Getting Qualified Care: After A Loss

18 01 2012

First, let’s consider what makes a person healthy or unhealthy in the grieving process.

If you suffered a loss, what kind of care would you seek? Does suffering a loss alone make one qualified to mentor another who has suffered a loss, too?

Mental health and emotional health are serious. If you are suffering a loss, it is very important to get help on a professional level, particularly if your grief is intense. At the minimum, you do want to make sure that the person you have helping you is in a healthy mental state. Even with the loosest interpretations of what makes one “qualified” to provide appropriate care, most of us can agree on this basic starting point. Please be careful whenever you are selecting any form of help or care.

Joining me again is Michelle, a pregnant mother of 4 who has experience with natural birth, home birth, and loss. I have watched Michelle come under fire by other loss moms in the anti natural birth groups for not automatically placing blame on her caregivers when her loss occurred.

Deb O'Connell is a CNM with Carrboro Midwifery in the area of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The same camp has taken offense to some of my writings about healing and trauma as well. The philosophy seems to be that nothing can heal you from the loss of a child.

I am reminded of one attacker in particular who told Michelle that she did not love her child not only because she had come to terms with it in peace, but mainly because she did not blame her midwives for her child’s stillbirth. In fact, what had begun as a peaceful conversation took a swift turn for the worse when the woman started in with obscenities and accusations, all a reaction to Michelle’s take on loss and the sharing of her own experiences.

Doulas ARE very natural childbirth-minded... most people don't find a need for doulas outside of that practice, because it would be too "woo". Most people giving birth in the mainstream don't feel so much of a need to have a doula; they have their doctors, nurses, significant others, and family members as their support.

This same woman wants to be a doula for women expecting a loss, and also has signed up to mentor loss parents through a program called Stillbirthday (featuring and run by people who are part of the anti natural birth movement). Are people with these philosophies in a good position to be offering qualified care to the bereaved?

Let’s start with a simple question:

How do you counsel the bereaved? What is best for them? What kind of guidance do they require?

Michelle says: Having been to a REAL therapist to deal with things like my loss, my childhood, and my abusive ex-husband, I have a somewhat good idea of what they do and why they do it that way. My therapist never projected anything on me. She listened to me and what I had to say and then ask questions which made me look at myself not anyone else. I think it is good for loss mothers to have a place to say how they feel and express some of the normal stages of grief ( and anger can be one of them). However, if what they are looking for is healing then I would recommend a professional who can deal with the psychological aspects of loss and its effects on people.

I do believe we are all entitled to enlist the help of those who we feel are best to serve us. To me, this goes beyond training and credentials and is a personal choice. I’ve made that quite clear. When it comes to birth, anti-NCBers cannot be more opposed to this philosophy, but do they extend the same strictness to mental health?

The importance and seriousness of good care does not end for the mother and child once the baby is born.

Most healthcare professionals could probably tell you that people become consumed by, addicted to, their grief. It’s a hard process and takes years of therapy for some to cope well. Surely nothing can be as devastating as the loss of a child, so it would be totally understandable to think that this could mentally and emotionally damage someone more than possibly anything. When a person is in pain, they are capable of inflicting pain on others, sometimes as a way of projecting their self-loathing. If a person is so deeply affected in a negative way by a crushing loss, are they in a position to help others in a truly healthy way to cope themselves?

To make a comparison, would we expect someone suffering from severe alcoholism– who admitted they saw no hope in sight for finding peace– to be an ideal mentor (or even “buddy”) to someone just entering Alcoholic Anonymous? When do two people suffering from the same disease no longer serve as a support system, and instead become the blind leading the blind?

Putting oneself in a position of sensitivity and responsibility to those in need when your own psychological needs are not being met and, in fact, one believes they cannot be met, may not be the quality of care the grieving deserve. However well meaning, if you were to fail at your responsibility, you are affecting lives and have the potential to do more harm than good. This would be like if a good midwife who means well were still not qualified enough to do her job. The results could be disastrous.

