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Can I wear my heart on my sleeve?

02 June 2014
Volume 22 · Issue 6


Student midwife Paulina Sporek discusses the emotional work in midwifery practice

I had anticipated that I would cry when I witnessed my first birth. But I did not, my reaction was rather reserved. In fact, I felt more emotional watching ‘One born every minute’. So much for ‘the miracle of life’, I thought. Since then, I have been privileged to share a very special birthing experience. At that point everything changed. There was a certain quality present at the birth that reminded me that one of the most uplifting experiences of childbearing is forming a relationship with the woman and her family. I am aware that I have felt different since that birth. I felt connected at a human level where I didn't with my first three births.

Hunter and Deery (2009) recognise that much of midwifery involves emotional work. Finding myself ‘choked up’ and shedding a tear at birth was unexpected yet acceptable. I didn't want anyone to see me getting upset, as being emotional contravened the rational professional demeanour I was aiming to present. For a long time, I tried to suppress my emotions in order to maintain a professional image, this approach can be characterised as an affective neutrality (Parsons, 1951). Even though this model fits more with a ‘with institution’ ideology (Hunter, 2004), I was adopting an approach of ‘affective awareness’, described by Copp (1998: 304) as ‘the professional with a heart’. I realised that I needed to share myself with the woman as much as I ask her to share her moment with me. I learned therefore, that instead of hiding my emotions and dealing with them on my own, it is not only acceptable to display them but it is better to express than suppress them (Fineman, 2000), without loosing my credibility as a student midwife.

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