Hello, Blog! Its been a while, and we missed you. I know you won’t take it personally, its just that we have been super busy writing The Book. One of the reasons we even decided to do this was to give homebirthing families a voice. Its not so much that this population is marginalized (Well, ok. Maybe a little. We just don’t tend to lend a lot of credence to that sort of stuff.) And it’s not that homebithers have any trouble screaming their truth from the mountaintop. We all love Truth and Mountains.
It’s just that words matter. What we say and how we say it, can profoundly affect a woman’s birthing experience. To recognize and embrace this sacred responsibility can be both awesome and terrifying, and we hop we never take it lightly. Yet, it is also one of our greatest tools, particularly during the prenatal time, and if used effectively, can help a mother access her internal strength. Stories can help a woman come to informed decisions regarding her care, make it easier for her to picture her ideal birth, and strengthen our relationship with her. So pull up a chair, stoke up the fire, and settle in for a spell. Once upon a time…
The most lovingly effective midwives have always used stories as teaching tools. Why? Because most midwives are also parents, and the habit of imparting knowledge and wisdom (along with a few cautionary tales about wolves and such) through story is second nature. Stories are simply more interesting that cold facts. They deal in truth, and even though the details may be fictional, our human hearts recognize and respond readily to truth. Children (and adults who allow themselves to shed their worldly cynicism and overgrown, carefully cultivated sense of irony) know this instinctively.
One short foray onto any internet birth forum will show that woman learn more from each other’s birth stories than almost any other source. We are not even entirely sure how women gave birth before the internets. Mothers are eager to both hear and share their children’s births, and the right story at the right time can have a powerful impact. Midwives, too, are not immune to the lure of birth stories; after all, they have everything! Intrigue! Drama! Heck, they began with SEX! But, to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi before he led Luke into t he Mos Eisley cantina, ”We must be cautious.”
Of course, we try to remove all identifying details from our stories, but there are deeper moral questions to examine beyond a potential HIPPA violation. What are our motivations in sharing this story? If it is to encourage or educate, that will come through. But we must beware of processing externally with our clients. Some midwives spend far too much time in an appointment talking about their latest exploits, sharing the nitty gritty blow by blow accounts of recent births.
This is inappropriate, and can even serve to make the client feel unsafe. After all, if the midwife is talking about this birth with them, how can they be assured their birth will not be similarly dissected? This is particularly true when the client is close to her own birthing time. And if the story does not have a happy ending, then that is now written on the client’s heart; she cannot unhear it, and it may become a book on tape, playing in her head during her own labor.
Worse still is the midwife who shares birth stories to build up her own self-esteem. Perhaps she is particularly proud of the way she handled a difficult birth, and wants to be recognized for that. Or maybe she simply wants to reassure her clients that she knows how to handle an intense situation, such as a shoulder dystocia or postpartum hemorrhage. (Sometimes clients, especially in an interview, will ask for these sorts of examples, and in that case, it is appropriate to share briefly) It is so tempting to make ourselves the hero of our own story, riding in on a white horse, a syringe of pitocin in each holster, saving the day. But the role of hero is already filled, by the mother. We are merely part of larger supporting cast.
It is not our clients’ place to debrief with us, however close we have become. Midwives should always have their own support systems in place, whether that is a formal peer review to discuss difficult cases, or a chat with a colleague over coffee. This is ultimately more satisfying anyway. Good midwife friends know just what to say, and what questions to ask. The story becomes a way to draw closer to each other, and maybe learn a thing or two. The birth of a child now becomes larger, with the telling of the story. It has strengthened relationships, and expanded a community. And it doesn’t get a lot better than that.
Human beings will always be storytellers. It is how we know who we are, and from where we have come. Heck, when Arthur Australopithicus walked into his cave with a rabbit for dinner, we are sure he spread his hands, threw a stick on the fire and began, “So there I was. Surrounded by bunnies…” Stories can warn, educate and inspire, and midwives are in a unique position to harness their power. A story told with kind intention and respect can motivate and inspire, and that, in the best of all possible worlds, is the ultimate purpose of a midwife.
So, this was all a long-winded way of saying that we need your help. Below is a list of sorts of stories that we are hoping to get in The Book. We can use your name or not. We will probably edit for space, but you trust us, don’t you? Feel free to write-up a paragraph or two in any or all of the categories. However, if you could send them in separate emails, that would be great. We divide out work, and that would just be happier for us.
And please spread this far and wide, to anyone you think may be interested. We’d love a cross-section geographically. Your voices are important. We want to tell your Truth.
1. Who did you get most of your support from. regarding your decision to birth at home? Partner? Family? Midwife? Online Peeps? How did they react?
2. Did you have any complications with your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum? Pre eclamapsia? hemorrhage? Shoulder dystocia? Postpartum depression? Anything at all. How was it handled by your provider? How was it different from traditional allopathic care, or was it? How did you react to these complications emotionally? How do you feel your midwife handled them?
3. Did you have any communication problems during your care? With your midwife? Your partner? Your mother? How did you resolve them? Did you have any conflicts regarding homebirth?
4. Did you have any special circumstances with your homebirth? (Note that this is different in our minds from ‘complications.”) Vbac? Twins? Breech? Tell, tell, tell!!
5. Straight up homebirth stories. The good, the bad and the ugly. Bring it?
6. The immediate postpartun hours. Did you fall in love with your baby right away? Did it takes a few minutes, hours, or days? Were there complications in your delivery, and how did they affect your bonding process? Were you triumphant, exhausted or giddy? We want folks to know all reactions are normal! How about repairs? Did you have one? How was your recovery process?
7. Did you transfer? How did that go? Did your midwife discuss transfer beforehand?
8. And finally, how did homebirth change you as a person? Did it affect your philosophical, political or sociological views? Are you more of a feminist because of it? Less? Do you see how you birth as a basic human right? Part of the right to privacy?
Thank you all for your help! We can’t do this without you!