Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reflections on the Trust Birth Conference

I’m happy to say that the Trust Birth Conference far exceeded my expectations! It was wonderful to connect with so many people I had corresponded with over the years but never met in person. All the sessions I attended were excellent. Each of the speakers stayed true to the Trust Birth slogan: Birth is Safe; Interference is Risky. Speaking of which, apparently the sign we had posted in the lobby (which bore the slogan) did not go over well with some of the hotel guests. A group of surgeons complained to the management, and asked that the sign be taken down! The surgeons felt we should not be able to make a political statement (dare I say, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet?!). Fortunately, the sign remained. :)

I wish I could say I took lots of pictures but I didn’t. The reasons for this are as follows: when it comes to photography, I suck, and I truly wanted to immerse myself in the experience and not be concerned with documenting it. Believe me, I was there! Thankfully other people took pictures. Click here to see Brenda Capps’ pictures, and here to see Gloria Lemay’s.

One of the MANY highlights for me was the panel discussion on “Why Women Stay Home...Alone!” Several of us on the panel had been a bit concerned that we might endure criticism from midwives, but I can honestly say that not one of the midwives in the audience had anything negative to say about UC (unassisted childbirth). After my fellow panelists (Melissa Collins, Heather Cushman-Dowdee, Jody McLaughlin, Rixa Freeze, Heather Brock and Emily Reeves) and I shared our reasons for choosing UC, the discussion turned to how we can build a bridge between UC and midwifery. I was thrilled to learn that there are many midwives who truly want to help women in their quest for a UC, whether that means being a back-up, doing prenatal care, offering knowledge and support during the pregnancy and/or checking on the mom and baby after the birth. I never felt I needed this but I understand that some women do, and so I’m thankful there are midwives who are willing to provide this service. The discussion was so productive that midwife and UCer Kristi Zittle set up a Yahoo group with the following description: “An elite group of women joining together to find a common bond between hands off midwifery and the power of the unassisted birthing woman. Our goal is to meet the needs of all women without interfering with the natural processes of birth; and, through the dispelling of birth fears!” To join the group click here.

Of course I know that not all midwives support UC, and even some who do are reluctant to help those UCer’s that request it for fear of losing their licenses should something go wrong with the birth. This is why my midwife friends (and I suspect many of the midwives in the audience) have tended to fall into the following categories: no longer practicing (either by force or choice), unregulated, underground, or licensed and regulated but willing to break the law. As several of the midwives pointed out, a midwife basically has to decide who she’s going to answer to: the woman or the state. Those who decide to answer to the state may be able to help women that have text book labors, but they will hinder women whose labors deviate from “the norm.” Does a woman truly need to transfer if her water has been broken for more than 12 hours, or her placenta isn’t delivered within an hour of the birth? In most cases, I don’t think so. But a midwife who answers to the state will do this in spite of the fact that she knows it's unnecessary.

There is so much more I could write about (and so many people I could thank/praise) but I’ve been home for a week and I'm still trying to catch up on email, work, etc. To those who would like to read more about the conference click here.

As you’ll see, I’m not the only one who didn’t want it to end! In fact, conference organizer Carla Hartley (who will forever hold a place in my heart) is already talking about having another conference in 2010. I’ll keep you posted! For those of you who weren’t able to attend (and even those who were) recordings of the sessions will soon be available for purchase here.


Boriquita said...

It would be great if the conference next time is in the EAST coast! :)

Kimberly said...

Ridiculous that the group of surgeons tried to politicize the slogan. I'm glad the hotel didn't cave to their complaints!

Thanks for all of the great links in this and your other posts. I'm not sure why I am just NOW discovering your blog. I'll enjoy learning more about unassisted birth.

~ Kimberly

Augusta Cherri said...

Crazy! It just shows their true colors, since it didn't say "interventions are risky" or "medical help is risky" or even "hospital births are risky." All it said was "interference is risky." I guess even THEY know that what they are doing is not help, but interference.

Glad you had a good time, though, and that the message of UC is spreading. Thanks for continuing to speak out!

Kneelingwoman said...

I'm one of the MIdwives who has "helped" UC families when asked and I am also no longer practicing Midwifery; I've "retired" so to speak. I find one aspect of your statement here needing clarification: The idea that a given Midwife has to "decide" whether she answers to the "woman" or to the "State" assumes that this is a real choice; it isn't. The Midwife is answerable to the "State" no matter what, as is every other "health care" provider including those who are unregulated ie. traditional midwifes, herbalists, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians etc. The State can come after any practioner regardless of the so called "choice" made by the provider! I can, and have, chosen to be "with women" but in the event of a poor outcome for mom or baby, I can be prosecuted.

I think that one of the issues I, and many other Midwives have with this line of reasoning is that it is, in fact, unreasonable. It projects a judgement on Midwives that is, on it's face, simplistic and unrealistic. It also implies that there is a real "choice" involved here. True choice implies, and demands, freedom. We are not free to choose to simply serve women as the women would like--we just aren't. I find the underlying criticism inherent in this offensive and I've heard it from many quarters, and it's been written to me on my own blog--Midwives who won't disobey the law, or risk their own freedom, liberty and security aren't "real" midwives or should get out because they're "fearful" of consequences. The real and truly disheartening result is that many wonderful midwives are doing just that: getting out. Myself included. I was alone, in my entire State, in protecting and defending the rights of women to UC and I made an offer to provide free of charge, any resources or help needed by UC families at any time by publishing an article on UC in a well-known magazine and women around the country wrote and called and I helped in whatever way I could; no questions asked. I stopped when I realized that people were taking genuine risks with their health and the health of their babies and yes, there were baby deaths within these UC families that didn't have to happen if people were willing to accept that nature is not always kind and sometimes, we need medical help. I found then, that even mentioning the fact that there are risks, significant risks in birthing resulted in outraged anger and resentment so, I hung up my fetoscope after many years and said "enough". My point here is that natural birth is not served by making suggestions about "choice" that can actually be lived out. I can be arrested and prosecuted for someone's "choice" and I have no "choice' at all about that except to say no.