Reimagining: Self Care looks like Revolution to me


Annabel Crabbe wrote a terrific article the other month for AWW. In it she talks about how letting the idea of housework perfection go by the wayside and being engaged with the work we love, our partners and especially our children, is a far more worthy pursuit. I concur! It also brought to my mind the beautiful Erica Jong poem, Woman Enough.

In combination with some self care articles coming my way lately, it made me ponder a few things. Why are articles about self care focused largely on changing superficial aspects of our lives? Why are self care articles addressed to women not men? What do I consider constitutes actual self care? If we can talk about radical acceptance maybe we can have radical self care?

I have an ongoing joke with some friends about self care mental health pamphlets often given to women who are managing severe episodes of ill health or abuse. The rolldownahilllightacandlegoforawalk advice which pressupposes so much about our physicality, for a start, since rolling down hills and going for walks assumes we are physically able to do that and light a candle implies space in which to buy candles, light candles and be able to sit long enough in one place to enjoy lit candles, and that lit candles will improve anything about our lives.

It is totally true that spending time creating a nice moment for ourselves can be enjoyable. Sometimes it’s what gets us through a long day if we know that we will at some point slump into bed, or onto a couch, and breathe more easily. But is that self care or harm minimisation? Just as folks have said, usually from a place of white financial privilege, that we should create a life from which we don’t need holidays, actually maybe we should be creating lives for all in which self care isn’t a one off or separate from life? What if radical self care is saving your own life rather than a breathing space while you regroup to keep pushing shit up hill? What if self care is the revolution which keeps you safer in the world?

What if self care is sometimes about being fucking angry and saying so?

When I think about self care, I think about an integrated life in which care for ourselves, and others, is perpetually present. I think about how employing boundaries in our lives provides the space for respecting ourselves and others particularly when we have children. And how else are our children to learn respect and boundaries if not via our modelling? What are we teaching children if they see us continally push ourselves to exhaustion and then need to shunt them out of our lives so we can live for an hour or so as if they didn’t exist? Why is childlessness seen as the model for self care and rest anyway? Plenty of childless folks are still living with violence and oppression and plenty of childrened folks are able to live in relative peace. Should we assume the childless are less in need of loving compassion or radical self care?

Many of us are living in situations of abuse and violence and no amount of rolldownahill changes that. What changes that is social revolution which supports men in learning that women are people, that violence and control are not relationship tools and that each of us is worthy in our own right simply by virtue of existing. Self care which offers us a break from reality for a moment can give us breathing space in those relationships but self care which reimagines a whole new society and offers us a critique to know that control is not ok is surely better self care? The clean needles of harm minimisation are vital to good health when we are addicted but surely the overall strategy needs to be to create a world in which people are loved and supported and don’t need the self soothing offered by drugs?

Black people won’t change the world by lighting a candle but by speaking out and drawing attention to white privilege and its inherent violence. Women won’t change the world by lighting a candle but by speaking out and drawing attention to male privilege and its inherent violence. Adam Goodes may well be rollingdownahill in his time off but the radical self care he promotes when he speaks out about violence and racism might just change the world enough that he can enjoy lighting a candle from time to time and hopping in a bubble bath with a good book.

Is there a more important self care than that which draws attention to our planet and how badly we’ve fucked it up, for instance? You can’t run a bath in a world where the frackers have fracked your water supply and the rains no longer come. A week or so ago near where I live, we had snow. Today there is a bushfire in the same zone. Radical self care says to me that noticing and struggling against big coal is people saying “You’re worth it!” a lot more than a shampoo product. What says I love you, you’re worth it, more than hanging from a bridge to stop a coal mine?

Everywhere I look in political struggle I see women working. Where I see fewer women is in activism around women. How can women reclaim the right to struggle for our own freedom? If social justice movements were more evenly staffed by women and men across the board, including the cause of women’s human rights, imagine how different the world would look? Women are constantly discouraged by abuse, rape threats, death threats and physical violence, from speaking out on our own collective behalf. How is it not self care to struggle for the right to live free of male violence?

