Hard on the heels of news of a very disturbing trend in Spain came one of the most amazing births I have ever been honored to attend. So, I think two posts will have to be written, and I am working hard on absorbing and learning everything I have been experiencing in the past week.

First, the disturbing news. Many of us in the birth world, especially in Europe, have read about the Spanish association of nurses' official report on doulas. This report apparently took a couple of years to compile. It is an attack on the doula in general, and contains some specific accusations against certain doulas in Spain who may be identifiable (only to themselves and close friends).

The document contains some bizarre accusations: that doulas divide families, that they practice cannibalism, that they condone obstetric violence. Because of the bizarre nature of some of the accusations, several critics have suggested we just ignore it as a childish outburst and get on with promoting natural childbirth, and the doulas and midwives who facilitate it.

I don't agree. I believe this report has all the trappings of a witch hunt: the exaggerations, the caricatures, the false accusations, the violence, and the "scientific" pretensions. These campaigns are usually driven by fear and ignorance but at this point I am not really interested in figuring out why, I just want people to recognize that this is important, and must be publicly spoken out against, as soon as possible.

I know that Spain is a country with a long history of persecution and accusation. The Spanish General Nursing Council should be more sensitive to the precedents set by Spain's leaders throughout history, who have shown little ability to look at the facts and make informed decisions. From the Spanish monarchy in the 15th century, who have the dubious reputation of persecuting the Muslims in their midst, burning and deporting the Jews in 1492, then sailing off to new climes to kill and destroy ancient civilizations, through to modern times, when the country rose in flames to kill each other, and lived through a brutal dictatorship right up until the nineteen seventies... Spain has not been a peaceful land. 

We believe, as Birth Keepers, that gentle birth is the way forward for peace on earth. I believe that a renewed campaign against gentle birth keepers is a campaign against peace. It's a campaign against those who are trying to change our abusive, violent birth machine into a place where people of all kinds can birth their babies and their futures.

You may say I am sensationalizing. I know that there were Jews in Berlin who were also accused of sensationalizing when they tried to tell their people to leave. You may say I'm drawing the wrong parallels. I know there is a child in a Spanish orphanage right now whose mother had a home birth with an independent midwife. 

Just last year, an Italian midwife was docked six months of work for teaching a doula training class: 

The accusation against her is that of having violated the Professional Code of Conduct of Midwives by her participation as instructor during instruction courses for birth support personnel known as doulas (defined on that occasion as “persons capable of damaging the health of women and infants”).We would like to take this occasion to communicate that the Professional Code of Conduct of Midwives includes the provision that it is within their scope to provide training for support personnel (art 2.4). The sentence, besides being extremely serious in itself and for the midwife concerned, also casts a shadow over the figure of the doula (cited and recognized as a support person for women in the Care in normal Birth, by WHO – ed. 1996; par 2.5 – and cited in the recent Guidelines to caesarean sections by the Italian Ministry of Health, ed. 2012, pg. 80-82), creating a precedent which we would like to bring to the urgent attention of doctors, midwives, doulas and parents. We wish that this case is brought to the attention of all birth personnel in Europe and the rest of the world." private message, May 26, 2014.

The fact that these accusations are surfacing again, in a different country, is very serious. Europe is a volatile place and the witch hunt against doulas and independent midwives could spread. The campaign could move from bizarre 25 page reports to different types of accusations and investigations. I am not saying this to make people afraid; rather, I am suggesting we should not act out of fear and try to hush things up, worrying that we will be spreading the word that doulas are to be avoided. I am suggesting that we take full action, as full as possible, so that this witch hunt doesn't spread any further. 

What to do?

  • Make a circle: Doulas and Birth Keepers of all kinds need to pull together and stop squabbling. In each country, we need to see a strong organization that represents ALL doulas, no matter where they trained or how they are certified (for example, see Association Québécoise des Accompagnantes à la Naissance).
  • Attend births! Educate birthing mothers! Educate the public! Provide doula support to families during the childbearing year! Flood the social media with images and stories of gentle birth!
In the spirit of real birth, gentle Birth Keepers, and moving forward to a peaceful world, let's reach out to each other and be the change we all need.


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