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Tuesday
Jun122007

Writing

Sometimes I think I should write only about writing. Writing takes up so much of my attention, those who read my blog certainly must get incredibly bored reading about it. But, here I go again. Writing about writing.

I’m finding myself, once again, in a place of stuck-ness with words. I’m watching from the sidelines – watching as Medblog after Medblog leaves the Blogosphere and it distresses me greatly.

While I have the permission of the women I write stories about, whose to say that 7 years down the road, a story I wrote about a shoulder dystocia doesn’t re-surface in court and I am sued because of some action I did or did not take? This is but one of a multitude of examples of the things that are going on in my head at the moment when it comes to my own blogging and storytelling.

Should I just write about birth in an abstract way from now on? Should I never write another true life birth story? Should every story be a combination of many women, all juxtaposed onto each other so that none is recognized? Should all of my writing become fictionalized?

I’ve spent a lifetime telling stories. I am the storyteller of the tribe. Around the dinner table, I am the one chosen to share the family stories; I hold them – every detail, retold the same, over and over and over again.

I’ve tried to write fiction and I really do suck at it. I excel at remembering details and re-telling them in verbal and written stories.

Why have I now found my storytelling self in this litigious culture that not only frowns on the sharing of stories, but also punishes the writer because the writer has a viewpoint that differs from the person being written about?

I know that answer. It’s because I am a midwife and I have been sworn to privacy between client and myself. I do understand that. And I do not write about anyone without permission; I learned to do that by hurting someone who did not know I was writing about them. However, the truth is, I don’t write about anyone now without permission. I do write about long ago clients without their permission because I don’t know where they are and cannot obtain their permission. I also loosen the identity tags so others won’t recognize them, even accidentally. I assume I will do the same as the years pass with those that are clients today. The issues mentioned above, the lawsuits for actions during births, are also relieved when re-telling older birth stories.

I envy doctors whose faces are behind masks or whose patients are anesthetized and whom are able to write about their jobs completely anonymously. No matter how anonymously I tried to write, I would still be discovered. Easily. The homebirth midwifery community is small and tight. And now I have written so much, my style is well-known.

I’ve considered hand-writing again instead of blogging. Or just writing for me on the computer and not putting it out onto the Web. It’s an odd consideration for me, this private journal writing experience I’d done for decades before I discovered blogging… yet hesitate returning to. Because I’ve had people read my private journals, it agitates me to think of having private journals lying about my home that someone might be able to read. I would have to lock them up. I could write here, in Word, and save them on cd’s or sticks, and they could be just for me as all those stacks of book journals are. I would certainly not have to edit a thing. I could write all the thoughts I think. I could write everything I think about all the women, their labors, their families, their homes, my behavior at their labors, births, and postpartum periods… I could write completely uninhibited… but who would it serve besides me? Am I the only person I write for?

Who do I write for? sigh (Here we go again.)

I’d rather edit and share more of the story with others. But what if that isn’t possible anymore? What if the blog culture isn’t going to allow that anymore? What if, as I write this, my hands are being tied and I am really not able to write about birth stories anymore?

I can only go ‘round and ‘round so many times about how much of a drag hospital birth is, how we need to change the whole perception of birth in this culture, how horrendous the cesarean rate is or how great birth can be when left alone. It is in my showing that has been my forte. In my storytelling, I have demonstrated the Truth that VBAC is safe at home, that shoulder dystocias can be resolved, that a care provider doesn’t have to control the experience, that babies are worthy of tenderness and intense love at birth and that women can and should be heard when they speak about their wishes, wants, needs and desires in birth.

I’m lost again. I hang my head thinking about the power Tenacious has to speak her Truth and keep willing my lips to open (hands to move), yet they remain closed (remain still) and I blink, stunned in confusion about where to turn next. Do I turn to the right and pick up a pen and write with my hand on paper and lock it up every night? Do I type in Word and hit Save and find some inner satisfaction that I am a writer as I have always been a writer… for myself? A journal writer, like the millions upon millions of journal writers before me? Or do I find some way to write about birth, telling stories bravely – perhaps getting written permission like I wanted to before – yet looking over my shoulder always thinking, “Did I say something in there I could be sued for down the road?” Do I also ask for a release from liability at the same time? Is all this asking for trouble? Isn’t this all so un-Secret-like?

I’m spinning, confused.

It’s why I’m not writing a lot.

I had a baby the other day. Another difficult birth. The Universe is having lag time understanding that I said I wasn’t having any more drama. I’m embarrassed to share the story, even. Anyway. The baby is beautiful, mom is healthy and I lived through the experience.

I want to write so, so much more.

Reader Comments (8)

No one can ask you to risk yourself to share your stories. But oh, I love to read them; strong stories of real birth are such a strong weapon in fighting for women in our culture, for birth.

The culture at large isn't comfortable yet with the new possibilities for truth telling, and there is still a lot of prejudice and punishment towards truth tellers. It's impossible that a carefully disguised tale could hurt your clients who give permission. It's impossible that just telling a story about your work on a blog in which you never name yourself or your employer can do any real harm. But the courts haven't really caught on to that. And the big institutions, like hospitals and corporations, they want to silence anyone who pulls back the veil.

But we really need that veil pulled back. Unfortunately, that means some will have to choose whether or not to take the punishment that can still be given out for it, at least till it becomes so widespread that it's accepted.

June 12, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

I think you MUST keep on writing, but when it concerns patients's stories, why not try writing and keeping it on the computer for a period of time. That way you catch the immediacy of the moment, record the details while they're fresh, and your reactions. Then, after several weeks or months, go back and read what you've written. At that point, with a bit more objectivity, you might choose to fudge identifying details--but you can leave the essentials, about your feelings,etc. intact. When you're sure that personal identifying stuff is camouflaged, publish!

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAntigonos

The Universe is telling YOU something, not the other way around. As is the way of the Universe, I've found. Drama is only dramatic if we see it as such. Yes, I've assisted at many home births so I know what you're talking about. Did anyone die? No? What was the lesson for you at this birth? What purpose did the drama serve for the family? Maybe it was their drama, not yours. The Universe doesn't always give us what we ask for. Wouldn't want us to get spoiled or anything! We get what we ask for when we have learned the lessons that make it so.

I love your blog, by the way, and your writing inspires me and makes me think. Thanks.

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterquiltncatch

I have google alert me when someone mentions VBAC because I have a VBAC blog myself: http://www.vbacadventure.com" REL="nofollow">VBACAdventure.

I completely agree with you that the perception of birth and the dangers of birth need to change in this country. It seems like people think you will die if you don't give birth in a hospital (especially in a VBAC situation). That is simply not the case and it would be nice if people realized what a natural and beautiful process birth can be at home. Although I will be having a hospital birth myself, it is mainly because my husband has the danger mentality.

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKendra

You would be sorely missed if you stopped writing. Please, keep on.

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterI am a Monkey's Momma

You know what my partner said this morning?

Life is risky. Birth is risky. Writing is risky.

Write your birth stories and take the risk.

Isn't she wise?

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Amen to that.

June 13, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

NGM, your partner rocks. And she's right.

Those of us who read your entries miss them when they're few and far between. Even when I don't comment, I'm still reading, and I invariably gain some insight from what you've written regardless of the topic.

You are amazed with Tenacious's writing (and I'm with you there -- lady has serious stones and awesome insight)... but I'm just as amazed by yours. I blather on in my blog about my kids, my GYN, my bleeding issues, my stinky Birkenstocks...

But your stuff has substance and value. Your caring for women comes through in every post you write.

Please, keep on writing.

June 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

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