If the personal is political, why are self care articles always basically about how women should push ourselves to the brink of collapse but then nurture ourselves enough that we can go back and repeat the process? If men are the high rollers in the casino of life, why aren’t men in need of self care? Given that heteronormativity means a lot of us are in het relationships and the patterns for those are overwhelming stacked in favour of women doing all the care and men doing the out of home work shifts, how about self care becomes more about changing those patterns and less about mopping up the exhaustion women experience from them?

Self care for men might include getting real with themselves, and each other, and choosing to be seen as whole people, not inept housekeepers or bumbling dads. Nor infantilised beings for whom the pay off is being allowed to run the world but not the dishwasher. Maybe men could demand the right to flexible workplaces in order that parenting might be shared in their homes? Imagine if men saw household maintenance as part of normal life rather than Helping Out? If parenting was something men did because they’re parents not because hawt men babywear and men doing housework is supposedly some erotic fantasy for women? How about orgasm equality? Radical self care includes care for others as well as self, and orgasms are pretty nice in conjunction with enthusiastically consenting partners. Go orgasm equality, hey?

How about those in the privileged position of not fighting for every moment and every breath, take on the load for those engaged in continual struggle to just be? And how about women care for ourselves in ways which challenge patriarchy rather than support it? What if self care doesn’t look like paying an exploited woman to rip hair out of your vulva but more like eating what you enjoy and wearing what feels comfy and warm? Audre Lorde said, and I paraphrase, that self care is an act of rebellion, and when all around you are pushing you to your knees, it certainly is. I’m pretty sure though that she didn’t just mean self care in the narrow rolldownahill individualistic way too.

If we all stretched ourselves a little to care for others, those of us in most need of a break would receive one. If everyone did a little more anger about men’s violence, someone like me could have a little break. In the organic communities we inhabit, we cannot rise up on the backs of others and maintain our integrity but we can lift others up as we go and provide space for self care and other care which will change the planet. The idea of the individual floating adrift on a sea of equal choices, uninformed by history, culture and social systems, has led us drastically astray and away from collective action which is so desperately needed.

Could there be any more radical self care than addressing that?

Are we free?

Canberra Rally v.2.0 25 June 2015


I acknowledge that we meet today on the land of the Ngunnawal people whose land was never ceded. I pay tribute to their elders, past and present, and elders from all over Australia who are present. And to the women who birthed on this country.

I have such rage. I have gut curdling, disgusted, appalled rage, Everywhere I look, women are ignored, brutalised, violated, raped and murdered. Our voices are silenced by those who assume power over us. Our lives are shrunk by the misogyny which is the life blood of the western world. We are denied innate rights men take for granted. We are encouraged to starve, pluck, wax and punish our bodies for the sin of being female. We are used by corporations to sell their products. We are used, by industries of all kinds, which seek to profit from selling us inadequacy and in some places, selling the products of our bodies.

In Australia, we are told we are free. We have the vote, we talk about equal pay, we once had a prime minister who happened to be a woman. And yet is it freedom when the very basic biological functions of our bodies are controlled by law? By custom? By a society which treats us as if our very presence is unwelcome and toxic?

Are we free when we find ourselves pregnant and yet cannot access services supporting termination? Are we free when abortion is still a crime in most Australian states? Are we free when protesters form a cordon around health services and a security guard is murdered for working in an abortion clinic?

Are we free when we are forced onto buses to travel thousands of kilometres to hospitals where our language and culture are obliterated? When birthing on the country of our grandmothers is denied us? When our children are removed in greater numbers than ever and greater even than during the time of the Stolen Generations? When our children die in watch houses and are imprisoned for pilfering lollies?

Are we free when we would choose abortion over birth because the living conditions in Australia’s offshore storage camps are so foul and dangerous we cannot imagine bringing new life into them? When rapists work on in the camps but babies are removed from their mothers and denied citizenship?

Are we free when having chosen to continue a pregnancy, our every move is dictated by poorly evidenced but profitable ritualised interventions? Are we free when presented with the dead baby card in order to coerce a farcical consent?

Are we free when our caesarean rate has continued to increase, even since 2009, and the only models of care in which normal birth occurs are curtailed and becoming impossible to access?

When women who still choose to birth at home are punished for stillbirth in a way which would never happen in hospitals?

