By Gill Walton, Chief Executive on 11 November 2020 Maternity Services

It was my partner’s 60th birthday last week. The events I had been planning since last year have been cancelled, changed and cancelled again! This is the reality of 2020 for all of us. Weddings, parties, holidays, conferences, visiting relatives, even hugs…. all cancelled.

It is hard not to be sad about all of this and I find myself feeling frustrated and cross that life is on hold. But then I find other possibilities that I would not have otherwise found and I feel uplifted and hopeful. A planned holiday in Portugal with extended family and friends is swapped for a smaller event in Northumberland, then changed at the last minute to a few wet and windy days in North Devon!

And that unexpected visit to Devon led me to a chance meeting which left me with many days and nights of thoughtful reflection.

Towering above Ilfracombe Harbour, holding aloft a sword to the grey stormy sky is Verity. Verity is a statue by Damien Hirst, a pregnant woman who represents truth and justice. Having spent many hours watching the US elections, she could not be a more fitting prompt to my thoughts. To me, she also represented the power and strength of pregnant women and new mothers.

Just like so many of our plans during 2020, their expectations of pregnancy, birth and new motherhood have also been cancelled and changed. I am enlightened by the positive stories I hear, where birth is as magical as it always was. However, I am also saddened by stories of plans not fulfilled and how that must feel to every midwife and MSW trying their best in the face of a global pandemic, yet end up feeling that they miss the mark for the women in their care. What is clear from these reactions, though, is that thoughtful maternity care delivered by ever resourceful midwives and maternity teams is definitely not on the ‘cancelled’ list.

Similarly, the work of the RCM is not cancelled – it’s just delivered in a different way. I am so proud and thankful to all the RCM staff, activists and members for not cancelling their ambitions to support women and families and overwhelming support for each other.

Verity stands tall and proud protecting the entrance to the harbour, as women protect their babies and families. I know our members are protecting and caring for women but most importantly we are learning new ways to care and protect each other. A smile, a small act of kindness and a quiet “are you ok?” matters more than ever before.

These things are not cancelled and will help us feel whole and protected as we move into the unknown of winter. Like Verity, RCM represents strength, pride and power. Today I feel positive that we can do this, we can get through this and be enlightened and enriched on our unexpected journey through a global pandemic.

Like Verity, stay strong and stand tall.