Fed up with midwifesplainin’


Over the weekend we were treated to the spectacle of not one, but two separate midwives actively engaged in midwifesplainin’.

What’s midwifesplainin’? It’s when a midwife tells women whether they are or are not in pain, whether they do or do not “need” pain relief, whether their own assessment of their pain level and tolerance is real or the result of brainwashing, and how their babies should be fed.

People say that doctors are condescending, but we’ve got nothing on midwives. Doctors may condescend to patients when explaining medical conditions or treatments, but these are objective phenomenon. Midwives bring paternalism to a whole new level when they substitute their subjective assessment of a patient’s experience of pain with the patient’s actual, stated experience.

Before delving into the phenomenon of midwifesplainin’, I want to make it clear that this was something I never saw in the many years I worked with certified nurse midwives. The CNMs I worked with were highly trained, deeply compassionate, and although they may held strong views on what a “good birth” meant for them personally, I never saw them substitute their beliefs for a laboring woman’s own experience. Apparently in the last 20 years, midwifery has been thoroughly radicalized, particularly in the UK and Australia. And it would be hard to find better examples of that than our visitors, Rob, a midwifery student (or aspiring student) from the UK, and Katie, a midwife from Australia, .

They are both masters of midwifesplainin’!

Rob, a midwifery student, parachuted in to “educate” me and the commentors, who between us have literally 100+ years of actually caring for laboring women, and many of whom have actually given birth. If that’s not chutzpah, I don’t know what it is. According to Rob, I am “woefully misinformed” so he has patiently midwifesplained the facts of birth:

Natural childbirth is better…. it is healthier, more empowering, superior and it’s far better for mum and baby. It may not be safer, but thankfully we have skilled midwives and behind those skilled OBS who are there as backup when complications do arise, or to manage high risk cases…

But what if women don’t feel that unmedicated vaginal birth is better for them and their babies? Too bad. Rob midwifesplained why what he thinks trumps their personal experiences.

When it was explained to Rob by a number of different commentors, most of them women, that women WANT epidurals, Rob midwifesplained why we can’t trust women to evaluate their own pain; obviously women who want relief must have been brainwashed. Rob doesn’t think that women can be trusted to assess their own pain.

Most people want them? Haha… only in America 😉 I blame the media for that. Most people in the USA believe giving birth means lying down on their back in a hospital… that is simply wrong and not the way. Media and medicalised models have not helped. We’re coming at this from entirely different models of midwifery from two entirely separate countries but I know which I’d prefer to give birth in (if I were a woman of course).

Rob midwifesplains that what HE thinks is far more important than what women think:

Normalising elective cs (and to some extent epidurals) in the minds of the public just doesn’t feel right to me.

Poor Rob! It doesn’t feel right to him.

Like most practitioners of midwifesplainin’, Rob is very censorious:

Amy you should be very ashamed of yourself. You are totally devoid of compassion and have a very biased view which you put across in the most unprofessional and vile way. I dare say lots of women are glad you no longer practice. You do not come across as any kind of advocate for women. The whole tone of this site, your attitude and that of some other commentators here depict people who have home-births as baby murders along with their midwives. You thrive on scaremongering and twisting facts to suit your own aims with no thought for others or even women’s rights.

A few people will be glad that I will not grace your website ever again, but none more so than me. Reader beware…. this website is pure poison.

He must think his poison remark is pure brilliance, he repeated less than 24 hour after he said it the first time.

Actually, I think Rob ought to be ashamed, ashamed that he thinks women should not be trusted to evaluate their own pain and determine whether and how they want to treat it. That’s the mind boggling paternalism of midwifesplainin’ is all its glory.

Katie from Australia is a practicing midwife, and, as such, an expert in midwifesplainin’:

Why is there no mention in this discussion about the negative effect of birth interventions on the mother and babies’ ability to breastfeed? Sure some interventions are necessary but we need more research on how we can ameliorate the negative effect they can have on breastfeeding.

That would probably be because birth interventions DON’T have any impact on women’s ability to breastfeed.

But midwifesplainers are always undaunted by actual scientific evidence. And they are undaunted by the fact that they haven’t bothered to read the scientific literature that we are discussing. When asked for references to support her claims, Katie says:

My time is limited to explain.

Poor Katie; how sad that she has so little time to devote to us that she can’t bother to read the literature that she is busily midwifesplainin’ to us.

I am not saying that epidurals and C/Sections don’t have their place. Women may want epidurals and C/Sections are sometimes necessary, but they also want to breastfeed…

This may include a sleepy baby who doesn’t initiate or has dampened breast seeking behaviour, inflated baby weight and severely engorged breasts.

Awww, how generous of Katie to concede that epidurals “have their place,” as if it is up to the midwife to decide whether a patient “needs” an epidural.

Katie, too, is censorious. It seems to be an occupational hazard for midwifesplainers:

I was presenting a different point of few not trying to educate anyone. Group think seems to be the norm here and if they don’t like the message, some here attack the messenger. I have no time for that kind of nonsense…

But, like Rob, she’s having trouble sticking the flounce. She too has continued her midwifesplainin’ days after she threatened to leave.

I wish I could report that Rob and Katie have had their eyes opened by the discussions here, but midwifesplainers never listen to anyone but themselves and the colleagues who agree with them. But let’s see if I can convey to them and their midwifesplainin’ colleagues the depth and breadth of their obnoxiousness.

Rob and Katie, it is not your right, your prerogative or your job to substitute what YOU think women are feeling from what THEY are actually feeling. It is unethical to imagine, as you clearly do, that you are a gatekeeper for access to pain relief. How dare you pretend that you know better than women themselves what they are experiencing? Who, exactly, do you think you are??!!

Oh, right. You are midwives, so you think that entitles you to midwifesplain’ obstetrics to obstetricians, breastfeeding to people who have actually read the scientific literature that you can’t be bothered to read, and women’s pain levels to the women themselves. If anyone should be ashamed, it is you.