choices, maternity system

We need to talk about ‘difficult women’ being punished in our medical system.

Hospitals and models of maternity care are structured so many different ways. In one hospital alone that can be upwards of 10 different models all requiring women to interact and communicate differently with staff and have varying expectations from their care providers. 

Some women access maternity care by going through a booking system that sorts women into different groups. Other women access maternity care by calling their care provider directly.

Once women have been allotted their model of care, there can be varying expectations about how much time they have in appointments, how regularly they should have appointments, when to call for help and a myriad of other rules or norms in that specific culture.

It has been said that culture to humans is like water to fish. Fish don’t see water and similarly we are not aware of culture. That is until we step into a different one. Like a hospital. Which is culturally a very different country to the world outside. 


FISH DON’T SEE WATER AND SIMILARLY WE ARE NOT AWARE OF CULTURE.


Hospitals are interesting places where the rules of the real world are suspended. There is a new language to learn, unwritten and uncommunicated expectations on women and families to behave in certain ways, and punishments when the behaviour of visitors doesn’t comply with the new norms. 

 Women are stripped of their names, clothes and autonomy. Rebranded ‘mummy’ or ‘honey’ because who can keep up? (I was recently working with a medical student who asked me, “if I don’t call her the lady in bed 6 what do I call her?).

Wearing pyjamas or a robe, she is clearly branded as a new arrival to this world. She is given her chart and told where to go next. On arrival, she tries to keep up with the conversation, even though she is missing much of the language. Like a caricature of a migrant in their new country, she smiles, and nods, and agrees. 

 “I’m just going to do an internal, OK?” 

  1. This is not a question
  2. What is an internal? 
  3. No explanation as to why this is important. 
  4. Is she allowed to say no?  

Is she allowed?  

And heaven forfend a woman or her family break the rules. This is the cardinal sin. For that you are branded ‘difficult’ and this label will follow you throughout your journey here in this institution. 

The change barely registers. But you can feel it. 70% of our communication is non-verbal. It’s an eye roll, a sigh, a pause before responding, a glance. It is the tone or speed of speech, it is the care taken out of the careful. But she feels it. She knows she is not your favourite patient. She is aware that you have taken the power back. That you are the one who decides the next move. 

 For what did she receive this branding? 

She didn’t go the correct place to be seen, she instead went to the other ward. The busy ward. It really messed up someone else’s day. 

She isn’t listening. She is disrespectful. She doesn’t realise she is being disrespectful. She doesn’t know she is supposed to revere you. She thinks you are there to help her. She hasn’t said please and thank you, instead ‘don’t touch me it hurts’.  

Her family are hovering. They are asking a lot of questions. They are unaware of the 3 other people you need to see urgently and are asking unnecessary and irrelevant questions. She didn’t learn which questions were irrelevant and unnecessary.  

She wants to take her time to decide what to do. 

She takes her time.  

She takes your time.  

And because she is a traveller abroad in your culture, she needs you to help her. And she needs you to help her baby. And she is anxious. And she is uncertain. And in all the travel guides/baby books they said to ask for help. So she asked for help. Evidently not the way she was suppose to. 

Louise Armstrong MD wrote “When we call patients and families “good,” or at least spare them the “difficult” label, we are noting and rewarding acquiescence. Too often, this “good” means you agree with me and you don’t bother me and you let me be in charge of what happens and when.”

Another Doctor, Michelle L. Mayer reflects on being a difficult patient” (it) is a tricky proposition. By advocating for myself, I risk incensing the person on whom I depend for care. I tried being the “good” patient. I suppose like many young women, I was raised to please others. My natural inclination is to be pleasant, because, in all honesty, I want people to like me…”


“Both supportive and punitive interactions between women and clinicians, depending on whether the woman’s birth intentions were perceived by individual clinicians to transgress norms of patienthood and motherhood.”


Rebecca Maree Jenkinson recently published a thesis exploring whether a documentation and communication process would support pregnant women’s rights to decline recommended maternity care. She found “The feminist thematic analysis identified both supportive and punitive interactions between women and clinicians, depending on whether the woman’s birth intentions were perceived by individual clinicians to transgress norms of patienthood and motherhood”

So when we speak up, ask questions and forget to be ‘polite’, not to mention if we dare to decline a proposed treatment, the care provided by our ‘care provider’ may turn, well, uncaring. 

