Approaching Baby Loss Topics With Conscience

10 02 2013

Recently my friend Sammy at The Skeptical Mother opened her Wall to baby loss photos from grieving parents. The topic began when she noticed a controversial post done by Dr. Amy which only showed pictures of babies who had passed away, and their parents grieving over them. For those who know Amy, I do not have to tell you that this was not done in memorial, it was done as a propaganda piece meant to convey “Homebirth Kills Babies”.

Sammy asked the question to her fans– how do you feel about this manner of sharing? The answers were mixed but the majority was very uncomfortable with being shown– without warning– photos of babies that had died, and nothing else (no accompanying backstory, etc.). If I recall correctly, Sammy did not even expose the fact that it was a post by Dr. Amy she was referencing. It seemed a hypothetical, and still received this fairly negative response. Then she decided to delete the thread because it had turned sour for so many. She found a happy medium– she invited fans to post their baby loss photos and stories on the Wall, and gave readers the choice of whether they wanted to view and offer their support.

I want you to know something about The Skeptical Mother. She did this knowing that loss mothers felt left out. She did this under much criticism by Dr. Amy trolls. They told her she would never do something like this, having not the slightest clue what was in her heart (and their common claim, against any natural birth pages, whom they are mad only post “positive” stuff).  Her  concern was to strike a balance that is sensitive to everyone but without becoming a puppet for anyone else’s sick agenda. Sammy’s choice was carefully considered in an effort to be fair to everyone… from the mother who just miscarried whose heart could not bear to see images which reminded her, to the grieving mother who wanted the world to look at and remember her stillborn baby. She thought of women who had never lost but were terrified of the prospect and felt unready to view these images, as well as new mothers who openly said they would be more than ready to share in the memories while loss moms provided pictures. TSM’s motives are pure in an internet climate full of politics and ulterior motives.

The Wall is a place where users can submit anything they want, and the only way to view it is to go to the Wall yourself and see. This is different from Sammy directly sharing on the page herself, which becomes visible to all 40,000+ of her followers in their newsfeeds (many of whom were very sensitive and planning upcoming births, some of whom let her know they would have to unlike the page if her positive content started shifting to the shocking or the devastating). So, by opening her Wall to this, Sammy was able to accommodate a very real need for loss parents to not feel neglected, have their children acknowledged, while at the same time honoring the wants and needs of the majority who do not come to her page for such emotionally taxing photos.

Even a word such as “shocking”, used above, some would take offense to, but please remember that any image of death (regardless of who it is of and who that person was to you) is troubling to most people. “Those are not shocking, it is our sweet little baby, our only memory of her,” they might say, offended. Yes, but it is also true the picture of your baby has a sadness and heaviness that most baby pictures do not. You still deserve to celebrate, and we know that.  We still have to recognize how different it will be for those who don’t share your intense emotions. And how could they? You’ve gone through one of the worst things ever, and maybe they have not. Or, maybe they have, but they deal with their pain in a totally different way than you. Therefore, we need to take extra special care with your pictures.

But don’t you think seeing healthy babies all day can hurt, too?”
Maybe. But, people who feel that way probably didn’t “like” The Skeptical Mother. People “like” her page because they like her content, not because it causes them great anguish and they want her desperately to change her ways.

People can be especially averse to seeing babies in such a way, since they are our most precious and treasured ones. It is the ultimate human tragedy. People don’t turn away as a disrespect to your babies… they turn away because their empathy is actually much too great to bear it. I would be more concerned for the folks who weren’t stirred in the slightest at loss photos than the people who are moved too much to even look.

Babies dying is a sad topic (be it miscarriage, stillbirth, or something else entirely). It’s a reality that happens, true, and there is no woman alive who doesn’t realize this. Putting her in a position where she is forced to view one of the saddest events a human being could experience will not change this, and asking a stranger to look at a photo they feel would cause them any emotional disturbance is an ill-fitting memorial to any of our loved ones. You will not get the desired reaction, you can’t force the desired reaction, and that is nobody’s fault.

