Where to, Love? said the taxi driver. Up with the lark, ain’t yer?
Station, please. Tickets please, next stop, Kings Cross.
30p for a wee, then mind the gap, tube to Baker Street.
Past tourists gathering outside 221b
Leafy streets and round the bend, the Royal College.
The rarefied air and ivory towers of the Obs and Gyns.
No place for the likes of me, yet in I go, slightly nervous,
But look! Friendly faces, bustling busyness, smiles and hugs.
Tissues on the tables, buzz of anticipation. Whispers and shouted hellooos.
Mrs Boss Obstetrician: ‘we will listen to women’. ‘I am a woman too’ says midwife Sheena.
Here is Michelle: her determination to be heard made all this happen;
Here come the tears as her fourth and last birth story plays out on the screen.
Louise believed in herself. Told she couldn’t; she did it anyway.
Silence in the room as her voice quietly reminds us:
Breech babies can be born vaginally, even after cesarean.
Even high risk mums need choice, and respect.
Amanda’s voice quivers with nerves but her message is powerful:
Women know how their babies need to be born – including elective cesarean
Women know what kind of birth they need to be whole and healthy.
Women know that birth is just the start of a lifetime of motherhood.
Natalie’s voice. Strong and unwavering. I heard nothing but the unmistakable sound
Of 200 hearts breaking around the room. Her story, of birth and death, heartbreak and joy
Her art flows from her grief and hope flows from her words.
Her words ring clear: one midwife heard me, gave me courage, gave me choice.
More tears for Diana and Tonye, migrant women who were voiceless until now.
Now their words can be heard in the hallowed halls. Now they can recount the
Humiliation, the separations, the abuse, the scandalous lack of compassion.
I am sickened and I blush at their words of pain and shame.
‘Women are not suitcases’, says Birthrights Elizabeth.
We are more than vessels for a baby. Our feelings and preferences matter too.
These words that we hear: ‘I know what is best for you’; ‘this we won’t allow’
Are not conducive to safe care, not supportive of health and happiness.
Women’s voices are being raised around the world. It is time to start listening.
Time to accept the plurality of experience, time to put our stories at the centre.
Hear the multitudes of voices: me too, she says, and me too.
Because no means no in the birth room too.
Let’s listen to the voices of midwives and doctors
Hurt by this patriarchal system of hierarchies and bullying,
By this risk averse, defensive paradigm that eats people up and spits them out,
By our leaders who refuse to hear.
Michelle, your voice is crystal clear; together we can raise our voices without fear.
Together we can truly listen, really hear, feel deeply, trust each other.
Together we can feel strong, reach out, touch hearts and trust mothers,
Women, sing out your stories, we are listening!
With thanks to all those mentioned who honoured us with their stories, and to all the other speakers who enthralled us, especially Kati Edwards and Clare Kay who brought their poetry. My terrible doggerel is inspired by you.