We hear the stories frequently. The Midwife-Gone-Medical or the Doula-Acting-Renegade. They exist as platforms for the need for well-defined scopes of practice. But it’s not often we get to put a face or humanity behind the stories.
They exist as pure propaganda, Allegorical creatures conjured for the greater good, our own stay-in-line benefit.
I got a phone call from a friend yesterday. I’ll call her April. Turns out April’s been the antagonist in a Renegade Doula story that has been used to train doulas in her area for a couple of years, now. There are too many unfortunate parts to focus on them all – the betrayal by colleagues and would-be sisters, the assumptions believed without question, the circus-like contortion of a story at the hands of those who contrived it – Hospital Staff, and most troubling, the conformation of birth organizations whose deepest desire to find alliance with institutions of oppression grinds birth workers and birthing people under their tall, stiletto heels.
The short of it is that a baby was born on the bathroom floor of the hospital room with only the husband and doula in attendance. (Gasp!) The long of it is that someone needed to be held accountable.
“How did this happen?!” barked the attending. The story morphed from the reality of a mom in transition who explicitly asked not to be bothered and a nurse that obliged, to a dramatic fairytale. In the moralistic version, the doula locked the door and barricaded it, and refused to open it even with staff pounding on the door and demanding to come in.
“A doula in your own community did this.”
Except that she didn’t.
As April attempted to tell the actual story and set the record straight, she was faced, still, with patronizing reprimands. Reminders of her “scope.” Instructions on how she “should have” behaved. Like a weekly Sunday hell lecture on why she needed to get her heart right with god.
And in getting her heart right she should “write a letter of apology to the hospital.”
So, to get this straight:
Woman hires doula
Doula and client establish a solid, trusting relationship
Doula and mom have been together in this labor for more than 36 hours
Mom has been self-advocating with fierceness
Mom demands to be left alone in the tub
Kind nurse obliges
Doula tries to open the unlocked bathroom door to watch for nurse to alert her to impending birth
Mom pleads with her not to go, not to open the door, and to stay with her
Doula obliges, door remains unlocked
Baby is born into dad’s hands
Dad passes baby to mom and goes to get staff
Everyone is happy and healthy
Until the attending arrives and begins berating everyone in the room
And the doula should say “sorry.”
Because they looked inept?
Because a baby was born without interference and was perfectly healthy?
Because this isn’t just a story about a doula – but it’s a woman’s birth experience being parceled around like a piece of propaganda?
Sorry that my mere existence challenges your method of care.
Sorry that my clients trust me more than (and often, in spite of) you.
Sorry that in honoring a woman’s wishes you place your job and reputation on the line.
Sorry that this system oppresses all women – the birthing woman, who feels the need to hide from you behind a bathroom door; the nurse who must follow protocol against all else; the doula, who must remember her place as last in line – as least educated, least respected, and on your turf.
Sorry that your systems of accountability require your staff to contrive hyperbolized stories – ones that jeopardize a person’s reputation, economic viability and stability in the birth world.
Sorry that my colleagues choose to believe stories fed to them by their oppressors.
Sorry that whole organizations, birthed out of a need to serve women struggling in failing systems, have aligned themselves with institutions in ways that continue to marginalize the women they serve and those who work alongside them.
Sorry that the hierarchy, from which you sit at the lofty top, ensures that women are routinely abused, and that those who support them must sit and watch, gagged and bound, or be publicly humiliated. Or worse.
Not sorry that I supported a woman in her choices.
Not sorry that my alliance to women trumps your protocol.
Not sorry that I don’t see my presence with a person who hired me as a privilege afforded to me by you.
Not sorry that I am more committed to dismantling systems of oppression than lying prostrate, hands cupped, begging for your approval of my mere existence.
Let’s stop calling this bullshit “bridge-building.”
This is as much bridge-building as a woman’s default obedience to her husband. As much bridge-building as saying, “I appreciate that you didn’t punch me fifty times today, but only ten this time. Thank you, sir. My other cheek, sir?”
Stop with this Ghandi-esque masquerade.
You, who suggest we play by their rules
You, who demand apology letters to a hospital for their own fuck ups and contrived slander
You, who ignore self-accountability for sisterhood
Who exist comfortably under the Patriarchal rulebook that demands hierarchy and competition and horizontal smackdowns.