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Saturday
May262007

I Was Blog-Sided

Standing in line, registering for the La Leche League Conference that is this weekend, a woman came up to me and commented on my having hair this year. She said she’d seen the pictures in my blog throughout the last year, but it was different in person and I looked great! I fumbled for a second and said, “My blog?” and she said she was a faithful reader, to which I laughed and said, “Who, crazy ol’ me?” and she said that must say something about her, too, since she read every day (note to Self: don’t say that again!) and I embarrassingly laughed as she wandered off to do her thing. I’d lost all composure and said to Donna, “I’ve been blog-sided!” I do admit it was a soothing Ego stroke (I can hear Eckhart moaning now) – and it was funny-odd, too.

A rapid-fire process of “What have I written in the last year?” and a bullet list of all the titles of my posts came to mind, zipping past my mind’s eye at lightning speed. Did I say anything embarrassing? Was I hateful to anyone? Did I hurt anyone’s feelings? Could I have been nicer to people? Did I make anyone laugh? How depressing was I? Why did I get so morose with the Wicked stuff? I hope she knows I love midwifery… that I just had a hard patch for awhile (good gawd, I am at a LLL Conference!).

A sort of blog-flashing-before-your-eyes moment.

Shouldn’t every written word that makes its way to the “page” be considered in this much depth (and oh, so much more)? With all the attention words in general receive in our culture and in particular, on the Internet, blogged words certainly require an extra dose of let-me-look-at-you-another-second-before-hitting-publish don’t they?

I am a pretty impromptu writer. Watching me write, you would see me type out the piece, correct a few mistakes, read through the piece once, correct another mistake or two and then hit publish. I then read through the published piece, see new things to be corrected, fix those and then move on. If glaring deficiencies are brought to my attention, I correct those, but post-production corrections are rare. I spell deliciously, so don’t need spell check loads – and write in Word far too infrequently, but am working to correct that (I’ve lost more than a few really great pieces because I wrote in Blogger and not Word) – I am writing in Word now.

Because of my off-the-cuff style of writing, I have, at times, said things that, while seeming correct to me, in my world, when pointed out to me, were wrong in other people’s worlds.

A recent example: Regarding the Fat Vagina post, an anonymous commenter said:

You wrote: "I am the rare homebirth midwife who takes “obese” clients and doesn’t automatically see them as high risk, sick, Gestationally Diabetic, or an automatic transfer to have a cesarean."

See, now why do you have to do that? I'm not sure why you do it, but from this perspective, it looks like you feel the need to "pump yourself up" by putting down others (even subtly) in comparison. You so frequently say how you do things differently than "most midwives" or "other midwives" and those things you mention are pretty much standard of practice among most homebirth midwives--but yet you let your readers think you are so far and above all the others. It's not the truth that you are the "rare midwife" who (doesn't discriminate against obese women), because it actually would be a rare homebirth midwife who would risk a woman out for size.

I have been around midwives for 20 years, a lot of them, and I have not known any to discriminate against obese women the way you describe. Have you been party to everyone else's practices and choices over the years? You couldn't possibly, because as dwindling an art as midwifery is, there are sure a whole lot out there for one person to cover. How many midwives in your own community do you think would treat an obese women's case that way?

Why can't you simply say "I don't discriminate against women in the following ways....etc etc" which is really not only an honest statement (stick with the "I," not comparisons) but doesn't give an inaccurate impression to readers about how other midwives practice? This is something I've seen here many times, and I hope you will really think about it rather than dismiss it because you don't like to hear it. It's a mean-spirited habit that gives midwives in general a bad name, all in the interest of making yourself sound better. I know you are very given to exaggeration, but can you consider toning that down more to truth-size when referring to other people? In terms of how you manage the various practice patterns you have blogged about here and how you do them "better," "less," or "more," most really are not any different than how the average homebirth midwife practices.

I say, “…. “ and an anonymous poster clarifies by saying, “…”

end comment

I’ve sat with these words for a couple of weeks now, listening deeply, wondering about my Ego and whether I am trying to make myself (seem to) be a more wonderful midwife than all the other midwives (at least when I wrote the piece over a year ago)... and when I write in general. I tried to think about all the midwives in my experience who have had pregnant fat women come to them desiring their care and what the midwives said about them in public versus what they said about them in private and what the criteria was (emotional or “medical”) they used to decide to accept them into their care or pass them on to someone else.

