BY MARGO BLACKSTONE
Yes, thats right, I’m on a roll here, and I’m not afraid to shine my truth beam at every corner of the birth world, even our own. Autonomous/authentic/independent midwives can lack integrity too.
Oh boy, this one is hard to write (especially knowing I’m going to get comments shaming me for my lack of toxic positivity, but if it’s positive you want, please go read or listen to our hundreds of other amazing resources).
Again, honesty is what I’m aiming for. Earlier this week I wrote a little about the social media birth-lebrities that I wish more people could see through. Many of them are in the freebirth space but I was also talking about many mainstream birth educators, doulas, midwives and OBs who are presenting false, glamorized, sensationalized images of birth and birth work. Ultimately my hope is to inspire people to be more discerning about who they get information from. The online world is full of seriously untrustworthy voices across all specialities, not just in birth.
But today I want to talk about lack of integrity in autonomous/authentic/independent/traditional midwives specifically, and not just in their social media presence (many don’t even have one). In the past we have talked about the way in which most mainstream midwives are not that great (sorry, not sorry), ranging from just not being very creative in their approach, to firing people based on state rules and regulations, to straight up diabolical lunatics who don’t give a shit about women. So if that’s a new idea for you, feel free to explore the places we talk about the places that midwifery in the system (yes even home birth midwifery) has room for major improvement. Here are a few – 1) Doctors Suck but So Does Your Midwife 2) A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: How to Keep Hospital Ritual Out of Your Homebirth and 3) A Midwife is Not a Midwife is Not a Midwife
My main complaint with mainstream midwives, as well as midwives and doctors in the hospital system is the lack of transparency, lack of honesty, and the lack of reverence for women.
But today this other thought came in that felt really scary to finally share, and I knew that if sharing it felt scary then I probably should do it. So here it is!
I would be remiss to not also mention that there are also autonomous/authentic/independent/traditional midwives that position themselves a lot like we do, use a lot of the same language that we use, and that lack transparency and honesty, both in their social media presence as well as in their real life communities.
Where this hits particularly close to home is that there are even former Indie Birth Midwifery School students that I would argue fall into this category. For example, there are some that I think are not even ready to be calling themselves midwives because they haven’t completed (and in some cases barely even began) an apprenticeship. And yet they do. Don’t worry, they know how we feel about this, and they are doing it anyways, so this isn’t talking behind their backs – I’ve said it to their faces.
This looks like fudging the numbers, side stepping questions, or intentionally obfuscating the truth in order to appear more experienced than they actually are. If I’m being totally honest (which is my goal after all) I had to fight the urge to do this myself early on as a midwife. I would hear myself say something like “I did 5 years of an apprenticeship”, KNOWING that they sounded like a lot, in order to make people think I was experienced enough. On every occasion, at least in interviews, and ESPECIALLY if someone seemed really impressed, I followed that up with “it was a very low volume apprenticeship though so it was about 50 births in those 5 years”. BECAUSE I DID NOT AND STILL DO NOT WANT TO GIVE PEOPLE A FALSE IMPRESSION OF MY EXPERIENCE LEVEL BECAUSE THAT WILL 100% COME BACK TO BITE ME IN THE ASS!!!!
And this is where it gets so tricky, because I support women in choosing whoever they want at their birth. I support midwives in exploring non-certification and non-licensing ways of determining readiness to step into the midwife role. I also think transparency is KEY in that process, so when I see people overstating or stretching the way they describe their experience level, or feeding into women’s sometimes Pollyanna ideas about what they might need during birth in order to justify hiring an inexperienced birth attendant, I feel upset and confused. What is the best to have a culture of accountability outside of patriarchal licensing structures. Accountability itself is NOT patriarchal or oppressive. In community we MUST hold each other accountable, and yet we seem to have lost the ability to do so. Calling women out for offering midwifery services too early, even from a place of love (because we don’t want to see them get in too deep, feel lost and unsupported, stressed, scared and ultimately burnt out and quitting) is labeled as “policing”. I’m not saying we need to recreate unjust systems of policing in our communities, but we do need to find a way to have these conversations and do our best to tell women the truth about the people in their communities.
Please, I’m begging all of you out there in the birth world no matter what your message is, or what you’re offering, all the way from the most militant freebirth folks all the way to Dr Amy, just be honest and humble! Be honest about your background and where your ideas come from, especially if they aren’t yours. Be honest about how many births you’ve attended, and in what role. Be honest about the reality of birth and how it can be easy and ecstatic and it can also be really hard. It might even end in death – and sometimes that can be prevented, and sometimes it can’t. Not being fully honest with women about birth, and then convincing them to let you into their experience, or making money off of that, is straight up unethical and lacks integrity. Be honest. Be humble. Your future self will thank you for not making them look like a fool.