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Midwife on Midwife Violence

Aug 30th, 2010 Training

My first experience with midwife on midwife violence was when I was training as a childbirth educator.  The program I chose considered themselves the best and had no problem sharing that fact. I was young and nieve in the ways of birth, I believed everything they told me about how bad other programs were. I even passed on some of their wisdom to prevent others from falling prey to bad birth philosophies.

Since then I have seen it at conferences, trainings and on the internet. Seems there is no shortage of birth people who are willing to tell you why the other group isn’t really interested in helping mothers, why the other group is wrong, why the other group is not legitimate.

The most recent was a training with some of my fellow students.  We had just met a student from another program who began telling us that she chose her program because she’s too (fill-in-the-blank) for our program.  Nothing about how the program fit her goals in working with women, simply that our program wasn’t good enough for her.

She went on to share about the wonderful experience she expects to have at a particular clinical experience.  When I told her I would be doing my clinicals there as well she was surprised — she didn’t realize our program allowed us to train there. I shared with her the dates of an upcoming training I thought she would be interested in. She laughed at the idea that she needed training in that.  When I told her it was actually for learning how to set up programs so women could get this service she could only say “oh.”  Which really made me wonder how she made the decision to use the program she chose, since she obviously had not really researched all her options.

It wasn’t an unpleasant meeting, but we didn’t exchange contact information. I wondered what she would have thought if she had actually gotten to know us and our goals and why we chose the program we did.  Would she be surprised to learn that all three of us had international experience and were seriously considering what we needed to be prepared to go overseas? Would she have approved of us if she knew none of us had ever been a hospital L&D nurse? Would she have ever accepted that our goal was to help families have safe birth experiences?

If I could change one thing about the birth world it would be the way different “camps” belittle and dishonor each other.  A part of me wants to remind everyone that we are all on the same side – are we not all trying to help mothers and babies have the safest births possible. A part of me just wants to walk away. But I am not so innocent that I believe this type of behavior does not happen in other industries.

What does this mean for you?

It takes a large dose of humility and patience to work in birth.  Not simply because that is what it takes to serve families, but because there will always be those who will not value the work you do.  Sadly, they won’t all be wise enough not to tell you.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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