Because of the unique nature of the role of the SBD doula, we often come in contact with other birth professionals, trained through other birth preparation organizations who do not have the depth of training of birth and bereavement support that we do here at stillbirthday.
It is because of this, that I feel led to write a statement to make it clear of the stillbirthday position regarding an action that occurs among other birth professionals. This should be considered an open letter to those birth professionals (doulas and midwives) who engage in this behavior.
To be clear, I’d like to articulate two terms:
- doula – serves in many ways similarly to a nurse assistant. A doula has varying levels of training in pregnancy and birth related issues. You can see the high standards we have here at stillbirthday before we certify a doula as competent to care for families giving birth in any trimester and any outcome experience. Our training is not only sufficient to certify a qualified professional as a doula, but birth professionals of all levels – midwives, nurses and doctors – can obtain our training and integrate the content into their role.
- midwife – serves in varying capacities based, among other things, state laws and her level of training. A midwife, depending on these and other things, might serve in a birth center or home birth, and, while using significantly less medical interventions as a doctor, serves in many ways in a doctor’s stead. Midwives also work in hospitals.
It is flat inappropriate, to rally with public frenzy for bailout funds, for every incarcerated midwife, simply on merit of one calling herself a midwife. It is irresponsible, shortsighted, and it abandons the reality that both a birth and a death have taken place. It is just as shameful to exploit bereaved mothers’ experiences as an effort to stop homebirth, as one doctor has done.
It is inappropriate for the families that you serve, to see your focus seated squarely and entirely on the legal aspect of these situations with bailout rallies. It shows that your service to families is actually conditional, and that service ends when it becomes uncomfortable for you.
It shows that your reactionary behavior to unexpected infant loss is entirely presumptuous and fear based. “We need to preserve our ability to support *future* families” as a reason for this response abandons the families whom you are already charged with caring for.
I am thankful that the number of birth professionals who respond in this way are few, but, to be sure, the potential damage this response can cause already bereaved families is exponential and catastrophic.
It is important for all of us to remain squarely in our scope.
A baby died. A baby died. A baby died.
Take the rest out of it. Wherever the midwife is – in jail while her accountability is being reviewed by those qualified to review it, or at home, curled up on the couch with a blanket – a baby died.
There are midwives who go into jails to support pregnant mothers. Why aren’t there rallies to get into the jail to simply offer bereavement support to the midwife?
Where is the acknowledgement to the bereaved mother, who has breastmilk and no baby to suckle? Who has lochia and no baby to help shrink her uterus? Who has postpartum hormones spiraling AND grief to mix in with them, and no coohs to listen to soothe her aching heart, no sweet baby smell to console her desperately broken heart? How are you responding? By telling her that midwifery is ancient, that she chose the coffin so let the baby lay in it. By telling her that we don’t believe her, that we don’t care about her, and by the way, would you like to donate to our bailout fund.
In situations like this, stillbirthday has been the only platform that says,
“accountability or not, that is only part of your experience. Let’s begin to work toward holistic healing”,
and we do this, for mothers who believe their midwife OR their doctor OR even themselves might be accountable.
We do this, for every situation, for every birth method, for every person, every time.
To respond in any other way is dishonoring both to the family and to professionals involved, each of whom may be grieving.
To every mother who has ever experienced a pregnancy and infant loss, and who has, additionally, had her involvement speculated, who has ever been made to feel that her child is secondary to any other aspect of her experience, who has had her experience splashed through conversation in any atrocious, predatorial, speculatory fashion, I am so sorry. The possibility of such glaring neglect to your needs can rapidly and easily become a secondary trauma, one which you may need comprehensive support through. You have a right to your own interpretation of your own events, and you have a right to be loved, simply and inherently, as a mother who gave birth, and as a mother who is grieving.
And to every birth provider, of any level, who has ever been incarcerated in regard to your involvement in a birth, I am sorry for the focus that might have been seated squarely in your physical location or even your title, rather than on addressing the grief you may have felt or may feel at the death of the baby whom you were charged with guiding in birth.
To all mothers, and all providers:
May you each, feel validated, for the entirety of what you experienced.
May you each, come to find the releasing, freeing truth, that any guilt – felt, inflicted or accused – is not the entirety of your experience.
May you each, find healing.