This is what I want to examine, and you’ll see that before I’ve even had a chance to get an answer to my questions, I am causing great offense for looking into this subject matter. But, in all earnestness, what could be more important than a mother’s mental well-being? You could have a dozen successful births of healthy children, but if the mother is unable to receive right care, everyone loses.

This is one of the anti natural birth pages, and the bottom comment is from the would-be doula and mentor for grieving mothers. She is seen here participating in the manner normal for her within these groups.

While we believe that you should be able to choose whomever you like for any form of your own care, regardless of title or degree, we do always urge that you exercise caution and common sense. Anti natural birth groups insist that certain classifications of midwife are unfit to practice, but they seem to feel that any laypeople in various stages of intense grief make good mentors to those who are just beginning their path. They do not seem to require any special qualifications– no degrees, no higher education, and not even psychological evaluations to conclude that said individuals are sound enough to be assisting the grieving.

In Search of the Perfect Birth and Michelle both ask,

Why the double standard?

To be continued…


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11 responses

24 01 2012
Lyndell

I found this pretty disturbing. Having gone through a stillbirth myself I have sought help and support in many areas. I volunteer at a support organisation and often meet other Mum’s and share experiences. However I found some mother’s grief so very different from mine, which isn’t wrong, but it is not helpful for me or them, after all I am not qualified, no matter how similar our experiences, to deal with them psychologically. ( I might add this organisation does offer training and qualified help if needed).
The people who I have found most helpful with my grief are those that listen, do not judge, do not interrupt with their own opinion on the matter or make assumptions about what/where/how it happened.
Promoting hate, blame and violence (words can still be violent) is not an intelligent response, nor does it change a thing except show your inability to handle a situation.
Having a supportive person to connect with, can be helpful but I hope this organisation chooses people who are capable of support more carefully.

2 02 2012
Guest Post by Michelle: Grieving Mothers Deserve Better, Stillbirthday. « theperfectbirth

[…] something to say about the targeting Stillbirthday (an organization that claims to care about the healing process of loss mothers) has aimed her way. They publicly rebuke her and made false accusations, but […]

24 04 2012
Just Quick Clarifications (For the Stillbirthday Debacle) « theperfectbirth

[…] Everything I ever used in any posts about Stillbirthday was entirely factual. I don’t have to lie. The truth is bad enough. Every time I ask […]

7 06 2012
Medicine Vs. Midwifery: Divide & Conquer « theperfectbirth

[…] is. Deb is a member of a group that proudly claims they are fed up with natural birth. And Deb chased down loss mother Michelle on my page just to dig into her about her own homebirth loss, and her […]

8 06 2012
Jessica

While it’s quite good to ask about the qualifications of a mental health counselor (master’s level or PhD being the standard to become a therapist/psychologist)…. what about the qualifications of a medical care provider (top grades in pre-medical school work with a Bachelor’s Degree, great MCAT scores, four years of medical school, residency/internship, specialty, ongoing training)? From my personal training (BA in Biology with a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy), I think that the point of confusion is that some folks from certain backgrounds do not realize the level of education that is required to safely work in the medical field. As they say, the more you know, the more you realize how little you know 🙂 Some folks just don’t realize that it takes a LOT more that witnesssing even 100 births and a year of coursework to handle the complications that eventually will arise with birth. Science is NOT like art where some people are extremely talented without an education (and others with one). Nor do they have the scientific background to be able to properly analyze the research about their profession 😦 I.e., the at least 3xs death risk of babies, or even the difference between different types of infant deaths, or what makes a good research study. Ignorance is bliss though when one really loves assisting in homebirths. Just keep pretending that those babies wouldn’t have made it in the hospital…

8 06 2012
♥♂►Elizabeth, ISOTP Birth◄♀♥

I think what happens is people get wrapped up in the bureaucracy and hoops and intricacy and it overwhelms them. It’ll overwhelm them in terms of goals (maybe adding humility), and eventually overwhelms them in their ego (“I achieved *all* this, so *I* am really special”). In the process, something gets lost. Something vital, something simple, something elegant, something amazingly uncomplicated. When you get most of your education based on what a book and a person in an institution are guiding you towards, based on humanity’s established and thriving systems, things ordinarily innate to us fall through the cracks. That’s why people are turning away from medical birth and bringing birth back home. There is something inside women that will not be denied, despite our best efforts to turn away from it. We want so badly to be intelligent apes that we fail to see our foolish arrogance.

