Guest Post by Michelle: Grieving Mothers Deserve Better, Stillbirthday.

2 02 2012

Michelle (a loss mother) had 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 refused to publish this comment of hers, even though we allowed them to respond on this blog in their own defense. Apparently our asking questions was tantamount to harassment and hate, and they’ve chosen to return the favor rather than provide the information we were seeking. The reason?: they didn’t want to get involved in anything “unproductive”. Listen to Michelle’s words and decide if you think they are capable of appropriately handling conflicts or giving qualified care to grief-stricken parents of infant loss.

Truth be told this entire blog piece which was in reference to ME was completely condescending.

I don’t care WHAT you say there is absolutely NO excuse for another grieving mother to tell me that I didn’t love my son and that I am the reason he died. None. Not a single excuse can be made for her. I did nothing to provoke her “anger”, since this seems to be the excuse you make for her every time. The only thing I did was disagree with her position on certified professional midwives. Negligence occurs ALL THE TIME in HOSPITALS too.

When a loss occurs, you need someone who will stand by you without prejudice or judgment. You can't trust just anybody to help you through your grief. Who can you trust?

This is not something that is strictly occurring during home births attended by [people] other than CNMs. I refuse to change my OWN position in this fight against midwifery because of the way someone else feels. And bullying me about how I deal with my OWN loss is not going to change my position. And that is what she and all of her friends did and continue to do anytime my blog is posted somewhere. She has no reason to be angry at anyone who is standing up for themselves and what THEY believe in. Even despite all the nasty things she said about me I would never ever DREAM of insinuating that she didn’t love her baby. That’s what people who really do have compassion for others do. She has clearly stated she has no sympathy for people like me regarding my loss because I am not blaming the world the way she is. THIS IS NOT THE PROPER MENTALITY FOR A PERSON TO HAVE AS A MENTOR FOR GRIEVING MOTHERS.

I am sure you probably won’t even approve of this post so no one but you will even see it. Please stop posting your condescending blog posts about me and my loss. I am not the one in need of help here. I have peace about my loss thanks.

We’ll see it, Michelle. We’ll see it. You haven’t done anything wrong. All you’ve ever done was tell people that peace was attainable after stillbirth, and that sometimes deaths have no one to blame. We applaud you.

Getting Qualified Care: Attempted Interview with Stillbirthday

19 01 2012

Michelle and I had noted concerns about Stillbirthday, a fledgling organization set up to mentor grieving parents of infant loss which is headed by very active members in an angry anti natural birth movement– so rather than asking rhetorical questions that could be mostly agreed upon by objective readers, I decided it was only fair to allow the founder (self-described Christian doula Adalheid “Heidi” Faith) to speak for herself in defense of her organization.

She declined to comment.

Then this happened at the blog of a would-be mentor for Stillbirthday. In it she stated:

The bolded bottom text is my commentary.

So, as stated in my above bold text, I felt it would be necessary to share the entire exchange of e-mails between Heidi and myself, and was prepared to do so, and I informed Heidi. I wanted to prove my innocence and hopefully discredit the libel and defamation occurring. Heidi, however, asked me not to, claiming it would breach a sense of confidentiality (although I started off everything by informing her this was “on the record”). I had false information being spread about me and people were now visiting my page and accusing me of threatening Stillbirthday, so someone was going to have to clean up the mess. I informed Heidi that I still intended to publish a post discussing Stillbirthday, but that I would reconsider showing our e-mail exchange if she could manage to stop the lies.

While no further response from Heidi has yet been received, the blog which accused me has been removed. True to my word, I will not post the e-mail exchange between Heidi and myself.

As an aside, I have been sharing this video clip for about a year now. Each time I did and shared the advice given within it, I was criticized by this group for being dangerous and giving dangerous advice. Oddly enough, Stillbirthday uses the same clip, and approves...

I will, however, share the questions below that I intended to ask her, which she did not feel comfortable answering on the record. She felt my questions should be addressed privately, and that I had too much of a slant to my interview.  I still wait to see if she will answer my questions privately, off the record.

Hi Heidi. This is on the record. I wanted to ask you a few questions, if I could, about Stillbirthday, and I do plan to use it on an upcoming post where I address receiving qualified care. If you are okay with that, would you please respond to these? First of all, I had Michelle send this for me as a favor. She is helping me compose this and she may also add some of her own questions in here to mine. Okay, now– Could you discuss a little about what exactly a Mentor’s role is at Stillbirthday?

Stillbirthday describes their mentor requirements.

What do you think qualifies these women to be in that role? I understand these are women and mothers who have experience with loss themselves. Do they have a backgrounds, training, or degrees in psychology? Do you give psychological evaluations to any of your Mentors before they assist a grieving mother? Do you feel that these individuals are emotionally and psychologically sound enough to be in such a lofty and sensitive position?

More on what they require of their mentors.

Do you feel there are any potential dangers to someone who is still unresolved in their own issues of grief being placed in a position of trust and mentorship over someone new to grief?

