birth pros and medical freedom
…yet another episode of, “I didn’t see that coming”
In 2020, I was excited to re-join the doula world in Austin, but couldn’t understand why it still felt out of alignment for me.
I think I’ve finally figured it out.
Lots of doulas and birth pros recognize that something is missing in the modern medical approach to birth—
However, it seems that most birth pros aren’t questioning the validity of birth in the system - and they kinda look askance at people who do.
Maybe most doulas, like most people, are mostly okay with the status quo.
I see a lot of loyalty to the medical system…in both birth pros and mothers alike:
Women enthusiastically recommend and go back to misogynistic OBs who are terrible about practicing evidence-based, mother-baby care, but since they’re charming and funny, they get a pass.
Birth pros often worry about what medical providers think of them, to the point that maybe they feel like they can’t tell their clients the whole truth about this practice, that intervention, etc..
Austin is a unique place for birthwork, because a group of longtime birth pros have worked hard for many years to gain acceptance in local medical communities. Here, doulas are even recommended by many of the local OBs. They are not treated as “hospital visitors,” but recognized as complimentary professionals - which is great for doula biz and legitimacy in the eyes of the public. This is amazing in many ways!
…but it can be pretty tricky to practice “with woman” care while working within a system that simply isn’t designed for normal, physiological, undisturbed birth.
You’ll never see me cheering for doulas to be covered by health insurance or employed directly by hospitals, either - because regulation is a slippery slope - but I digress.
Enter the medical freedom “debate”…
In October 2020, I had to suddenly stop working with clients in person because of a knee injury. I’d been doing daytime postpartum doula work with a couple of lovely families, and it took me about 4 months to fully get back on my feet again.
By the time I was healed, a new medical experiment had become available to the public, and it seemed like every birth pro in town was rushing to take part. The ones who weren't, weren't vocal about it, anyway..
In late 2020 Austin, Texas, your options in public were, wear a mask like a good person, or be sneered at and shunned for obviously being a racist Republican who hates grandmas. No grey area.
Silly me. I thought birth pros would be a group who understood the need for medical freedom rights, even amongst those who wanted to get injected.*
Birth pros are a diverse and empathetic group, so I expected to see differing opinions - and respect for all.
Isn't medical freedom a crucial part of supporting conscious, undisturbed birth? Don’t mothers need to be free to do things their own way?
Medical freedom is so important that I believe it’s the Civil Rights movement of our time* - because what could be more fundamental to liberty than our own bodily autonomy?
To retain the right to make irrevocable decisions about our health and wellbeing?
It’s not illegal to disagree with medical professionals and choose how to care for your own body - and of course it shouldn’t be.
The medical freedom community is not “anti-science” by the way; in fact, we want more science. Science that’s not funded by extremely biased sources would be great.
Good science is not a religion to “believe in”, at any rate.
But no - it seemed that the doula world in my area was very much on board with “believing in” the science of the moment, giving up their bodily autonomy, and pandering to fear and manipulation.
I was shocked and saddened, as I realized that here was another degree of separation:
Women who want an undisturbed birth, but are under the care of OBs, are being advised to only hire doulas who’ve taken part in this medical experiment.
Medical professionals have a heavy influence upon new parents - even going so far as to give parenting and breastfeeding advice (often, it’s quite bad advice - but since it’s from A dOcToR it’s treated like straight facts).
With the media still reporting case counts, new variants, and ever-changing policies - I'm not surprised that many new parents are intensely fearful, and of course, they’re relying on the health pros they already trust for guidance.
It's only reasonable that new parents expect their doula to be transparent about their relative risk factors for illness, and to practice good health and hygiene habits.
Yet - it should be obvious that choosing to take part in a medical experiment has
/nothing/ to do with that.
Five years from now, with any luck, it’s likely that nobody will know or care what the “status” is of the people they interact with each day, in either personal or professional settings. This new medical experiment will fade into the background, and be regarded as something akin to seasonal flu shots: Optional, perhaps of some value to some people, but certainly not regarded as a key dividing-line issue of society!
If medical freedom rights are not taken seriously as a measure of personal freedom, then we stand to lose so much more than just our bodily integrity.*
This further clarifies my role as a birthkeeper: someone who supports birth outside the system.
The medical community is like a giant club, and I don’t want to be in it.
So many alt-health folks have spent so much time and effort vying for acceptance by the self-appointed experts - and I’m done trying to gain permission to play a game that’s rigged against me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I love my fellow birth pros in the city … but we have very different approaches on what to do about the broken system of modern birth.
I am lucky to know TONS of amazing, compassionate birth pros who are dedicated to changing the system from within - so they’re willing to comply with whatever the system protocols are, in order to stay and hold space for change. I wish them luck and strength, for what it’s worth. Inelia Benz has a great story about creating change from within, and how often, we are unwittingly supporting what we don’t want.
I no longer believe the system can be changed from within. It doesn’t want to change, but it will absolutely use us for its own aims.
That’s why we must create our own change - outside the system!
*Look, I know this is a tough topic, and I really appreciate you reading this far and hanging with me. You might be one of the many who don’t have strong feelings about the poke, masks, testing, etc. Regardless of what you believe … please: Think about why bodily integrity is and should remain a fundamental human right. Think about what the implications for future generations might be, if we no longer preserve that right. This is not just about us, right now.
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