Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Midwives have to get their heads around the old adage..."divided we fall"!

I am currently working as a virtual midwifery lecturer in Australia but still live in New Zealand. So I tend to still have an outsider's view of midwifery in Australia. Having just come back from the Australian College of Midwives conference in Sydney, the biggest impression I have brought back with me is that Australian midwifery is fraught with politics, rivalries and a real sense of disunity.

I am not a political animal...and I am not terribly insightful at the best of times. But one thing I know is midwives  (and I am talking about midwives the world over, not just in Australia) have got to put all their personal histories, jealousies and entrenched ideologies aside and talk with each other....work together...and be one voice. Bridget Lynch said it well in her closing speech to the conference...we are not "homebirth midwives",  "hospital midwives" or "birth center midwives"...we are all MIDWIVES!

Whilst we are fighting amongst ourselves and putting each other down, we will be unable to work with a collective strength to fight the battle to protect normal birth against the increasing medicalisation of birth.

I think one of the ways we can do this is to use social media to get to know each other better, to form networks and make the most of opportunities to talk and collaborate on initiatives such as the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. Social media is not going to save the world, but maybe it will help to bring midwives together and break down some of the barriers that are currently stopping us from working together effectively.

What do you think? What do you think are the barriers to midwives working collaboratively together, and how can we overcome those barriers? 

Note: These are my opinions and do not in any way reflect those of my employer or anyone else.


Pamela Harnden said...

It is very 'loaded' topic. There has to be a process of deciding a point at which we move forward. If I was president of the ACM I would be strongly advocating for
1. Professional Unity
It is time that as a profession we look to what we have in common rather than focusing on what divides us.

2. Consultation with stakeholders
Formulation of any 'interim statements' needs to be more of a transparent process with considered input from all stakeholders. Equal participation of all with the protection of women & babies at the core and working in partnership with midwives

Sarah Stewart said...

Pam: you've hit the other nail on the head...the lack of transparency and consultation, especially with consumers. Australian midwives have yet, in my outsiders opinion, the power there is to be gained by uniting with consumers. I am not just talking about activists, but the ordinary woman, who to listen to my students, are getting a very raw deal in Australian maternity hospitals.

Anonymous said...

We are our own worst enemies. Who needs obstetricians to keep us down. It's time that midwives stopped judging each other and began nurturing each other and midwifery in general. It really is 'them' and 'us' between different groups and I don't know how we break this down. We need to engage and listen to one another with respect and I think social media can provide a platform for doing this... it can also be a platform for judging and bullying.

Thinkbirth said...

Rachel said: "It's time that midwives stopped judging each other and began nurturing each other and midwifery in general"

Couldn't agree more.

In terms of SoMe being a platform for judging and bullying, do you think that behaviour is anything new or do you think it is more obvious? If it is that it is more obvious and not hidden may just be the element that enables the whole 'cultural' shift (aka paradigm or meme) that is needed. What do you think?

Sarah Stewart said...

Interesting question, Carolyn and one that is very much on my thoughts at the moment, especially with the conversations that are happening about the way women are abused online. Even the grief Anne-Marie Cunningham got the other day after her post on the behaviour of health professionals online was horrible.

What I am seeing is the bullying and bad behaviour that goes on at top levels in reflected at ground level with midwives and students. So how can we expect midwives to change their behaviour when they see bad behaviour going on at the highest levels in the profession? Hopefully social media helps to make things more transparent...or does it drive people underground? Does it make us afraid to speak out in case of the reaction we get?

Thinkbirth said...

Sarah, I think we have to speak up, and speak up in ways that are respectful and foster clear, kind communication. Yes, it takes courage to do that. However, judging goes both ways in any struggle. I suspect we need to let go of the 'struggle' and take a new perspective. We need an intelligent approach to the use of power - my personal 'take' is that we humans are on an evolutionary process - we can use Maslow's hierarchy as a template to view this evolution and even better is what Don Beck has caled 'Spiral Dynamics" as a way to conceptualise what's happening. I love that SoMe provides both a lens and a mirror for our behaviour as humans and as midwives. We have to look clearly at who we are and what we do and then ask ourselves, what's important, how do we want to be, what are my/our values - both individually and collectively, both personally and professionally and work with that. Looking at both our underbelly and our brilliance and understanding that we are all 'everything' helps us to move beyond judging, stereotyping, blaming and discriminating to discernment,consideration and choice on to the use of integrated power in wholesome ways. Hope my ramblings make sense to you (as they do to me :)

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you Carolyn...