Women and Birth (2011) 24S, S47—S54
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Performance: midwifery across time and space Jenny Browne is a midwife-academic who convenes the Midwifery Bachelor and Masters programs at the University of Canberra. She loves all things midwifery, research and teaching and has a growing fondness for the creative arts as a medium for new understandings. Midwifery across time and space — this performance of digital theatre, ‘Midwifery across time and space’ a play using text, live ‘performer-midwives’ and digital media, aims to tell a story about who we are as midwives, a story which is often complex and often difﬁcult in Australia’s current maternity health system. By capturing ﬂeeting moments in spoken text and digital media, the performance is an innovative technique used to foreground midwifery’s complexities in a creative but respectful way, in order to increase our understandings of our past, current and future midwifery worlds. Written originally to bring my doctoral data to life, I present my play here as a way to depict the conﬂicting and overlapping conversations at work in midwifery and the ambivalence that childbearing and midwifery can bring to women and midwives. Therefore, while the situations and storylines in the performance are ﬁctional, I intend them to be credible and recognisable. I believe we have a responsibility to try to understand our complex selves and our complex work so that we can be useful to childbearing women and their babies in ways which do not rely on following rules and being consistent, but which assess in each moment what appears to be the best decisions (made together) in terms of human wellbeing. We see in the performance that the work that midwives do in becoming a midwife not only includes taking up a ‘with woman’ position, which is at the same time joyous and difﬁcult and gratefully received and thankless in our current health system, but actually taking up seemingly incongruent positions: positions of power, of selﬂessness, of surveillance, of judgment, of responsibility, of protection, of boundary-rider, of
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subservience/obsequiousness/deference, often simultaneously. The performance explores the taking up of multiple and contradictory positions by which we become midwives in the present, and for the future. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2011.07.002 D6 Telling the tale: birth stories from practice Sheena Byrom is currently Head of Midwifery at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust in England. She previously worked as a consultant midwife, in a role that encompassed the refocusing of maternity services in response to need, leading midwives in the public health agenda, and developing peer support networks and user involvement in service provision. Using the arts in midwifery can contribute to acquiring interpersonal skills, emotional literacy, team skills, problem solving, lateral thinking, ﬂexibility and adaptability (Davies, 2007). Storytelling is proposed for the workshop as ‘an art’ to engage participants in a time and space where stories are told and explored to stimulate and motivate renewed energy in midwifery care. Roche and Sadowsky (2003) describe the power of stories and storytelling, and use four key principles that demonstrate the power of the story: 1. Stories are universal, crossing boundaries of language, culture and age. 2. They mirror human thought. All evidence from neurology and psychology leads to the conclusion that humans think in narrative structures. Concepts conveyed in story form more than ideas explained with logic and analysis imprint themselves naturally into human minds.