When it comes to feminist jobs, there are plenty of contenders. You might be an entrepreneur who tackles period poverty, for example, or a politician who fights for legislation to defend vulnerable women.
For presenter Emma Willis, however, one of the most honourable feminist professions comes in the form of midwifery.
The face of Big Brother recently trained as a maternity care assistant to join 13-hour shifts on a labour ward in Essex, for upcoming documentary, Emma Willis: Delivering Babies.
“I truly believe being a midwife is the greatest job for a feminist,” Willis tells You magazine. “It’s women helping women, believing in them at a time when they’re thinking, “Am I ever going to get through this?’”
Willis has first-hand experience of the lifeline role that midwives play, after she experienced a traumatic labour with her eldest child, Isabelle (now nine).
“After I gave birth… I thought my body would never heal,” she says.
“And I remember looking at my midwife, who was there when I was at my most vulnerable, when my life was about to change for ever, and thinking, ‘Wow, what a job.’”
Willis ended up re-living the memory when she witnessed a difficult birth in her stint on the wards; an experience that resulted in her fainting.
“One minute I was standing in this operating theatre completely transfixed,” she says. “Next thing I knew I was coming round having hit the deck, a row of blue hospital-issue Crocs slowly coming into focus.
“The subconscious reaction of my body was total horror,” she adds. “I tried to make excuses afterwards, ‘Ooh, it’s a bit hot in here,’ but I’m sure it was a deep response to what I’d been through.”
By mucking in on the maternity wards, Willis fulfilled a lifelong dream to work in hospitals: something she had always intended to do before her career in modelling and presenting took her down a different path.
In an age where many women still feel judged for the way in which they give birth, Willis says it is key for us all to leave censure at the door.
“My only opinion on childbirth is not to have an opinion, and not to judge,” she says. “We’re all different and anything can happen when it comes to labour: you just don’t know until you get there.
“… For the second two pregnancies I was too scared to go down the [natural delivery] route… There’s this big push on breast is best and it absolutely is, but not everyone can do it. I struggled with it and mentally that was tough.”
There are around 21,000 registered midwives in the UK, on a starting salary of £23,000.
Willis says the midwifery staff she worked with never complained, despite the fact that they “absolutely don’t get paid enough” on long and demanding shifts.
When she overheard other people complaining about the NHS, she says, she was always tempted to respond: “Shut up! You don’t know what’s going on, they’re working so hard in there”.
Emma Willis: Delivering Babies airs on W Channel from 22 October