Written by Kirsti Kreutzer
We need hospital stories. If you had great experience or if you had a bad experience in the hospital, if you had an awakening about the ‘safety’ of hospitals, we want to hear from you. Whether you are a birthing mama, a daddy, a doula, a nurse, we need your perspective. E-mail us at email@example.com, and please do not include names.
North Carolina seems to be the most hostile state for folks who wish to seek an alternative to hospital based physicians for maternity care. With no path to licensure for CPMs, physician signature requirements for CNMs and a murder charge hanging over the heads of anyone who dares to practice home birth, I think we win the “most hostile state” award. So maybe this awful environment gives those of us in NC a unique perspective on what’s wrong with maternity care in our country, and motivates us to try harder to find solutions. It certainly has made me want to have face-to-face meetings with folks in power, to try and have a real conversation about the problems we are all a part of creating. In 2009, when the midwives at a private practice in town were fired quite suddenly, we immediately called the head of the Women and Children’s Center here in Wilmington. We asked her for the name of the head of the Department of OB/GYN so that we could write him a letter asking for a meeting. She refused to give us the name! Why? He’s just a person, like us. He’s capable of talking and listening to others, having a thoughtful conversation, right? Over time, we discovered that the ‘hospital’ policies governing labor and delivery are actually written by the physicians themselves – the members of the Department of OB/GYN. The policies, which are not always based on evidence, are put in place by the physicians to protect them and the hospital from law suits.
Last summer, we sat down with the powers that be at the NC Medical Society to explain why we want licensed CPMs in our state. They listened and nodded at the appropriate times, but when we asked how they planned to protect families choosing to give birth at home, they replied, “Go to the hospital.” In March, we sat down with hospital administrators at Outer Banks Hospital and explained why over 400 people in their community had signed a petition asking for access to midwifery care. They told us that they could not afford to hire midwives, because they were a small hospital and did not have the resources. Understandable. But when we explained that women are unhappy with the care they are receiving in their hospital, the physician at the table said that he believed that there were a ‘handful of angry women’ in the community. He also said those women were probably the type of people who were not going to be happy with any type of care they received and that they had simply decided not to like him. He then went on to say they probably ‘hated all men.’ During the meeting, Dallas Bassola (board member of ImprovingBirth.org and the local rally coordinator) made such an incredible point - whenever a mother tells her a story about being coerced or mistreated in labor, Dallas tells the woman that she must tell the care provider how she feels so that he or she can become aware of their behavior and work to change it. But most of the women she has spoken with say things like, “Oh, but he’s so sweet and my son plays soccer with his son” or “But we go to the same church and it would just be awkward” or “I’m friends with his wife and it would ruin the relationship.” And the cycle of fear and intimidation continues, and many of the providers are completely unaware that there is a problem.
And herein lies the problem. We have two groups of people who seem to be afraid of each other. Physicians view every pregnant woman as a possible law suit, a potential accident waiting to happen. Then you have women who have been conditioned to be ‘nice,’ to not speak out when something upsets them because they might hurt someone else’s feelings. And the vast majority of women in this country also fear birth. Ninety-six percent of women go to hospitals because they believe that hospitals are the safest place to have their babies.
So, how do we begin to really have an honest conversation about how to do the work that needs to be done to put women back at the center of their care? To build a system that works for women, not a system that is made to protect providers and hospitals?
We must tell our stories so that the we can begin healing and moving forward. What is happening in our country in hospitals needs to be brought to the light. For too long, the media has perpetuated the myth that home is dangerous and hospital is safe. Let’s really examine just how ‘safe’ it is to give birth in the hospital. [Before we get angry comments about 'hospital-bashing' or 'doctor-bashing,' I invite you to read an old post called, "Time Out for Bad Behavior." We are not, nor have we ever been, bashing anyone. We simply believe that we must address bad behavior in order for it to stop.]
I invite you to contact us at Where’s My Midwife? to share your hospital story. If you had great experience or if you had a bad experience in the hospital, if you had an awakening about the ‘safety’ of hospitals, we want to hear from you. Whether you are a birthing mama, a daddy, a doula, a nurse, we need your perspective. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please do not include names.
***Please indicate in your e-mail if you would be willing to tell your story on camera. We intend to set up a YouTube Channel for this project. Below is an example of a woman telling her compare and contrast story – she had both a hospital birth with a physician and one with a midwife: