Posted by: emjb | September 1, 2007

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

I am not a midwife. I’m not even a midwife in training, yet. I’m not a birth educator, nurse, or EMT. I am only someone with an obsessive interest in birth and birth rights, and access to Teh Internets.

I just feel the need to post that here, to remind myself, not to go out on limbs and diagnose other women, pre- or post-partum. Sometimes I get into Internet discussions, where the ignorance and need for knowledge is so profound, and no one else is answering the woman’s confusion. And I just want to leap right in like Superman and tell her what she needs to do. And I have had to learn to take a deep breath, provide links to actual midwives, like the ones on my blogroll, and qualify everything I say.

I think, so far, I’ve kept on the right side of the line, but I don’t want to cross it and give someone unqualified advice. I don’t want a woman’s question to go unanswered either, because I know how agonizing it is to be pregnant and be confused because whatever you’re going through isn’t in the books. And no one you know who’s had kids seems to remember or have paid attention to stuff like that, and tells you to leave it all up to your doctor. Who is vague, and who may not be being entirely honest with you. It makes you feel crazy, especially considering all the hormones you’re also dealing with. Not fun.

It’s hard to pick and choose what I say, not to be flattered when women actually ask for my input, because…I am not not NOT an expert. What I don’t know FAR exceeds what I do. It’s a sad commentary on the lack of knowledge most of us women have about our own damn bodies that someone like me can even be regarded that way. I shouldn’t be. Most of what I know now should be common knowledge, taught in health class, talked about frankly on TV, movies, in books. Every woman who will birth, which is about 80% of women, should know what it looks like in its natural state, what it feels like, how it affects our bodies, long before we ever get pregnant. It’s one of the biggest experiences in a woman’s life, and it’s completely ignored unless it’s being used as a lame plot device in a sitcom or movie. That hobbyhorse of “real literature”, the First Sexual Experience, pales in comparison, to tell you the truth. You don’t usually have to face your fear of imminent death during that one, for one thing.

I blame the patriarchy, as I so often do, that this life-altering experience gets less attention in our culture than some teenager’s first time Doing It, because birth only happens to women, and is therefore Not Worth Discussing, or worse, Icky.

At any rate, I have miles to go before I certify, and while I really love telling women the things that OBs and books don’t about birth and their bodies, I don’t want to run their lives or diagnose their problems. I want to point them in the right general direction and then refer them to those who’ve already traveled that path and understood in detail the things I that I kinda-sorta-not really understand.



  1. Well, I’m fully aware you’re not a doctor or a midwife, and I’ll listen to your advice any day. Mostly it’s just “read this book” or “do more research on this topic” anyway, and that really guides me to the right experts.

    Advice from peers is different from and complementary to advice from experts. While I know my midwives are qualified, I also know they have a vested interest in what they tell me, with all their complicated professional loyalties. You, and other random internet friends, have done your own in-depth research for your own reasons, and have an interest only in your own health, which makes a difference.

  2. Aw, Dr. C., thanks. Sometimes I rush to post something, and then think “wait a minute; do I really know what I’m talking about, or did I just Hear it Somewhere on the Internets?” And then I panic a bit.

    And you’re pretty well-informed, yourself! Glad your pregnancy’s going well.

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