Are we free when women’s deaths in maternity hospitals go unnoticed and unremarked in the media? When statistics are not kept, or kept poorly, when states and territories cannot agree a definition of maternal death, much less a transparent and fearless approach to lowering the rates of women’s deaths?

Are we free when suicide is one of the biggest causes of death for Australian mothers?

Are we free when the medical professions closes ranks around the Graeme Reeves in their midst rather than speak out about women being mutilated?

When women cannot take assault in hospitals to the law because we are culturally perceived as incubators and good mothers are in a state of perpetual consent and careproviders are allowed to touch our bodies regardless of our wishes?

Are we free when the few midwives who serve women, ahead of the state, are slowly picked off by unethical and immoral use of coronial processes?

Are we free when a hospital in Wagga can employ a dangerous drug for off label use, which results in the deaths and injuries of babies and women, and yet the media is silent and there is no inquest nor public notice of reparations?

Are we free when a woman can have antibacterial fluid injected into her spine and no public outcry ensues?

Are we free when a Melbourne hospital can end the lives of two babies and be given a free pass with no public accountability?

And yet, I am often called an angry woman, as if that were not a reasonable response to the wholesale violation of my sisters? What is aberrant is not my rage but that so few of us are enraged. We are so bent under the yoke of social disapproval, simply by virtue of failing to be men, that most of us fear to stand tall and to speak out because we fear the punishment which will ensue.

But here’s the thing: we are already being punished. There is no greater punishment than the removal of our legal and cultural personhood, so what do we have to lose? As human beings we have innate rights. We have the right to choose what we do with our bodies. At law, we are supported in this, regardless of pregnancy. At law, we remain people throughout our life cycles. What we struggle against, is the invisible culture in which we are stripped of these rights.

Why can we not demand criminal charges be laid against those who assault us when we birth? Once we could not lay charges against men if they raped us while a marriage contract was in place. And even though that is still difficult, it is largely recognised that a marriage contract does not place women in a state of perpetual consent.

In fact, all human beings exist in a state of perpetual non-consent unless otherwise indicated.

We do not have to say no, we have to be seen to say yes.

[If your home is burgled, the existence of a front door is not seen as consent. Your home is seen as existing in the normal legal state of assumed non-consent unless otherwise indicated. But even with the door thrown wide open, we assume no consent for passers by to make off with our household items. Women’s bodies however are not accorded the basic courtesy extended to our homes and men’s bodies.

There could not be, for instance, a clearer indication of legal and social recognition, that men exist in a state of non-consent, than the response to men sometimes punching one another in the face in public.

While no one could argue that punching someone in the face leading to serious injury or death is other than abhorrent, is this not already covered by existing laws?

Do we really need special laws which protect men from the habits of their fellows? Why can two women a week be murdered, largely by men, and minimal legislative and cultural change be sought? Because we are not full citizens. Because we are not fully human. Because we are not full citizens. Because we are not full people and men are important citizens who must be protected, even when it’s protection from each other.

It is well documented that men’s violence increases, and can begin, during pregnancy. Women are not uncommonly murdered by current, or previous partners, when pregnant or newly birthed. The dubious ‘privilege’ conferred by motherhood could not be more clearly demonstrated by that.]

But really, would there be a clearer statement of contempt towards us, than a man with a record of violent behaviour and proud misogynist beliefs, being named the minister in government to deal with us? Where is the Minister for Women today?

In the face of outright hatred towards us, how are we to respond? While the rage I feel is massive, my overwhelming response to this violence is to love each of us fiercely. To love ourselves in this patriarchy is to commit an unpardonable sin. To love our sisters in this patriarchy, is a monumental act of love and courage. The courage of women to put one foot in front of the other, day after day, never fails to take my breath away.

Our rights based feminist movement, to see women recognised as citizens with innate rights, must be fuelled by love and a dedication to movement before politics, the mass before the individual, love of self and love of sisterhood. We are a damaged community and we struggle to come together while many of us still fear to gather, to organise and to identify with women as a class. Those who would work with us must stop speaking the rhetoric of meaningless choice. They must move away from professional aggrandisement and towards supporting women’s autonomy because from that flows all else.