I know that several of you sincerely dislike natural birth, or what you feel are tenets of a NCB community, to an extent of being quite angry or even voicing feelings of ridicule. Do you feel this would be a potential obstacle in offering good counsel or compassion to someone grieving (particularly someone who has utilized natural or home birth as a method, and whom does not feel this was to blame for their loss, and would do it again that way for future children)?

Do you feel that healing from loss is possible, and how do you support others in their quest to get there (if so)?

Do you think it’s offensive to suggest that healing can happen after this level of pain? Do you encourage or discourage joining any particular *groups* after someone has suffered a loss? I’m remembering Margarita in this and how quickly your group took

A ray of hope: Margarita “likes” the comment that says licensing does not promise positive outcomes, after being taken under the wings of the anti NCB crowd swiftly after she announced the death of her son.

her under their wings when she announced the passing of her son. I can’t help but wonder if that didn’t have an effect on the way viewed her loss.

How do you see yourself handling women who are grieving but not in agreement with any of you in the birth department? What do you anticipate being the response of one of your mentors to one of their former clients, were they to “meet” again in the online birthing communities which often butt heads?

Given the “secret groups”, the rage we’ve seen, the label of “trolls” given– how do you plan on ensuring that women who innocently enter your program looking for help can be and feel safe with their mentors?

If there is anything else about the groups you are a part of, and their relation to Stillbirthday, or anything at all else to share with readers, what would that be?

Thanks so much for your time, Heidi.

An example of Bambi's online presence. Her anti natural childbirth group, she claims, is not out to get anyone and she doesn't want people to be paranoid, but their activities include screencapping people to mock amongst themselves; she admits she even does this to family.

This is the reaction of a loss mother to Bambi's online methods of expressing her grief. As you can see, Michelle has had a strong reaction to Bambi's declarations against natural birth and Michelle's loss that Michelle felt compelled to be blunt towards Bambi re: regularly blaming and accusing others. Since Michelle is a calm person, I can't help but wonder what other reactions mentor Bambi would get.

Their group doing the usual. Also worth noting-- I'm pretty sure that Carlos Mencia reference is regarding retardation.

Sammy, aka. The Skeptical Mother, battling "trolls". She is referring to something Lisa had done, seen below.

Lisa's blog makes fun of natural birth using an alter-ego, describing it as "parody". This time, she has chosen the photo of a mother and newborn to make fun of. You'll recognize the title consists of lyrics from the song "Zombie" by The Cranberries.

A reader was disturbed, and this was Lisa's response.

Lisa doing more parody, this time about natural miscarriage.

Lisa feeling comfortable with different belief systems (yes, even Buddhists).

This wasn’t done in any way to force any one mentor out of a program, nor to be a threat to anyone. No demands have been made on my part. I just want people to know who it is they are going to for care, before they give themselves over. That’s all. I’ve advocated this from the start– seeking to understand just what kind of person you are receiving treatment from, and even hardcore independence where possible. Just as you’d want to know your midwife or OB’s record before taking their care, and you’d want to know if you could really like and trust them, finding a qualified grief mentor who is stable, compassionate, and sympathetic (and perhaps even specially trained) only benefits you. In the end, though, just as in birth, I feel the choice should be yours. If you wanted to birth or be counseled by someone unlicensed, alternatively trained, or even inappropriate by mainstream standards, I support your decision. I strongly urge your educated and intuitive choice, however.

Places which may be a good resource if you are grieving & want to have healing & hope:
Elizabeth suggests: Mason’s Cause; Michelle adds: ICANhas a loss and recovery email list which deals with infant loss during a VBAC, c-section, or after birth. They also deal with loss of uterus as some have had uterine ruptures; a private group on Facebook (must contact Michelle for more info); for mental and emotional health though I would recommend a therapist who can help address some of the psychological effects of loss on not just the mother but the couple as a whole.

This concludes our current series on Getting Qualified Care. While we may do more in the future, we hope to (for the time being) return to somewhat more lighthearted, celebratory, less controversial posts for a while! Stay tuned for reviews, giveaways, and happier pieces. I love you.

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…

Getting Qualified Care: Titles and Education

13 01 2012

This is part of a series called Getting Qualified Care, where we examine the anti natural birther movement of storming the internet to dispel what participants within feel are lies and misinformation about birth. We are discussing just what constitutes quality care from qualified providers, the subtext being “who gets to decide this” — mainly, would you allow other individuals from a movement with their own set of biases choose for you what your standard of care should be?

What makes one “qualified”? Is it a prestigious educational background?

 Maybe it’s a rank or a title, like “Doctor”.

Amy is Harvard educated AND a doctor. Impressive.

Amy informs someone that college and medical background means you cannot disagree with them and possibly know what you're talking about. Interesting. Only a fool would disagree with a doctor!

Here is Amy telling us a Doctor is wrong.

Here is Amy telling us a Doctor is wrong.

Here is Amy telling us a Doctor is wrong.

Here is Amy beginning to tell us that yet another Doctor is wrong.

Don't want to ruin it for you, but, another wrong Doctor, according to Amy.

I could go on, but I think you get the point– Dr. Amy, 5, Other Doctors, 0.