In a culture that robs Peter to pay Paul, women’s autonomy around birth is often circumvented in the name of safety,. here ‘risk to baby’  are the magic words that ensure women are the ones who pay the health price, emotionally and physically, and then have their experiences trivialised.

Bec Jenkinson,  Sue Kruske, Sue Kildea (2017) explore the experience of women, midwives and obstetricians when women decline care. They discuss clinicians having a’ line in the sand’, where, during negotiations regarding a woman’s care some decisions were considered too far from acceptable. They found ‘When women’s birth intentions were perceived by clinicians to transgress their line in the sand, a range of strategies were reportedly used to convince the woman to accept recommended care. These strategies formed a pattern of “Escalating intrusion”.”

Escalating intrusion. 

What a wonderful way to say:

Manipulation;

Punishment;

Judgement;

Badgering;

Assault;

And abandonment.

There is a lot of abandonment.

She is left alone.  

She doesn’t trust.  

So maybe next time she won’t ask for help.  

breastfeeding, choices, infant sleep, kids, maternity system, mum

‘Mummy wars’ – I call bullshit

Do you breastfeed or bottle feed? Are you a SAHM or working mum? Do you co-sleep or cry it out? 

This constant separation into polarising groups is total bullshit.

The idea that the hundreds and thousands of new mothers every year will easily fall into opposing sides on every single parenting decision is the most absurd claim that has made it into urban myth.

We rarely do one or the other (regardless of intention).

For example, most women in Australia give their baby some breastmilk. With about 90% exclusively breastfeeding at birth. By about 6 months over half of all mothers were mixing it up with some combination of breastmilk and another kind of milk like formula or cows milk. Some mums are exclusively breastfeeding, some are exclusively formula feeding, most mums are just figuring it out. All mums are doing the best they can with the circumstances they are in.

Most women I come into contact with are unsure of their decisions, trying out and experimenting with new ideas, doing their best to keep up with their child’s development and worrying about the next bend ahead of them, doing their best to keep their head above water. 

Women are not universally at odds with one another. So we have to ask- who does it benefit to make us believe we are?


Women are not universally at odds with one another. So we have to ask- who does it benefit to make us believe we are?

 

Why can governments, businesses and men in power have ‘hearty debates’ but when women are passionately discussing and exploring decisions around mothering it is trivialised into ‘mommy wars’. It is the perfect way to get women to stop talking about the real issues and focus on shit that is cyclic and unproductive. It is all very Nietzschean to give people 2 options and call that choice. 

Now, I am not saying these issues don’t matter, of course they do. But if we take a moment and scratch the surface we realise that we are being let down – on both sides. Take breastfeeding (just because we have already started there). Why the hell are most women who start to breastfeed not meeting THEIR OWN  goals?

Is it because they are lazy? -NO

Is it because their bodies don’t work – NO

Is it because they changed their mind – Maybe- but still mostly NO.

Most of the time women are not meeting their own goals with breastfeeding it is because of lack of support – medically, emotionally and financially.

It costs money to exclusively breastfeed.

(we know long term it is more cost-effective, however) A woman who is available to breastfeed her infant 24/7 can’t go back to work full time without a great deal of flexibility in her workspace. So if our goal in Australia is to have high rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months  – Why does the government only provide 4 moths of paid maternity leave?

 

 

Sometimes we need help to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding can be tricky in the beginning and women are pushed out of public hospitals in under a week (which can be beneficial for many reasons), but then community breastfeeding support is very hit and miss. When we know that the overall health costs are much lower for society a large, why the heck are lactation consultants not covered by Medicare? Women wanting help with their baby often attend free clinics, where the nurse looking after them may or may not be an IBCLC (lactation consultant). With their primary focus on maternal mental health and ensuring babies’ thrive’, as they sit, understaffed in a system which is known for the fractured nature of postnatal care, it is no wonder their first recommendation is to offer formula ‘top-ups’ with little to no investigation into what is happening/ or can be done to support women with their own breastfeeding goals.