When women are recognised as the sole decision makers in our lives then our birthing will be supported in ways which nourish us. The false promise of paternalistic careproviders that they can rescue us from our biology must cease and we must refuse to have truck with toxic culture. We must withdraw our legitimising presence from institutions and individual careproviders which do not serve us but instead serve their need for power and control.

We must look to the law for that which serves us and recognises our humanity and we must demand the right to autonomy which is denied us.

[We must critique each new regulation of midwives to see if all women are served by it, regardless of the shiny wrapping and label, which accompany those actions.

We must cease to support those who throw all women under the bus by painting some of us as selfish and unnatural. While one woman is oppressed, so are we all.]

And we must always remember that women alone own birth, and only women should make the decisions in our lives to bear children or to not bear children but to always live in the full exercise of our power.

Weather Watch

Weather Watch

Sitting on the station

Train rushes by

Air displaced

Sucks the steel seat towards it

Lifts my skirt

Such is the force.


When that train goes by

Mistake it not for hurricanes

Cyclones nor other

Natural phenomena

Keep hold of children

And stray packages.


When it leaves

Feel the slip stream

But do not believe it

A zephyr, nature’s babe.

Turn instead your face

To wild stormy or gentle

Breezes which naturally occur

Not those created by humans.


The Day Before

The day before

Inhabit the space

when I can barely inhabit myself.

Heart thudding, tugging to be free

of this body.

Last coffee drunk before tomorrow’s coffee.

Breath slow to make each breath not the last one

before tomorrow.

Blue sky. Beautiful. Dead baby still not here.

Still not three nor playing with her siblings.

They ask often what she would be doing.

She is always reckoned in the family sums.

She is always the jagged hole in the black ice of my heart.

The tears on my face right now even in public.

Grief doesn’t tidy away like socks

or even hide in the third drawer down

in the kitchen where the other mystery items lie.

Discomfort clear on the faces around me.

Distancing to avoid the fumes of my sour grief.

Peer at me through laced fingers.

No bargaining keeps relentless death at bay.

Best to stop, turn, face, embrace.

This will be my lifelong relationship.

Who is brave enough to witness our nuptials?


Pr*n: just say no

A friend of mine remarked on the Book of Farce the other day, that since liking a particular page, she now gets ads for pr*n* in her feed. This sparked me finally into action about something that’s been irritating me for quite some time now:

stop calling your stuff pr*n because pr*n hurts women and it’s not cute.

We have normalised pr*n and the harm it does to women and children by incorporating it into our lifestyles and lexicons as if it was a meaningless term. What you really mean is that you

something, not that you want it whipped, raped, enslaved, drugged up, suicidal or driven to despair. Back in the Dark Ages before pr*n was quite as successful as it currently is, we began this horrible trend so I apologise to you all for that. My generation called stuff ______ pr*n and then the next generation started calling things pimped, tricked and so on.

Why is Pimp My Ride ok? You want your car sold to men for rape? Or you’re fine with the idea of selling something for rape from which you financially benefit?

Pimp My Pram? As if paedophiles haven’t made that into a potentially revolting notion?

Trick My Truck? What the fuck?

Just like rape is rape and not when you get beaten in a game, pr*n is pr*n and it cannot be applied any longer to food, the English language, clothes, music or anything else into which we have uncritically let it dangle its tendrils.

If you haven’t yet read Nine Deuce’s admirable series on pr*n, you need to and bear this in mind: if your brain is reacting now with thoughts that I must be one of those meanies that Sex Positive Feminists don’t like. Trust me, the last thing I am is sex negative, I’m single, remember?

“And here comes the ergo: moral objections to morally objectionable things do not of necessity result from prudishness. And hence another ergo: arguing that radical feminists are opposed to pr*n and prostitution out of some form of prudishness is a straw man extraordinaire. I mean, really, how many radical feminist fundamentalist Christians do you know? Prudes are proud of their continence, prudes love it when people take notice of the fact that they never do anything fun, prudes revel in abstemiousness for its own sake, and their reasoning usually rests either on nothing or on a prideful adherence to the anachronistic and untenable prescriptions for living laid down by dudes who lived during a time when people had never even heard of burritos or synthesizers. Prudes, basically, are dumbasses — and usually arrogant ones at that. So don’t call me one or I’ll take away your birthday.”

