In the birthing community, women study, read and generally try to “know it all” in order to avoid being humiliated or gossiped about. Much of what we think is fact is absolutely ridiculous but it’s spouted and re-spouted like the word of God. Degree after degree is attained and door stopper books are accumulated. Education is important but what is behind the insatiable quest to outstrip everyone else in stockpiling maternity trivia? Language and concepts that started off being an authentic expression have been twisted and turned in order to keep rape obstetrics in place. “Family centered care”, “the midwives model of care”, “choice”, “empowerment” —just think of all the words and phrases that have been hijacked and turned into pure pap and then fed back to us to keep the cesarean machinery whirring. Even the word “midwife” has been co-opted and used to describe work that has nothing to do with supporting the health of the greatest number of women and children.
“How can I go to births, make a difference, be famous and brilliant AND never have to go to court?” That question will entertain you endlessly and it niggles at the brain of every birth junkie. I spent a great deal of my life entertaining that question, too. Endless spirals of solutions to the problem: become a registered nurse and a lawyer, become a CNM and a nun, move to Portland Oregon and become president of the Oregon Midwives Association, become a Physician and then just practice as a midwife. . . . . there are many possible strategies. The only problem is that none of them work. If they did work, everyone would do that and then life would be grand. I remember when I stopped strategizing for personal safety: I heard a Midwifery Today tape that included a talk given by Sister Angela, a Catholic nun and a CNM who practices in Waco, Texas. Someone in the audience asked Sister Angela if she had ever been sued. I waited for the answer. Of course, a respected Catholic Nun and Certified Nurse Midwife like Sister Angela would never have been sued. But, lo and behold, Sister Angela replied
“Yes, honey, I have been sued and I want to say that if you’re a midwife and you haven’t been sued, well, line up and take a ticket because your turn is coming.” She went on to say that she had received papers that she was being sued and she knew what to do . . . call the insurance company. When she called the insurance co. there was a message saying “the number you have reached is not in service”. The insurance company to which she’d been paying her malpractice premiums had gone out of business leaving her with no coverage. She said that after that she prayed about the whole situation and asked God if she should carry malpractice insurance. God said “No”, so she has never carried insurance for her birth centre in Texas since.
From her experience, you might want to stop twisting yourself into knots in order to be safe. There is no safety to be had in birth work. No amount of butt covering will avoid the fact that you’re not perfect. If you do something, you will be attacked and, if you don’t do anything, you will be attacked. If you have a certificate, someone will want to take it away from you and if you aren’t certified people will make that wrong. It’s possible to embrace the attack and have some fun with it. In the groups that I work with, we clap and cheer when one of our peers is berated by a doctor or thrown out of a hospital —this means they are having an impact! It means they have thrown a spanner into the cogs of the obstetric machinery and someone has woken up enough to be upset. Anger is a higher state of consciousness than being fast asleep.
One of my favorite philosopher’s on this subject is Helen Keller. Helen Keller became deaf and blind as an infant and was taught to communicate by a particularly gifted teacher. Here’s what she says about the notion of having a nice, safe, comfortable life:
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.
Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)