Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story by Leah Hazard
|Hard Pushed: A Midwife's Story by Leah Hazard|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The blood, sweat and tears story of the life of a midwife in the NHS. Very readable and highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: May 2019|
|External links: Author's website|
Over the past few years, we've had a rash (sorry - no pun intended) of books by medical practitioners. Doctors have been at the forefront, but Hard Pushed is the first book I've seen by a midwife. It's an unusual profession in that it's one of the few callings within the medical system where most of the patients are healthy and the only one where one person comes into the system and (for the most part) more than one goes out. It's an amazing thing to be able to do - to escort new life into the world - and an enormous responsibility. Leah Hazard came to it after a career in television and Hard Pushed is the story of her career as a midwife - and the title tells more than one story.
We watch Leah as she completes her training and becomes a fully-qualified midwife working in the NHS. What quickly becomes obvious is that she's working within a system which is at breaking point, despite the best efforts of all the staff. She's used to going without sleep for twenty hours and even going without food for ten hours. It's a world of extremes: blood and bodily fluids are commonplace and clearing them up quickly is a valued skill, but then there's the beauty of a newborn baby and the joy of the parents. Women are seen at their most vulnerable, but Leah also sees remarkable displays of strength, heart-breaking grief and raw desperation.
We meet a few patients but they've been carefully selected to show how Leah never knew what she was going to encounter as she went into work each day. Eleanor is a miracle of modern science and the baby she and her wife are giving birth to is a feat of reproductive science. Then there's Crystal, pregnant at fifteen but the baby inside her, only just at the edge of viability, is threatening to come far too soon. Star is giving birth in a room heady with essential oils and the relaxation of the birthing pool. The atmosphere is one of love and joy until something intrudes into Star's psyche and hints at past which was far from joyful. Pei Hsuan tells a tale of exploitation and people trafficking which has brought her from her native China to Leah's ward.
The story is told with love and affection: Hazard has a great deal of understanding of how the pregnant women feel and she makes allowances for their occasional bad behaviour. Her story is eminently readable: I finished it in one sitting, relieved that my child-bearing days were long behind me and appalled by the pressure which the staff in hospitals work under. It should not be like this and whilst it continues we will lose excellent staff who can no longer stand the pressure of a difficult job and the constant demands to do more.
I hope that doesn't make the book sound like a toil of a pleasure, as it's anything but. Hazard has a delightful sense of humour and the ability to paint a picture in remarkably few words. It was a real treat to read her story and I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag.
You could shelve this book next to Letters to the Midwife: Correspondence with the author of ''Call the Midwife'' by Jennifer Worth. We can also recommend Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh. For the story of a surgeon working in the NHS, Direct Red by Gabriel Weston is an excellent read. You might also appreciate Bath Times and Nursery Rhymes by Pam Weaver.
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