but not all midwives greater manchester doualas
Human Rights, Uncategorized

5 reasons to stop saying, “But not all midwives!”

When women dare to speak out and share negative experiences of maternity services,  somewhere along the way there are shouts of, “but not all midwives!” – or other comments with a similar sentiment.

Here are just some of the reasons why “not all midwives” is both an insensitive and inappropriate response, and one that misses (or perhaps highlights) the point of us sharing these stories.

✨ Nobody was claiming “all midwives” in the first place

but not all midwives greater manchester doulasIf you are a midwife who provides respectful maternity care, and you have a solid understanding of birth rights, then we aren’t talking about you. We are speaking from our own experiences and using our platform to lift up the voices of other women.

Nobody here is trying to make any sweeping claims about any particular group. Sometimes a woman’s negative experience involves doulas, obstetricians and birth partners too – all of whom may have played some part in how her story unfolded. Often though, these stories are focussed on the midwives who were present, and we shouldn’t have to shy away from these lived experiences in order to make other people feel comfortable. Disrespectful, disempowering, and harmful practice exists within maternity services whether “all midwives” contribute to it or not. Attempts to pretend otherwise just makes you part of the problem.

✨ Nobody is claiming that midwives are the enemy

It is not our aim to attack midwives. These conversations are about supporting women to critique systems and institutions that largely do not value women’s rights. If you read our posts or watch our videos, and they get your back up then I think your intuition is trying to tell you something!  Our defensiveness can shed light on how we contribute to these systems and it’s good to be curious about that.

As birth workers, we have an ongoing responsibility to reflect on the role we play within the institution that many women choose to birth in. We have a duty to explore how we may be complicit in the systemic abuse that takes place, and do our own inner work to do better and improve our practise.

✨ One midwife who provides poor care is one midwife too many

It doesn’t matter if you are an individual practising midwife who provides women centred care. The point is that there are midwives who don’t. When a woman invites a midwife into her pregnancy and/or birth, she has no way of knowing which way their bread is buttered. Especially when women still don’t benefit from continuity of carer, and often see a new midwife every time they engage with the service.

Supporting women to access knowledge and wisdom from a variety of sources helps to make sure that their power remains theirs. Surely we all want that?! This offers women some level of control and a buffer from midwives who don’t listen and who don’t offer holistic care.

Trying to reassure with comments that simply aren’t true, and telling women that they shouldn’t be concerned or afraid because “not all midwives” is gaslighting. It’s the same old coercive crap we hear every week from conversation with your service users, and it completely invalidates the experiences of those women who didn’t receive individualised care.

✨ The industrial model impacts everyone

Whether you like it or not, if you are a midwife practising within an industrial model, you have likely picked up habits that do not serve the women you are trying to help. Yep, I said it! Even if you believe you are fighting the good fight – you are working within an institution that as a whole does not value women’s rights. This impacts on every woman who experiences it, not just those giving birth. Each member of our team has experienced vicarious trauma as a result of witnessing what we know to be standard practice. Midwives do not exist in a vacuum and it is naive to think that the way you work is not impacted by the environment you work within. It can only help the women you serve to take every opportunity to listen and learn from their very valid and real experiences.

✨ This isn’t about making midwives the enemy, it’s not about you!

it's not all about you judge judy

When we hold space for these discussions, we are talking about large-scale, structural, systemic inequalities and abuse. Why wouldn’t you want women to know about this? Why wouldn’t you want women to be armed with information from a variety of sources so that they can make informed decisions at every step of their journey?

Shifting attention by jumping in with justifications and defensive comments only serves to detract from women’s stories. Shouting “not all midwives” doesn’t add to the discussion or develop it in any way. All it does is derail and dismiss the lived experiences of the very women you say you support.

When a birth worker has the opportunity to learn about women’s experiences of pregnancy and birth, we have a responsibility to hold space for their stories. Not to defend, but to listen. That is surely at the heart of what we do? If you are not listening then how can you be ‘with woman’?

