Tag Archives: nurture

Birth keeper or Baby catcher?

I felt compelled to comment on a great blog my the brilliant Rebecca Wright today. It can be seen here entitled “Are you a birthkeeper? Then don’t catch babies.” She was commenting upon the language used by birth workers in a facebook post which said “because maternity care providers are not serving mothers’ needs, more doulas and non-medically trained supporters being called on to catch babies.” She made great comment about mothers being the ones who should catch their own babies and why.

I’d like to elaborate further on my comments here, as this is an interesting subject, and I didn’t want to fill Rebecca’s site with my ramblings.

I was privvy to a conversation last year about the midwife’s role, brought about by the looming end to legal independent midwifery care. One party said when Independent midwifery becomes illegal we will be doing what doulas do anyway. The other camp were vehermently defending the title of midwife and not wanting to be compared to the service a doula provides. The arguement got heated (as is the way with passionate women!), and it was mentioned that women dissatisfied with their maternity care were indeed employing doulas to attend their births. Further heated discussion about the legality of this followed.

This got me thinking about what Independent or Authentic midwives do at a birth. I’ve been very honest over the past few years, telling my clients that I won’t actually be delivering their baby, they will. In fact most of my time (between the nurturing/ loving type of things) is taken up writing notes and drinking tea. I need women to realise that its not like on telly where the doctor heroically swoops in at the last moment to pull the baby out. It is the woman’s body, love, sweat and pure determination which get the baby born.

Several years ago I noticed that some women reach down to receive their own babies at the point of birth, but some are ashamed to touch themselves “down there,” especially if they are being watched! As a student midwife I recall watching my mentor move a woman’s hand away so she herself could ‘do’ the “delivery”. I’ve never been very directive myself, and have learnt the most by observing what women do naturally. Some women need to be informed that catching their own baby is possible as the power has so often been taken away from them. Professionals sometimes forget that they are there to serve the needs of the mother and baby – and not tell her what to do! (another post brewing on the balance of power). I remember telling a friend pregnant with her second child that I thought she could catch her own baby, for a number of reasons. I had seen many women slow down the birth of their baby if it was coming quickly and others who protect their own body in this way, giving tissues time to stretch (after practicing 11+ years I have never seen anything worse than a second degree tear). My friend did catch her own baby and tells all her friends that they can too!

empowered birthI’ve been mulling over what it means to be a midwife, what Independent midwives can call themselves, and how they can still serve women after October this year. I’ve also been thinking about what difference there would be between what a doula or I could legally do at a birth. There is potential for several posts on this, so I’ll try to stick to the current theme.

As a midwife I know it is the woman’s baby and not mine. I’m sure he prefers his mothers touch to mine, and encourage women to receive their own babies. I’ve shied away from unessesary internal examinations, and refrain from telling women how, or when to push, because I have attended many births where the mother does something totally unexpected and it turns out brilliantly. I remember being present at a birth centre birth where I was the second midwife. The woman was in advanced labour and spontaneously pushing with her first baby . We were prevented from being nosey, birth coach midwives, as visibility in the room was poor. The lights were dimmed and the water was a little cloudy, so our torch light couldn’t penetrate the water. Despite our efforts with torch and mirrror we could see nothing. I was concerned that I wouldnt be able to help her prevent a tear if I couldnt see when to tell her to pant, or give smaller pushes. As she pushed she spontaneously reached down and told us that she could feel the baby advancing, and before long told us baby was emerging. She lifted the baby triumphantly to the surface knowing she had done it all herself! We examined her perineum a while later and she had no tears. I told myself that women can obvoiusly prevent tears better than I can with all my experience.

I cannot bear midwives or doulas who brag about their ‘catches’ or how many deliveries they’ve done. I’ve no idea how many births I’ve attended (although it must be several hundred by now), and feel that keeping numbers makes it into some unsavoury sort of competition (like notches on a bedpost), rather than a unique event in someone’s life! Its a shame this bad habit starts in midwifery training where students have to get 40 deliveries to qualify as a midwife. Its not about numbers, its about people. I fail to see what student midwives learn when they are shoved into rooms to deliver a baby at the last minute, without knowing the woman, just to get their numbers. It can’t be nice for the mother either.

Being an authentic midwife means having the wisdom to not do everything you’ve been taught to do. The past 10 years of practice have been about unlearning the medical model, and learning from women. I like to think of it as a reverse Ina May Gaskin midwifery journey. A journey back to basic loving care, and being a birth keeper for the women and babies I serve.

Last word from Rebecca Wright: “Not all doulas or midwives are birthkeepers, of course, but the essence to me of this concept is exactly what you express here: service to mothers and to birth. Birthkeeping (and authentic midwifery) to me is about holding mothers and babies at the centre of their own experience, bringing with us whatever skills or talents we possess that are needed in that space, but always with humility and discernment.”

Thank you Rebecca for fueling my fire. xx

 

Copyright and the sharing of information

After an awkward issue arose between some midwifery colleagues over use of each other’s materials without consent I was prompted to write this page.

I believe all information is knowledge, knowledge is power and therefore should be shared to empower women. All information contained in this blog is my original work, from knowledge amassed throughout my midwifery career. I have worked very hard and am proud of the work I have done, so have marked photos, artwork and text as copyright Birth Joy Ltd(c). When I have used someone else’s material I will credit them in the text. I respectfully request that you do likewise. Please pass on information from my website but please remember to quote the origins of your information out of respect.

Photos are copyright to the photographer. I am very lucky that when I’ve taken birth photos, some women have given me permission to use these for teaching purposes, others have let me use their photos on my website. Some have allowed me to share with other midwives and one allowed publication in a midwifery text book. Many women have not, and I respect their right to do so.