My objection to our free marketing of pr*n and its subsidiaries is not prudish, any more than people protesting child slavery in chocolate manufacturing, are big ole meanies who want to deny children a feed and a roof. Doing the work of advertisers for free isn’t “edgy” it’s being duped in the most profound way by a disgusting international industry that harms people for entertainment. I’m just telling you, we have let our boundaries be over run by this foulness and I’m saying no to it in my space. I won’t do it, I won’t joke about it, I won’t pimp my blog. Will you?

* You’re looking at my reduction of That Word so it doesn’t net me a heap of hits from the people who are looking for it, ok?

Happy New year 2014

My New Year wish for you is that you may lose your head before your footing.
May you find love in yourself and others.
May you sparkle like stars and roll like ocean.
May you breathe easy and dancer easier.
May you have enough sorrow to know joy when it lands on you. May you open your arms and your mind.
May you spread love in buttery layers wherever you go and find completion and wholeness in your own infinite beauty.
May you leave 2014 in better condition than you found it leaving only footprints and the whisper of your heart’s goodness as a sign of your presence.
With love.

If you haven’t joined me on Facebook yet, you can find me at FraserBlogs Janet Fraser

Homebirth in rural NT – against all odds.

This newly birthed woman has shared her story of trying to find a midwife to support her in birthing at home. In the current climate where the rhetoric tells us that the federal government expanded women’s choices, we can see we’re being badly duped. This woman was strong and determined and birthed at home. She really wanted a midwife but our governments don’t care to provide those in the hope that we will be scared and go to hospital.

They didn’t scare her. Congratulations on your new babe too!

I was attempting to have a hb for my first baby in rural NT (2.5 hours from Roy. Darwin Hospital).
I found out about the birthing options that were supported by the “system”:
– birth in hospital
– birth at hospital birth centre – after obstetric clearance (including all routine tests)
– birth with midwives from community homebirth centre at a location I have to arrange in Darwin (hotel, rental apartment) or at birthcentre (ob clearance requ.)

Antenatal care would be provided by local clinic midwife together with hb midwife in Darwin.

I signed up with the homebirth midwives and have been assigned a midwife (there were no options, they just tell you :”This is your mw”).

I was not convinced by the (health department run) service they offered, didnt really click with the mw and also wasnt convinced that a birth in a rental apartment would be the hb experience I was looking for (on top of this it is a very $$$ option, as they expect you to come to Darwin 2 weeks prior to EDD).

Desperately I was trying to work out how to arrange a “proper” hb, that is, a birth “AT HOME”.

Neither Community HB midwives nor local clinic mw did/ could support this (department policies). There were mws and student mws in NT who were wanting to support me, but couldnt as they risk losing their registration or getting in serious trouble with their university (There was still mental and emotional support from one lovely doula/ student mw which I highly appreciated). There are no IMs in NT.
I thought about flying in a mw, but the uncertainty of the actual due date and the cost associated with this ruled out this option.

Slowly making peace with not having the option of a hb with a midwife, I started to consider an unassisted hb.
I spoke to a couple of “real hb” midwives from interstate to discuss the option of having an unassisted hb and get a professional independent expert view on this. In the end, it was my first birth, I DO live far away from the hospital, and I would have loved expert support from a midwife.

Meanwhile, at 36 weeks, my hb mw from Darwin advised me that she has to go overseas and I will be assigned another mw.
The new mw then was uncomfortable with me birthing in any private set up (as I didnt travel to Darwin often enough to “get to know each other” and cut out the option of a hb in Darwin, and (at 38+ weeks) advised I can still have her support/ attendance at a birth in hospital or at the hospital attached birth centre. Starting to feel desperate, I probably would have considered the birth centre, but I didn’t want to see an OB or have scans (I didn’t have scans during my pregnancy, glucose tests, etc).

At that point I was over it and decided to prepare an unassisted hb. After all, I was well informed, healthy, fit throughout the pregnancy, felt great, and had a good gut feeling about it all. I did not want to go to the hospital, or the birthcentre with mws I didn’t really know. I surely did not appreciate being pushed around by the system like that, and my already strong concern about birthing anywhere near the medical system was once again reinforced.

