Ministry of health: A hearing with a panel of 3 “judges”.
I sit in the room, watching them, hearing them.
They are all men, even the expert witness who came to give his insights about homebirth. Beside me sit 7-8 more women, listening. We are not allowed to talk. The hearing is about one of the best homebirth doctors in Israel. He helped most of the women in the room give birth.
Suddenly one of the “judges” seems familiar to me. I try hard to remember where from, try to understand why he drives me crazy, even when he is not talking. Suddenly I remember. I am shocked.
It’s the same doctor who 9 years earlier told me I would never be able to have a natural pregnancy with my partner. We went to him simply to find out when I ovulate. He sent us for testing and then claimed we could never have kids naturally, that we definitely needed fertility treatments. I tried to reason with him, because we both knew intuitively we didn’t have any problem. He became very angry and said something I will never forget: “Lady, here it is not art, it is science.”
We left his clinic, refusing the treatments he suggested and that same week I became pregnant for the first time – without any medical intervention. Since then, my partner and I have had two more natural, empowering homebirths.
So, I probably need to thank the professor. Because of his mistake, I am what I am today. Thanks to him I realized that he and his “expert” colleagues don’t understand anything about pregnancy and birth, about the delicate nature of it, about health and healing. I understand that I am the only one who can take responsibility for my life and the life that I am bringing into this world, and only I know what is good and right for me and for my family.
Thanks to him I chose homebith because I just couldn’t bear the thought that I might meet him, or someone like him in a hospital delivery room at such an intimate time and that during the birth some one like him would think he knows what’s best for me and my baby. It was obvious to me that if he tried to interfere in the natural process of getting pregnant, he would try to interfere in the process of birth; And if not him, a colleague like him. Because this is the only language they speak. Most doctors
(not all of course) do not give any credit and respect to the birthing woman, her needs, and her abilities.
And now, this professor is sitting here, judging and deciding the professional fate of one of the most wonderful homebirth doctors in Israel. How can he judge anything about homebirth – a process he knows nothing about? This is only a symptom of the deep sickness of the system: A judge who hasn’t attended even one homebirth, has never seen a woman giving birth as it was planned by nature, who’s knowledge about homebirths ends with the statistics he quotes with contempt, who has not even a little respect for the natural process of birth, but has an authority to judge a man with wide holistic insight, with great knowledge and experience from many different homebirths, who understands the meaning of birth for a birthing woman. It is really unbelievable.
And I still haven’t mentioned the “expert witness” who was talking for hours without any disturbance from the “judge” – not even when his words were irrelevant. This expert said with pride and defiance that his way to accept deliveries was in the lithotomy position (when a woman lies on her back with her legs open, lifted in a splint.) He decides when an episiotomy is needed claiming that there is no difference between births at home or in the hospital, “a birth is a birth.” All the women in the room burst out laughing when he said it. But the judge wasn’t laughing and wanted to hear more because this witness was a “Figure” and because he had probably worked for him once, and maybe will work for him again and because they have the same attitude toward birth.
In their eyes, there is a procedure, there isn’t a birthing woman. When the “expert” said that women who do not want a caesarean are mostly Arab or religious women who wish to have many kids, the “judge” nodded in agreement. They didn’t think that a woman who wants only one child may not want a caesarean section. They don’t understand the meaning of caesarean for a woman: The risk of major abdominal surgery to her life and the baby’s life, and the physical and emotional trauma for both of them. The “judge” tried to stop the cross questioning even before it started. I cannot even think of what would have happened if we, the women, were not in the room.
I have a friend who was the “judge’s” patient. She is a single mother who wanted artificial insemination. When she came to him for her second child’s treatment, she asked him not to give her hormones with the insemination because she was afraid of cancer. He rudely refused and after a few months she unfortunately got breast cancer because of the
hormones she had tried to refuse. My friend had a full mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation and biological treatments. She is a young mother living in fear for the rest of her life. It is absurd that no one will judge him for that, because it was according to protocols. It almost killed her, but it was legal. As much as doctors make unnecessary interventions, they are legally covered even if the end is tragic. On the other hand, a doctor with an excellent record who attends women at home is considered illegal. Although my friend almost died because of this “judge”, the important thing is that he was acting according to the law.
And what says the law about a 5th caesarean? Another friend of mine delivered 5 babies by caesarean. It happened only because she wasn’t strong enough to avoid the first one. She tried to avoid the second one but didn’t succeed. From the 3rd on, she stopped trying. She almost died in her 5th caesarean. Was the doctor who agreed to operate on her for the 5th time called to a hearing? Did he have a choice? And who caused this if not the doctor who made the first caesarean? Did someone call him for a hearing to ask him if a caesarean was really necessary? Maybe those professors who sit in the room think, “Why the hell does she want so many kids?”
Who writes these rules? Those who hunt homebirth midwives and doctors. They have a target – to destroy the possibility of homebirth in Israel. Well, they cannot succeed in this. Maybe they have the ability to hunt the midwives and doctors who help women give birth at home, but for a fact, they cannot hunt the women who choose it. We won’t give up our basic right to choose where and with whom we give birth even after caesarean or in breech position. No one can stop a woman who wants to give birth at home. She will find a way to do it, even if she “doesn’t fit” the protocols.
Unfortunately according to the new laws of the ministry of health, a midwife or a doctor who is called to attend a woman in her house is expected to refuse and to leave her on her own, without the skilled help she might need, thus putting her at risk because this is the law. If they stay beside this woman and help her, it’s not legal and they can be jailed. But we, the birthing women, won’t give up. They may try hunting doctors and midwives, but they cannot hunt us.
Those who wish to hunt us are like acne – acne on the face of the healthcare system. If you don’t treat acne it will grow and grow. But to get rid of it you need to clean the inside, to teach the body or system what is health, what is balance, what is holism.
By Miri Urman