Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Judging Right and Wrong?

Great changes are happening to midwifery and women's birth choices in Australia. The government has passed legislation that on the one hand gives more autonomy and a wider scope of practice to midwives working in the public health system and on the other hand, restricts the services able to be offered by midwives in private practice. More women will be able to have their babies at home as more public hospital homebirth services are being offered. However women will have less ability to choose their own midwife. In accessing publicly funded services, women will have to, in the main, take 'pot luck' with their midwives. Women who have 'criteria' also known as risk factors will be denied a choice of birth venue, even though many of the risk factors are poor predictors of outcomes. With good midwifery care, these women birth  well.

I have had an email from someone recently who is absolutely distraught because her local hospital staff are bullying her into having another caesarean. The maddening thing is that the woman has given birth normally both before and after the caesarean birth. The hospital where the woman lives has a 'once a caesarean always a caesarean' policy and does not take into account the individual and her circumstances . The woman is unable to pay a private midwife and any other options are non existent.

Just yesterday, a woman who was booked to have a homebirth with a publicly funded service, was explaining to some midwifery students how she found out that her allocated midwife was off when she went into labour. She rang the phone number and got a midwife on the other end who she felt was not the least bit interested in her. The woman told the students how uncomfortable she felt and how she had to ring someone in charge and get another midwife allocated to care for her. She was finally allocated two midwives she felt good with. Once that arrangement was settled, she was able to focus on her baby and her labour. She went on to have a her baby at home.

I've found the various perspectives on the current changes polarised and distressing for many people. I can understand the distress. Change is always challenging. Many people feel we are losing too much. I believe that we have to stay focused on what we want and how we want maternity services to be. Focusing on the problem only adds energy to the problem. Looking clearly at what is going on and then choosing our path and taking action is a much better way.

I truly want everything - I want women led maternity services.  I want women and their babies to be safe and given the care they want so that their physiology works well and their safety is optimised. I want publicly funded birthing services, including venue of choice to be freely available.  I want midwives in private practice able to work to the full scope of their practice. I want 'no fault' compensation for women and their families when babies have problems as they occasionally do regardless of birth venue.  I want women, midwives and doctors to work together and with other health care providers as needed for any particular woman's circumstances.  I believe we can achieve these changes.

Imagine my delight when I found this email newsletter in my inbox from a wonderful man, Charlie Badenhop, this evening talking about right and wrong. Charlie is a fourth degree black belt and certified instructor of Aikido in Japan, and a certified trainer in NLP and Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is also a long term practitioner of various forms of bodywork, Self-relations therapy, the Japanese healing arts of sei tai and seiki jutsu, and Yoga.

I have found Charlie well worth listening to as he always has something interesting and appropriate to say. As I read the newsletter, I thought how pertinent Charlie's writing is to our circumstances. I wrote to Charlie and asked if I could share the newsletter. He readily agreed and to my surprise, told me that at one stage he had thought about becoming a midwife but ended up in Japan instead.

Enjoy!  If you like what Charlie has to say, you can subscribe to his newsletters down the bottom of the blog post.

"Pure Heart, Simple Mind"(tm) is the Seishindo newsletter written and edited by Charlie Badenhop (c).

Punishment, and the concept of "right or wrong"

"A lot of the best learning I received as an Aikido student came when we were outside of the dojo with sensei. We could be having a cup of coffee, or occasionally having a drink, and at some point it would become clear sensei had a message to deliver.

Once we were sitting in a coffee shop waiting for a train in the countryside.
Seemingly out of nowhere, sensei said, "I think there are many people in the world who act in a confrontational manner, and thus I wish more people understood the Aikido principle of non-dissension."

"Instead of spending so much time and so many human lives quarreling over who is right and who is wrong, I think the world would be a better place if we spent more time exploring how both sides are both right and wrong."

Myself, and the other two students sat there and said very little, knowing sensei was just beginning to get warmed up.

"You see," sensei said, "In Aikido we learn to refrain from engaging in confrontation, but that does not mean we shy away from protecting ourselves. It always intrigues me when new students attend a class and ask, ‘How can Aikido really be a martial art if you don't attack or retaliate against your opponents.' By this time the three of you have heard my reply many times over. In Aikido we have no attack form because we have no desire or intention to harm our adversaries. Instead we strive to bring hostilities to a conclusion that is respectful of all involved."

"If my opponent has never harmed me, never struck me, never hurt me, then why would I want to hurt or punish him? Do I want to punish him simply because he has thought about hurting me, or because he has made a weak effort that was easily rebuffed? You see, even in a court of law, you can't charge someone with murder simply because they thought about murdering someone. Attempted murder and actual murder are two very different crimes. When I am relaxed, aware, and fully present in the moment, then my adversary will have little opportunity to successfully attack me. Since he hasn't hurt me, since he hasn't truly threatened me, I have little desire to punish him in any way. His own thoughts, and the negative results he achieves in the world will be punishment enough."

"Related to punishing someone, is the idea of someone or something being either right or wrong. In Aikido, we learn to refrain from believing one path, or one way of thinking, is inherently superior to another. We also learn to refrain from engaging in thinking that any one point of view is the opposite of others."

"When we think in terms of opposites and disagree with someone else's opinion, we begin to oppose the other person's point of view. And this is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to resisting, combat, antagonism, and an overall disrespect for our perceived adversary."

"In Aikido, we do not attack, but we also do not concede or give up. In every day life the same can be true. Without attacking the viewpoint of others, without conceding or giving up our own viewpoint, we can still maintain ourselves, and continue to act in a way that is consistent with our beliefs."

"Keep that in mind," sensei said as he looked across the table. "More than once I've heard you arguing with other students, trying to prove your viewpoint was more correct than theirs. When you act like that, not only will you fail to convince them that you are right, and they are wrong, you'll also wind up losing them as friends and allies."

"Pure Heart, Simple Mind"(tm) is the Seishindo newsletter written and edited by Charlie Badenhop (c). All rights reserved. Click if you would like to subscribe.


InfoMidwife said...

Yes I agree totally....i want women to led maternity care.... so we have to get into those political positions to enable these changes to happen from the top to led by example....

I have a friend who has a black belt in Aikido and am very familar with their principles...and at first found it difficult to understand you were learning self defence not to attack but to defend.... I was always surprised that people never attacked my friend because they knew he would never attack them first.... and if they did attack they would come off second best...very interesting philosophy... must try
keep up the good work....

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thanks for your comment InfoMidwife! Political positioning is important. Inner strength and inner power are two vital states to be developed and lived by everyone. For those of us who really care about how women and babies are cared for in birth, they are very crucial. As Barbara Katz Rothman commented (something like) that whenever an attempt is made to return power over birth to women, all hell breaks loose!! Keeping calm in the middle of the storm (like now) takes calm, confident strong, resilience.