It can’t be the Doctor credential and the years of medical training and background that is making people credible or qualified. Then again, I guess any glance at My OB Said What?! could have shown us that:

Just one example of real-life anecdotes submitted to popular website My OB Said What.

All doctors come to the table and present their “evidence”. How do you know who is telling the truth, especially in a world where we’ve considered that doctors are capable of being flawed?

Maybe it’s in the licensing of that title, to validate it.

Most of the “Fed Uppers” are on a(n in)quest to end midwifery that does not belong to the CNM (certified nurse midwife) category. They believe that all other forms of midwife (usually designated as CPM, or certified professional midwife) are a joke and disservice to women. It needs to be noted here that a lot of this stems from personal bias and bad experiences or trauma the women have faced with natural birth. Differing regions (particularly in the States) have varied regulation in terms of education and practice standards, but in general, much training and years of education are required for one to become a licensed midwife of any title. Yet, one of the main purposes this group claims to promote is eradication of what they deem less qualified midwifery in favor solely of the CNM model. Unfortunately, CNM’s largely practice in birthing centers and in hospitals. What I see as the real goal in mind is the eradication of home birth.

Is a midwife more qualified just for having gone to nursing school beforehand? Is a midwife more qualified for taking a more medical approach to birth? If no other midwife licensing is allowed or considered “qualified”, will that ensure everyone has more qualified care, or will it eliminate options and force women to choose between clinical birth and freebirth? Who gets to decide what kind of care a woman must receive, if not the woman herself? Who gets to mandate which one and only kind of education is valid and acceptable? What if midwifery as we know it became illegal?

Maybe it’s in the current state of practice.

Some argue that a midwife who refuses to renew her license recently is no longer a midwife and shouldn’t be allowed to practice. It doesn’t matter that her skills are still fresh in her memory, and that her choice to not renew is believed to be a political statement against mandating with whom and where women may give birth. To add controversy, suppose this midwife was unafraid of taking cases labeled “high risk” in order to give women more options for their labor, understanding the high risk cases could potentially result in a loss whether or not she presided over the care? If you knew a tragedy could be inevitable regardless, would you choose to stand by your patient, or would you CYA?

Others would argue that an out-of-practice OB/GYN who’s been retired for almost 20 years now, although still given the title “Dr.”, is no longer up to date enough to be giving accurate medical advice, opinions, nor to be weighing in on birth today and facts presented by others who are more current and active in the field. Indeed, birth has changed a lot since the 1990’s. For better or for worse, the skills, policies, drugs, and technology would be greatly different. A doctor who stopped practicing back then, in this fast-paced profession, would undoubtedly be considered old school or maybe obsolete to the hospital crowd.

Being fair, we could say that neither one has “lost” their skill set. Are either of them any less of a doctor or a midwife? Only in technicality. In our own minds, it’s up to our own judgment to ascertain this wisely. Who would you rather have– the latter, or the former– look after you? What would seem more “qualified” to you?

I think education is nice, licenses, degrees, and titles are all very nice… but at the end of the day, it isn’t any one thing that promises to provide you with “qualified care”. Everyone is equally capable of incompetence. Truly understanding this leads to resigned acceptance of freedom to choose the care you think is best, without harsh judgment or scorn.

Getting Qualified Care

12 01 2012

Of course your care providers are *qualified*, but in the eyes of whom?

Most of us would agree that finding qualified care is of extreme importance. Where we diverge, however, is in how we define “qualified”. We could just leave it at that and live and let live. After all, we will never all agree on one set standard of what is acceptable. What you find to be proper I may find inappropriate, and we are all different people with different values and different needs.

However, there are people out there who are so obsessed with the care other women receive in birth that they are unwilling to give in to this, and frankly they are quite mad. The people I am talking about storm birth articles, pages, groups, forums, in addition to their own groups, forums, blogs, etc., in an organized front to rally against natural birth and what they believe to be some kind of natural birth cult-like movement. One of their main groups  even describes itself as being Fed up with natural birth, fronted by an infamous retired doctor, a former OB/GYN. This may not be very compelling in and of itself if not for the fact that nearly every naturally-inclined pregnant woman who hits the internet for information or camaraderie is bound to bump into (and, heads with) these individuals whether they’d like to or not. The level of force used is great, from the mischievous to the malicious, and people who disagree are automatically considered ignorant and bombarded with what some can only describe as hate speech. This is done in an attempt, they say, to be of service to women and babies.

My thoughts: We all want safe options for women, and we all do what we do because we think our information is correct, our stance the truly educated choice, but we don’t all impose our beliefs and standards upon others.

In this next series of posts I have titled Getting Qualified Care, I will take a deeper look into the anti-natural birther movement and their obsession with controlling how total strangers both view and give birth. Specifically, we will be bringing up points to cause readers to question whose definition of “qualified” should count, who gets to decide this, and just how qualified the people concerned are to dispense the info and services which they do.

One thing they stand firm on: They are doing it to help.
Let’s keep that in mind as we take a look at the people who want to make sure YOU are getting qualified care.