Saturday, 17 May 2008

Getting started

As I found myself telling another poor soul in an email about the latest step forward/back in my personal campaigning - just because I needed to tell SOMEONE, I thought maybe it is time to start a blog. Then no one person bears the burden of my story but anybody can. This then is a very personal account of a very personal journey and in no way does it necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the campaign groups I am part of.

This is a blog to inform, encourage, to inspire and to commiserate, with a mother who wants to leave the world a better place by giving my daughters the freedom to birth surrounded by love, at the time and place of her choosing and that of her baby. And while we are on the subject of dreams I want my daughters to have midwives who they know and trust through pregnancy, through labour and postnatally. And those midwives to be part of a truly independent professional service acknowledged and respected in the health service as the specialists in normal birth. We will have obstetric nurses - but that is what they will be called, not midwives. Midwives will be serving the interests of the mother not the doctor.

Slowly and incrementally I have been drawn into campaigning for all women to have proper midwifery care, a real choice about where and how they have their baby. Today women can choose to have a hospital birth and a medical birth - this is the default in many areas. In Bradford where I live, for instance, homebirth is a 'bolt on' extra - even though I am half as likely to have a Caesarean and reduce the chances of a serious infection for me and my baby - we can only have a home birth if staff are available. And continuity of care here is a joke, the nearest most women get to their midwife is knowing her name and having her team's mobile number.

After I took over Aquabirths I began to realise that it was not just me that was struggling for the care and choices I needed. This was happening over and over again, we were being picked off woman by woman, birth by birth, and my feminist hackles rose: there was a historical patten being played out here. The feminism of the 20ies brought universal suffrage, the feminism of the sixties paved the way for equal employment rights and equal opportunities for women, but here in the new millennium we still have a misogynist maternity system, designed and largely controlled, by medical men with a mechanistic and a narrowly medical understanding of both women and birth. And much practice is not even scientifically based; as my husband is wont to comment - "Don't let science get in the way of medicine!"

And because the personal is political and my births became the political football of the local Trust, and because although we need to think global we must act local, I am finally admitting to the world and myself that yes I am a mother and I am campaigning for change in Bradford, in the UK and if possible the world (there is nothing like aiming high!). And yes I have been doing it for years but now I am out in the open, the head clearly raised above the parapet, and campaign postcards in hand marching towards the chief exec of the local PCT, the latest focus of our attention.

That is more than enough from me for one night. So for more information on the postcard campaign go to

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