In Defense of Midwifery
By Shannon Mitchell
Today I had a conversation that left me cold.
We all know the story of the midwives, the ones who have been arrested, who are being investigated, who had a bad outcome and now the state has noticed or the parents are upset. It happens. It’s inevitable. All midwives will eventually face this moment in some form.
This conversation today was different. I had to openly discard my humanity and step out of the thought box that allows me to feel protected.
It goes beyond “it could never happen to me”. It goes beyond, “there must have been more to the story.” It goes beyond “well, what was really going on in that situation. And I know that it goes beyond our good intentions that we meant to send money or we don’t have enough to help or even why should I help someone I distrust.
The reality is that if Rowan Bailey is found guilty of murder in North Carolina, then a precedent will be set that a death in a midwife attended birth was found to be WILLFUL murder of a baby.
Don’t talk to me about “But she wasn’t legal” because we all know that midwives hedge their bets on legal. They all do some small thing that is maybe crossing a line or helping someone they shouldn’t “legally” because frankly, the legal system is full of discrimination against healthy women and we all know it.
Don’t talk to me about the ramifications of fetal personhood because it’s clouding the issue here. Dwell on your thoughts of the evils of the issue after we’ve fought this case.
If you don’t send money to Rowan’s defense, if you don’t travel to show a tour de force that midwifery attendance at a birth is not willful murder, if you don’t react in some way to this case that goes beyond sitting on a couch and speculating, then don’t be surprised when it’s you and you are alone and ostracized, no matter your intentions on legal, no matter your intentions or vocation or grace.
Because one day it will be and you had better hope that as you are looking into that mourning woman’s grieving and confused eyes and try to help her to comprehend her loss that there isn’t some DA behind her who is willing to call you a murderer.
Rowan may indeed be guilty of any number of things in this life. Her life, her intentions, her training, her abilities will all be drawn into question.
That doesn’t make her guilty of murder.
Murder is premeditation, it’s intent to kill, it’s intentional destruction of human life and that is NOT what happened here.
Get off your collective asses, get your ostrich heads out of your sandbox where you feel protected and realize the ramifications of this on all midwives.
And do something to help.
And if after reading this, you still don’t think it applies to YOU or you can’t overcome your vicious distrust of the “what really happened”…I want you to stand in front of your child, your husband or your grandchild or the kids at your church or your mother or your father. Pick any person you respect and admire and slowly say the words out loud “They are charging me with deliberately murdering a baby”. Let that roll off your tongue. Let it seep into your soul. And realize that this is what they are doing to another human being.
If you are a midwife, you have lost the right to be apathetic.