And for that matter, why are midwives restricted from working in this space? Due to the current restrictions with insurance only being available to eligible midwives, and non-insured midwives unable to work, this postnatal space is overcrowded with lay professionals who may or may not be providing evidence-based care. Some advice is plain unhelpful – others dangerous. I know of one ‘sleep consultant’, without any registration who charges upwards of $500 plus per consult. Her advice is almost always the same – “You have no milk, use formula, and put your baby on their stomach to sleep’. Literally doubling their changes of SIDS. And who is out there to counter these claims?


So if our goal is 6 months exclusive breastfeeding rates in Australia – Why does the government only provide 4 moths of paid maternity leave?


The postnatal space is absolutely flooded with information, from the dangerous to the delightful. There are, thankfully, a wave of caring, ethical and evidence based workers in this postnatal space, but why can we not just open the doors for our already qualified and passionate body of midwives to follow women through from birth into motherhood – in their full scope?  There are more than enough women to go around. The supply is low and the demand – overwhelming. 

Calling conversations about the decisions we make & our efforts to do the best for our children ‘mummy wars’, is minimising them, and infantilising the women who are earnestly and passionately aware that something is amiss in this area of our lives, and this is the patriarchy in full motion.

Please don’t drink the cool aid.

I am a member of a beautiful supportive community of women who all parent differently. We don’t need to be surrounded by women who do exactly what we do in order to have respect and care for each other.

Next time someone mentions ‘mummy wars’ have a look and see what conversation is trying to get shut down. 

It is not breast vs bottle, cloth vs daiper, co-sleeping vs cry it out.

It is women. Doing their absolute best. Making difficult choices. figuring it out. Look closer and see who is perpetuating this myth and what they have to gain from keeping women divided.

We are so much stronger together.

 


 Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, childbirth educator and doula educator & mentor in Sydney, Australia.

She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time. 

She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.

Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.

birth, childbirth education, maternity system

10 ways to give birth like an anarchist.

  1. Ask questions. About everything. Literally everything. “What are you doing? Why are you doing that? What other options do I have? Are there any risks with doing that? What else can you do instead?” Ask questions about where you birth, when and with whom. Ask what the evidence is and if there is any contradicting it. Learn about levels of evidence and recommendations in pregnancy. Know your hospital’s policies on induction, monitoring, appointments, home visits, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, support people, bed sharing, everything. Read every one. And learn the difference between policy and evidence.

  2. Birth at home. On your turf. This is probably the closest you will come to completely disrupting the system. When you invite your midwife in, it is in your space, according to your rules.

  3. Say no. Without justification or explanation. (You know, there is no legal requirement for you to give a good enough reason for refusing something?)

  4. Be difficult. Don’t sit down, stand up. Let them sit. You have the power, you take the higher ground. Tell them to wait when they knock on the door, and if they come in unannounced send them out again. Reclaim your space and your privacy. This is your body and you choose who sees it. Be that “bad patient” the one who takes their time, who waits until they are completely sure to make a decision. If your appointment isn’t long enough ask for another one. If that’s not enough ask for another.

  5. Move beyond the binary thinking. It isn’t public v private, midwife v doctor, home v hospital, vaginal v. cesarian. There are a million different possible ways your birth can go. I guarantee there is always a third option. It is possible no one has thought of it yet. It is NOT possible you only have 2 options. This kind of thinking makes people very easy to control. Tailor your care to your needs. Be in the centre of every decision. All of you. Not just your uterus and the life it contains, but your hopes, dreams & identity including spirit and emotions.

  6. Prioritise your needs above your baby. You matter. You matter because you are a person in this world and your experience and decisions matter. You matter just because of you. It is also good to know that no one in this world will love and care for your baby more than you will. So make sure you are ok, because if you are ok you can make sure your baby is too.

  7. Make decisions based on your feelings. The maternity system is obsessed with data. There is a risk for everything, Every choice has a number. And sometimes those numbers are really important. and sometimes they are arbitrary. It is ok to make a decision or not make a decision based on how you feel. This is just another kind of knowledge.

  8. Never ever ever start a sentence with “Am I allowed to…?”. Try “I want to”. Or even “I am going to”.

  9. Know your power. learn your rights. Get a doula. Collect the people around you that hold you up. Don’t allow anyone in your space that keeps you small. That is your mental space as well as your physical space. You are so powerful. You have not just created but also gestated a baby inside you. Your body is amazing. Don’t let anyone make you feel anything less.

