Informed consent

The common thread in every birth story I hear – whether triumphant, traumatic or ecstatic – is information. The promotion of empowerment during birth is only possible through the simultaneous promotion of informed consent. It is far easier to accept the way a birth unfolds if you feel you were able to remain autonomous and at the centre of the decision-making with regards to what happens to your body and your baby. Part of ‘taking back your birth’ involves you taking responsibility for the choices you make; becoming better informed about birth and birth choices is one such way to become empowered as a consumer.

So, where and how does one get this information? I personally love sharing information, swapping ideas and hearing stories from other mums – this is one way to get a feel for what sorts of things happen locally with particular care providers, models of care and birth settings, for example. Organisations like CARES and some local doulas hold coffee mornings which offer an opportunity to chat, ask questions and gather resources (CARES has a fabulous library of such material!). There are also thousands of forums, articles and birth stories to be read (or viewed!) on the internet.

But, on the issue of informed consent, what all women really need to know are these three things:

1) If you feel you can’t say ‘No’ because it hasn’t been presented to you as an option, or you are too scared to say ‘No’ even if you want to, chances are you are not giving informed consent. This is, in fact, true of many decisions in life.

2) Planning to make informed decisions as part of an empowered birth plan is easy when the decisions are foreseeable and you have ample time to conduct your research. A situation may arise, however, during labour or birth when a decision needs to be made quickly and you are unlikely to be in a position to be thinking rationally, logically or deeply about the options you have.

The quickest way for you to (with the support of your trusty birth team) make an ‘express’ informed decision is to use your BRAIN:

Benefits: what are they?
Risks: what are they?
Alternatives: are there any?
Information: do I have it all?
Nothing: what if I do nothing?

3) Sometimes you don’t know what you need to know. This is where it is highly advantageous to call upon the services of a professional birth attendant (such as a doula), seek support from local networks like CARES and/or to consider attending an independent childbirth workshop. Drawing upon the experience and knowledge of another mother who has ‘been there, done that’ can be a way to fast-track your ‘Ah ha!’ moments.

To this end, I offer a range of workshops designed to support women (and their partners!) to quickly acquaint themselves with the ‘lay of the land’. Please take a look at my ‘Services’ tab, and email me if you think I might be able to assist you in your journey towards informed decision making.

Birthing a blog

As a woman who has birthed three beautiful babies, but also as a CARES volunteer, I have spent much time over the past five years fantasising about how one might make the world a better place for women to birth in. If only we could band together, share strength from one mother to another, and not feel afraid to ask more questions, or feel selfish for wanting a positive birth experience and a bit sad about our awful ones. As a culture, we are quick to keep the parts of ‘birth’ all neatly boxed and labelled, and are encouraged to throw a lid on top of it all once the job is done. In this modern, fast-paced, and technocratic life, there is little space for something as ancient, wild and humbling as birth.

And so, this brings me to the concept behind this blog… In a culture so unaccustomed to speaking about birth as a rite of passage, and about women’s experiences of birth in general, I hope this blog will be a space for women to reconnect with each other so that we can once again share our stories and learn from one another. Let’s chink our glasses as we indulge our thirst for knowledge, shrug off the shroud of fear which holds us back from asking the tough questions, and let’s make the ‘wrong’ decisions if they are the right ones to make as mothers.

At a time when the world wants us pixelated and stored in clouds, it is easy to be distracted from our primal nature – birth brings this to the fore, and it can either be confronting, or it can be empowering. It is a matter of being at peace with the ancient technologies of our bodies, and learning how to respect this as a technology which has served us for many, many generations.

Let’s never forget this – let’s pass the wisdom on. What I’m talking about is not the sort of information you get at a hospital antenatal class, and it’s unlikely to pop up in a ‘childbirth’ google. This is the esoteric stuff we would have once been told by our village elders. It is the cultural joining of the dots which allows us to see the place birth holds in our lives universally and across all time. When we can free our minds of parenting fads and bell curve charts and celebrity postpartum weight loss regimes, we will remember these things. And, when we do, we’ll see that we are slowly making birth welcome in the world again.