The call

NS January 2nd, 2011

Soon after I became a doula, I considered shutting down this blog.

I’ve grumbled before about the possibility of having nothing left to say or being tempted to throw in the towel but I can never quite bring myself to do it. This blog has been a major part of my life and, dare I say it, my identity for the past (coming up to) 6 years.

So I’m not going to shut it down. I may post more infrequently, or in manic bursts between silences, but I’m not ready to let go of the part of myself that still believes I am/will be a writer.

That said, I think I have a new calling.

When I became a doula, I wanted to help women have better births. After writing about, reading about and now even witnessing firsthand the terror and trauma that so many women go through (often unnecessarily) to give birth, I am even more devoted to not only helping individual women receive better care and become empowered enough to make their own choices, but to actively fighting to change the appalling state of maternal health in the UK and around the world.

Here are a few facts to chew on†:

  • If you are a north-western European woman, your risk of dying in childbirth is 1 in 30,000; if you live in Afghanistan or Sierra Leone, your risk is 1 in 6
  • Every year over half a million women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth; 99 percent of them are from the poorest nations
  • Preventing unwanted pregnancies would reduce the maternal mortality rate by a quarter. At the moment, more than 68,000 women die from unsafe abortions every year
  • There are not enough midwives. One in four women in the world give birth without a skilled attendant present. Even in industrialised, wealthy nations, women are frequently left unattended or unsupported as they give birth, resulting in both physical and emotional trauma
  • Women in poor countries lack access to needed caesarean surgery; women in rich countries are subjected to too many. Both have dangerous implications for maternal health
  • The child of a woman who dies in childbirth is much more likely to die before the age of two

In the UK, David Cameron is revoking his campaign promise to provide at least 3,000 more midwives within the NHS, the minimum number needed to bring the service to a safe and acceptable level. Once again, as they do the world over, politicians’ lips do a lot of moving but their commitment to actually providing the funding and resources is non-existent.

Do we really matter so little?

NHS midwives are stretched so thin that at the Royal College of Midwives’ recent annual conference, RCM General Secretary Cathy Warwick painted a bleak picture of maternity services and warned that they are at the breaking point. In today’s Observer, on the front page, Warwick warns once again that if the maternity services don’t improve quickly, it is only a matter of time before it begins to break down completely, further endangering women’s lives and those of their babies.

If we can’t get maternal health right in even the most prosperous, wealthiest nations in the world, what hope do we have of bettering conditions in developing nations where conditions are much worse?

Even Dr. Tony Falconer, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, today issued a warning that women who give birth at night are at greater risk for inadequate care due to staff shortages and inexperience because senior staff tend to work during ‘normal’ business hours. This, despite the fact that many women go into labour and arrive at hospital in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning. I’ve personally heard countless stories of women in full-on labour being turned away because there just aren’t enough midwives to cope and being sent to another hospital, A&E or being forced to give birth unattended in a waiting room, corridor or car park. It does paint a rather worrying picture, doesn’t it?

That’s why I’m working on a new project, one that will hopefully combine my passions for birth advocacy, feminism and writing into one big ball of justice-seeking, anger-tinged-yet-hopeful blogginess. I’m hoping that all will be revealed in the next few weeks so watch this space. I do believe that 2011 is going to be a busy, busy year.

Bring it.

†All stats taken from ‘The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts Are Bad For Business’ by Gabrielle Palmer

Photo credit

9 Responses to “The call”

  1. Iota says:

    I’m wondering why you’ve titled this post “The Call”.

    Sounds like you’re full of energy and vision, which is always good for a New Year.
    Iota´s last blog ..Random things to end to the year withMy ComLuv Profile

    NS Reply:

    @Iota, Nothing significant about the title, just that it was about finding a new ‘calling’ so was a (perhaps bad) play on that.

  2. afteriris says:

    I’m excited to hear more about your new project.

    NS Reply:

    @afteriris, Thanks! I’ll hopefully have it off the ground in the next couple of weeks.

  3. Charlotte says:

    Now I’m all excited and curious! Please don’t hold out on us too long.

    Also, just want to say if you ever want a blog post on how *amazing* my doula experience was, then let me know. She gave me the courage to have a home-birth second time around, that led to my planned home-birth third time around.
    Charlotte´s last blog ..10 Things for 2011My ComLuv Profile

    NS Reply:

    @Charlotte, Yes please! I would love for you to guest post on your doula experience. Whenever you’ve got time, send something to me. :)

  4. geekymummy says:

    welcome back. Congrats on the new career. My doulas were amazing inspiring people, I had such lovely births. How wonderful to be able to give that gift to people. You rock!
    geekymummy´s last blog ..Snow- Sand and Bounce Houses- Reflections on a yearMy ComLuv Profile

    NS Reply:

    @geekymummy, I love it when I hear of people having multiple doulas. All that support in one room! Fantastic.

  5. A fantastic calling – if I can add my voice please let me know, the more I hear about the treatment of women in childbirth, the luckier I consider myself to have been able to educate myself to opt out of so much my peers tell me is ‘obligatory’.

    I’m so pleased that your work as a doula is making a difference – I wish every woman could have access to a trusted supporter during her births