Sue, whose life-changing experience of giving birth to Jack last year, wrote: “And also for me, what is missing, is the focus on the heart. There is birth education out there, but too much of it misses the heart, getting women back in touch with themselves, their inner voice, and waking that up.”
Sue, I totally agree.
The message that women want the three C’s, continuity choice and control, emerged in the
Women told the Health Committee that they want *choice* of care and place of birth. I and many other midwives and birthing activists have chorused ‘choice’ since that time. Yet choice is a slippery entity that easily moves out of reach when in reality the availability of a particular model of care, or a place in a birth centre or even birth at home is easily overruled by other factors. Furthermore, I am sad to acknowledge that in recent years the pendulum has swung in the other direction, with women ‘choosing’ elective caesarean surgery.
Women expressed the desire to have *control* over their own bodies at all stages of pregnancy and birth. Of course, this element is readily agreed to by the midwifery profession, and supportive theories of partnership and cultural safety have emerged. Yet midwives know that the natural processes in giving birth demand a surrender or relinquishing of mind control so that the deeper hormonally mediated forces in a labouring woman can act unhindered. French obstetrician Michel Odent has written books and papers, and taught the midwifery profession about the importance of subtle hormonal influences at all times through the childbearing continuum, and the first year of a child’s life. The term ‘undisturbed birth’ is now used for a birth in which the mother is able to progress without interruption. But a mother in advanced labour, in a quiet, familiar, unstimulating space, cannot give any attention to control. The mother who feels a strong need to control may instead choose regional anaesthesia or even surgery, rather than allowing herself to go “out of control” in a powerful hormonally driven state.
With my mind juggling these thoughts I read the new issue of Women and Birth, the journal of the Australian College of Midwives (Vol 21:2, June 2008).
While midwives can strongly assert our role as guardians of normal birth, and can seek to effect this through primary care caseload midwifery, we do not have ‘ownership’ of the birthing terrain. Neither, for that matter, does the mother, although her ownership of her own body and her experiences is supremely important in a functional society. The whole society has an interest in the next generation, and whether a person is looking from the perspective of a sociologist, an architect, or a farmer, their knowledge is valuable to the society’s provision of services around birthing of children.
Without changing hearts and minds of pregnant women, future parents, fathers, grandparents, hair dressers, shop keepers, and people in all ages and stages and walks of life, the midwife’s skill in promoting and protecting normal birth will not be valued.