I think we can all relate in saying that we didn’t expect to be here. Looking back, beyond the past two years, surely none of us saw ourselves in this situation. Of course, for me I did see myself to be in this career. I was a student midwife at the time. The end result was always planned to be a Midwife. But I never expected to be a midwife behind a mask.
I am lucky as masks haven’t been a thing for that long here. They’ve drifted in and out of use somewhat over the past two years. But for most of 2021 masks have been every midwives, nurses, doctors and healthcare workers best friend and biggest hindrance. Not because we don’t want them. They keep us safe, and they keep the community and our families safe. But because of the barrier they bring into an area that relies so heavily on interaction, on our ability to express so much through facial expression.
I have felt this most as a midwife. In a role where I am to be with women. In a space full of so much vulnerability, so many unspoken words. The mask has made me realise the power in connection through a familiar face, a kind smile, a reassuring, gentle nod. Yes, these things still happen. But there is a barrier, there is a mask.
It was recently brought to my attention that the mask has become part of my appearance as a midwife. Women who are well into their pregnancy now, who I have cared for and supported for many months, still haven’t seen my entire face. In a maskless meeting they actually wouldn’t recognize me!! That’s how impactful a mask is in altering our appearance.
So, this makes me wonder – what impact is this having on women’s experiences, on their families. In those precious moments it is not just a baby born, it is new parents, a family is growing. These are some of the most vulnerable moments. A space of safety, warmth, overwhelming happiness. Do masks, worn by not just the care givers but also the support people change this dynamic? Do they influence the emotional recognition? The trust attribution? Trust being pinnacle during a time of vulnerability.
Shakespeare did once say that ‘the eyes are the windows to your soul ‘. We really are now testing this concept out every day we live during this pandemic. Trying tirelessly to express our emotion, our kindness and our care through our eyes. Because with other important and expressive facial features hidden, we need our eyes to shine.
So, as we move into a new year, still plagued by a virus we had hoped to leave in the past, let’s take a moment to appreciate how much we have learnt. How adaptive the human race really is. How strong women around the world have been as they have brought their babies into an unfamiliar world. Their ability to overcome fear of the unknown, as the healthcare system they trust continues to change and shift in the attempt to protect them and protect us.