Preparing mentally and emotionally for the arrival of my baby. The med system became worried, as I did not consent to any of their offered options. Repeatedly I was being made aware of the risks and irresponsibility of a homebirth, especially so far away from the hospital.
(Still the system rather took the risk of me birthing rural without a midwife rather than “allowing” me mw support…? )

Well, my precious baby boy was born 10 days ago, at home, into the arms of his loving father. I had support of a great friend, who is a nurse and hb mum of 5. And we did it!!!!!!

It was a 16 hour intense labour with a 6 hours second stage (we checked babys heart rate for reassurance). I had a great birth, and I’m very happy with my choices.
I would have loved a good hb mw at my birth, I believe the birth would have been easier. I also think that the pressure from the “system” was at the back of my mind (What if it didnt work out? What if I had to be evacuated by the system I was rebelling against? What if I chose wrong against all “expert” advice and there was something wrong with the baby?) and slowed down labor and made it more difficult for me to surrender.

I am happy and I loved birthing at home, I loved being at home after the birth, I loved every bit of it.
The local mw visited me at home for the first week after the birth, which I appreciated.

But I am a bit sad that the system/ society treats and expecting mother like a criminal, not considering her wishes, intuition, choices.

On the other hand, we made a point as of course our hb is the current local talk, and got a lot of people thinking. I believe babies should be born at home. I wish local indigenous people could keep their traditions alive and birth their babies at home as well.

Love and light x

The system that cried wolf or the emperor’s clothes are lost in transit. Permanently.

I am frequently bemused by the use of lies to support obstetrics when the truth is so easy to discover. Why are we so comfortable accepting at inquests that all the babies who die outside of hospitals would have lived in hospitals when hospitals are where more than 99% of our stillbirths take place? If hospitals had 100% survival rates of women and babies, they might have a leg to stand on. Why do we so readily accept the word of obstetricians that these babies would live in hospitals, when obstetricians routinely claim that almost every baby will die, in hospital, if you don’t follow their instructions? Why is it that when around 1 in 200 (Or 1 in 300, or 1 in 135, or 1 in …. We really don’t know and can’t agree on how to define stillbirth internationally.) babies die, thus proving obstetricians’ predictions of the apparent mass extinction of the human species wrong, we still believe their claims without question? Why is it considered inconceivable that women might consent before interventions and that only crazy selfish women believe they should have such a basic right in birth?

I find all this stuff very confusing based, as it is, in cognitive dissonance so powerful that nothing seems to break through it. It is pretty simple however that the equation we are sold that babies die because homebirth, is a total fabrication. To whit, and simply to give one year close to my heart:

Of babies born at home in 2009,99.8% were liveborn.

[Of babies born in hospitals] The perinatal death rate was 9.8 per 1,000 births in 2009, which comprised fetal and neonatal death rates of 7.8 per 1,000 births and 3.0 per 1,000 live births respectively.
What confuses me most however is that facts about this stuff are all readily available and yet journalists refuse to engage with them in any way and just go on repeating the same tired old lies about mortality in birth outside of hospitals.

Here’s another fact for you: there is a far higher likelihood that women will die during birth in hospitals than at home. It is also true that maternal death is under reported and under recorded in Australia. Shouldn’t we all be factoring that into our plans for a birth place? Maybe hospitals don’t tell women this easily researched fact? Do mothers for children not matter? Why aren’t journalists interested in this when I tell them about it? When I explain that we have no adequate sentinel reporting unlike other countries, that there is no real oversight body for maternal death?

And another fact: if your baby is sadly in the 6 or so who die every day in hospitals, you will be very very unlikely to achieve an inquest. The loss of not one, but two babies, in a Melbourne hospital, caused by the hospital, doesn’t need an inquest. Hundreds of women and babies affected, some deaths, countless injuries, barely rates a mention in the papers. Does not the double standard appear to anyone? I think I can safely say that many women simply feel if a searchlight is shone on so many births outside of hospital, which amounts to fewer than 1% in Australia, then why cannot a searchlight be shone where the vast majority of babies are born? Of course to apply the same rules to hospitals as homebirth would cause difficulty since doctors would be prevented from practicing immediately, their homes would be searched, their computers and telephones removed, police interviews over hours for everyone in the room (this could be 20 people in some hospitals), and their names would be made public along with any other deaths they attended so the system may need a little modifying?

