Monday, September 24, 2012

Finding Fault in "Limited Choices"

Change is difficult, no doubt about it.  When one door closes, an opportunity arises for something new...dare I say something better?  It is possible.  Sometimes when we don't understand change, it's easy to find someone to blame.  Especially when that change seemingly takes something from us. 

The Greenhouse Birth Center is closing next week...for some a devastating loss, and for others a long overdue wave of relief.  An advocacy group has formed asking for higher standards and safer midwifery practices.  The safety of out-of-hospital birth is under the microscope.  Politicians are talking.  Safer options are coming to town.  Babies have died, babies have thrived, and everything in between.  Media is concerned, as is the State regulatory body.  Resources with accurate information are being developed.  There is no more hiding from the public, the lurking shadows of midwives practicing in unsafe ways.  Women want choice, but they also want those choices to be as safe as they can possibly be.  So what is a community to do? 

There are several things to consider.  First, we should think about why changes are happening in the first place.  Changes are happening because babies are dying that don't have to, plain and simple.  Changes are happening because the foundation of midwifery is cracked, and patched with unethical practices.  It's a bit like erosion, with midwifery as the cliff at seaside that stands tall and proud.  After years of the wind and waves eating away at the surface, slowly cracks penetrate.  Chunks of rock go crashing into the sea.  The mountain from which the cliff emerged, still stands, as do those midwives practicing responsibly.  There is no doubt that the structure is continuously wounded.  The erosion in this analogy refers to is ego, the inability to define risk, and further the inability to admit responsibility.  In many cases, the cracks spread far and wide because of incompetence and fear.   When midwives lie and deceive to skirt accountability, enormous boulders crash into the tumultuous waters below.  A profession cannot stand tall upon these principles and practices.  It simply cannot.  Midwifery, specifically those working in the out of hospital setting, must find a better way to serve women and babies.  It must hold itself to higher standards of education, understanding, perspective, practice, and ethics if women are to rely on it. 

Another question we must wrestle with is considering where fault lies?  Can one person, one family really cause such an uproar?  Some like to think so.  Some like to say it's our fault that changes are on the horizon.  Blame can only be attributed to one family speaking out if  you believe the notion that they are deluded cult leaders who hate midwives and want revenge.  That they are so overcome by grief that they want to take away the rights of others.   Some reason, "They must not see the other side, they must not see that they're taking away our choices."    

Folks, we have seen the darkest side.  A side we wouldn't wish upon anyone, and that is why we speak.  

I have yet to meet a loss or injury family who makes up a story for sympathy.  I've also yet to meet a grieving family who steps into the media to be scrutinized, attacked, and shunned just for the fun of it.  I have yet to meet a loss family who is at fault for taking away the choices of others because they told the truth. 

I have met many families though, who care about people, who care about right & wrong, and who don't want to see what happened to them, happen to others.  I have met many who feel used, manipulated, and duped...whose "choices" were taken advantage of.  Families who share their stories are not persecuting midwives, we are telling a truth that could just have easily have happened to any family.  In making the decision to share our stories publicly, fault is immediately bestowed upon us. It's another burden, along with grief, that we must bear. 

If someone must bear this burden of fault for instigating change, I accept it proudly.  If it is my fault for telling the community what happened to our family, for asking for higher standards, for advocating for safer practices, for suggesting things could be done better, then I accept.  If holding negligently practicing, individual midwives accountable for their actions, means that other mothers in this community have less of a chance of being served by them, and more accurate information about the reality of what is happening in their care, I accept that blame too.  If pointing out to the community, misleading associations between our own state and community, and loss of freedom makes me somehow to blame for misplaced anger, then I accept that.  Only so many babies in our state could be injured or die before someone started to talk about it.  For too long, we thought we were the only family.  Alarmingly, we learned we are not.   If someone or some group of people is to blame, consider the midwives who are practicing dangerously, those responsible for preventable deaths.  

I do understand loss, and I can see that with Greenhouse closing, some are mourning a loss in something they believed in.  What I hope this community one day understands, is that I want something better for all of you than what my family had, and I know it can be done without taking away choices.  It may seem that our choices are limited in the immediate moment, but by raising standards for education and practice, the end result will mean better care, better options, and establishment of accountability in a profession where there is none.  

Change is difficult.  It is especially difficult when it involves people you have trusted intimately, people you think are friends, people who have loved your family and delivered your babies without issue.  The fact is, no matter how great your care was, it wasn't that way for all of us.  It took the most traumatic event of my life to see past the illusion of trust and friendship I had leaned upon for so long.  Something had to change before more lives were lost, and there is more work to be done.  

Instead of misplacing blame because something so many of us thought was real, turned out to be an illusion, we should be asking ourselves: What do these changes mean, and how can we move forward in a way that will simultaneously improve the profession of midwifery for the safety of those who choose it?  Saying women are smart enough to choose isn't enough.  Ignoring the reality of unnecessary deaths and injuries is unacceptable.   Pretending these families are the villains, and midwives are somehow victims is distorted beyond my comprehension.  A shift in focus needs to occur, and it should be about working toward something better for all of us.  Time to talk about solutions. 


  1. It really speaks to your character that you are able to engage in a discussion about making midwifery safer - especially after choosing what you believed to be a safe birth choice resulted in the loss of your son.

    In everything you write, I see a motive of not wanting anyone else to suffer the same way you have. You are shining a light. You have a vital message for midwifery. And it saddens me that no leader in the midwifery community will take your message to heart. And listen to your story. And make home birth safety a primary focus of the profession.

    You are important. Magnus is important.