  10. Change your mind. If it feels like things are spiralling out of control or even gently heading in a direction you don’t feel comfortable with and you want to get off the train. Get off. Shut it down. Try something else. You DON’T have to do anything just because you said you would. You have no obligations to anyone but yourself. And I mean only yourself. Not you and your baby (see 6). Change your mind whenever you damn feel about it.

 


Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, childbirth educator and doula educator in Sydney, Australia.

She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time. 

She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.

Jen has also teamed up with some amazing doulas, midwives, IBCLC’s and other professionals to facilitate advanced learning and education for doulas and birth workers at We Birth.

Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.

 

choices, maternity system, pregnancy

The problem with recommendations

Probably one of the biggest decisions we make very early in our pregnancy is deciding where we will have our baby and who will look after us. To further complicate the matter, this decision may have the greatest impact on how our baby comes into the world and how we are prepared for and supported in our mothering (or fathering).

In Australia, there are a number of options for women, all have strengths and limitations that can be very difficult to navigate, and depending on your location, financial position, and birth-place savvy some options may not be available to you.

So how do we make our decisions? A bit of web-searching? Maybe some well meaning recommendations from friends or family? If it is our first baby the chances are we don’t really know what is “normal”, what a “good” birth is like or a “bad”one.


We expect the worst, accept to be frightened, dismissed, disrespected and damaged and are thankful when the basic kindness is shown and we and baby are alive to tell the tale.


Childbirth has been painted a certain way in modern culture by film and tv. We see women experience one never ending contractions(false), usually followed by an urgent dash to the hospital (usually not necessary at the first twinge), and more often than not some random, frightening emergency takes place where – mercifully – just at the climax a woman and/or her baby is saved from certain death by a doctor, possibly surgically.

Is it any wonder then, that when our friends and family experience anything a fraction kinder, gentler, less terrifying they are eager to recommend the person caring for them as a hero in the birthing world. We expect the worst, accept to be frightened, dismissed, disrespected and damaged and are thankful when the basic kindness is shown and we and baby are alive to tell the tale.

  • What if a doctor or midwife is nice to you, smiles and listens to your question – does it matter if you don’t get a clear answer?

  • What if you meet a care provider and tell them clearly your thoughts and plans for your birth, but months later as your ‘due date’ looms you find your impending birth looking less and less like what you signed up for?

  • Are you wanting a drug free, active birth but keep getting recommendations for a doctor that has a 50% cesarian section rate? (Pro-tip: Unless your doctor exclusively cares for women with high-risk pregnancies, their cesarean section should not be higher than the national rate of about 33%. If for some reason a doctor is avoiding/dismissing/irritated when you ask for these statistics read between the lines).


What if a doctor or midwife is nice to you, smiles and listens to your question – does it matter if you don’t get a clear answer?


When childbirth is shrouded in so much secrecy, like it is in Australia, is it any wonder we accept the crappy care we are offered (and pay for) with a smile. Unfortunately, when people working in childbirth have the view that the only thing that matters is a live baby, and vaginal birth is irrelevant at best, there is no surprise when you are offered a limited set of options and it’s called choice.

Many women in our modern culture don’t even hold a newborn baby until they have one, forget feeling familiar with childbirth.

Women are whisked off to “the hospital” and returned back to us with a pre-wrapped baby and only murmurs of the mysteries of motherhood (“what do you mean you poo??” “did you tear your vagina?” “your boobs leak milk anytime a baby cries?”) that quite reasonably leave us more anxious than when we started. 


OK, new and expecting mother, where the hell does this leave you?

First, hopefully, a little more inquisitive. I can give you some of the options available in Australia, but in your specific area, some options might be more difficult to source or simply unavailable. 

Second, and this is difficult because I know you have a lot going on, but if after perusing the options you find the options lacking/absurd/depressing please write a letter to your local member of parliament/congress. In Australia alone, we have over 300,000 women a year having babies. We are a powerful force, and we ‘spend’ a lot of money, our own and the governments. Don’t feel for a second that your opinion isn’t really important. 

