Here I am at Kingston and St Georges midwifery conference, 2018. Today there will be ten talks and events exploring the concept 'I Have a Voice' and I’ll be reporting on each of them in ‘Notes of Midwifery Voices’.
Milli Hill is an activist and writer who founded ‘The Positive Birth Movement’ in 2012 and has since prompted more than 400 Positive Birth Groups to be formed worldwide. She writes freelance, for the Guardian and elsewhere and you can read my review of ‘The Positive Birth Book’ here.
Today she talked about the polarised attitude to normal birth.
Sometimes women and families find what she does incredibly helpful - it's an 'oasis of positivity' and people are able to step down from their intense fear so they can actually prepare for birth and parenthood.
Others talk about how positivity is not to be listened to, that birth is incredibly painful and it's not ok to promote normal birth as it's dangerous. They might find the Positive Birth Movement degrading or triggering as their experiences make it seem that no birth experience can be good. There are also some midwives that find criticism of medicalisation to be 'midwife bashing'.
Whatever we believe, it's important to understand that our reactions to positive birth tells us more about ourselves than whoever is speaking.
Something that stood out is Milli's ability to talk about all this without shying away from any criticism coming her way.
We discussed the 'she said she could so she did' quote - which is often associated with positive birth, but is pretty simplistic. Milli is certainly not saying that positivity alone can guarantee a good birth but from a distance it might look this way.
I was also interested to see Milli talk about the controversial Amy Tuteur, who is an American obstetrician who often has horrendous criticism for some of our midwifery leaders, as she believes all birth should be medicalised. We don't tend to talk about such figures as it's too painful, but bringing things out into the light is crucial.
Exploring the grey areas will help us achieve more for women. It's so easy to shut the conversation down if we disagree or we're feeling angry. But discussing birth with civility is the mature and wise thing to do, especially if it means holding opposing views in mind.
I love Milli and women like her because they saw something that needed addressing – and got going. Milli knows what she has to say matters. Despite criticism, and knowing how complex the issues are, she keeps speaking about her point of view as she sees it. In a world where women are still most praised if they are modest and quiet, this is unusual.
More role models like this please. Could you be one?
We’d love to hear from you - are you here at the conference? What was the most insightful thing you learnt from Milli?
Or what was the best thing you learnt from this post – leave a comment below!