For more information on copyright see this useful website.

“Am I allowed?”

A woman this week asked me one of the things that make me want to get on my soapbox about assertiveness and women’s rights.  What she said was “are you allowed to give birth to a breech baby?” My response, as ever, to this type of question is “it you who allows or disallows your care providers to do anything to you or your baby. Nothing can be done to you or your baby at home or in a hospital setting, without your consent. You are a mentally competent adult making rational decisions about your care, and you, more than anyone, has the best interests of your baby at the foremost in your mind”.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), that govern all practicing midwives, provide information to midwives and nurses on the issue of consent:

“Legally, a competent adult can either give or refuse consent to treatment, even if that refusal may result in harm or death to him or herself. Nurses and midwives must respect their refusal just as much as they would their consent”.

The problem may lie with the allocation of power and responsibility in maternity care. Midwives and doctors are in a uniquely privileged position to be able to serve women at such a vulnerable time in their lives. We train long and hard to amass knowledge to help those we care for, but we should not use this to control or coerce women into what we think they should do. We are after all “Professional Servants” (Mary Cronk). We are there to serve the families we care for, but it is also our professional duty to inform them of any risks associated with their choices. The Nursing and Midwifery council (which regulates all midwives and nurses) has rules and codes of conduct advising us how to support our clients such as:

1. You must treat people as individuals and respect their dignity

2. You must not discriminate in any way against those in your care

3. You must treat people kindly and considerately

4. You must act as an advocate for those in your care, helping them to access relevant health and social care, information and support

5. You must respect people’s right to confidentiality.

6. You must ensure people are informed about how and why information is shared by those who will be providing their care.

7. You must disclose information if you believe someone may be at risk of harm, in line with the law of the country in which you are practising.

8. You must listen to the people in your care and respond to their concerns and preferences.

9. You must support people in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their health

10. You must recognise and respect the contribution that people make to their own care and wellbeing.

11. You must make arrangements to meet people’s language and communication needs.

12. You must share with people, in a way they can understand, the information they want or need to know about their health.

Point number 2 was obviously not read or understood by midwives who attended a woman’s home birth. The woman was from a particular religious group and her partner was from a different ethnic group. The woman phoned me as a result of midwife harassment in her current pregnancy, and in telling me her previous birth experiences said the midwives at one of her previous births had made racist remarks! I was livid and asked if she had complained – no she hadn’t! this is so wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to start! Harassing heavily pregnant women, and going against their wishes in labour is not acceptable but racism from a so called professional is a disciplinary offence. I gave the woman information and advice to make written complaints about current and previous problems, and gave her AIMS contact details.

Another part of our rules concerns consent:

13. You must ensure that you gain consent before you begin any treatment or care.

14. You must respect and support people’s rights to accept or decline treatment and care.

15. You must uphold people’s rights to be fully involved in decisions about their care. 

16. You must be aware of the legislation regarding mental capacity, ensuring that people who lack capacity remain at the centre of decision making and are fully safeguarded.

17. You must be able to demonstrate that you have acted in someone’s best interests if you have provided care in an emergency.

Whether your care provider will like or dislike your choices should be no concern of yours. I personally don’t like junk food, but understand that some people know the risks of consuming it, and still chose to do so. I may offer education about the risks, but wouldn’t dream of telling people not to do it just because I don’t like it myself. This applies to many areas of midwifery care, for example if you are told you are not allowed to give birth at home it would be good to ask if there are specific risks you need to be aware of, before thanking your health professional for their opinion, informing them that you will consider what they’ve said very carefully and let them know you will let them know your decision in due course (Taken from Mary Cronk’s assertiveness phrases). Consider how your care provider would actually be able to force you to do anything against your will (sadly, women have informed me of social services being used as a threat in some circumstances!).

REMEMBER: You do not have to ask permission to do anything which concerns your own body or your baby. Politely question your caregivers, do your own research then take responsibility for your choices! Your body, your baby, your choice!

See also:

Mary Cronk’s assertiveness comments on Angela Horn’s great homebirth website

AIMS the Association for the Improvement in Marternity Services has a great website and provides telephone support for anyone having trouble finding good maternity care. Please consider becoming a member or making a donation to their good work. x

All rights reserved. Copyright Birth Joy 2011 (C)


Da a Luz

Vanessa Brooks at Buddafields 2011

Just returned from a wonderful week in Spain. I met the wonderful Vanessa Brooks for the first time this year, and offered to share my experiences of breech births with her in Spain.

Unfortunately I was only able to spend 24hrs at the Midwives Rock workshop, as my family had accompanied me and were eager to do other holiday activities.
I taught at Da a Luz for 5 hours on the Saturday. I shared my experiences and knowledge that breech birth is unusual but not abnormal, and breech babies can be born vaginally as well as by caesarean. Although Breech birth is a variation of the normal I also taught that breech birth carries some additional risks for the baby however he is born, so careful monitoring of the progress of labour and baby’s well-being is essential.
It was a real pleasure to work with Vanessa and to meet Adela Stockton and all the other wonderful birth workers.
I look forward to teaching with Vanessa again in June 2012 in Brighton UK.

Had a wonderfully nourishing time with Vanessa and other like-minded birth workers in the summer of 2012! We talked about birth of the placenta, control of bleeding, orgasmic birth and so much more. Then it was my turn to contribute alongside Marta Orbis and Vanessa Brooks teaching about breech births and difficult births. Can’t wait to work with Vanessa again next year. xxx