I don’t think most loss mothers would expect this, but there were many disturbed Dr. Amy fans who felt strongly that this was not anyone’s problem but the person averse to looking. I say, everything in it’s right time and place. Appropriateness is paramount. Just as you would not walk into a Lamaze class and start shoving photos in the faces of people without a word, there is a manner in which we as humans interact and share that is healthy and fair for everyone. “Appropriate” may sound like a cold word to someone feeling intense grief, but their reality is not everyone’s reality, so “normal” to them versus the outside world can change significantly. If Amy fans expect everyone to change with that to the point that the Lamaze scenario above would be the new normal, I don’t think that’s a realistic or even sane goal. No, “appropriate” is in this case just another word for being considerate to everyone at the same time. It can be done. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s about respecting the needs of everyone and trying to find how to fill those without being a knife in the heart of the other party. I feel Sammy succeeded with that.

Many demanded all people be made to look, regardless of their sensitivities or feelings, because they contended to not was a disrespect to all baby loss victims everywhere. Some said to feel uneasy about it was the same as spitting in the baby’s face. Some openly said that their feelings were the only ones that counted, and they mocked the delicate feelings of mothers-to-be. “Think of how the loss mothers feel” got repeated a lot by Amy trolls and just other women in general, but I don’t think our sorrow for anyone can negate the human emotion of wanting to avoid subjects that are painful on purpose. Nor, a human being’s right to tell you what their tolerance level is (personally) for tragedy. Our readiness towards anything is a personal matter and depends on where we are in life. If we can’t respect that, it’s the same as saying everyone else is just a player in the story of your life. If it were that easy, you could write the script yourself and give everyone the correct emotions to feel. It’s not that simple. Humans are complex and have their own stories, and we can’t force ours on others.

*** Here is the part where I tell you that we all want stories and photos shared, but we warn “with discretion” because we understand that the way a grieving mother sees her photo versus a member of the general public are very different things. This can be very hurtful to loss mothers to hear, but I implore them not to take it as society’s rejection of you or baby, but rather a reflection of our fears. Let’s face it– no one wants their baby to die, or anyone’s to die (unless you’re an Amy troll, in which case, you want mine to die).  We are not in the habit of regularly viewing things we would never want to go through ourselves. Any image of death is usually upsetting to most people. Many have called for the changing of this taboo, and it is a separate argument entirely to discuss if it is our taboo to change. People come from all different walks of life with different philosophies and customs, and I think understanding that is very important. Where you may see your little angel, others may not, and instead be triggered into a traumatic memory, for example. Some will frankly only see death. On a cheerful and positive birth page, it would seem obvious that this content would not be typical.  Sometimes this explanation still fails to suffice for a mother so deep in her own emotions. TO BE CLEAR, Sammy and I both agree with sharing things which are accompanied by WARNINGS (to alert the sensitive) or stories (so that the picture itself is not just exploited for shock value, but contains a message, or something poignant and meaningful). ***

I want you to know that even after she decided to open her Facebook page’s Wall to this, she was accused of not really meaning it, not being genuine, not doing enough (by the Amy trolls). That’s right– first they said she would never do this at all, but when that was obviously not the case, they found something new to complain about. They make it a mission to be offended unless you not only jump when they say, but ask “how high” first. I told her this would happen but she did it anyway because her heart meant it.  She was accused of doing it just for extra likes (even though she did it knowing she could actually LOSE fans). In light of this, I have watched shady loss organizations (associated with/ran by Dr. Amy fans) disregard her intentions and vilify her. I was made privy how another major birth page made posts and statements about how *they* always have a place for loss mothers, as they attempt to constantly one-up her on her every post since TSM’s popularity spiked. Loss should NOT be a platform for competition.

This outrage is a violation far worse than taking into consideration the feelings of people averse to death scenarios. It doesn’t take the topic seriously, it only seeks to gain from it.

There are tons of places for loss and remembrance, and the good thing about those places (so long as they are healthy and not run by hate groups) is that they are already aware of the subject matter and prepared to respect and grieve with you. There are tons of natural birth pages and similar topics which occasionally share your losses in a tasteful and non-exploitative way. I assure you that just because your average birth or parenting site isn’t daily sharing photos of babies who have passed away, it is not due to not caring. It is simply not the usual subject matter of the page and not the voice they are projecting. That is all. For a parent to lose a child is a very specific facet of life and birth, and not every page is going to address it on a nonstop basis. Not every page is qualified to regularly address this with the sincerity the topic warrants. When people describe being “swept under the rug” (something we hear the Amy fans say a lot), I hope it is not for this reason anyone describes it as such.

