Happy New Year!
I have been intentionally quiet and sitting with my thoughts, for the last 10 or so months, pondering if this topic would make waves in the birth community. Would people be mad at me for these thoughts, would people question who I am as a birth professional, or why I do this work? I have to admit, there were many times over this last year (YES, with everything going on), where I thought, uggggh, if I see one more person saying something about a medical professional and that we need to “take back our power” and focus on home birth, I was going to lose it. Those conversations, many of them, completely turned me off and made me want to push back from this work almost completely. Why? You might ask. How can wanting people to return to what we know is safe, effective, birth management, natural, physiologic birth, a problem? It’s not. I support, encourage and WANT for people, all people, but especially POC, to return to our essence and unlearn all of the fear surrounding birth.
Birth is beautiful and exhilirating and when you get to witness it in its purest form, you get to see how powerful and life changing, undisturbed, supported, out-of-hospital births can be. They are life-altering, and soul shifting, on a cellular level. Every birth has changed me. My disdain has everything to do with the fact that birth work is supposed to be inclusive. Birth workers preach and preach about inclusion, however, there is an entire community of people who will NEVER get to experience that beautiful, life altering birth experience. A community of high-risk pregnant people, who won’t get to have that mystical, mythical, and magical birth you speak of or (here’s a thought) don’t want that type of experience. And, as a community we have been placing judgement, blame and lumping an entire demographic of people (medical providers), labeling them the “enemy”, based on the experiences of a few — sound familiar?
I guess for me, for a long time, seeing it felt personal and also very exclusionary. I am high-risk (Diabetic), had 3 over medicalized births, unnecessary interventions and those feelings left me feeling like I was an outsider, in this big beautiful world of pregnancy and birth. But, it’s not only me who felt/feels this way. You see, I do A LOT of research, all the time, all year long. I’ve also had many clients who’ve not had the “optimal birth experience” — the home birth, unmedicated, vaginal, natural birth and many who simply did not want that. Any time I have ever shared my thoughts or witnessed people exclaiming the above, it is met with opposition and reduced to what the clients simply don’t know. So many people have shared and continue to share their stories of defeat and sadness about their over medicalized births, losses, and fears, all of them real, and very justified feelings about the birth experiences they desired and didn’t get to have. Some of them ashamed to. The one constant though is that in almost all of those conversations (which mostly occurred on social media), the follow up from one birth professional or another (let’s say 2/3 out of every convo), the blame was placed on the medical provider and what they did wrong and or did/didn’t contribute to the situation and outcome.
You know what this started to feel like, do you remember the campaign for “breast is best” (we still here bits of this every now and then) started floating around heavily, about 2–3 years ago, during World Breastfeeding Week, and I, unfortunately jumped on the bandwagon (hindsight — I know better now). I realized however, that while breast might be a great option, it’s not the only option and we should be doing a better job of making all feel included, not just some. I hope we can agree that some of the blame, when medical errors, or poor birthing/post birth outcomes happen, in medical institutions, that the blame should be placed on the medical practitioner, because things that could have been taught, and done, often times aren’t. In these instances, the provider dropped the ball and as we’ve seen more recently, resulting in low breastfeeding rates, and deaths. My question for my fellow birth community is when are we going to target the system or even place some of that the onus on what the birth client did or didn’t do? How about asking Doulas to do their due diligence and not create a false sense of security by telling clients to simply “hire a Doula”, like that is going to save them and that that is the end all be all. It’s not! When are we going to call on clients to be active in their care, as well as speaking up for themselves and their birth outcomes? We can’t be the saviors in this. I don’t want to be a savior. I want change! Change in the way we approach birth, change in the way we enter these spaces, change in the way we talk about maternal mortality, and how we share the information with the world, change in the way we interact with medical providers and change in the way we show up for pregnant people, parents and families.
After my 3rd and final birth, I took a lot of time to reflect on what I did and didn’t do, and I know so many families and parents who have and still do this. They spend many days and years, agonizing about their births and the “woulda, coulda, shoulda”. This is not about judgement, as we know there are many different parts of the birthing story and process, some things we are aware of and others we are not. To place the blame only on the providers and not the ENTIRE system, and to decide that the way we are going to change the outcomes of birth and maternal mortality, is that we must return to our roots, feels hypocritical.
This is not proactive, it is polarizing. Pitting one group against another, and not focusing on the system that has created these issues, instead we should be trying to work with what we think is opposition, for the betterment of the pregnant/birthing person and birthing community for all. I know it’s not that simple, but it’s a start.
Coming together, is the better solution. Partnership, is the better solution. Being in community with one another, is the better solution!