In an ever-changing world, some moments can alter the course of our lives, leading us down unexpected paths. As a 38-year-old midwife and mother of three, Laura was at a crossroads when faced with burnout, leading to an ADHD diagnosis. She shares how she has turned her life around by embracing change, celebrating neurodiversity and using her experiences to support others.
Laura is Listed.
I would love to tell you that I wanted to be a midwife from an early age, that I was drawn to the miracle of life, nurturing a deep fascination with the intricacies of childbirth, but that is untrue. In fact, my sister became pregnant with my beautiful niece at 17, and I recall her saying, “Look! The baby is moving. Do you want to touch my tummy and feel it?” I could have thrown up in my mouth. I was so disturbed by the concept of this little creature wriggling around my sister’s abdomen like some little slimy alien. I was even more disturbed that my sister thought I would want to touch her belly!
Ironically, I was in labour with my daughter when I thought of becoming a midwife. I had been secretly terrified of the impending labour in the last weeks of pregnancy (maybe I was triggered when my sister asked me to pet the alien in her belly?). We did no antenatal preparation. On reflection, I was in denial. I experienced care by my midwife in childbirth that was deeply spiritual. She provided me with a level of psychological safety that I find difficult to put into words. She had faith in me and was beside me every step of the way. Ultimately, that midwife was the catalyst for me becoming the midwife I am today.
I grew up on the west coast of Scotland, and my upbringing had a heavily female presence. My father was absent during much of my childhood, but by the grace of God, my mother and our extended family provided a stable and loving environment, granting my sister and me the freedom to navigate our pathways through life. They offered support or a stern word when required, and inevitably, I became a huge feminist.
Growing up surrounded by independent females who supported each other through many harrowing experiences gave me ‘sisterhood’ energy. My decision to become a midwife was rooted in my innate empathy and the belief that I could positively impact women’s lives during their most vulnerable moments. There is an unspoken camaraderie among midwives, and very often, it felt like an extension of that ‘feminist sisterhood’ energy I got from my biological family.
Eventually, the profession brought me to the picturesque island of Guernsey, where I found a supportive community and the opportunity to contribute to the island’s healthcare system following an extraordinary review of maternity services. It was an opportunity to grow and develop with the service.
As the demands of my career grew, I experienced burnout, a familiar feeling I had encountered numerous times before. I had always put the needs of the women and the maternity service before my own. But there was something dramatically different this time.
Prolonged exhaustion, struggles to maintain focus, and feeling chronically bored prompted me to seek advice about potential ADHD. My daughter’s neurodivergence meant that I was well-read on the topic. I had the realisation that I was experiencing many of the ADHD symptoms myself. My diagnosis has been revolutionary in my life. It seemed to explain many of the challenges I had faced throughout my life. Understanding my neurodivergent nature has truly empowered me to take control of my life’s journey.
However, there have been times when family and friends have expressed concern about my mental wellbeing. The truth is, there have been some dark times. Not only since my diagnosis but previously, too. So, armed with newfound knowledge about my ADHD, I decided to prioritise my wellbeing and find a healthier work-life balance by transitioning from my clinical midwifery role to the field of sexual health. I am now enjoying improved sleep patterns with set working hours and a renewed sense of purpose, knowing I am making a difference professionally and personally.
I also very openly started sharing on my social media channels about my ADHD diagnosis because this journey has transformed my life and ignited a passion for advocacy and education. Through social media, I aim to raise awareness about ADHD in women and provide a platform for open discussions on the intersections of feminism, ADHD, and perinatal mental health. By sharing my story, I inspire others to embrace their unique journeys and find strength in their differences.
As well as birth (or perinatal) trauma, many midwives actually experience trauma situations by the nature of their jobs. I was not an exception.
Then my empathy for women and their families was magnified after my lived experience of what I now know to be birth trauma following the birth of my youngest son. The delivery seemed straightforward on paper, and it was swift. Too swift. It was only 55 minutes. It felt like my body was out of control, which was frightening. I trusted the lovely team of midwives who supported me on that day. They were wonderful. I’ll be eternally grateful to them for facilitating my birth choices with ease and making me feel cared for and nurtured. And afterwards, I became even more passionate about ensuring every woman in my care had a positive experience.
I am now qualified in birth trauma resolution therapy and intend to use my knowledge and expertise to change the narrative of pregnancy care provisions for neurodivergent women. It is an area of maternity care that has been neglected until recent years.
My thirst for learning and passion for mental health also led to me starting a self-funded, distance-learning Master of Science (MSc) in Perinatal Mental Health. In my third and final year, I am researching ADHD women’s experiences of maternity services for the dissertation. Due to abrupt hormonal changes, pregnant women with ADHD may be more likely to experience birth trauma, becoming particularly vulnerable in the postnatal period. They may experience conditions like depression, anxiety and potentially psychotic episodes. Shining a light on the impact of ADHD in pregnancy will help many women and their families to implement strategies to help before they reach breaking point. I strive to create a system that better supports women's mental health needs and celebrates their neurodivergence throughout pregnancy and beyond.
I envision a future where neurodivergent women receive the understanding and support they deserve throughout their pregnancy journey. I hope to continue my research, advocating for systemic changes that ensure every woman's mental health needs are met during and after pregnancy and that birth trauma is differentiated from postnatal depression and treated effectively allowing women and their families to live a more fulfilled and present life as they raise their families.
Through my work and sharing my personal journey, I hope to inspire others to embrace their unique paths and empower them to create positive change.
Living and working in Guernsey, with its breathtaking landscapes and tight-knit and supportive community, have given me the perfect backdrop to pursue my passions. The sense of belonging and the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the lives of Guernsey's residents have genuinely made it a place that I now call home. I enjoy eating out with my husband and we regularly enjoy walks on the beach, which is only a few minutes from our door, with our dog, Jack. And, of course, I enjoy sea swimming and the euphoria it creates.
Laura is passionate about celebrating neurodiversity and raising awareness of ADHD in women, working tirelessly to make sure that everyone - regardless of age or gender - can access the care and support they need to be their best selves. Laura shares updates as The ADHD Midwife on Instagram and Facebook and she chats with people from all around the globe on their experiences of neurodivergence on She Thrives ADHD, The Podcast.