Third, you might benefit from some support. Connecting with a doula or local childbirth educator early in pregnancy might be helpful. These are often the people who are noticing trends and patterns in the area you live.


if you want any further support exploring and discussing your options around birth i am available to talk this through. just call or message me to arrnge a free 15 minute consult.

unsplash-logoBen White

birth, caesarean, childbirth education, induction, maternity system

Making difficult decisions

 

During pregnancy and birth, many women are required to make decisions or agree/decline care plans offered by their doctor or midwife. 

In other areas of health, we might have the opportunity or feel secure in asking for second opinions, researching other options or just saying no.

When we are having a baby however, quite often our default position is to give our decision making and reasoning over to the “experts”. After all we don’t want to make the wrong choice… and what do we know?

Unfortunately, not all decisions are so black and white, not all opinions of all midwives, doctors, birth centres and hospitals are the same, and not all policies and standard protocols are made for you, with your unique circumstance, opinions and beliefs.

Some people caring for you and yours have a very narrow focus of what “safety” is. Does safety in birth simply mean that you and your baby survive the experience without obvious disability or morbidity? Or does safety in birth mean that at the culmination a strong and vibrant woman is physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally prepared for the work of mothering? With a baby that is switched on and primed with the instincts and reflexes to thrive?

Does safety in birth simply mean that you and your baby survive the experience without obvious disability or morbidity?

Or does safety in birth mean that at the culmination a strong and vibrant woman is physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally prepared for the work of mothering? 


Asking questions doesn’t make you a disagreeable patient. It makes you a woman prepared for the responsibility of motherhood. 

If you have time (in pregnancy for example) working on a birth plan can be a helpful tool to guide your decision making, or at least give you some idea of good questions to ask.

If childbirth is throwing you a curve ball and you need to make decisions on the fly, the BRAIN mnemonic is pretty helpful to give you some questions to ask, and help you tease apart your feelings and options when making decisions.

Asking the person caring for you “is this necessary?” just doesn’t cut it. Generally speaking the person caring for you doesn’t get into the business of babies because they are uncaring, so if they are offering you an intervention/ solution/ plan of care if it usually because they think it is necessary.

Using the BRAIN mnemonic you will have an opportunity to weigh up your thoughts about the offered plan. its pretty simple and you can save it and keep it with your hand held notes.

 Women centred care. It means that although you might employ people around you to care for your baby and you medically, ultimately you are the one who


Benefits: What are the pros to this plan? (usually pretty easy to answer)

R

Risks: What can go wrong with this plan? (“risk” is a funny word to use, but the truth is nothing in life is without risk, so whatever you choose will not be completely risk free. Walking down the street is risky, driving a car is risky, and i have heard it said that “birth is as safe as life gets”. Word of warning: If someone says there is NO RISK to an intervention they are offering i’d advise digging a little deeper)

A

Alternatives: What are the other options? Are there second opinions? What do other doctors/midwives/hospitals/policies do? Tell me all the options and scenarios.

I

Intuition: What does your intuition tell you? Is this decision feeling right? We may have fear, and this still might be necessary. I’m not saying everything that is offered is going to feel great, but try and listen to your inner-self when you decide if this feels correct.

N

Nothing. What about if we wait? Don’t do anything? Go home? Come back? Come back later? Change our mind? Get off the train? (you get the point). Sometimes we are not at a point of no return, even if it feels like it. Is it just a scheduling issue, or is there an actual concern with your/your baby’s health?


 

The great thing about using your brain is it is not about “pushing an agenda” or any kind of birth philosophy.

It is all about giving you a voice, and helping you be in the centre of decision making.

Where you belong.

 


Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, childbirth educator and doula educator in Sydney, Australia.

She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time. 

She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.

Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.

birth, maternity system

Searching for a safe haven in all the wrong places

Nearing the end of your pregnancy, the sun sets as you begin to feel an odd, warm niggle. Noticing your stomach begin to tighten, mild cramping sensations come every now and then like little waves in the lower part of your abdomen. This is it. You think (you hope, but not completely believe) it is the beginning of your labour. 

 As the evening wears on you may experience some diarrhoea, notice a “show”, and begin to feel a little out of your head, somewhat separate from the world. 

You have prepared yourself for birth and discussed early labour in your birth class. This was confirmed by your midwife or doctor, and you know that this doesn’t mean your baby will come straight away. It could be hours or even days for these mild (and still exciting) niggles to build into the powerful waves you are expecting “active” labour to be made from. Do you call your midwife/doctor? 

