Why it’s NEVER ok to ‘wash your hands’ of a woman’s birth plan

Posted by: on Jan 30, 2019 | No Comments

Unless it’s happened to you, you might think I was making up some of the comments I’ve heard from GP’s, Obstetricians, Midwives and Health Visitors either first hand, from clients, from other doulas, from women on various support forums I am on, or from the birth stories I gathered for the Birthplace Matters campaign, because they are so wholly inappropriate as to be shocking.

Rather than seeing a woman as a responsible adult and seeking to genuinely listen and understand, I’m hearing over and over comments such as:

“I’m having nothing to do with this ridiculous birthplan”

“I won’t support you to give birth at home and want nothing more to do with any of it – I’m washing my hands of you”

“Ha – good luck with that!”

“You are not allowed”

“You either follow my recommendations as I say or I will have to withdraw my care from you”

“Do you WANT to kill your baby?”

Whether you like to admit it or not, mothers are responsible for protecting their baby and making decisions on behalf of that baby before it is born. Not after the birth when everyone is done telling her exactly what she should do. Now already. As daunting as that is, you have a duty to respect their parenting choices right now just as much as you have no say in how or where they will educate their child, or all the myriad of other choices they will make down the line. It’s not your child. So you don’t get to have the final say on anything that mother chooses.

Now, I fully appreciate that in your careers you have seen all kinds of situations and may be haunted by other experiences you saw, and maybe somehow even feel responsible for in some way. But this woman is not THAT woman , this baby is not THAT baby, and confusing the two is not only misplaced but doesn’t necessarily reflect actual real life risks and statistics.

The likelihood is, any fears you have are a product of your own experiences that you have not debriefed from properly and are now projecting onto this mother before you, and out of all proportion with reality, with facts and figures that show a different picture than the one in your head.

Just because you once saw a woman almost bleed to death in a particular scenario, doesn’t mean that every woman in front of you in a similar situation, is also going to have that experience. you have to keep the risks in proportion to reality.

This is why, when you scare a woman half to death about what her birthplan means, you have a duty to keep your own fears and traumas out of the way of reality. If one in 200 women are at risk of having a uterine scar rupture after earlier cesarean, you need to be sensible when you talk to women about that, not terrify her and call her crazy for wanting a VBAC for example. Women can interpret facts for themselves and if a mother makes an informed choice based on doing her own research (because yes, women research the heck out of birth these days and data and studies are all out in the public realm since the invention of books, journals and the internet), it is your duty, to support that woman, instead of treating her like your silly child. You are not her parent. You don’t get to laugh in her face, undermine her, make jokes at her expense or WASH YOUR HANDS OF HER.

You are public servants. That means you serve the public’s needs. They are your clients and you do what they ask, unless there is some genuine logistical reason that something cannot be done after exploring all the ways to try and enable her wishes.

You don’t laugh or harass. You don’t get to bully or lecture her at every single appointment what a terrible choice she is making, just because she is not choosing what you would choose. I wouldn’t dream of doing that to any client who made different choices from my own! And by the way, the same respect and compassion should be applied if her original birth plan doesn’t go how she hoped – it’s not open season to make ‘told you so’ type comments or dismiss her voice entirely throughout the rest of the care – she still deserves to birth with dignity and not be treated within a new paradigm where she is punished for originally ‘snubbing’ your recommendations. Her birth choices were *never* about you!

If it’s not your body, it’s not your choice.

If you are a health care provider, you have a duty to pull up any colleagues that do this, reminding them it’s a gross overstepping of their role to think they are permission givers or permission deniers. Please share this post with anyone who needs a reminder!

And here is a link to the AIMS book ‘Am I allowed?’which spells out what women are allowed to do (Hint: They’re allowed to do whatever they damn well like, because they are the boss of their own bodies, unless they are ACTUALLY mentally incapacitated, as opposed to making choices outside of guidelines or what you approve of)


Am I Allowed


Nobody has ultimate power over mothers decisions – not doulas, or health professionals of any kind. It’s good to be reminded of this sometimes! Respecting mothers is a feminist issue and when someone laughs in the face of any mother it speaks of how someone feels generally about women’s capacity to make good decisions.

In 2019, it’s time we truly swept away all that patriarchal nonsense, wouldn’t you say?