Within a few minutes of the start of the film, tissues had to be shared. It was a hard and sad film to watch, to see how far some country's will go to control birth and to 'manage' birthing women; a violation of human rights.
In my small (but perfectly formed) group, we spent time after the film discussing, sharing ideas and thoughts, trying to understand where we could perhaps make a difference, what we could do on a local level, how we could encourage women to take charge of their own choices and bodies, and how we can protect midwifery in its own right. The thread - as in the film - that kept emerging, was the FEAR that prevails in and around birth; of course, this is not a new topic in childbirth, fear, for a variety of reasons, has been part of childbirth for millennia, but we seemed to have reached an all time high - from both women and health professionals.
So what exactly is it we are frightened off? Trying to answer this question is like trying to capture moonlight in our hands; you can see it, it's in front of us shining like a beacon, yet it moves around, changes, and although it is can be bright as day and pulls us in many ways (even if not scientifically proven), moonlight is not tangible.
Following the evening, I invited a lovely third year student to come out with me. This student should be counting down to the end of her training, but at the moment she is so disillusioned with her journey, she is not sure how she will make it through this final year. This intelligent, questioning, reflective woman who is following her vocation and who clearly has the potential to become a 'with woman' midwife, may become another statistic of those students who don't make it to qualify. We shall call this student Sophie:
Sophie accompanied me to a consultation with a couple who would like to book me as their midwife. This professional, well-informed, capable couple have already made many decisions around their pregnancy, including choosing, amongst other things, not to have routine ultrasound. Sophie and I spent time reflecting the consultation; she wondered if I worried about attending a birth where no ultrasound could reassure me baby was 'well'; she wondered if I worried that if a women who chose not to have routine bloods might be anaemic; she wondered if I worried that a women might refuse to take clinical advice I offered. She did a lot a worrying. Underneath all this however, it was apparent that Sophie's trust in nature, in women, in birth is being slowly eroded; she has been 'taught' to have a deep fear of the pathological - instead of a deep respect and acknowledgement that
"Some births in some circumstances sometimes need some help", Mary Cronk.As for me, being questioned and exploring these questions enabled me to reflect on my practise; and what emerged for me was that as a midwife offering continuity of care, a relationship of trust emerges with women, we have time to explore their health, nutrition, and self-care. Concerns around the 'motherbaby' well-being can be picked up quickly as listening to the woman, feeling her baby grow, and being involved in all aspects of her care enables you to identify changes that (as a registered health-professional) you respond to. Supervision is also a big part of my practice, as I will talk to my SoM about putting into place plans and documentation for women who may be making choices that challenge the 'status quo'.
So how do we work in a culture of fear? How do we empower women to trust their bodies? How do we inspire the next generation of midwives to practise autonomously - and without fear, but with respect?
In all honesty, I don't know! But, I plan to - as long as I am capable - try my best to work towards answering those questions; to protect birth; protect women; and to protect my profession as much as I can. Burn out is high when you are passionate, so of course this needs to be balanced with protecting me (and my family), but I find it hard to sit still for long, or to ignore what my heart and soul is shouting. I shall, as long as I can, feel the fear...... and do it anyway!
“The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -Theodore Rooseveltangela x