The Time Has Come For WOMEN to STAND UP and SPEAK | Indie Birth

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The Time Has Come For WOMEN to STAND UP and SPEAK

June 21, 2017

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit when necessary. With 11 children and 16 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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Fear is the most powerful torture of all. -Lisa Lister, Witch

This blog post is in support and solidarity of Lisa Barrett; a mentor and friend who is being persecuted in Australia for supporting women in birth. Lisa is/was one of the most genuine, humble and brilliant women I have ever met. I want her to know, from across the world, that she is supported and loved. Midwifery is the worse for her not in it, and the price we will pay for her persecution is huge.

I know that we are at a pivotal point in history.

In many ways this is true; but specifically in birth it is true. We are at a juncture where we may not preserve our human rights as (birthing) women.

It’s either going to go this way, or it’s going to go that way. We are literally in the middle, being pulled in both directions, and we must decide what we stand for.

The current system, as many know, is built on fear.

We see our sister midwives being hunted, being chased, searched, thrown in jail, their phones being tapped. It’s enough to scare most people from even considering midwifery as a hobby, much less a full time passion. We see “her,” Lisa Barrett, persecuted and we shrink back in fear.

The fear disables us from speaking out loud, and we act like we don’t know her. Together, we sit with quiet, blank faces and we convince ourselves that it could never be us; we would never make those same mistakes. We wouldn’t do A or B or C, or we would have done A sooner.

We would never displease this system whose permission we “need” in order to care for women. In addition, we hide behind the scenery that the patriarchy has staged for us.

We try to believe that we are safe in their “play” and and that we are promised protection or redemption because we’ve sold ourselves to this whole production. Whether it’s through obtaining a license or following the rules, we are good girls. We believe it and will throw our own sisters into the fire to maintain this image.

It’s dangerous in EVERY way.

We’ve lost who we were, who we are, and traded it in for a permission slip. We are so scared of being wrong, and of really living our Truth, and it’s working out fine for every one else. We’ve forgotten ourselves as women and so we are perfectly able to do the work of the patriarchy without so much as a blink of being unsettled.

Our fear has erased who we are and the complacency has set in. It’s better like this. We should feel “lucky,” having been given permission to attend births. And when babies die, someone should be blamed! We don’t care who or what or when, as long as it is not us. We are good girls.

The new paradigm operates completely differently.

We REMEMBER who we are and what we are about. We believe so much in women, we believe so much in the natural process of birth. Our hearts bleed for our sisters; both those that lose babies, and those that are hung for witnessing the full spectrum of life, which includes death. Our history is not lost on us; we recall in every cell of our DNA that we have spent lifetimes like this. We know in the depths of our souls that we have been burnt, hung, abused and erased. We know well that we have been silenced. But instead of remaining silent now, when perhaps we are at a critical point in humankind, we SPEAK.

To honor women, we must honor and respect ourselves. We can’t keep quiet because it’s not in our souls to do so. To create the new, we shine a spotlight on what’s not working in the old model. Most importantly, we stand with our sisters. We stand in solidarity and love with Lisa Barrett because we should. We must.

“We’re connected, as women. It’s like a spiderweb. If one part of that web vibrates, if there’s trouble, we all know it, but most of the time we’re just too scared, or insecure to help. But if we don’t help each other, who will?” -Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper

As for me, I have no interest in being a good girl. I have spent time on both sides, and Lisa’s journey has me sure of what’s true and right. I am NOT being pulled, not hanging in the balance. I choose to stand. I choose to speak. I will no longer be silenced. I choose to not erase who I am and what my Truth is. I will be first and loudest; no midwife should be in JAIL for attending a birth, no matter what the outcome. If we allow criminalization of midwifery, we allow criminalization of a woman’s choice to birth where, or with whom she feels safest. When we watch Lisa walk though the fire, we acknowledge that we also get burned. I know, as well as I know anything, that she represents all of us. She is all of us, and her persecution brings harm to EVERY woman.

If Lisa’s story makes you fearful of being a woman, I’m sure you are wondering what my “solution” is then; if we are thrown in jail JUST for being midwives, then how can we ever win?

How can we beat this system that ultimately doesn’t even care whether you hold a piece of paper “legitimizing” yourself or not? (And I hope no one reading is surprised by that. Licensing and regulation do not make it impossible to be criminally charged in the legal system).

I don’t have all the answers. But we don’t need answers. The answers come when you STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT.

What I DO KNOW (deeply) is that our change comes from the inside. We do the hard work of knowing that we are worthy, we are powerful, we are strong. No matter what this time we are living in brings, we don’t sell out. We don’t sell ourselves to the pretend “show” and we don’t sell each other out.

Running away does not make us less fearful, but more so. Hiding doesn’t protect us, and the way out of this paradigm is through. Whether it happens in my lifetime or not for 100 years, I could not say. But I speak for my daughters and my great great granddaughters. I will teach them their power and remind them to remember.

