As I was traversing Pinterest I came across a blog here on WordPress called “Outlaw Midwives” and while skimming the articles, I found this one: http://outlawmidwife.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/on-safety-and-consent/; shortly there after I re-read an article also touching on “safe birth” by my mentor, Krista Joy Arias over at MamaMuse: http://www.mamamuse.com/2011/05/trust-love/.
They sparked a thought process in my head that I hadn’t considered before. An idea, a philosophy, that so many mainstream midwives, pro-homebirth (*cough* midwife-attended homebirth) campaigners, etc. would be furious at. Especially when it challenges their biggest ideal: “trusting birth”, that birth is “safe”. My thought process was similar to that of the Outlaw Midwife’s, supported by Ms. Arias’s points.
What is “safety in birth”? Why do we seek “safe birth”? Is it just a ploy by pro-midwifery-licensure campaigners to gain more support? They are trying to not “scare” anyone. “See, look! Birth IS safe if you don’t receive interventions!” But that’s just it. We find comfort in “safety”, even if it is just perceived– which can be dangerous in itself. Our culture, our society, fears death. It fears it, and it is taboo to not fear it, to accept it as an every-day Right of Passage. We fear it, so we fight it with medication and technology. We fight it down to our very cores, though there is a place in our souls, in each of us, that knows Death, and accepts it. But we fear letting that part of ourselves, that part of our humanity, out into the light of day.
To me, Death is a part of Midwifery. It is a part of Motherhood. It is a part of Life. There is no escaping it (though we like to think as much). And the rituals and chants, the songs and whails surrounding the Rite of Passage that is Death (and all other Rites as well, really) are being forgotten. But there are those Rogues who are grasping at the slipping rope, trying desperately to pull it back up to the surface before all is lost to the sea of modernization and technological advancement.
Consider the following taken from the blog over at Outlaw Midwives:
“this idea of safety is so ubiquitous that even the controversial ‘trust birth‘ movement says, birth is safe, interference is risky, as if the question on the table is, how do we have the safest birth possible? do we follow medical protocol, mainstream midwifery protocol, more ‘hands off’ protocol…which one is safer?
but i want to question, why is safety the goal? why do we first tout how safe a procedure, before we talk about whether the mama has given informed consent? and why when we talk about informed consent, we often boil down to whether or not the mama consented to this procedure, despite or because of the risk or safety of the said action? feel me?
what is safety? being alive? fitting into the normative ideas of healthy and average?
and how do we determine safety? through clinical studies? medical tradition? anecdotal evidence? expert opinion?”
Really consider that for a minute…. “What IS safety?” ….. “WHY is safety the goal?”
In the words of Krista Arias:
“So, when I hear someone say, Birth is safe or Trust Birth –your body knows how to give birth, something in me rebels.
“That’s not true,” it says.
“Birth is anything but safe.”
Birth may not be a medical emergency, but that does not mean it is safe. It is a serious and intense rite of passage that can shake us to our depths. Persephone’s trip to the underworld was not safe. Safe is a cop-out in life, and in birth.”
Let me repeat that: Safe is a cop-out in life, and in birth.
I feel that women, midwives, mothers… that they should not focus on “safety” and “what-if” and “Where did we go wrong” or “What could have been done to make it safer”. Instead, they should focus on allowing what is to be, allowing the birth to unfold in the manner of which it is meant to. Even if you attempt to do what you can with what skills and knowledge you have, and the “best outcome” doesn’t happen, accept that. Accept it as it is. Be present, be responsible, and own the part of the story that is yours. Meet mothers where they’re at. Do not hold judgement. Know the rites, know the rituals, know the words and the way of life and death and you can accept it as it comes, and help mothers and families to do so as well.
Another thought from the Outlaw Midwife:
“i guess it is because i think of safety/security as an illusion. there are no guarantees in life. and playing the statistics game (deciding ones protocol based on what has proven to be statistically safest or most effective) is a fools errand. because you can easily find yourself in a situation where you do all the right things and the outcome is horrible. and you can do all the wrong things and in the end everything turns out just how you wanted.
and if something is 99 percent effective, and you turn out to be that 1 percent, do you really care that 99 other people had difft outcomes? and what if you are the mama and you lose your babe, because you are the 1 percent? is your grief any less? probably not.
but yr grief probably is harder if you were told to go against your own motherwit, because the stats said xyz.
and if you did follow your intuition, and the outcome is not what you expected, then at least you can take responsibility for what happened. rather than blaming mw’s and obgyns etc, ppl who have little accountability to you, and will go on doing their jobs barely remembering you existed a couple of weeks or months later.
i dont know. i tell mamas, look, everything will not be perfect. but if you follow your own sense of what to do, then you are taking responsibility for your own life and choices. everybody has to be who they are.
and from what i have seen if you follow your own sense of what to do, then you will have more self-respect, self-love, self-empowerment. and the more that we value ourselves, the more we are able to value others around us, including/especially our children.”