No? yes? when?

 

 

You have been forewarned that until your contractions are rhythmic and regular, with a rawness and real intensity you are better at home. “stay at home as long as you can” they said. Armed with heat packs and a little guidance on warning signs, as long as things “remain normal” you are told you don’t need help.

But this is only partly true. Of course you need help. But what is the price of seeking help early in labour?

Your body is telling you this is the time for you to start to retreat into your nest, to ensure you are safely in your birthing space.

While your wits are still about, your neocortex is still firing and you haven’t travelled too deeply into labour land, now is the time to draw near to you the people you trust and care for, who will take over your higher reasoning. This is when you should be able to safely switch off the part of you that needs to think and reason and instead focus inward on your child and your inner self. This will help increase your oxytocin production and (you have been told) that is the key to effective contractions. Contractions are of course the ticket to meeting your new baby.


Your body is telling you this is the time for you to start to retreat into your nest, to ensure you are safely in your birthing space. While your wits are still about, your neocortex is still firing and you haven’t travelled to deeply into labour land


But you have been forewarned the hospital is not the place for you right now. Instead, women are told, openly, honestly, from a place of love and care; “stay home”, “not yet”, “it’s too early”. It is known, the midwives cry “You don’t want to be here too long/ too early”. If you are found in hospital labouring in the early stage, the pre labour, the false labour, all names for the stage of birth when productivity and efficiency are not generally expected/demanded, someone here will take umbrage with your inability to withstand isolation in your most vulnerable state.

You thought to come to hospital wanting someone to see you, to witness. But instead, now, you’re being watched. You feared being ignorant of labour and now you’re surrounded by authorities in birth, and your body is their jurisdiction. 

In a perfect world, women at the beginning of labour (if not birthing at home) will use this time to transfer to the safety and warmth of their birthing space. To wrap themselves in the sacredness of this time and patiently await the progression of their labour. Allowed space and time for this to unravel organically, not needing to be consciously analysing the strength and regularity of their contractions to determine the perfect window of time to relocate to the hospital. Now we fear arriving too early, only to be told to return home, or too late. At best they have an experienced friend or doula who can help guide them through this decision, at worst she is alone or with her partner who is equally terrified and overwhelmed.

Women are told constantly throughout their pregnancy, in many subtle ways, that birth is dangerous and that only with the experts are they ever truly safe. Then the moment their body sends them the signal to seek out sanctuary they are dissuaded from listening to that most primal instinct.


Women are told constantly throughout their pregnancy, in many subtle ways, that birth is dangerous and that only with the experts are they ever truly safe. Then the moment their body sends them the signal to seek out sanctuary they are dissuaded from listening to that most primal instinct.


During the majority of their labour; slow and cyclical as it may be, women are told their place of birth is not available to them. 

Come in pushing they joked (or were they serious?). Stay home with your fear, don’t squander our reassurance – we are stockpiling it for later. So call us if you’re worried, we do this all the time, your body says find safety, but it’s wrong, trust us, we know. 

We know this place isn’t safe for you yet. We can’t keep our hands to ourselves, and you need to be untouched for as long as possible. 


 

Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, childbirth educator and doula educator & mentor in Sydney, Australia.

She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time. 

She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.

Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.

Find her at www.jenniferhazi.com

 

infant sleep, maternity system, mum

If I read one more post about a mum breaking down I’ll cry.

I am a member of a lot of mum’s groups on Facebook. Some offer information, some support others a sense of community. And sadly, almost every day a mum, somewhere is posting, pleading for help/support/acknowledgement as she struggles, feeling overwhelmed and drowning in motherhood. 

WTAF!! 

Every day. 

There tend to be 3 main camps of response.

Place some measure of separation between you and your baby. This plays out in numerous ways but what they all boil down to is this: the idea that a mother and her child as a dyad, is essentially a broken and imperfect organism.   

Do nothing: Of course, this isn’t what is said. Instead what is offered is well-meaning commiseration, empathetic and caring replies. Usually, this camp tries to give a reasoned response why what is happening is biologically or developmentally normal. To their credit, a lot of this is usually true. And I have definitely spent my share of hours being the miserable know-it-all sadly “helping” another mum by explaining that unfortunately the exhaustion she is experiencing is normal, and yes she is isolated and overwhelmed, however, her baby is healthy, growing well and acting exactly as a baby of that age should.