I know I speak for most when I say “we still love you, even if your issue isn’t the one discussed the most”. I don’t talk about lots of (birth and parenting) things every day, such as adoption, or c-sections, or maternal/paternal death, but I still love all families for whom these are the big issues, as well. Every page has a unique voice and they are speaking from their own life experiences, so please don’t feel left out if the type of content doesn’t constantly address the issue dearest to your heart. And if a page isn’t speaking to your heart and needs, find other pages which do. Not everyone can be everything to everyone, but there is someone out there who understands you, and no one is ever truly alone. There is a place for all of us, it just isn’t always the same place.

Due to the outpouring of support and participation her Wall inspired that day, Sammy has decided that every 8th of every month will be The Skeptical Mother Loss Remembrance Day. Please feel free to participate if this is a subject you would like to take part in. Because it shouldn’t be about homebirth, or trolls, or popularity, or moneymaking… it should be about your babies.

Everyone Else is Doing it, So Why Can’t We? More on Stillbirthday.

21 09 2012

Even though members of the Raptors (anti natural birth group) and mentors and members of Stillbirthday (such as Lisa, Bambi, and Liz) are very angry that midwifery is supposedly lacking standardized education and licensure across the board, that isn’t stopping the new grief mentorship organization from doing something similar.

You know the old saying:  if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Recently someone who was considering being a Stillbirthday Doula contacted me for more info after some concerns and arguments were raised on The Birthing Site. When I informed her of the reasons why people were very
wary of the founding of this group, she thanked me and expressed relief that she hadn’t paid for the training yet.


Apparently, Heidi has created and defined a doula credential, which she oversees the education for and approves, and charges $200 for it.

So, like the concern one may have over self-governing and self-regulating midwives, one has to wonder why this would be acceptable.

As far as I can tell, this is a completely made up credential built around Heidi’s brand (stillbirthday), that is designed by, taught by, regulated by Heidi herself.

Now it makes a lot of sense why she was so heavily promoting Stillbirthday, even in inappropriate moments…

… and why she took such great offense to my question-asking, calling it bashing her “dead son’s legacy”. I was threatening a form of livelihood.

I’m not trying to take food out of her mouth or do anything to intentionally hurt anyone, contrary to how I am being portrayed and will undoubtedly continue to be portrayed. However, it doesn’t take much to see that what Heidi is doing is and always was the makings of a business; a business which models its self-righteousness and self-professionalism off of the same (perceived) invented and unregulated credential/professionalism of the midwives Stillbirthday supporters so vehemently oppose.

Below are some examples of the kind of individuals that support, endorse, and are even actively involved within Stillbirthday. This happened on a blog.

Lots of anti-natural birth comments followed, which I found very telling considering that this was a blog intended to be about the virtues of Stillbirthday and Heidi. Her supporters were very single-minded, but let’s face it– it did suit the tone of that entire natural birth bashing blog post. Then this happened:

The $200 invented doula specialty credential is not all Heidi has for sale, though. She offers many things you can purchase through her site, one of which is a Stillbirthday cake.

For $15, Heidi will take a pound cake and put the signature stillbirthday zero candle on it, light it, and use frosting to write your baby’s name on it. She then takes a photo for you to download. Then, she takes the cake to a hospice, where they refrost it and use it.

This seems like Heidi’s version of names in the sand, a project run by a woman called Carly Marie. Carly Marie is also a loss mother, and this is her legacy– she writes your child’s name in the sand on a beautiful beach at sunset and takes a stunning photo of it, to memorialize your precious baby lost. Seen here, she did one for Vylette (of Justice for Vylette).

Carly Marie does charge $20 for this service, and there is a waiting list.

Other items for sale via Stillbirthday include:

  • 20 Stillbirthday business cards– $25
  • A Stillbirthday Loss Doula Handbook– $5
  • Sponsorships– ranging from $25 to $100.

