|Weekly Articles of Interest|
Unifying Our Global Voice
World Wide Web
Annual Childbirth Congress,
Consensus Group for the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative
Mount Madonna Center
March 22-25, 1996
faith gibson, community midwife,cpm
There is no alibi for not knowing what is known.
J. Rovinsky, MD, FACOG
Quoted from Foreword of a 1968 obstetrical textbook
Davis Gynecology And Obstetrics
Twenty eight years ago when those words were originally penned by a professor of obstetrics for obstetrical students, it was a different world, a world in which it was easy lose important information by virtue of medical specialization.
Not until the development of the World WideWeb, with its almost infinite capacity for information retrieval and distribution, have we had the luxury of living in a world where there really can be no alibi for not knowing what is known, published and easily accessible.
Statistics have long testified to the superior outcomes for both mothers and babies of midwifery-based maternity care, liberal breastfeeding, valuing the parent-child bond, female literacy and obstetrics for complicated pregnancies.
Around the world and through out time, these common-sense methods have always been strongly associated with good maternal-infant outcomes and low rates of mortality and morbidity. Statistics from the Childrens Bureau of the US government have given grim testimony since the early 1900s of the chronically higher rates of poor maternal-infant outcomes in the US when compared to those countries which utilize on the midwifery model for routine maternity care. There can be no longer be any alibi for not knowing what is known.
The disciplines of sociology, medical anthropology, nursing, midwifery, lactation, and medicine all hold major pieces of the maternal-child health puzzle. But no single discipline holds all the answers. We must work together to promote the practical well-being of mother and babies. We all need to be talking to one another, literally and metaphorically. We need to share the same body of knowledge. Most important, that shared knowledge must be inclusive of all sides of the public debate -- including the voices of childbearing families, midwives, alternative physicians, W.H.O officials, and many others who campaign for a simple and common sense approach to maternal-child health. The World WideWeb provides us with an excellent opportunity to engage in such an on-going dialogue. Cyberspace is the perfect place to organize the free flow of information so that the soundness of the research behind our principles can once again become public knowledge. Knowledge is power.
There is no wall like an *idea
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The 20th century is resplendent with many ideas that have became walls which stop us from valuing, and hence, from practicing holistic childbearing and childrearing practices. It is as if history conspired to rob the average person of the combined cultural wisdom long known as the oral tradition.
In the post-Gothenburg printing press era of publishing empires and media giants, the common sense approach to maternal-child health was lost. For the last 100 years, health care and baby formulas have been heavily marketed growth-industries. Drugs, surgery and hospitalization for normal childbirth are uncritically promoted on our evening news as medical breakthrus. No one promotes normal -- it is not profitable. This mis-information machine has eclipsed the oral tradition of person to person communication in which it was the value of the ideas communicated (and NOT short-term profitability), that determined the preservation and teachings of those ideas. Culturally-proven ideas are the wealth of a people. This commonwealth, which was rooted for centuries in the oral tradition, has been missing from contemporary life for several decades. Now the World WideWeb has become home to a new and dynamic form of oral/visual tradition, one which allows us to reclaim our commonwealth.
There is no alibi for not knowing what is known.
Until recently, enormous quantities of our commonwealth have been hidden away in the obscure literature of specialty libraries. Without sophisticated research techniques and dogged academic pursuit, neither medical careproviders nor consumers have had easy access to this information. We have come to rely on experts instead of our own efforts and have paid a stiff price culturally for this dependency. But the days are over when one had to be a Ph.D. in order to have access to evidence-based information on important health issues and medical treatments.
Promoters of holistic maternity and childrearing practices should take full advantage of this unique opportunity to right the wrongs that have accompanied the Hundred Years War against normal.
The World Wide Web gives us the unique communication tools of hyperText mark-up language and dissemination of information the way it comes to us -- a brief glance at a few boxcars of a moving train as strings of information flow through us as "bits" of data. To keep abreast of the flow of informaiton today, we have to track a moving train from a moving train AND we have to be efficient in our efforts. Electro-magnetic data transfer permits us to keep abreast of that moving train of information on a scale that we only dreamed of even a few years ago. All caregivers can know what is known at the time it is known -- not one, five or ten years down the pike, not even 6 months ago. That would mean that each individual practitioner of every different discipline, school of practice, or perspective would be drawing informative "water" from the same well. The American people need us to be singing out of the same hymnal in order to best serve mothers and babies.
After losing the Hundred Years War for more than 100 years, we are graced with a wonderful chance to prevail. Information about good safe maternity care, breastfeeding, the importance of parenting and the infant child bond, etc. is abundantly available from reputable academic and scientific sources from around the world. The Web can repatriated us with the best elements of our oral tradition, and in that is the gift of honest protrayl of the "normal". It's just the boring truth -- birth is normally normal.
Historically, female literacy has been the most consistent determiner of maternal mortality. Where it is high, the death of women from pregnancy-related circumstances is rare. Where female literacy is rare, maternal mortality remains high. For the post-industrial nations I would go so far as to make a similar connection between high rates of computer literacy and the ability to protect our constitutional choices in the arean of holistic childbirth and childrearing practices. Where the truth is easily available and freely disseminated, a meaningful dialogue can be established with public policy makers and professional careproviders and from that dialogue, positive changes insisted upon. Knowledge is still powerful. Now is the time to turn the computer-enhanced capacity of the World Wide Web to the development of sound principles of public policy based on knowing what is know right now. The World Wide Web and weaving us back together again -- an idea whose time has come!
i ( = inner) + dea ( = feminine form of God)
Faith Gibson, Community Midwife,
North American Registry of Midwives
Certified Professional Midwife #96050001
American College of Domiciliary Midwives
PO Bx 60334, Palo Alto, CA ** 94303