In the last 24 hours it has been reported that former midwife Lisa Barrett has been arrested on manslaughter charges. The case of the deaths of 5 babies, during homebirths that were attended by Ms Barrett, has been ongoing for several years. And in that time it has been intermittently discussed, at length, in various circles. Especially in homebirth circles.
I’m not going to add to the commentary on the legal proceeding or the legalities of these particular cases. I don’t know enough about the cases to comment on the deaths. I don’t know the ins and outs of the births. I wasn’t at the prenatal sessions. I don’t know the women’s histories. I don’t know how informed the women were (although I do believe that some of them were receiving “standard” obstetric prenatal care). I don’t even know who it was that reported Ms Barrett and pressed charges – was it the parents? Was is the hospital staff? Was it the coroner?
So what do I know?
I know that we live in a capitalist society – without demand there would be no supply. These “illegal” midwives aren’t tracking down pregnant women and forcing themselves on them (unlike some hospital care providers…). If a woman wishes to be served by an “illegal” midwife she generally needs to track them down. Like really search for them. They aren’t standing on every street corner. For many of us it would be easier to find an illegal drug dealer, than an illegal midwife.
I know that there are many women in Australia who, despite knowing the cases mentioned, still list Ms Barrett as a midwife they would happily have attend them during labour and birth.
I know that our maternity care system is in tatters.
Why are women making the decision to use “illegal” midwives?
Because, for many of us, it’s the only way to actually get midwifery care. We are treated like crap by a hospital system that doesn’t think we are capable of making our own decisions or performing risk assessments based on our own circumstances, health, backgrounds, values and beliefs.
Because many of us have had our lives and those of our babies put at risk by a maternity care system that believes that routine care based on hospital policies is superior to individual care based on the woman’s health.
Because many of us have been assaulted in a hospital. We have lived through the repercussions of birth trauma, birth related PTSD, and disconnect from our babies. We know that this isn’t best for our babies, but our maternity care system defines a good outcome as any where the baby and mother leave hospital alive. Regardless of the mental health status of the mother.
Don’t like “illegal” midwives?
As long as “legal” midwifery keeps abandoning women there will be a demand for “illegal” midwives. Because women want and deserve true midwifery care.
Every time a midwife drops a woman at 42 weeks – they are supporting the rise of “illegal” midwifery.
Every time a hospital forces a woman into a caesarean for breech or twins – they are supporting the rise in “illegal” midwifery.
Every time a care provider spells out the risks of VBAC without mentioning the risks of caesarean – they are supporting the rise of “illegal” midwifery.
When the “illegal” midwives are the only ones willing to be with woman, they will become the only midwives that women want.
Don’t want to support “illegal” midwifery? Then stop supporting the obstetric take over of midwifery and start supporting women.
ALL women. ALL choices.