Monday, April 12, 2010
First, Do No Harm
I have been involved in the local midwifery community for ten years and in those years I've seen a number of midwives who have come and gone. Most midwives have remained in the baby business and have been a wonderful asset to local women, but a few have come and gone and left some unnecessary emotional scars with their previous clients.
I worked closely with a very strong lay midwife when I first moved to the area and she helped me finish my training. During my apprenticeship with her I saw things go on that shouldn't have and that made me feel extremely uncomfortable with. I wasn't in any position, at the time, to voice my opinion and let her know how it made me and others feel, but now I am witnessing the aftermath of her insensitivity and many times, abuse.
A few weeks ago I spoke with a woman that was a client of this specific midwife's and whom I had known from living close to and she poured out her feelings about her last baby's birth. Her child is now four and she is still feeling turmoil about her home birth that turned in to a hospital birth because the midwife wasn't prepared with all of the necessary equipment. I don't know the exact details, nor did I want to pry, but the tone of this woman's voice spoke volumes as to how hurt, disenchanted and frustrated she still feels today about what happened to her.
Stories like these are told to me occasionally as I work with women and we talk about their previous births. Sadly, this is one of many stories about this specific midwife and the grief that still exists with these women who worked with her. I feel for them deeply. I can't imagine holding that kind of sadness for many years over things that occurred at a home birth and knowing how to work through the feelings and move forward seems daunting.
Home birth is meant to be gentle and kind and midwives should be loving, understanding and supportive to the women they serve. When this breach of trust is splintered or abused it leaves a gaping wound in the woman who is affected for many years afterward. This should never be the case! Midwives, of all care providers, should know better or change professions. There is no excuse for emotional or physical abuse during pregnancy and birth!
When medical doctors become professionals they take the Hippocratic Oath "To first, do no harm." Midwives, in my mind, should be held to a higher standard to not only do no harm, but to assist, support and to be emotionally honest with their clientele. Helping women through pregnancy, birth and postpartum are critical times in a woman's life. Each birth experience is imprinted in the mother's and baby's brain and remembered for their entire lives. This is no light calling or responsibility. It is a privelege to work with women and to earn their trust and foster a healthy relationship with them.
I am deeply saddened when I hear women tell stories of midwives gone wrong. I feel these midwives should be peer reviewed by a midwife organization and made to change careers. There is no excuse for the mistreatment of women, ever! Especially with midwives who are to provide gentle, empathic care.
Please be very selective when you choose your midwife. Most of them will meet with you for a free consultation and you can interview them. Word of mouth is always the best referral because you are getting the recommendation from someone who knows them and who has worked with them extensively. Personal experience is always the best recommendation. Be careful and smart and know that unfortunately, not all midwives are created equal.