I think this anonymous midwife is correct, especially in regards to this piece. I think the majority of homebirth midwives I know/have known do not automatically risk a fat woman out. I do have plenty of memories of CNMs who have had to risk fat women out of birth centers and even some hospital-based midwifery practices, not because they wanted to, but because their doctors required it.

In giving this a whole lot of thought, my only defense – and it is a lame one and not one I am claiming to keep – is that the article was originally written for OBs, RNs and CNMs and by saying that I was a “rare” midwife, perhaps I would be heard differently.

As I said. Lame. Lame. And wrong.

And I apologize.

I apologize to my midwife-sisters for saying that they risked fat women out. I apologize to fat women who now think midwives will risk them out for being fat. I apologize for my careless use of words that shouldn’t have been used flippantly – and while humility is, er… humbling, I want to thank the anonymous midwife for bringing my Ego to my attention. I will watch my words more carefully. Thank you.

And, while we’re at it.

There’s another commenter that I want to speak about.

When I wrote In My Emailbox, telling an aspiring midwife the painful and difficult sides of midwifery, Sam said:

Food for thought: I understand you've experienced some difficulties, but so often you speak of midwifery and of your own office with disdain and disgust. How can you continue to offer loving, attentive, quality care with all that swirling in your head and heart? I'm not so sure you can. WHY do you continue? Why bother? It doesn't serve the people your work is meant to serve, and you've made it repeatedly clear it isn't serving you. If we consider the law of attraction as a factor, you might consider finding work you DO love and can speak kindly of, because this continued attitude isn't going to turn things around for you anytime soon. If potential clients could all read what you think about it, I wonder if they would want to trust you as their midwife, and just because they can't all read it...doesn't it emanate from you anyway? How will that truly build a practice?

And while I respect your right to hold and discuss your feelings about it, I personally feel it's unfair and selfish to speak of it as if it's the bottom-line truth for everyone, as if you're revealing the one real truth about being a midwife. This is what it's been like for YOU, but it is NOT every midwife's experience...it is NOT the truth of midwifery.

end comment

S/he asked me questions that needed to be asked - bluntly, harshly, yet filled with a knowing of me as a person, that I wouldn’t (probably) go deleting my blog, ignoring the words by defending myself self-righteously (maybe I would at first, but I didn’t even then) or being so snippy as to delete the moderated comment and not allow anyone else to even read it. I never even considered not publishing it.

I don’t know who you are, Sam, but you were quite the cold splash of water in my face! I was none too pleased to read what you had to say, but I listened anyway and your words coincided with the introduction of all The Secret information and its subsequent absorbing into my system. If you hadn’t said what you said, I don’t know if I would have been as receptive to The Secret, Abraham Hicks, etc. It all might have glanced over me and I’d still be splashing around in the neck-high water of isn’t-this-so-hard-on-me? Thank you.

Other Bloggers are being blog-sided, too.

Flea, Fat Doctor, Neonatal Doc, etc. have all shut down, moved or removed their blogs. An on-going discussion about medical blogs and their noteworthiness (or patient exploitation-ness) has me sighing with understanding for their situations (except for Flea who might actually be discussing his blog in court). It is easier for me to ask outright, “Do you mind if I write about you/this?” than it is for a doctor, but I suspect blanket admitting/registration forms one day might include, “… and give my permission to allow any discussion regarding my case, whether face-to-face or in a cyber setting…”

Continue reading your forms.

While I haven’t read these docs in awhile, it saddens me greatly they are no longer a part of the Medical Blogosphere; I always knew they were just over there, ready for me to read when I had a minute. And now they are gone. Their humor, their wisdom, their points of view, their amazing writing skills. Gone.

My hope is that each time I am blog-sided, when those flashes of “what-did-I-write?” zing through my mind, I hope I can smile (mostly)… knowing that I did do my best, write my best, and that the next person after that walking up to me hugs me, thanks me and wishes me many more words.