Luckily, not “everyone” (as Dr. Amy has said) is on board with Stillbirthday. People who were not hip to the game are becoming hip, and with the help of posts like these, the word is getting out to innocent and unsuspecting people that something here is amiss.

There are those, however, who argue that Stillbirthday is a “very needed resource”. I disagree. One, it’s not needed. There are tons of amazing resources out there for grief and specifically infant grief and pregnancy loss. This program fills no void that was previously lacking. Two, the individuals involved in the program having such a scandalous past and present where birth and baby loss are concerned also makes the program very much not needed. Women have options, and there are lots of them, and many of which are very stable and healthy and unbiased.

They say birth is big business. Apparently, loss can be, too. Please keep that in mind, even when people you like or groups you have trusted become overly insistent on something seemingly fishy being anything but. Beware of not being allowed to speak, and questions being shot down or hush-hushed.

I think I’ve been clear that I am not trying to deprive Heidi or anyone for that matter of proper grieving or even the right to earn money. We all have things to cope with which pain us, and we all have families to support financially, which is completely understandable. I would never begrudge anyone that, even people whom I dislike or disagree with. Before, in prior posts, I was more concerned with questioning ethics and double standards, but at this point I really need to call into question mental stability. I’m sorry, but these are very disturbed, sick individuals we are dealing with.

And the first sign of this is, they don’t even recognize nor acknowledge the concerns we all have about them. They treat it as totally fantasy, and act as though it doesn’t exist. To this day, all my screen shots are called “creative”. The truth is swept under the rug, like so many “murderous midwives”. Heidi and others tell people that my goal is to inflict harm, or gain readership. Truthfully, I lose fans whenever I post these. I do it not because it helps me at all, but because it might help you.

So in the end, if you can’t defeat all of midwifery and natural birthing, just do like you think they do– be sweet to everyone, earn their trust (sometimes by lies, bribery, or flattery), create your own credentials, and make that money.

Just Quick Clarifications (For the Stillbirthday Debacle)

24 04 2012

Most of this stuff could have been cleared up if open communication were ever utilized. You’d be amazed how much understanding can occur when people genuinely talk to and listen to one another. But, not happening, so here goes.

Three things:

1. I never went to Gina @ The Feminist Breeder to convince her of anything. It literally never happened. I only stepped into the conversation when alerted by my friends it was occurring.  At that point, it was concerned loss mothers who’d been victimized by the Mentors at Stillbirthday who had spoken up to spark her retraction of endorsing their site in the first place.

2.  I never tell mothers that it is better to watch your baby die a natural death than to receive emergency care. All you’d have to do is read my book to know that I am all about having back up plans and taking care to use medical service when it is needed.  Others have gathered this just from my online activity, w/o even having to read my book.  Saying that I prefer dead infants to medical intervention is absurd and a regurgitation of the common go-to claim made against any natural childbirth proponents by anti natural birth groups. Heidi claims to be for natural birth, but she’s pulling out all their cards tonight.

3. 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 “what was a lie?” I am never answered. Some act like they are above that and then post passive-aggressive blogs to avoid actual conversation and maintain the appearance of a moral high ground. We go to comment, but they refuse to publish our comments in our own defense, even though they have been allowed on ours. Like the interview I attempted, communication is always shut down. I am never proven wrong. It’s a hit and run.

Okay, Four things.

4. I have never, ever, ever, EVER made ANY request, explicit or implied, that ANY particular member be ousted from Stillbirthday. My problem was with the organization as a whole. I never made any demands, threats, or ultimatums. If you were told this, you were lied to. I have nothing to gain if ONE person leaves this organization. If one person leaves, who wins? Not me, and I don’t care. This is not to fulfill any vendetta. This is not personal. It is beyond personal. Even if any one mentor were ousted from this group, I would still never promote Stillbirthday. It’s very foundation, to me, is questionable. There was never a deal one could make with me in exchange for my silence. Only understanding did I seek. Questions and answers. These were refused.

Good! I think that’s all cleared up now. Have a good one!  🙂

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.

