Charlotte’s Story

Meet Charlotte – NHS Hero, Midwife and fellow Lipoedema Sufferer…

Charlotte is one of many NHS midwives working on the frontline to safely deliver babies amid the risk and uncertainty of the Covid 19 pandemic. And if this wasn’t enough to deal with, Charlotte has Lipoedema and has recently recovered from life-changing liposuction surgery. Charlotte has kindly given us an insight into life on the frontline as a midwife and the many sacrifices being made daily.

“Last year consisted of a lot of change for me; I graduated from Brighton University with a degree in Midwifery, I was single for the first time in 5 years and I was adjusting to my ‘new legs’ following two liposuction operations for my Lipoedema. 

Just three weeks following my surgery, I flew the nest and moved to Cambridge to work at ‘The Rosie Hospital’ as a newly qualified midwife. New legs, new city, new housemates, new job, new hospital, new colleagues, new guidelines, NEW EVERYTHING! This was one big move. For me, – and am aware this may be relatable for some of you reading this – ‘change’ is a trigger for emotional eating. I’m not certain if it was this which encouraged my upper body to alter its shape after my leg surgeries or if it was my body’s way of adjusting, but it has made me very self-conscious again.

The weight remains on my upper body to this day and understanding my new body is something I am tackling daily. I am doing my best to try and lose the weight, but as new changes and challenges continue to arise, it’s hard to focus on anything but Covid-19. 

This brings me to the current day of living alone in Cambridge far from family and friends and working as an NHS midwife, with Lipoedema, during this global pandemic. 

In this challenging time, it can be so hard to be positive. Knowing events and holidays were planned – and now you’re inside, home alone it can be hard to process. I know there are so many people in the same position as myself (we’re in this together!).

Something I am learning to do every day is think of three things I am grateful for. Today I am grateful for:

  • Advanced technology that allows us to see our loved ones even if it is on a screen and we can communicate with them
  • I am grateful for my family and friend’s health and their commitment to staying indoors every day, when it is so tempting to go out
  • I am grateful for this beautiful weather bringing some sunshine and light into our lives at a time is it most needed 

Doing this every day helps me so much. You don’t need to write it down; thoughts are powerful enough on their own sometimes. 

My life is dedicated to working as a midwife. I am continuing to work my normal hours, days and nights just as I did before. However, the change that has taken place at work is overwhelming. Being a midwife means ‘being with woman’, we try to keep everything as normal as we possibly can because childbirth is a life event that many women choose to embrace. When things deviate from normal, we obviously escalate care but remain clinically and emotionally connected with the women in our care.

One hard change we’ve had to learn to adapt to is wearing PPE. All that women can see is our eyes so it almost makes it so difficult for us to connect with women on an emotional level. This is in a time when I believe women need midwives emotionally more than ever before. Now, women come to labour ward to labour alone until the midwife confirms they are in ‘established labour’ then the birth partner can be present. This may mean they experience many contractions alone, when the midwife could have provided a friendly face and a hand to hold. 

Once the baby has been born, the birth partner must leave the ward 2 hours after and can only return when both mum and baby are well. This could be in 6 hours time or 6 days. Women are so strong, but with the adaption of hormones to stimulate milk production, a crying baby that won’t settle in a cot or with a cuddle, it can be a lot to deal with. I feel it’s important to empower women to make them feel good enough and that they can do it, even if I do say it all behind a mask and goggles. I am grateful for their patience and how amazingly they have adapted their mind and focus around the fact that their partner won’t be there. Women are truly incredible human beings. 

Having had my second leg operation in September last year, I continue to wear full leg compression and compression socks for my lower legs underneath my scrubs – it gets hotter than hot to say the least. 

However, as someone who has Lipoedema, I am so grateful to just have legs that work. Yes, they swell, yes they ache when I stand on them for too long – but they help me cycle to work, they help me stand strong beside women when they need me, they ensure I can pace the wards to get the right equipment and help when needed. I can only be appreciative of my legs and thank them for keeping me standing, moving and able to do my job. 

Whatever body image issues and thoughts I have are being pushed into perspective as I recognise now what really is important, protecting women’s physical health and looking after my mental and emotional health. I need to be kind and compassionate to myself to get me through these times.

I thank every one of you for staying indoors to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Stay home, stay safe, nourish and nurture yourselves and when resting keep those legs up to ensure good circulation! 

All the best,