I recently had the opportunity to attend a couple of circles of discussion about birth and the disparaging numbers that represent maternal mortality in the US. Most especially in my home state of TX. One of the speakers, Hermine Hayes-Klein, of Hayes-Klein Law Firm, specializes in maternal health & childbirth law. She has had the opportunity to study the stories of birth from all parts of the world. She spent some time in the Netherlands as a professor of law at Hague University, as well as the director of the Research Center for Reproductive Rights at the Bynkershoek Institute. She oversaw the dissertations of several doctorate students from an abundance of backgrounds, and through this work she began seeing similarities in the birth communities all over the world. All of this sprung a curiosity that sent her searching back into our history for some anthropological answers. My first experience hearing her speak, she spoke of writings as old as the bible (our incredibly overly translated modern version) exemplifying negative patriarchal control of a woman’s fertility and body autonomy. Her research paired with the true stories her students were researching shed light on the the history of oppressive movements.
Why is this information pertinent? The climate specific to woman’s rights is still littered with limitations within birth, economic suppression, sex, gender, and the family. These factors effect so many aspects of life, but in this blog I will focus on birthing and fertility. Thanks to our modern technology, the ability to track and calculate data, and programs funneling support and research to our communities. We now have numbers proving the disparaging effects of oppression. I will bring forth thoughts on racial oppression as an outsider, and utilizing both numbers and personal experience working with oppressed individuals to shed some light on the alarming maternal mortality rates. I will also explore medicine, protocol, and patients rights, as a means to support a possible shift in perspective and respect for the birthing experience. Most of all, I find the experience of a doula holding space for birthing and growing families essential in educating for an individuals birth journey.
So, Can doulas uphold justice? Yes. They have the ability to educate their clients, so that they are able to advocate for them selves. That doesn’t mean we stand quiet and allow for maltreatment to take place. We can speak out for all to hear, and even get video evidence of the incident. As discussed with Hayes-Klein in our workshop. Doulas do not have any liability in this space, and we can - and should do everything within our power to stop a situation from happening when a birthing person is in any danger or disrespected. Now, there is certainly a cadence that will be set from the moment we arrive to the hospital, and we mustn’t forget the most important piece in this puzzle - the partner! It is imperative we honor this person and give them the charge. Their word is lawful, legal, and will make the loudest statement in that room. A doula can provide guidance through mediation and conflict resolution, just by sparking conversation with the partner. This alone can change birth significantly. As with all these I will be expanding on the partners role, first trimester through 4th trimester.
I have been incubating this blog for quite some time. These are concepts that have felt bigger than me for a fair amount of my career, and truly - they still do. I think with every position we commit to requires evolution, and this theory and similar discussions around these numbers has had a huge part in broadening my view of both birth culture, and society as a whole. Keep your eye peeled for my next blog on oppression and it’s role in the maternal mortality rate. So, in the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Arnold in Jurassic Park, “hold on to your butts!”