Lately I had a rather unfortunate encounter, one for which I feel sorry. In a natural birth forum I was asked to give my opinion on the legal aspect of an incomplete caesarean hospital report, signed by the doctor who performed it. I chose to break down the legal aspects of the case, from the very few info that was given on the forum at the time and tried to figure out a way to give the most concrete and fair answer that I possibly could, according to my judgement and my knowledge. A fellow legal practitioner, an active lawyer who does work in the human rights area, and which, as a fact per se, is admirable in my eyes, had a different view on the subject, a more militant one. She seemed to me overeager to give a criminal sense to the incomplete report, by making assumptions or should I say, building the scenarios, for a case we only knew too little, based on a previous case she had with an unsuccessful fatal surgery (non-perinatal from what I gathered from her words). In my eyes and mind this approach was leading to the wrong conclusions, especially knowing that there were pregnant or healing-from-a-traumatic birth mothers who were taking part in the discussion. I must admit I became overeager myself to try to bring down any impressions being made on the spot. As a legal practitioner myself, yet an non-active lawyer, I felt a duty to try to clear out the atmosphere from any “polemic” vibes, which for me were not justified by the case under question. I ended up engaging in an intense discussion with the fellow lawyer which didn’t go well at all and unfortunately monopolised the forum post. To be completely frank, and I may very well be wrong in this, it felt like the fellow lawyer was trying to fish for clients, so that was disturbing enough for me. On the other hand, I was accused for giving insufficient advice and for being careless (!!), but that was the least of my concerns. I ended up quitting the forum (with a bitter comment for which I am not proud) as I felt that what was being done was wrong for the ladies participating in the discussions and whose main concern is how to deal with unnecessary interventions in a hospital environment. I felt my mere presence in it was only exacerbating the situation and was exasperating the fellow lawyer to go on bringing up irrelevant- to the objectives of the forum- issues. I felt no good was coming out of it, so I just quit in hope that my absence would calm the atmosphere and bring about the balance, much needed at that time.
On a personal note I felt very bad. I felt bad because I even engaged in a dialogue where ego trips were prevailing, while our purpose there was to help ladies find their path to healing their perinatal issues and to becoming educated /informed. Justice has to be made, I fully agree but in my eyes fantasizing of legal battles, especially out of nowhere, is not going to do any good. Had we had a solid case of malpractice, had I known more on the full story behind the incomplete report, I wouldn’t have any reservations whatsoever to agree to the pursuit of a fair trial against the doctor involved. Yet the info was scarce. The girl with the report at hand didn’t express any bitterness on the very caesarean itself (at least to my knowledge). She was just asking if this report, with this content, was legal. I didn’t know anything else beyond that.
I do know this though, when we trust a doctor with something as precious as our birth, we are giving our consent to his/her better judgement and only if we are somehow coerced or obviously misleaded/purposefully misinformed to have to put up with a major intervention, against our will or our previous agreement with this doctor, can we talk of a possible crime in penal law terms. Otherwise there are other routes through civil and medical liability to resolve, if any, legal issues. And even then, there are a lot of aspects to be considered and we need the full picture, the full story in all its tiny details to be certain that our goal is just. This is why, I can’t stress it enough: chose your healthcare professionals CAREFULLY, make sure you trust them FULLY.
My bottom line in this is that at the time, I sensed I was advocating for the whole natural birth movement. We want our birth to be a gentle procedure. We deem to stay confident and happy for our babies’ sake. It’s a grass roots movement longing to be accepted by society and to somehow change the mentality on perinatal care, especially when it comes to hospital and medical staff. This should be a very careful process. We should guard our movement like hawks. It needs to be heard, it needs to be seen as it is. I would personally very much regret to see our movement marginalised because of over-aggressive conduct. Don’t get me wrong, we can be and have to be aggressive when our rights are manifestly not respected but we don’t need to be aggressive when nothing is at stake. As in everything, as mothers, we need to pick our battles. We need to make ourselves visible and credible to society, judges included, thus we need to be as fair as possible and as smooth as possible. Base our case on solid legal grounds. If we keep bringing non-justifiable trials to courts, it’s only going to backfire and harm our cause. Knowing that we “annoy” the system, we have to take extra careful, and wherever necessary, bold yet gentle steps. The choice of natural, non-interventionist birth is an act of activism in itself, it’s disturbing enough for the medical status quo as it is, if we seem careless in our conduct or too agitated without grounds/concrete reasons, we’re only going to be characterised as fanatics and lead to the marginalisation of our very precious movement. It’s bad enough that some women who have had caesarean section think we’re against them… and do not understand that we’re here to support them, to care for them, help them heal if they have any regrets, not to judge them or make them feel bad (quite the opposite so). We’re here to support any woman experience what feels right for her cause this is the only way she will be a happy mom, in peace with herself and her precious baby. We’re here to bring birth and mothering back to the mother, be it pregnancy, birth, mothering etc, which society has deprived her from. As we have a responsibility as mothers towards our kids, we have a strong responsibility towards each other, as fellow mothers (and let me say at this point that the fellow lawyer is a mother herself so that should have been enough for me to rise above anything else). And as I said in the latest Birthvoice meeting “build your knowledge base, build your bond with your baby, build your confidence, build your protective fence around you two”, don’t let fear or doubt come in. Take charge and acknowledge the need for support wherever you need it .
We should keep it all in our minds: we are in this together, we’re responsible for each other, it’s only to our interest that all inside voices are heard and considered because we need to become the norm, not the exception to the rule. We need to help each other get the birth and parenting experience of our dreams. And it is possible, if no extraordinary measures need to be taken, we can do it and most importantly, we can heal ourselves and this society from grief/resentment/aggressiveness. Let us not forget, mothering is the most obvious paradigm of gentleness, of love, of caring and in this reality we’re experiencing, this paradigm must lead the way to correct the wrong-doings/ill-mentalities of the current situation, throughout the world.
Okay, I’m healing out of this too, little-by-little. I’m glad.