    To blame you and your son's death for the closing of GBC is turning a blind eye on some serious issues around midwifery practices. Because midwives - TODAY - are still telling women with breech babies that it is SAFE to have their babies at home. They are still telling women that any of their myriad of risk factors are inconsequential - and because of this, many people will suffer.

    It is so sad to see the way home birth loss families are shunned and blamed when they speak the truth about what happened to them. The travesty is not that midwives are being prosecuted by law - or that midwives' OOH practices are closing. It's that the danger of taking on high-risk births OOH is being ignored.

  2. 1 person can do so much good or bad. You claim to want to improve midwifery yet you are really out to destroy it. Don’t fool yourself because you are not fooling others, not for a minute. You devote so much time to hate, on so many levels including multiple hate groups here on the internet, and in what you spew and write. How do you have time to adequately take care of your family? I am concerned for your mental well being, seriously. Remember, we all become a product of our environment thus you have become a bitter hateful person. You are so pathetic that I am very sad for you. I am glad to see you say you take responsibility for (only) some things…

    “Anger is like flowing water; there's nothing wrong with it as long as you let it flow. Hate is like stagnant water; anger that you denied yourself the freedom to feel, the freedom to flow; water that you gathered in one place and left to forget. Stagnant water becomes dirty, stinky, disease-ridden, poisonous, deadly; that is your hate. On flowing water travels little paper boats; paper boats of forgiveness. Allow yourself to feel anger, allow your waters to flow, along with all the paper boats of forgiveness. Be human.”
    ― C. JoyBell C.

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    2. Wow. How amazingly uncalled for. The only hate and anger I see is in this comment right here. It's terribly obvious where the anger and hatred is, and it's not in Sara.

    3. Oh SadForYou, you exemplify so much of the problem right here. The problem is not anger, it is willful ignorance. The problem is not the victims who speak out; it is what happened to them. I love how this natural childbirth movement tells women what their experience of birth should be, lies to them about its safety, and then when tragedy occurs what's the next issue? That the women are bitter and angry. Straight out of the how to oppress women handbook.

    4. Oh SadForYou, how you exemplify so much of this movement. The problem is not the anger; it is the reason for it. I love how natural childbirth advocates tell women what their experience of birth ought to be, assures them it will be safe, and then when tragedy occurs, informs women that it is their anger and "bitterness" (by which we mean persistence) that is the difficulty.

  3. SadForYou, you are the one who we are sad for, with your anonymous troll profile.

  4. SadForYou - you are the one we feel sad for. Take your anonymous trolling profile elsewhere. Sara spreads useful information to women who are being lead up the garden path, whose babies are at risk. You are defending midwives who KILL BABIES.

  5. Sara? Hateful? She's angry, she's strong, and she's amazing. Oh, how awful that she dares speak up about how she was hurt by the NCB movement. Oh, how awful that she wants to prevent other families from having the same experience.

    Sara is a good, kind person, working hard in her son's memory. She doesn't hide, she puts herself out there, and *you're* sad for *her*? Not sad for her loss, sad for...her courage? Her strength? Her convictions? I admire her. I wish she didn't have to be here, doing this work she's doing, but she is a force of good in this world, quite unlike those of you who would rather hold hands with killer midwives than protect mothers and babies.

  6. I see-- telling women that midwives who have less education and training may not be as safe= hate. Insisting that calling oneself a midwife means that one actually has the credentials to safely care for a woman and her baby= destroying midwifery.
    Just trying to keep track.

  7. I see. Educating women about birth= hate. Ensuring that being a midwife means having adequate education and training to keep women safe= destroying midwifery.
    Just trying to keep track!

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  10. SadForYou - You have no substantive evidence to rebut anything in the author's argument, so you attack her character and question her mental health. Thanks for dropping by to illustrate just how shallow and self-serving the fundamentalist NCB movement really is. Heaven forbid we should hold all midwives accountable for their actions and demand that they have uniform clinical and educational requirements! If my baby had died due to the incompetence of a midwife, I'd be damned angry too. As it is, I'm angry on behalf of Magnus, and you really should be too! This isn't about destroying midwifery, but protecting women and their babies from charlatans.

  11. No single person could "destroy midwifery." Midwifery is doing this to itself. This is unfortunate for midwives - but most unfortunate for families who suffer and lose their children due misguided and risky midwifery practices.

    Midwives are doing this to themselves. And they are harming innocent and trusting people along the way.

    I am shocked and saddened - even though I am well aware that this happens - that a loss mother would be addressed in this manner. Though seeing this abhorrent post from "SadForYou" really demonstrates what strength, courage and integrity it takes to speak up. Because on top of losing one's child, the person who speaks the truth about her experience with midwifery risks having her character attacked. This is incredibly distressing.

    If a mother lost her child due to a drunk driver, and she spoke out against the danger and risk of drunk driving, would addressing her in such a hateful way ever be appropriate?

  12. Excpmstudent has it right. No one rallies against mothers who have lost their children due to drunk drivers and then push for stronger laws and regulations to protect others. No one rallies against mothers who have lost their children due to negligence in the hospital and then push for stronger laws and regulations to protect others. No one rallies against mothers who have lost their children due to negligence at the hands of a caregiver and then push for stronger laws and regulations to protect their children. So why in the world would you rally against a mother who lost her baby due to the negligence of midwives who is then pushing for stronger laws and regulations to protect others.

    I am continually saddened by the lack of empathy many of the NCB supporters have for others. If a doctor caused your child harm or death during birth, would you not take action against that doctor? Why is it any different than taking action against a midwife? I honestly don't see the difference.

    I am a supporter of Sara and Safer Midwifery for Michigan. If that makes me "sad" or "hateful" in the eyes of friends or strangers, so be it.


    Marney Turner