I have never given birth or been pregnant, but if I ever do I’d rather like someone like Leah Hazard to be my midwife.
Effortlessly cool, eloquent and quietly brave; certain in every word she speaks, I’m captivated by the way Leah tells her story.
As she talks – I suddenly realise that I’ve never really thought about the multi-faceted, kaleidoscopic role of a midwife before.
In a recent blogpost, Leah characterises her book ‘Hard Pushed: A midwife’s story’ as a love letter to all the women she’s cared for, all the colleagues she’s worked alongside and the broken, chronically under-funded NHS where all of this incredible work takes place.
Interviewed by Cathy Rentzenbrink – an author herself and the Festival’s patron – Leah’s burning but humble courage becomes evident almost immediately.
Starting out as a TV researcher for ‘light entertainment’ shows and then becoming a doula after the birth of her first child – Leah realised that she wanted to train as a midwife so she could offer “the full package” of both emotional and clinical support.
As someone who’s never experienced childbirth I didn’t know how I would be able to connect with this event or the subject matter… and then Leah began reading an extract from her book.
“Another day, another vagina…” she begins. And from that moment – just as Cathy recounts her first encounter with the book – I’m hooked.
We’re so used to glossy, edited, snapshotted versions of childbirth in mainstream media – made cleaner and more polite for the camera (much like many representations of women’s behaviour).
Of course there’s no such thing, but so rarely do those who haven’t ever experienced it get to glimpse the realities of giving birth. Even less do we get an insight into the working lives of those who deliver the babies – midwives, the unsung “cavalry” of maternity services.
Even whilst touring her book to various literary festivals across the country, Leah continues to work two twelve-hour shifts a week during the course of each she will look after around 40 different women – all whilst being a mother herself.
So, I don’t know about you but I’m never going to complain about being tired or busy ever again.
Like many events at this year’s festival this caught me off guard, made me think more deeply and introduced me to another hugely talented author.
There’s still lots of great events on today – catch me at ‘She is Fierce’ and ‘The Deep’ later on.
WORDS + PICTURE: MARTHA MACDONALD