Is there anything more daunting than returning to work or studies, to face a blank page and an impending deadline? This is a slightly facetious question; defending a PhD thesis, for example, or doing a charity skydive, is slightly more intimidating than a Word document with nothing written on it. Yet there is a degree of commonality at work here. In each example, there is a pressure that drives you forward, slightly against your will, and a sense of reward, whether that means publishing painstaking and necessary research, or raising money for a good cause. Then, in between, there is the unknown, or the blank page that waits to be filled.
The New Year is another example. As we reflect on the past 12 months, a deadline pushes us to action, to avoid being in the same position the next year. We make resolutions reluctantly (because if we wanted to do them, or could do them easily, we would probably be doing them already), but we know that there is a reward to be had. The year ahead can be daunting too, because who knows what it will bring? The past couple of years have arguably made us somewhat trepidatious, because the news hasn't been great: from a women's health perspective alone, we've seen midwifery student bursaries cut, independent midwives losing their High Court battle over indemnity cover, and the election of an American president who prioritised cuts to vital family planning and abortion services, jeopardising women's lives all over the world. It would be easy to conclude that the future is bleak.
The doom and gloom of the papers should not overshadow the good things that have happened, however, and the New Year is just as much about reflecting on what should be celebrated as what should be improved. For example, 2017 saw a successful trial into artificial wombs, which could increase survival rates for dangerously premature babies (Lawson, 2017). In addition, the WOMAN trial (2017) found that tranexamic acid could dramatically reduce postpartum haemorrhage, and the Government announced funding for Northern Irish women travelling elsewhere in the UK for an abortion (Greening, 2017).
If we keep up this optimism, there is a great deal to be excited about for 2018. For British Journal of Midwifery readers, we have some exciting announcements and some fantastic research in the pipeline. The BJM conference is coming (book at www.bjmconference.co.uk), as are the BJM Midwifery in Practice Awards, with some especially inspiring entries this year. Perhaps, if you are new to writing, this will be the year that you see your work in print.
When so much is unknown, it can be easy to see the New Year as a comedown after the excitement of Christmas, but it's about readjusting our mindset. After all, a blank page should not be seen as an obstacle, but rather a ‘blank canvas’, full of opportunities.