Most who know me will know I am not a great fan of forums. In my opinion, they tend to lead to competitive parenting. The advice is often contradictory, doing nothing to give parents confidence in their own abilities. This is the reason I suggest to people coming through my classes, that if they are after advice on particular subject, to contact myself or another birth professional and ask them to point them in the direction of balanced information they can read.
Why? Simple, I believe that it is our job to empower parents, help them get the information they need, for them to be able to make an informed choice. My personal opinions on parenting are irrelevant, it is for them, as parents to trust their instincts and make best decisions for their family based upon as much information as they need. After all, all families, their lifestyles, and their needs, are different!
However, recently I am getting worried about telling the parents I work with that they can ask another birth/parenting professional for this support… as a lot of what I have been seeing online recently really makes my heart sink. While most Birth/Parenting Professionals claim ‘empowerment’ is at the heart of what they do, actually it seems to be that they have lost sight of what this means, in favour of pushing their own agenda and opinion as the BEST. This is so contrary to empowerment, as at its very heart (as anyone working in advocacy will know) is informed choice.
Quite frankly, I have been sickened by some of the hypocrisy I have been witnessing of late. Lengthy debates online between various ‘camps’ of professionals. Debates calling in to doubt other people’s credentials as experts… We have holier than though attitudes from some of these so-called ‘professionals’ claiming their way is the only way. Does no one else see the irony here? That by making these attacks they are not empowering parents, but disempowering them. They are basically calling anyone who chooses to do something other than what they advocate as ignorant, and sometimes even dangerous. This is regardless of how the parents made their decisions, and why.
Indeed, I have also been very uncomfortable to witness tweets such as “I can hear a baby crying very loudly in a neighbouring house 🙁 wish I could go and calm him/her.” How disempowering for the mother/father would that be? It also sounds a little judgemental to me. Surely what anybody should be wishing is that the mother/father could have some support to understand their baby’s needs? Although, we still we see so many of these birth professionals only ever talk about the mother, or at best only paying lip service to dads.
The recent attacks on birth/parenting experts as an entity, is quite staggering. Especially as they come from people that claim to be… well, just that, birth or parenting experts! Some of these experts are even now using selective evidence to show that if parents do not subscribe to exactly what they believe, then basically they are harming or neglecting their baby. The reality is we all know that on all things medical, opinion is more often than not divided and quite often contradictory. Not only that, but it is constantly changing. What we believed only 10 years ago is now no longer accurate. A perfect example of this is sleeping positions for babies, current advice is now is now to lay them on their backs to sleep… but it has not always been this. Obviously, as more research is carried out, so opinions and advice change.
So with this in mind, what is wrong with parents hearing several ‘expert’ points of view in order to make their own informed choices and then choosing the path that their instincts are telling them to follow?
What I find even more amazing, is the amount of criticism being undertaken at the moment which is made on assumption. How can you criticise someone if you have not even read their standpoint? Would you write a book review without bothering to read the book? This is sheer arrogance, and again smacks of ‘if it isn’t my way then it must be WRONG!’ That is NOT empowerment.
And still that old chestnut continues to be brought out – because some of these parenting experts don’t have children, they can’t be experts. Really? So male midwives cannot be any good at their jobs then? What about revered birth professionals such as Michel Odent, how can he possibly be the expert he is? After all, he has never given birth…
There have been a number of attacks on myself, by people I have little or no respect for, but at least they have done it in closed forums and in private conversations. The amount of public attacks recently are really out-of-order, in my opinion. Parents do not need to witness slanging matches about who is best, just support to understand there ARE different methods, to learn confidence in themselves, and to make their own choice about what is right for them. As a birth/parenting professional, if you can support this, even if personally you don’t agree with it, then THAT is empowerment.
I believe every family is unique, every baby is unique, and no one size fits all. As professionals, our personal opinions are irrelevant. We will all have our own individual approach, but we should also respect that it may not be for everyone. No one should claim to be THAT much of an expert! Information and choices are what the parents we work with seek, so let’s please stop the slanging matches and get on with our job. After all we have the best job in the world, and it is such a privilege to share these parent’s journeys.