There are still so many more words. Always, many more words.

Reader Comments (10)

When you are blog-sided, please read the Anonymous comment right after your response to Sam's comment in "In my Emailbox"

THAT hits it on the head.

Thanks for speaking YOUR truth. It inspires me to live mine.

May 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for writing this. I tend to critique with a sledge hammer, rather than with gentleness. It's an old habit that comes from always starting with gentleness and then encountering sledge hammers. :) The last time I attempted a critique, which I refer to from time to time on my blog, I was told that my words were not valid and that nothing would change about what had been done. Furthermore, I was told that if I wanted to write about what had been done, I could do so on my blogsite. :) When I did, the wimmin I had attempted to courteously, at first challenge, positioned me as their victimizer. They incited people to hatred against me. I kept writing my truths. I haven't stopped, though quite a few people have decided that I am at fault for even writing about what happened to me and the way I was mobbed for speaking against someone who was considered more popular and more useful than I. So, when I read you claiming your actions and critiquing your own words, I feel warmed by your ability to just say: Hey, I think I fucked up. This is how. This is why. This is what I can change. This is what I've learned.

Navelgazer, you're so cool. :) I appreciate your inner sight.

May 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDark Daughta

Well you do look good girlfriend! And one of these days, you’ll learn to be a little less concerned about what anonymous others think of you.

I’ll agree words written should be carefully considered…but you also need to write your truth, and truth is not necessarily black or white…it’s often a shifting sea of grays. This is what makes you such a refreshing blogger. You write your truth in the moment.

BUT…I have to disagree with your anonymous commenters...it is unusual for a midwife to take fat clients, and treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. The dignity to be treated as an intelligent person, and able to be a true partner in their care.

I know of what I speak, as in my local area, I was flatly denied the local birth center over my weight and related concerns. I was “disqualified” from my local in-hospital birth center (after several weeks – classical bait and switch) – for much the same reasons. I interviewed a few local midwives, but most wanted some sort of “concession” - a strict dietary protocol, a certain test…. something beyond normal monitoring to be comfortable.

And then I met a fat midwife, who treated me as a person with a brain, who considers her patients’ comfort…all of her patients’ comfort. You have equipment appropriate without being embarrassing. You have armless chairs, sturdy furniture, and gowns appropriate for a wide variety of patients. You are openly welcoming of family, all family, even 18-24 month old who have meltdowns. You have many age appropriate toys and videos for babies through school age. You are compassionate in a way normal or average-sized practititioners cannot be…because you know first hand what it’s like to be fat…and discriminated against because of it. You are a gem, and there’s nothing wrong about saying that and tooting your own horn in your own blog for goodness sake. I don’t believe you’re tearing other midwives down at all…everyone has to establish their own practices…and risk-tolerance. But it does seem to be the practice locally to risk out the obese here…both by OB’s, and midwives. (Besides, wasn’t “obesity” – one of those conditions specifically listed in the state guidelines for midwives – requiring you get an informed consent waiver suggesting that they were not good candidates for homebirth?)

It may be popular to say you’re accepting of all women regardless…but it’s damn sure not that way in practice. The practice may be more common by those who are lucky enough to have a MD who officially supervises them…but that doesn’t make the observation any less valid.

As for anonymous #2 – Those who know and love you know that you truly do care about women and babies. Just because you write about your frustrations, fears, and difficulties – your truth in the moment – does not mean that you are disdainful for your clients…or uncaring…in fact I’ll allege that it provides for exactly the opposite…by venting your frustrations, here in your blog, you’re able to vent, problem-solve…and better care for your clients.

I have never felt that you write as if your perceptions as if they are the only truth, but it is yours…at least in the moment you write it.

Keep writing your truth…I wish I could write mine more…and with the honestly, wisdom and humor you do. This is your “diary” of a sort…it may be interactive…but just because some nameless person doesn’t share your truth doesn’t invalidate it.

