I have tried to steer clear, up till now, of what I call “communicating by blog”. You know the sort of thing, a blog post clearly aimed at one or two people but written so everyone can read it and you end up thinking, would a conversation not have been better? But with this issue, although a handful of people may have sparked the post it genuinely is aimed at everyone involved in #MatExp, the National Maternity Review and improving maternity care. And what I’d like to say is this:
Please just stop. Enough already.
I am referring to the posts, tweets, conversations and debates I see all the time about patient safety and natural childbirth. It makes me feel sick and frustrates me beyond measure because this polarisation and posturing are deflecting attention from the fact that there are changes that DO need to be made to maternity care. And they are changes we can all get behind.
When did “normal” childbirth become at odds with patient safety? Seriously, when did that happen? Incidentally, for a discussion on why the word “normal” may not be ideal please click here, but for the purposes of this blog post I am referring to intervention free childbirth. Some women feel that this is what they want for their family. Some people choose to talk about these women as though they are dangerous idiots, caught up in a hippie fantasy of childbirth somewhat akin to a Disney move.
Some other women feel that a more “medicalised” birth is what they want for their family. Some people choose to talk about these women as though they are mentally scarred, weak-willed and submissive.
It disgusts me. But you know what is far, far worse? Those same people who are judging women’s choices also appear to be pretty sure that they know what is best for families. For people they have never met. They know what’s best. And the people they disagree with are characterised not only as not knowing best, but as being a dangerous and negative influence on families.
Which is patronising nonsense. Of course some people are easily led, easily influenced. But the majority of families make decisions that are best for them based on the information that they have about both the choices available and their own circumstances. To suggest that some noisy voices on social media are adversely influencing these families suggests that our fellow humans are credulous fools. Please stop it.
Some people view risk differently from you. They do. They have read everything you want them to read, they have heard all of the stories you want them to hear, and they have made a different choice. A different assessment.
Deal with it.
It is so easy to get angry with each other online. Anyone who knows me will know that I am far from immune! But creating “sides” and then pushing those sides further and further apart cannot possibly help anyone. The further into a corner someone is pushed the less likely they are to ever modulate their position or to admit that they have made any mistakes. It is a human response. “Backing down” is incredibly hard. For all of us. And it gets harder the more we have been forced to defend our position. This is not discussion or debate, it is division. The total opposite of progress.
The #MatExp heart values are, I believe, what is needed as the focus of maternity care. Choice. Compassion. Kindness. Dignity. Respect. Appropriate Language. If every family experienced these things in their journey to parenthood so many of the problems that both “sides” are fearful of would be resolved. Yes we absolutely need families to be safe. Yes we absolutely need to understand the physiological process of childbirth. If anyone truly believes that those two things are incompatible, or that someone in favour of one cannot be in favour of the other please just step away from discussions about maternity care. Please step away and reflect. Because things DO need to change. But pushing at each other in fear and anger will not achieve that.