Monday, January 28, 2013

Birth Witness


Montreal Birth Companions is an organization that serves about sixty women a year. We provide doula services for the poorest of Montreal's women - the refugees, no-status women, and very recent immigrants. We have been active in Montreal for almost ten years, without funding, and without office space. The volunteers are either trained doulas, or doula students, matched carefully with the women they serve.

We have seen our share of disrespect and abuse in the maternity care world here in Montreal, and we are now initiating a project which hopefully will be the beginning of a constructive dialogue.

We are gathering stories from women, which are about instances during their birth experiences where they felt uncomfortable or maltreated. 

We are not out to vilify obstetricians. Our goal is to help to create an environment within which a woman who will be going to the hospital to give birth can be secure that she is treated with respect, whatever her language, colour, marital status, financial level, or whether or not she has healthcare coverage.

We believe that a woman, any woman, has the right to be told what her options are; to be asked permission before she is touched; to be spoken to with respect.

We believe that the attending caregivers, whether they are doulas, midwives, nurses or physicians, have the responsibility to care wisely for their patients. This responsibility includes providing information, asking permission, and exercising cultural sensitivity. 

MBC volunteers have witnessed physicians loudly scolding women without health coverage, as their baby's head is crowning, about their financial mess. I have personally witnessed an OB who made an overtly sexual remark about a vaginal pack. I need to remind residents that it is not okay to rupture a woman's membranes without telling her, just because your hand is in her vagina. I myself pushed my agenda on a woman who was heading for what I considered to be an unnecessary cesarean section, resulting in her feeling betrayed and angry instead of happy about her birth.

We need to talk about this abuse loud and clear. We are not suggesting that every woman in Canada must have a natural birth. We are suggesting that we start to create a system where the woman is at the centre, surrounded by respectful attendants.

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