In our culture, sensational stories are everything.
A baby dies under the care of an unlicensed midwife, in a state where the only midwife option is a certified nurse midwife; said unlicensed midwife is criminally charged, on the news and social media; she has her house searched and is taken to jail, only to be released on bond before her criminal trial; the parents of the baby have not initiated any of the persecution.
Just a month or two before, a certified nurse midwife has a baby die under her care. Nothing is said, no posts or social media or anything at all. Google reveals nothing. The community has no idea and any inkling of this death is passed in hushed tones; the CNM has her license removed by ACNM very quietly. There is no case; nothing civil and definitely nothing criminal. It’s almost like it never happened. Said CNM moves on with her life (or so it seems) and even sets up a different business under a similar name.
In both cases, no matter what you think or insist, no one could actually say what happened. Was it a random death? Was it a case of negligent care? At what point did the baby die? Were the parents and midwife on the same page or not? We have no answers unless we were intimately involved, and maybe not even then.
What do these stories hope to prove? What are we looking for? Is this truly the world we wish to live in?
No matter what we do or don’t do, no matter who we are or what our credentials are (or aren’t) babies DO (sadly) die every day. In every country, in every setting for birth, with every provider and also without any provider. Before birth, during birth, after birth. Big babies, small babies, early babies, late babies, sick babies, healthy babies. This is a fact. This isn’t to diminish the profound effect that a death will have on the parents, the family, the provider…and everyone it touches. Yet, it remains a fact of being human. Death is part of life.
There are two general beliefs (and probably more) that came to mind as I pondered this sad disparity in our awareness.
First belief: Death is the ultimate end, the last “risk”, the worst thing that can happen to our human form. We enforce a false belief that Death can not ever be a part of birth. When this happens, we must blame. As a culture, we spend our entire lives, every second and most of our choices in an extreme fear state about death. Death is part of life. Death is part of birth. We aren’t having healthy conversations about this topic in all the ways, and so when death happens, the light is so obviously shined on any potential “murderer” (an absolutely ridiculous term for 99.9% of providers). Death can occur spontaneously without warning, and death can be avoided/prevented occasionally and all providers should be including this perspective as a part of their well-rounded, multidimensional care for women and families. Of course, transparency and full disclosure about the provider’s skills.background.education DO matter, but there is not any provider immune to death (personally and professionally). Yet, we are human, and death is painful for those left living.
Second belief: Women are being lied to. Yes, YOU! There is no only/better/special midwife. All of the unlicensed “myths” are just that, and it would serve every person in this country to investigate the history and point of licensing. Licensing is not to protect the public, as one might think. There is only the one that is right for THAT woman and that family, and god willing, the midwife is honest about herself and her experience. The worst thing we can do is paint this picture of “perfection vs. negligence” when it comes to midwives; whether that is to serve our own ego, the perception our community has of us, OR the idea that a Giant Organization of midwives is free from blemish, free from loss. We can use all of this to continue to separate ourselves from each other.
Licensing has created a false belief that we, the public, are not accountable. Licensing has also taught us that we don’t need to know; and in this old paradigm we are OK with being lied to because when we don’t know about it, it hasn’t happened…right? The old paradigm needs a victim, and a scapegoat.
Licensed vs. unlicensed. Real midwife vs. “fake” midwife.
Life and death.
What is reality? Are these labels meaningful? Do these conversations bring us closer to any real truth? What higher good do this stories serve?
Stories. Beliefs. Fear. Blame.
If you resonate with this post, I ask you to consider how your choices have been reflected in these topics; fear of death, for one. Do you believe anyone else is responsible for your well-being, and what questions about any of it do you have in working with a provider? Have you allowed yourself to consider death (most people are too scared to do that), as well as look at your relationship to it? How would you feel if death were to be a part of your birth experience? (And of course, obviously, it is for many women already through miscarriage and/or pregnancy release).
Surprisingly maybe, I also ask you if you CAN actually be lied to. “Being lied to” would imply that there is someone else who has a part, a choice or opinion or interest in your experience. You can only be lied to if you aren’t willing to do the work to figure out who you are and what you want. Who and what are you letting in so that you can turn away from your true and full responsibility?
What changes can you make in your own life to reflect your ultimate responsibility?
There is no provider, no place, no circumstance that can truly “save” you, so what do you need to do to realize your own power? In our own communities, when a baby dies, what do we need to do to heal? How can we support the family in their grief? How can we support the midwife in her own process? How can we bring transparency and give people a chance to be heard without invoking the criminal process? How can we sort out complex feelings and situations while respecting each of us as autonomous human beings?
I write this to bring these issues to light in a way that I hope makes sense and can bring more change, faster to the beliefs around death, blame, accountability and responsibility. My ultimate hope and dream is that we can shift these conversations to ones that facilitate healing. Practically, I hope that more women and families can be exposed to the kind of care that they really resonate with, and that should they have to walk a hard road, that they have the love, support and integrity to do that knowing that they made the best choices for them. Lastly, there is no anti-death regulation, or practitioner and perhaps it’s opening our eyes wide to all the roadblocks that keep us from true understanding of ourselves and others.
Death is part of life and I see this all as an opportunity for ancient healing.
I recognize this is not popular belief (yay!) and I am posing some big questions. To create change we have to be willing to face them and dig deeper within ourselves, first. Only then will we begin to see the change reflected outwardly. It seems we have a very long way to go. The journey begins here and Now. For every bit of anger, blame, fear that these stories bring up; where are those things in ourselves?
And what is the “work”? The work is recognizing the “sister wound” (as my sister student midwife Annika says) and knowing, FEELING, believing that we have all been this way, many times, in many lifetimes. Is it time to continue our own persecution, the way we have sold our sisters (and ourselves) down the river, many times? Or are we ready to shift the paradigm; are we READY to do our own work and address our own hurt? Only then can we see and feel that the “solution” we seek is within each of us. We are the answer to every problem we have. With each internal shift and change, we get closer to a true revolution of minds and hearts.
May all beings be free.
Please consider purchasing this t-shirt in honor of this topic and to benefit the legal funds of midwife friends. You can purchase it here.
All proceeds from the sale of this t-shirt, “Soul Sister Midwife” will be donated to midwives in the Indie Birth circle that are currently facing persecution.