This is a comment in the “Guest Post: From an Ex-(CPM)Apprentice” post but it needed to have its own light. This is the third such comment about risk in home birth. She writes:
“’From another ex-apprentice: “I too quit because of that question just WHEN does someone get risked out?”’"
"’If not for HIPAA, I would list the scenarios I witnessed ...’"
“I had to read these words a couple of times to assure myself that they were not mine. I have felt/thought these exact same things. And yes, the lack of risking out criteria is the reason I left my apprenticeship. The home birth community is small, and describing some of the high-risk cases that I've witnessed handled at home would reveal too much - and perhaps the identity of the client(s).
“Student CPM for Safety in Birth:
“The experience you are describing is what I had hoped for when I started on my path to become a CPM. I was also enrolled in a MEAC accredited program. Unfortunately I cannot give MEAC accredited education a resounding commendation, nor can I give one for the apprenticeship model.
“I learned wonderful, incredible things in my apprenticeship. I witnessed low-risk, attentive, appropriately managed home births. I learned some facets of midwifery care that I do not believe I would have learned in another setting with a different type of provider. BUT - there were some GLARING black holes: in risk management, in skills, in theory, in practice - that I could not ignore anymore - and I could not fill these black holes on my own. I also felt that parents and babies and families were being put at risk - and I didn't want to participate in that charade any longer.
“I know there are midwives practicing with appropriate protocols and standards, who have been trained in evidence-based practice - it's just that the CPM credential does not guarantee that. (This took me a long time to learn and accept - as I was pursuing this credential). And I haven't seen even an INKLING that NARM or NACPM or MANA or MEAC whoever is working on this.
“I would like to see the vision of Student CPM for Safety in Birth to come true. I would. CPMs - organizationally - need to take a good, hard, look at their practices and standards. But unfortunately, I don't see that happening.
“I'm glad that the public - and home birth parents - are coming forward. I'm glad this discussion is happening. It should have been happening years ago.
“Thank you NGM for providing this forum.”
Just before this comment came through, I got an email from a frustrated CPM who had some thoughts I’d also like to share. It seems she’s darn tootin’ tired of being lumped in with all CPMs, especially the ones that don’t adhere to accepting (and keeping) only low-risk women. She’s seen as a “medwife” whose standards are too stringent, yet all she’s really doing is operating within the boundaries of the laws in her state.
What is so wrong with having parameters? It’s what keeps women and babies safe. They weren’t created to annoy midwives or clients, but to make sure the woman and baby make it through birth safe and alive. Her (and my) wish is that these out-of-bounds, renegade midwives would get with the program and stay within the standards of care of low-risk clients. Mothers and babies would be safer and midwives would not be so reviled if they obeyed the rules.
Midwives are known for operating on the periphery of society, it’s a part of the natural birth culture. But, it’s time to strengthen the rules and (in my opinion) force midwives, through peer pressure that starts from the moment the student decides to be a midwife, to follow the rules.
It isn’t a bad thing to follow protocols! Our job is to help women and babies have great, safe, births, even if they have to happen in the hospital. We have got to stop apologizing for transferring and transporting women. It is a normal part of the possibility in a homebirth.
As always, the clients’ desires come into this discussion.
“But, what if the woman wants to have her twins/breech/VBAmC/etc. baby at home? Don’t I have a responsibility to serve her?”
The answer is no. If the woman is low-risk, perhaps yes. If she is high-risk, no. You have a responsibility to serve her correctly, within the normal and safe boundaries of birth. The line must be drawn somewhere and it must be drawn further back than it is at this point. Midwives all have boundaries they won’t cross, whether it’s a preeclamptic woman or a woman with triplets, there are lines they won’t cross. (Except for a couple of high profile midwives around the world.) Bringing the limitations inward can do nothing but keep women and babies safer as well as (not that this is the most important aspect, but it’s important nevertheless) helping our publicity problems. If a homebirth midwife was seen as careful and adherent to the low-risk status of women… what the studies watch for when they report on such things… then we can begin to save not only lives, but our own faces.
I think this new way of thinking would be hardest on the older (not age) midwives who’ve, through time and experience, had an edge over the newer women, both with skills and arrogance. They’ve never seen anything tragic happen, so nothing they’re doing could be wrong. When, in reality, it’s probably only a matter of time before something does… if they stay on the same track they’ve been on. And because it’s the older midwives who are the mentors, they’re teaching the younger, less seasoned women, things the newer midwives simply don’t have the skills or experience to understand yet. So much of home birth midwifery takes time to learn.
So what of the women who would be left out of home birth care if midwives tightened the parameters? I believe there would be a period of adjustment, a rash of women threatening to UC and women trying to strong-arm midwives into attending them. But, I think after the women in our country saw we were serious, they would deal with it, hire the midwife as a monitrice (who also stuck to her guns about no “surprise” home deliveries) or doula and had as decent a hospital birth as possible. I can see clearly the emotional blackmail that would ensue and it would be crucial for midwives to withstand the coercion.
Of course, in my perfect world I would also make hospitals welcoming, respectful, open to vaginal births after cesareans, vaginal twins and breeches when safe enough and having immediately lower cesarean rates so women wouldn’t be terrified to go into the hospital. I also think that many women are unnecessarily scared by hospital deliveries and midwives can have a hand in un-brainwashing that belief, too. Of course, they have to believe it first and that might be the biggest challenge of all.
Lastly, I want to see midwives who adhere to standards rewarded, not vilified. It shouldn’t be this way, but they are the brave ones in the bunch, the “renegades” of those that refuse to conform. Just because the majority are out-of-bounds doesn’t make them right. (And, in my experience, it is the majority that do not adhere to the strict low-risk standards.)
I was one of those midwives who took almost any client that asked and it’s a miracle a couple of those mothers or babies aren’t dead. I’ve witnessed midwives taking high-risk clients and again, it’s a miracle those women and babies are still here. I’m tired of seeing my “sisters” flaunt the low-risk standards we all know are the right things to do. For crying in a bucket, let’s do them.