Thursday, November 25, 2010

Before It's Too Late

I have had horrible nightmares my whole life that I am in a situation where eminent danger warrants blood-curdling screams, but regardless of how much effort I put into it, no sound comes out.  I feel myself bursting at the seams in utter frustration, because even if I am in a crowd, everyone is oblivious to what I am trying to get them to hear.

I am living that nightmare every day.  I am screaming about the erosion of birthing rights and the possible loss of all parenting rights that could result from the effort to increase midwives' status. There is a VERY dark cloud looming over our children's and grandchildrens' futures but few are paying any attention to me.  Most are patting me on the head while they order my straight jacket.

People keep telling me to tone it down. Even good friends telling me that I am too radical, and some even think I am crazy.   Maybe, but this crazy, radical Baba is on a mission all day and up with worry  all night, driven by a sense of urgency that I cannot control.  I want to tell as many people as I can, as quickly as I can and with as much conviction as I can:


I feel like Chicken Little, and have for more than three decades now.  I consider licensure of midwives as the most ominous threat to women's rights in history. Yet there are just a few of us who realize the threat even exists.  How can women, especially women who would call themselves feminists, not see what is happening? If women lose their birthing rights, they have lost all their rights. Really, if a woman cannot choose where and with whom she will birth, what else is there to lose?

I thought about this for some time on my drive back from speaking on the importance of "self directed birth" at the APHA conference. It was a very surreal experience.  There was no way for me to prepare for it.
I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie.  While people threw around terms like "policy" and "payer" when they questioned me, I was trying to get them to hear the words; "parents' freedoms" and  "erosion of women's rights."  Either people stared back with me with glares or their eyes were glazed over as if I was speaking a foreign language. I made a case for the fact that The Big Push will marginalize women's rights like nothing in history, but it angered some and was of no consequence to others. I wanted to scream: "Don't you realize that if we lose our birthing rights it will have far-reaching and perhaps permanent consequence for everyone? This will affect your children and grandchildren.  How will parenting, and more to the point, our entire way of life change if parents lose their rights to make choices about how they bring their babies into the world?  What will happen if all birthing decisions are determined by authorities rather than the owners?"  The very nice group who invited me were politely, but only marginally, interested,  but obviously they did not embrace my cause.  I wanted just one of them to say, "You are making sense, we are with you; parents' rights trump the rights of midwives, doctors and insurance companies."  I wanted them to see that if we put parents at the forefront and the professions second, it would solve most of the issues surrounding birth. But once again, a few pats on the head, now be on your way. 

I was grateful to be invited to speak on that topic but the truth is that, for the most part, I was making my case to the wrong crowd. It is NOT doctors, hospitals and policy makers who are the greatest threat to women's birthing rights at this moment in time.

It is WOMEN who are PUSHING for the elimination of the rights of other women.
Women you know.  
Women you trust.  
Women mothers' trust.
Who would guess that there would be women throwing other women under the bus, acting as agents of the state? 
Which women would feel it is their right to sell out birthing women's rights in exchange for a piece of paper?
Is this piece of paper, that history proves bestows temporary rights, in exchange for the loss of permanent ones, worth the price of mothers' choices? (Maybe I am in need of a straight jacket, or at least some pharmaceuticals, because as I typed this sentence, my heart nearly beat out of my chest!)

If I were the medical community and I wanted to eliminate home birth, I could not have schemed up anything more efficacious than The Big Push and midwives clamoring for licensure.

You may not share my overwhelming sense of urgency and a feeling of doom, that if we don't do something now, tomorrow will be too late.
But, I want to beg you to Investigate for yourself what is happening to birthing rights. 
Do your own digging to uncover who is pushing for the changes.  
Decide what and who you stand for.
Decide who you will stand with and who you won't stand with.
Don't hide your head in the sand.  
Speak up.
Educate and encourage parents to take their birth back.  
Stand in the gap for mothers long enough for them to realize what is going on.
Wake somebody up every day....before it is too late.

Signed, Carla Hartley aka Chicken Little

P.S. Yes, the sky is falling.