What is shocking?
For me it was reading reports in the local and national papers about our local hospital. Now then I know the hospital and many of the people who work in it. It’s ‘Our’ hospital. Like other people, when I go there I meet people I know amongst both staff and patients. It’s not some alien place staffed with people I’ve never seen before and will never see again.It’s a good hospital. Like a lot of other people round here, I’ve literally staked my life on that fact.
Yet to quote from the Guardian, “The investigation into deaths at Furness general hospital in Barrow between 2004 and 2013 found maternity services were beset by a culture of denial, collusion and incompetence.
Work inside the unit was found to be “seriously dysfunctional”, with poor levels of clinical competence, extremely poor working relationships and a determination among midwives to pursue normal childbirth “at any cost”.
The midwives at Furness general were so cavalier they became known as “the musketeers”.”
And this is where the problem arises. People start to believe in things. But they don’t believe in big things, they get fixated on details. So rather than midwives being determined to ensure that mother and child both come out of it alive after having the best possible experience, they get hung up on ‘normal childbirth.’
Look, I’m lambing at the moment; I know what ‘normal birth’ is. After over thirty years milking cows I’ve lost count of just how many calves I’ve helped bring into the world. I’m not a romantic.
If a woman wants to have her baby at home, and there are no sensible medical reasons why not, then fair enough. Both my grandmothers had five home births. But there will be cases where women could safely have a baby at home but would prefer not to, and there will be cases where they want to have the baby at home and it might not be wise. Pick your way through that one without offending anybody if you can.
A chap I know who’s in London married a lass who is Hong Kong Chinese. Their first baby was expected and the system sprang into life. First her mother (who is mainland Chinese) came to stay for several months. Next there was the first meeting with midwives and suchlike.
So the mother-to-be went, because she’d been invited. Her husband went because he felt he ought to, and her mother went because she’d done this however many times herself and wanted to know how other people tackled it.
The meeting was not a meeting of minds. Firstly the two ladies were not entirely sold on the idea of a father being present during the birth, in spite of the assumption by the medical staff that this is what would happen.
The other medical bits and pieces didn’t seem to upset either mother or daughter, until the midwife asked, “Would you like the baby to be born at home.”
It was at this point things went downhill. The grandmother-to-be obvious felt her English was failing her at this point. So she asked her daughter what had been said. But obviously she asked in Chinese. Her daughter replied, also in Chinese. From the point of view of the husband the Chinese was faster than he could cope with, but he did sense it was getting more and more vitriolic. At last the grandmother-to-be couldn’t cope any more, lost whatever English she had and a stream of angry Chinese poured out of her. Her daughter managed to retain her mastery of her husband’s language.
“Born at home! Are we peasant women? Do you think we are poor? Do you think we don’t know how to behave in hospital?”
At this point the midwife was obviously contemplating flight.
You see, it’s cultural. To these two ladies the idea of a perfect birth is that you go into hospital where competent people look after you, perhaps even fuss over you a bit and see that everything goes right.
Then after a few days you come home in a taxi. You’re smart, radiant even, with your hair done, wearing nice clothes, with a beautiful baby perfectly displayed in a robe handed down for the purpose.
As far as they were concerned, this is the first time your husband sees you or the baby.
But people get caught up with the cultural trimmings, stuff that doesn’t really matter. Just tiptoe tactfully through the cultural jungle, find out what those involved want, and see how far you can go in making sure they get it.