Tag Archives: Power

Radical Midwifery on the Road

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????According to the Association of Radical Midwives (ARM)  “In the mid 70s, the majority of pregnant women in UK had labour induced by artificial rupture of membranes (ARM) around the date they were “due”. These initials were used when the group needed a name, using the dictionary definition of “radical”, (roots, origins, basics, etc.) which aptly described the basic midwifery skills which they hoped to revive.”

In this spirit I offer a grass roots midwifery information service to women. I am an Independent Midwife, and as such I provide total midwifery care for women and their families, but the numbers I care for are small, and every woman needs good information. I’ve always served women by giving free information by telephone, and running a local ARM group, but again the numbers are limited, and so is my time. But I feel a huge need to pass on my knowledge of maternity rights and choices to women who may not even know that they have a choice.

Am I saying that the NHS is not giving women enough information or choice? No.

Am I saying women are unable to find out this information for themselves?  Certainly not.

Pregnant women just don’t know what they don’t know. First – time mums may, or may not have read widely, they may, or may not have a relationship with a known NHS midwife, and the midwife may be too short of time, experience or knowledge herself to be able to help each individual.  Without adequate information about choices in pregnancy the woman may feel she has no choice, and if things don’t go to plan, she may feel things were done to her without her fully informed consent. Feeling disempowered or not understanding why things were done to you in childbirth, can contribute to postnatal depression. After a poor experience women often look for further information and support to prevent the same happening in subsequent pregnancies.

2541987300_7cf0e2543a_mAs an Independent midwife many of my clients come seeking truly unbiased midwifery information, so they can feel empowered in their current pregnancy. Some have suffered previous birth trauma and wish to avoid similar happening again. But why wait until the second or subsequent pregnancy to get a positive birth experience? The first experience of birth is likely to be the most challenging, so it is important that we as midwives know how to serve you best. Unless you tell us what would help, or hinder you in labour, we will not know. Unless you know your rights and the choices available to you, you will not be able to instruct us in providing the right kind of care for you.

This is where writing birth preferences comes in useful. As an NHS midwife I would meet someone (often for the first time) in labour, and have to discuss all the pros and cons of different birth choices. I  don’t mind explaining at all, but Labour is not the right time to be engaging the thinking part of a woman’s brain!

  • Educate yourselves, know your rights and choices before labour starts.
  • Write your birth preferences down. Discuss them with your birth supporters before labour, and share them with your midwife when labour is underway.
  • If you don’t know why a course of treatment or an intervention is being suggested then please ask.
  • If you don’t understand or don’t like the answer then ask someone else.

The Association for the Improvement in Maternity Services (AIMS) are a great resource for anyone having difficulty getting support for their birth choices. AIMS have a booklet entitled “Am I Allowed?” and all over it’s cover it has the word YES. Nothing can be done to you without your informed consent. If it has not been explained to you fully, you cannot make an informed choice. Please buy this book if nothing else (order from website, under “publications”).

Read also Mary Cronk’s assertiveness phrases and practice them in front of a mirror.

Birth Rights is a new organisation founded by a human rights lawyer. The website contains useful fact sheets on rights in childbirth.

The birth bus
The birth bus

 

If you live local to me then find out when I am next holding a midwifery clinic in my Birth Bus (campervan). I park at various locations locally, to give information and answer queries about rights and choices. Just text or email me for dates and venues. These do vary according to my midwifery caseload.

Remember that knowledge is power, and you don’t know what you don’t know- BUT you can always find out and ask WHY?

 

 

 

Mary Cronk’s Assertiveness Phrases

Following on from my “Am I Allowed post” I phoned my dear friend and former colleague Mary Cronk. As well as a good chat with each other, I obtained her permission to post her assertiveness phrases. She re-quoted the phrases that I know by heart, and have recommended to many women. I had the pleasure of working with Mary Cronk for 5 years as an Independent Midwife, and a further 2 as co-teacher of “Once More Unto The Breech” workshops. She is a true Midwife and has spent her life helping women achieve positive birth experiences.

joy and mary307710_251788671525311_932911360_nMary Cronk is an expert in breech birth who has shared the skills of breech birth with midwives and doctors across the United kingdom. She was awarded a MBE for her services to women.

See Mary in action here: Mary

You may find these phrases useful, particularly if told that you are “not allowed” to have your baby at home, or you “have to” be induced, etc.

“I am sure that many others will explain your absolute right to refuse any procedure for any or no reason. The law, and good practice is quite clear. A sensible person will listen carefully to any explanations to why a procedure is proposed, and then should she choose not to have XY or Z she just says no or no thank you. The “allowing” is done by YOU. An asssertive approach is worth cultivating. You may care to commit the following phrases to memory and practice them frequently in front of a mirror. Continue reading Mary Cronk’s Assertiveness Phrases

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