Practical help. This is above all the best but unfortunately the least common, and most difficult to sustain. I have seen women drive hundreds of kilometres to help another mum they have only ever met on line, meal trans organised, breast milk drives, expressed, stored, rounded up and transported to women for any number of medical and social needs. Funds raised for hospital trips, lactation consultants, specialist appointments. I have seen women open their homes and hearts and they opt in to co-parent and cooperate to help other mums wherever they are.

So why am I confounded?

I am blown away that we, as women, mothers and maternity workers are not more enraged. That we have quietly and without too much fuss accepted that motherhood is clearly not valued. 


I am blown away that we, as women, mothers and maternity workers are not more enraged


In Australia over 300,000 babies are born each year. That is a lot of mums and babies. Women as consumers are an incredible force. So why aren’t we demanding more?

Why is it a mum needs to crowdsource the fees to pay a lactation consultant?

Why is it that lactation consultants are not able to access Medicare rebates?

Why are there so few mental health services for women and babies? There are 12 private beds for women with private insurance in NSW that allow their baby to stay. Publicly there are 2 that I know of. (feel free to comment if you know more). These beds are usually for women experiencing severe depression and psychosis. 

And for women who are struggling with the transition to motherhood, depressed, anxious and somehow managing to keep afloat. What help is there for them?

Forget about financial support. 

18 weeks paid parental leave. But to be eligible for this there are working requirements. So get back to work quickly if you plan on having another child soon. But your income is mostly spent on daycare costs. So good luck feeling like it is worth your time. 

And what is with this propaganda saying paid government leave and paid maternity leave from an employer is too damn much? Greedy women. If a woman is fortunate to work for someone who actually values paid maternity leave this plus government support is somehow taking advantage of a (shitty and broken) system. Who cares if it enables her a few more months to focus on her baby? 

And can we talk about the gas lighting that is going on when we tell women that breastfeeding is optimal, for at least 6 months exclusively, but only affords them to take off about 4 months from work? So now she can feel inadequate when she is separated from her baby and predictably encounters breastfeeding issues (which again, a visit from a lactation consultant might help but who is paying for that?).

And partners get a whole 2 weeks paid leave (at minimal wage).

There are so many broken parts to our public health system, These examples are just a taste. It all starts around birth where women are overstuffed into large maternity hospitals and spat out into the world to navigate the world of GP’s, child and family health clinics, and if they can afford it, paediatricians.


“I have a sneaking suspicion we are not supposed to acknowledge that this is a fundamental shift in identity. That we are supposed to take a few months off to ‘recover’ and before we are ready, hide any sign of stretch marks with an expensive cream and get back to business as usual.”


But where is all the support, and information about you know, becoming a mother? (I have a sneaking suspicion we are not supposed to acknowledge that this is a fundamental shift in identity. That we are supposed to take a few months off to ‘recover’ and before we are ready, hide any sign of stretch marks with an expensive cream and get back to business as usual.)

If a mum is lucky she will receive a couple of home visits from her midwife in the first week. I promise you it is not enough. it is not nearly enough. And having spent time on the other side I promise your midwife wants to spend more time with you too. We know you deserve more and are so sorry this is all we can give you.

So why are we all sitting back and accepting this?

 

This is not enough.

Because motherhood is valuable.

Because a mum and her baby are supposed to be together. (as in it is biologically normal -not that there should be any societal pressure that a woman MUST be inseparable from her baby)

And babies are hard work. It can be tricky to adjust to life for them and us, They don’t sleep like adults (and this is normal and healthy).

And community support is commendable and beautiful but limited.

And we, women and mothers, are a powerful cohort of consumers that really need to speak up and say we have had enough of this absolute mockery of a maternity system. 


 Jennifer Hazi is a mother, midwife, childbirth educator and doula educator & mentor in Sydney, Australia.

She is really passionate about women having voices and choices in maternity care and absolutely loves working alongside women and their loved ones during this time. 

She teaches childbirth and parenting education online and in person, works clinically as a midwife and provides physical and educational support to families with new babies up to 3 months old.

Jen also speaks and writes regularly about childbearing, motherhood and transitioning to parenthood.

Find her at www.jenniferhazi.com