved being with and supporting women in labor. It is a calling like no other, a-ministry if you will ,but there comes a time when you realize it’s time to take care of yourself and your loved ones before you close your eyes. I took that leap this year and am so much better for it

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  • India Hudson
  • 02-12-21

Loved it

This book was great. I loved the stories of her patients and found the problems she encountered relatable and similar to American issues in nursing. The narrator was entertaining too.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-12-21

Loved it!

Great story with a great narrator. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Downloaded on a whim and very pleasantly surprised