I applaud anyone who does the hard work and gets a higher education and is scholarly. I applaud them more when they are able somehow to not identify themselves as being valuable or important because of their education. It should add to their character, experience, and knowledge– not define it. There’s a whole world of “education” out there that doesn’t come from a degree. We need to keep an even keel here, or we aren’t being objective. Isn’t that what smart people are? Objective? Or did we build just another form of worship?

Speaking of objective, those studies you are quoting were skewed. You know, the “homebirth kills 3X as many babies” study. They falsely represented the variables and admitted to not having enough participants to accurately conclude anything. The medical community decided to publish it anyway. After all, every study is looking for a particular conclusion, and they pieced together theirs, ethics be damned. They knew that people would quote it to inspire certain reactions without seeking more deeply to understand it, and they were right. Humans are so predictably lazy.

Some people DO, as it turns out, have a “talent” for science. And a great many do not. And surprisingly, some of those folks happen to be doctors. Just as some kids are musical prodigies at age five, playing Bach by ear, some people are gifted in that they just “get” how things work. Science, real science, studies the nature of how things work. I call people with a gift for understanding how things work “perceptive”. That’s a little woo, but so is actual science. Anyway, those wooey science people are usually ridiculed and attempted-discredited during their lifetimes. Later we go on to declare them the great minds, and our children learn about science from their discoveries, theories, and inventions. Their glory is posthumous because human beings have a nasty habit of having no vision.

But science, like art, is something that some can practice and get better at. You don’t have to be an instant genius to grow through learning, and build your skill to the point where you excel. And you don’t even require a formal education and a fancy degree to improve in those departments. I encourage everyone to keep reading, keep asking, keep learning. The second you stop and just take someone’s word for it, you’ve given up on that quest. That’s just taking it on faith, isn’t it? 😉

Now I’ll ask you a tired old question– one which never gets answered– what about all those babies who died in the hospital who would have made it at home? Oh right, keep pretending that’s impossible… 🙂 It works both ways. See, I can do that, too. And don’t just discount what I am saying. Really think about it. It shouldn’t be just brushed off as rhetoric. It deserves consideration.

Peace and love, and thanks for taking time to converse on my blog today.

8 06 2012
Lyndell

‘to handle the complications that eventually will arise with birth’ That sentence scares me and why people who rely solely on their medical training scare me. Yes birth can be high risk, but it is not a give in. Birth is not something you need to save a baby from.

17 10 2013
Good news

“Sammy” is a bitch and her followers are mostly militant breast feeders insisting on their “right” to bear their tits in public. I only know of the page because it showed up in my newsfeed when friends liked stuff on it. I personally found it disturbing and was called a hypocrite by the supposedly open minded community, and queen Sammy herself, when I suggested that breast feeding pictures were done primarily for shock value and were inappropriate for public viewing…. Oh, and people shouldn’t be whipping them out in public either. So I guess I’m a hypocrite because it think private parts should remain private…. Um, ok.

19 10 2013
♥♂►Elizabeth, ISOTP Birth◄♀♥

Breasts are not private parts when they are used for feeding babies. And wow, you’re a foul human being.

24 10 2013
Good news

Is my ass not still a private part when used to take a dump in public? How about genitals when used for having sex? These were, after all, their intended purpose…. But then again, no one wants to see that stuff in public…. EXACTLY. 😀

17 11 2013
Good news

What, nothing more to say smartass?

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