Book Review: Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard (Review by Brian Toal)

Hard pushed by Leah hazard

“Another night, another vagina.” With one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read, this enthralling book is a (genital) warts and all account of life as a midwife in Glasgow, from moments of joy to the depths of despair. The book is divided into manageable chapters and doesn’t have to be read in one burst, although I read in three days and found it hard to put down. Each chapter focuses on a different patient or type of patient, although Hazard is keen to point out that the patients described are often composite patients, in order to protect confidentiality. 

The author made the transition to midwifery following the birth of her own children, and she recounts the terror of learning on the job, being thrust into the heart of things, albeit supervised, and the long, agonising shifts where mental and physical resources are stretched to the limit. Hazard gains skills and confidence and is soon able to announce herself with the cheery “Midwife Hazard, at your cervix!” We are reminded of the oscillating emotions the public servant, one minute receiving a thank you card, the next being shouted at by a mother who places all of her pregnancy complications squarely at the door of the midwife. We are told how the harsh realities of what was witnessed on the maternity ward continue to haunt staff, even as they try to ease themselves back into the rhythms of family life. 

We modern humans think we are so sophisticated, yet we learn here that September is the busiest month for the maternity ward as it’s nine months after Christmas parties, mistletoe and cold nights. I found fascinating the depiction of the range of mothers from a wide spectrum of backgrounds. We have the chavvy Scottish teenager who won’t get off her phone, the Chinese woman who is starving and has clearly escaped from her traffickers, the Somali woman who is deeply scarred from FGM. They all present very different problems, and moving from one to the other on a busy twelve-hour shift demands mental gymnastics in order to cater for the disparate needs of this motley client group. 

Towards the end of the book, Hazard begins to deal with the paucity of resources on the wards, the cutbacks which lead to blunter instruments, the lack of beds, the lack of consultants and so on. She rails against the lack of focus on mental health, whilst many fetishise food fads, the right muslin or googling every detail of their pregnancy.  “In one of the world’s wealthiest nations, we can and should do better for our midwives and for our women.” Indeed. 

Hard Pushed is available from Waterstones Byres Road

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