Change happens slowly, it seems. But do we not try because we can’t see it happen overnight? Will we allow this to continue so that WOMEN and PEOPLE are thrown in jail and persecuted because of their birth or parenting choices? We must start now. We cannot remain complacent.

To do your part, I ask that you sit with the severity of this place we find ourselves in. You are literally in the middle, being pulled in both directions.

What do you stand for?

What I know is that if you cower in fear NOW, then you are already in JAIL; in a cell that you yourself have made.

The time has come realize you have the power to open the door and walk out.

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  1. Joy says:

    Well said. There is such fear of being a tall poppy by standing up and speaking out that midwives down down, terrified that they’ll be next. Much better to follow the rules and keep your nose clean. But better for whom? Better for the automaton midwife who doesn’t have to engage her brain if she just follows the rules and better for the employer knowing standardised care is being provided to every woman and may possibly bring the insurance premiums down. But this foes not work for many people that we are meant to serve. Women who don’t fit into the box. Scarred and scared women who’ve suffered sexual abuse or birth trauma. These women are left with no choice if they have no access to compassionate, holistic care from a midwife they know and trust. Where I live in the UK women are rapidly losing faith in their midwives. Midwives who limit choices and introduce fear, because they are filled with fear themselves. Our maternity services are failing women and babies, and more women are choosing freebirth. Not as an empowered option, but as a result of not wanting a fearful or bullying midwife present at their birth.
    My career has been very similar to Lisa’s, and I admire her bravery. It takes so much courage to care for high risk women at home. Women who’ve been denied compassionate care elsewhere. We are their only hope and they support us even after a bad outcome. Many of my Independent midwifery sisters have been reported by hospital staff and many have been taken off the midwifery register unfairly. Two fought through the high court and were reinstated. These are competent midwives with 20/30 years experience, who’ve attended hundreds of births with fantastic outcomes. The axe falls when just one baby dies. And remember that my colleagues were exonerated by the high court. Nothing they did or did not do cause the tragic outcome. Their crime was supporting women who others would not care for because of risk factors.
    We must be able to support women in their choices even if they go against our advice. All we can do is counsel families about the potential consequences of their choices based on their individual risks, and our suggested plan for a safe outcome. It is not our job to bully and coerce to save our own necks at the expense of mother or child. I’m sure we all know that medical intervention is not risk free either. My heart goes out to the bereaved families and to Lisa who did her best to support them. X

  2. Sally kelly says:

    Well put. So true we need to stand and be heard and if the women we serve don’t want to lose their birth choices they need to be louder still.

  3. Linda Bennett says:

    Persecution is when there is a political or philosophical reason to bring criminal charges against a midwife, such as the charges the Santa Cruz Midwives faced that ended in a California Supreme Court decision. I was part of that case. Persecution is when a negative outcome with a midwife-attended birth is treated criminally and the same outcome in the hospital, in the hands of a physician, is “an act of God.” Any good healthcare practitioner may make a mistake and have a negative outcome because of that mistake. In medical circles, it is not even considered malpractice. If standard practice was followed, and every opportunity is taken to learn from that mistake, that makes for good medical and midwifery care.

  4. Michelle says:

    Thank you for putting these words to paper, a place they will manifest into our consciousness moreso. I agree! I am not a midwife, I would love to be but chose to be a Doula due to knowing the system would crush my soul. What is happening to Lisa is wrong. And it saddens me that people are sharing her story around as a way of power to shut down homebirth and make hospitals look ‘right’ and a safer option.

  5. Maryn Green says:

    Exactly. The politics behind the case (Of which you may or may not be aware of) does clearly fall under “persecution”. There is no criminal charging of doctors, EVER, when a baby dies. It is, as you say, “an act of God”. The patriarchy exists to support this double standard and as women we need to say ENOUGH.

  6. Maryn Green says:

    Thank you, Michelle, and yes, I can see that you are from Australia and likely have first hand knowledge of the intent of this persecution. I do not doubt of course that it is to deter people from home birth, and from unregulated midwives and all about perpetuating the matrix.

  7. Sarah Beale says:

    Thankyou for speaking publicly for a dear woman and friend. Let’s hope others follow. There is much afoot here in South Australia and much of it will undermine birthing women and families. There will be a groundswell of support – there must be if what we hold dear is to remain. The intent has long been to effectively shut down options for women and in particular homebirth – Lisa is the fall guy. Women must start to speak out and stand up – this is not happening to someone else. It’s happening to us.

  8. Maryn Green says:

    Thank you, Sarah. Brilliantly said.
    We are with you, here, on the other side of the world!

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We are mamas and birth workers who decided to do birth differently– and bring others along with us. We are kind, fun to work with, and great at (lovingly) calling people on their bullshit when necessary. With 11 children and 16 years of midwifery between us, we’ve learned a thing or two along the way, and Indie Birth is our space to share it all with you.

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