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11 March 2023

Leah Hazard Q&A: “Kindness, or even just civility, costs nothing”

The midwife and author on reproductive justice, Scottish winters and the healing power of Strictly Come Dancing.

By New Statesman

Leah Hazard was born in Connecticut in 1977. She worked as a TV researcher before the birth of her first daughter in 2003 encouraged her to retrain as a doula and then as an NHS midwife.

What’s your earliest memory?

Standing up in my cot and peering over the railings, waiting for someone to realise that I was awake. I don’t recall crying. I’ve always been a bit of a quiet observer.

Who are your heroes?

Growing up in America in the 1980s, I was socialised to believe that the thinnest, blondest, most beautiful women were my heroes; the televised Miss America pageant was an annual highlight. Thankfully, the world has changed and I’ve grown up. My heroes now are my daughters – beautiful exactly as they are, and so much smarter and funnier than I could ever be.

What book last changed your thinking?

Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Lucy Grieve and Gemma Clark of Back Off Scotland, who are campaigning to introduce legally enforceable buffer zones around premises in Scotland where abortion care is provided.

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[See also: Pregnant Then Screwed’s Joeli Brearley: “I think motherhood radicalises you”]

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What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

As a midwife, I should say “pregnancy and birth”, but I would hesitate to call myself a “master” of anything. The more I know, the more I realise I don’t know.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I would like to travel to the early 20th century to see how both sides of my family lived – my father’s side in Ukraine and Poland, my mother’s in Czechoslovakia – before the horrors of anti-Semitism destroyed those communities.

What TV show could you not live without?

Strictly Come Dancing is a balm for the soul.

Who would paint your portrait?

My friend Gareth Reid, a talented artist whom readers may recognise as the winner of Portrait Artist of the Year 2017. He’s already done my husband’s portrait; surely mine is only a matter of time.

What’s your theme tune?

In her song “Thankful”, Rumer sings, “I’m alive and I’m thankful.” The past few years have been horrendous but I try to remind myself what a privilege it is just to be here.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“It’s nice to be nice,” as my mother-in-law always used to say. I work in an extremely pressurised environment. It can be hard to be one’s best self in a broken system, but kindness – or even just civility – costs nothing, feels good and improves safety.

[See also: Mary Harrington interview: “Make sex consequential again”]

What’s currently bugging you?

The state of the NHS and our government’s wilful ignorance of an entirely predictable and preventable crisis.

What single thing would make your life better?

Sunshine. I love living in Scotland but the winters can be soul-destroying.

When were you happiest?

When both of my daughters are home and I hear them laughing in the next room.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Before I trained as a midwife, I worked for BBC Scotland as a researcher for arts and factual programmes. I often describe my brief TV career as “another life” – it feels like it happened to someone else.

Are we all doomed?

Eventually, yes – the sun will explode and we’ll be consumed by its fiery mass – but that makes the present moment all the more precious.

“Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began” by Leah Hazard is published by Virago

[See also: Britain’s childcare crisis, with Stella Creasy]

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This article appears in the 15 Mar 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Iraq Catastrophe