Why are deaths in institutional settings, where we are told every life sustaining piece of equipment and personnel is available, the least likely to be publicly scrutinised? Most women, if questioned will say, after all, that they give birth in hospitals because they perceive them to be safer due to that very equipment. If we accept for a moment, the rancid illogicality that birthing outside of hospital is the most dangerous thing ever, then why are we so perturbed, offended and shocked by those deaths? Don’t we expect them? Why are we so resolutely facing away from the deaths which we are repeatedly told are all preventable when they occur outside of hospital, when they occur inside hospitals? Isn’t it more concerning that so many deaths occur in the presence of obstetricians and midwives in hospitals? Shouldn’t we be pulling each and every one of those deaths apart in an effort to see how our institutions are faring when a loss occurs? This is a remarkably unusual case and it is fascinating how little reportage there is around it when compared with deaths outside of hospital where causes are printed before postmortems are even performed. My baby was repeatedly declared dead by media due to heart attack before she was even cut, cut forcibly and without my consent, as is usual in homebirth stillbirths which attract the state’s attention. (Not all do. Isn’t that interesting too?)

Is it not possible that loss in pregnancy is normal in the human species and can be expected at every gestation? Given that miscarriage is very common, and stillbirth fairly common, and unchanged in several generations, maybe we can all start to see that using stillbirth as an excuse to condemn women’s birthing choices is a politically motivated action?

Those who speak out about the brutality women experience in hospitals are called fools, selfish unnatural bitches, murderers yet those inflicting the brutality are allowed to dodge their responsibility while pointing to a supposed body count due to normal physiological birth which doesn’t exist. Expecting to have human rights because you are human does not equate to not caring about whether your baby is alive or dead at the end of pregnancy. The cynical, misogynist lie of this is allowing obstetricians to pull the curtain over the damage they do to us and continuing the mythical supremacy of hospital as the safe place to birth. How much longer are we prepared to listen to lies like these?

More vital reading:

The mothers fighting back against birth intervention

What are human rights in childbirth?

Australia’s Mothers and Babies, 2009 and every other year you can find online.

Improving Birth

Healing after a traumatic birth

The assault on normal birth: The OB disinformation campaign

Mainstreaming midwives: the politics of change

“A further barrier to midwifery care has to do with the negative publicity that occurs almost every time there is a bad outcome at a home birth. Deaths in the hospital of baby or mother are rarely publicized because the hospital constitutes the cultural standard for safety, and physicians tend to protect their own from public view. Thus a death at home rings loud cultural bells, sounding the culturally ingrained message that home birth is an irresponsible choice for mothers, and that home birth midwives must be far less competent than hospital-based practitioners.”

Think before you click

A little while ago on the internet, I was blithely clicking away on Facecrack when a pic zoomed up in my feed of a nearly middle aged man, poorly dressed, teeth missing, looking down at heel and holding a sign saying, roughly, “I want to find my mum, her name is XXX and I was born XX/XX/XXXX in Such and Such a Place. Please help!” Seeing him and my gut reaction to his visual appearance and thus my immediate (class ridden) impression of his circumstances, I clicked share. I clicked share on a few of those.

Then a friend posted under one of these pics and asked me if I had considered the woman involved. I stopped and thought, crikey, no other than a vague moment, I had responded to this fella, and the other men and women, because their immediate story spoke to me. I had, (you know, those vague moments when a human brain condenses a shit load of information into one second and you react rather than respond?) this instant feeling of “Well I guess they tried all the other ways to find their mums, exhausted those possibilities, probably live places legislation doesn’t allow more fact finding and now they’ve turned to Facecrack.” But was I really thinking?

My friend pointed out to me, very politely too given the subject matter, that I had completely ignored the right of a now middle aged woman to privacy. What if that woman is on Facecrack and suddenly someone in her family or friendship circle, said, “Hey, what a coincidence, isn’t that your name?” All the years of keeping a secret or simply keeping her life private as is her right, gone in an instant because a bunch of us clicked without thinking it through.