May 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterOpening Pandora

I am sorry to leave this in a comment, but I couldn't figure out how to e-mail you... I just found out I am pregnant and I am type I diabetic... Any words of wisdome, stories, advice, anything really, is appreciated! I see my endocrinologist Wednesday and my OB nurse on Thursday, but not the doc til June 21 so I am starving for info!! Anything is appreciated! Thanks!

May 27, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterffbgirl

Anon: Thanks... you made me laugh and smile. I laugh because sometimes I just shake my head wondering why I write the things I write at all. I wish I could carry you all around in my pocket. You are such grounding cords, some of you all. Thank you. Thank YOU.

Tenacious: It's funny, because even as I write, "I think I fucked up. Etc." I know my "style" is *so* ingrained and my Ego *so* (big?) dedicated to being different from others... I mean, I dress differently, sound differently, live differently... why shouldn't I write differently... know what I mean? It will take some serious consciousness to not fall in the I Am So Different As a Midwife In This Area when I feel I am because I have been told I am by clients - and in looking around, I *do* think that is where some of that was coming from... not *just* from my own inflated sense of Ego.

But, humility, while embarrassing, never killed anyone, and I will add it to my satchel and keep it close as I write, remembering to touch it every once in awhile, using it as an objective editor (trying like hell to, anyway!)- and speak in the "I" not in the "I am better than they are."

I think sometimes critiquing with a sledehammer is heard better than with a feather, though, don't you think? Maybe there is a middle ground?

I'm not sure what experience you are referring to... can you share an exact site for us to go to to read? Were you critiquing someone's work? Thoughts? Were you asked to critique their work in your own blog instead of theirs? That's odd. When you offered a critique, you were being called a perpetrator? How very odd - and very, very sad... but I do totally get how it would happen.

Our communities are different, yours and mine, but similar. Very incestuous... small and tight... knowing each other, even though we have a veil of anonymity (I lifted mine again, though). It isn't hard to ruin a reputation in our circles. I find it interesting that the harshness lives longer than the lightness... that the kind words people say about us and feel about us doesn't stick around longer than the cruel or incorrect things that are said. I've never been able to figure that out.

I just know all we can do... any of us... is press on, live our Truths... speak our Truths... Write our Truths... and hope that those that know and love us KNOW the Truth and laugh at the goofy things the others say when they come whispering squiggling words about us.

The hard part is for me to laugh at those squiggling words. I have a lot to learn from those that love me.

May 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I was that aspiring midwife in your inbox, & your post inspired me even more Barb.

There is nothing wrong with baring your soul & telling your story & sharing your hopes & fears. This is your blog - all yours.

Please keep writing!

May 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAgatha

dearest "navelgazer" I too adore you writing. You inspire my in many ways, PLUS you turned me on to darkdaughta's blog which challenges me as an anarchist and a white woman, and with whom I feel a great deal of solidarity.

Continue to be HONEST in your writing! Some may hate it, but it just means that THEY have something to work on, not you!

I sign myself Redpomegranate, I don't mean to be anonymous but everytime I sign up to be a blogger myself something goes all screwy!

May 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

the reason your writing is interesting is because it belongs to you.

because the internet (and mainly americans) is caught in a PC whirlwind of assumpption and quick offense, reactionary commenting is to be expected.

don't let those fuckers get to you.

most people would much rather be occasionally offended than bored.

May 30, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterlibby

As the person who "blog-sided" you I felt I should finally leave a comment.

I'm sorry that I may have caused you any stress in going over in your mind what you had written in the last year. Then again, sometimes it is good for the soul to go over what we may have said or done when we were in a different time and place in our lives.

As for me personally, you don't need to worry. I live too much by the LLL philosophy of "take what you can use, and leave the rest" to be upset or offended by anything you may have said.

May 31, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCol

Hi Navelgazer...
I was shocked that you chose the word "fat" over "obese" in this post.
I myself am overweight, and I just don't like either word. Funny how we can judge one another.
I am not angry, nor should any other obese, fat, overweight, or otherwise woman be. These are the terms of our lives. We may not like them, but we must deal with them.
Thank you for taking on overweight clients. My midwife was just as accepting. Other midwives in my area were willing on the weight, but not on the vbac.
Bless you. Like your blog. Blog on!

June 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterthe doe

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