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…