It got me to thinking about the times I stood outside parliament house in my early 20s holding right to choose literature because the appalling Fred Nile was yet again threatening the right of women to own their own bodies. Women in their 70s, 80s and even 90s came up to us young women, barely out in the world, weeping to tell us of the forced adoptions they’d endured because abortion was not available. Now some of these pics on Facecrack show us the face of that total lack of access to abortion for women in years gone by, some show women who birthed babies then passed them on and went back to their lives, they show a range of experiences I can’t possible put into a paragraph but which I must think on and respond rather than react.

I have a number of friends who conceived babies in their youth in countries where they could not access an abortion, and some of them would certainly have done that. Others would have raised their child had there been any social support and less stigma to being a sole parent considered a slut for having a child Out Of Wedlock – like all my babies since I’ve never married. In any case, each of those women has the right to privacy around that experience. She has the right to share her story in her own time or not at all. I know for some women the shame will still be present because it was so forcefully punched into them when they signed those babies over to other families.

And where does this leave the hapless Facecrack posters? Well that, my friends, seems to me to be part of our legacy of not allowing women free choice to decide their own destinies, of our communities’ social sanction against women who birth babies young and outside of marriage, of each individual story, many of which are shrouded in grief despite the years which have passed. We have done those women and those now adult children a terrible disservice. We have seen enough in the last few years around the (scant) acknowledgement of forced adoptions in this country to know that it is not unlikely those people were wanted by their mothers but the state intervened to punish young sluts having already failed to provide readily available contraception and access to abortion for those times a woman wishes to end a pregnancy.

I feel for the pain of those adult children. I feel for their mothers. I also feel that outing your mother on Facecrack might not be the best means to an end to finding a woman who hasn’t come forward and found you first. There is no easy answer to this except to remind me that women’s bodies are their own and the state must not interfere in the rights of women to control their own fertility which is, heaven knows, a fickle beast at best. And in the light of Fred Nile again attacking the rights of women to access abortion, I think it all the more important we put pressure on our politicians to remove abortion from Crime Acts across Australia because abortion is a right, a medical procedure and no one else’s goddam business but that of the woman involved.

If our society didn’t suck arse at supporting women and women’s access to healthcare and social support as needed, those people desperately searching for women who birthed them would not be desperately seeking. The folk who blithely recommend adoption as an easy out and a way to avoid bringing up unplanned children, should spend some time contemplating the pain of those forced to birth and those forced to grow up without the woman who birthed them. And they should get the hell out of other women’s bodies and decisions.

I am sorry for your loss.

Imagine this: you are being given an opportunity. When a woman tells you her child died, now is your chance to make a difference. A lot of the time, a woman whose child has died is ignored, sometimes shamed, sometimes punished for her loss but now you have a chance to make a difference. All you need to say is, “I am sorry for your loss.”. You don’t need to ask how, why, where her child died, you just need to express the sorrow you can imagine you’d feel if your child died, or a child close to you died, or someone else you love died and you missed them a lot.

She understands you find it confronting that she said her child died. She finds it confronting that her child died too and a lot more so than you who have only to look from the outside in this brief moment. But in this brief moment you can make a difference to that woman’s life by being kind and by acknowledging her loss. You don’t need to say, “Good thing you have other children!” if you think she does because children like snowflakes are unique unto themselves and like your partner wouldn’t be replaced or your loss healed by simply meeting another partner, neither is this woman’s loss healed by the existence now, or in the future, of other children. She lost that child, that irreplaceable being, that drop of water in the ocean of humanity who is never to be seen again.

You don’t need to offer a comparison. No, it is not the same as your experience of loss and that’s ok. It’s a moment about this woman and her dead child, at this time and all you need to do is be present in it with her. For a moment.

You don’t need to say silent because you are scared of saying the “wrong” thing. Authenticity and kindness are never wrong. But if you need a prompt, remember this from me and simply say: I am sorry for your loss. Because it might be the one time she hears that in a day, a week, a month or a year and you will be offering something kind like a little beacon in a world where we offer lip service to grief instead of acknowledging the howling gale of it in our lives and bodies.