If you are a woman who has been harmed by systemic practices in any way, midwives and other birth workers included, then please reach out for support. Our Holding Space support is for every woman so drop us an email to hello@greatermanchesterdoulas.com or fill out our contact form – we would really like to hear from you. 

women marching with flags
Birth, Human Rights

A letter to midwives who have lost their way

Dear well meaning midwife,

I’m sure you found your way to this role through good intentions. I imagine you became a midwife through a passion for women, or a call to contribute towards positive change within the birth world. Somehow though you seem to have lost your way. Can you see? Can you recognise that in your attempt to change a patriarchal system, you have become part of the problem – but you don’t have to be.

You can stop reporting women to social services for believing in their bodies and their ability to birth their babies without your help. It is a woman’s human right to choose a wild pregnancy and/or freebirth. Maternity services are not compulsory.

You can stop infantilising the women who ask for your support during their pregnancies, and those who invite you into their sacred birth spaces. They don’t belong to you and they are not little girls you can judge to be good or bad. They are whole women who deserve to be treated as such.

You can stop acting as the gatekeeper. Stop “allowing” or “not allowing” women to make choices that they know to be in their best interests. And what is best for a woman is best for her baby – because nobody cares more about the wellbeing of a baby than its mother. It’s not your job to ensure women are making informed decisions. It’s your job to offer balanced information and above all trust women. They are the gatekeepers, not you.

On that note, you can stop lying to women about the options that are available to them or giving them false information. I’m tired of hearing women tell me, “I didn’t know”. They didn’t know that they could say “no”, or that they didn’t have to go for that scan, or accept that vaginal examination. They didn’t know that your policies aren’t always evidence-based or in their best interests. Do you see how coercive this is?

You can take the time to recognise and examine your personal bias. There is a reason why black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy and birth than white women, and it is not because their bodies are broken. Acknowledge the systemic racism in maternity services and do the work to change it.

You can brush up your knowledge on what constitutes informed consent before going back into work again. When you carry out intervention without informed consent, it is assault. This might help… 

informed consent definition

“For consent to be valid, it must be voluntary and informed, and the person consenting must have the capacity to make the decision.
The meaning of these terms are:
Voluntary – the decision to either consent or not to consent to treatment must be made by the person, and must not be influenced by pressure from medical staff, friends or family.
Informed – the person must be given all of the information about what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment does not go ahead.
Capacity – the person must be capable of giving consent, which means they understand the information given to them and can use it to make an informed decision.
If an adult has the capacity to make a voluntary and informed decision to consent to or refuse a particular treatment, their decision must be respected.
This is still the case even if refusing treatment would result in their death, or the death of their unborn child.”

This isn’t about bashing midwives. I know that wonderful women-centred practice happens. But it doesn’t happen enough. I see midwives fighting for change, but I also see midwives who prop up a system that thrives on hurting women. If you are not fighting against the abuse of women in maternity services, then you are part of the problem.

What can you do instead? Offer women all the information, not just part of the puzzle. Respect women’s bodily autonomy above everything and call out anyone who doesn’t. Trust and believe in women, their bodies and their instincts. Support women who are finding creative and intuitive ways to birth safely in a world that does not care about them. That is what being with women is all about.

international day of the midwife
Birth, News

International Day of the Midwife 2020

Today is the International Day of the Midwife 2020. Whilst we are not midwives, our roles often sit side by side and our missions closely aligned. We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate midwives around the world whose life work is to truly be ‘with woman’.

In a world where women live and birth within patriarchal institutions and normal, physiological birth is unnecessarily pathologised, traditional midwives can play such an important role. Their knowledge and wisdom is a much needed reminder that industrial birth is not our only option. They are a wonderful support that women can look to on their journeys to powerful, ecstatic births.

international day of the midwife

Today we celebrate and hold space for midwives who are choosing to create new paradigms, rather than engage in futile fights with broken systems. Heart led midwives who serve the woman above all else. Protectors of physiological birth. Birth keepers who trust women all the way, and know in their hearts that we are the ultimate knowledge when it comes to our own bodies and babies. In particular we hold those midwives who have been persecuted for believing in women and providing women-centred care despite the risk to themselves. Thank you.

Sending you all so much love and respect!

Lori, Elle & Amy x