Open Letter in Response to ‘One Lost Sheep’ from Stillbirthday

31 01 2012

I re-read this, this time carefully. I softened. I felt through you for a minute, and for a minute believed that this really was good, as were our “enemies”, as were you… until I got to the end. The end where you still speak of slander, and where you dare to forgive my friend for her normal reaction to sudden and unexpected opposition. It came across as condescending. When we haven’t slandered, we don’t need forgiveness. When all loss moms are angry and have suffered and want a voice, why are some allowed to express anything about anyone, while others are expected to hold their tongues even while being assaulted? Why are we playing by different rules? Why are some given a free pass on anything, but not my friend? Who approves who we may speak ill of? Is there a list?

Sometimes "lost sheep" are just "black sheep".

The things you said, about her friends, and propaganda… I have a hard time thinking you truly believe that. DO you truly believe that? It really just… simply, blows my mind. My first instinct was that you were twisting and turning it all, using what you know are our feelings and making them your own, so that the roles appear reversed to the reader… a manipulation. But, could you truly feel that this was accurate? Maybe you do. I am trying to remain open to the idea that somewhere inside you actually believe we are allowing our friend’s story to become “lost” in our agenda (which happens to be her belief [system– in reference to the “agenda”], btw, and has been her belief system all along– it was not rocked or challenged by loss.).

We each have “propaganda”, by the other’s standards. Make no mistakes. And we each have friends who help us share our story, so we can tell our truth as we see it. We were drawn to our friend not because we saw someone to mold, but because we saw someone who was grounded and admirable, graceful under tragedy, and we wanted others to listen. We’ve had no effect on her message or her voice other than accessibility. We did not, as some of you have, taken her in fresh grief and impressed upon her our feelings about one birth method being any better than another.

You sit there and tell this woman that she, in her former and her usual peace, is not truly healed… while recommending that she eventually see “the truth”… the truth as your friends have seen it, your truth which from our eyes only held anger and blame in a blanketing sweep. The angry truth. Is that better for her? Because my friend had her head on straight and was mad at no one until she was provoked. The pain she feels now is from whatever is inflicted on her by the blamers, the rage-addicts. In other words, she was fine until you all got to her to intentionally wound her. But she remains the villain in your story. As do I. I could assure you our noble intent, our heart, our truth, goodness and fairness in judgment… but I don’t think you could agree. Regardless, I would challenge you to reexamine, in humility, that none of you are fit to judge this woman, her calm method of accepting The Creator’s plan, nor are any of you properly trained or equipped to, from a distance, tell her who and what was responsible for her loss. An acknowledgment of these things would be nice, but we will not wait or expect.

So who, in this analogy, needs to repent? Repent what? Repent homebirth? Repent defending oneself against new, self-appointed enemies? I don’t know. I just don’t know. But I know lost sheep when I see them, and my dear friends and I… I have never seen such strong, stable, gracious, compassionate, loving, spiritual, in-tune and intuitive wise women in my life. Women who would cry over anyone’s heartbreak, mock no one’s pain, attempt to wound no stranger nor sister, and who attempt to regain balance and healing when life knocks us down. We stand on our own, and maybe we are lucky for that… we are not in any circle trying desperately to fit in, as we have moved past that. I say “lucky” because perhaps different life circumstances would have had us taking a beating and coming back for more, looking for stability and kinship from those who greet us with abuse. So, we are lucky that we have the luxury to have the ability to choose to be tough and say we find this unacceptable. We are, in my eyes, not lost at all. We are found.

Or are your friends the lost sheep, and you are Jesus going back for them?

Perhaps you find the virtue in coming back again, and again, and again after being kicked and slapped. There is some patience in it, but for us, it is masochism. We do not insist on belonging to people who have shown us their hate for us. In fact, we never asked to know of their hate, so we take even that knowledge as an offense. There are places where you will find love and togetherness without sacrificing your happiness or self worth.

I want to go back to sympathizing, to seeing you as real women with hearts, with feelings… but that can never be easy so long as you all are held up here, on some pedestal of your own design… cast as victims and good people who are allowed any transgression with excuses and forgiveness endlessly, while your sisters sit on the other side, scorned, even when they’ve spoken nothing false. You’re cutting the line there. I am thankful for it, because if it’s how you really feel, we need to see that. I wouldn’t want it hidden from sight. It just sucks because, I feel like… we were so close. So close to feeling each other, understanding each other. We were almost there.

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…