On the 10th May 2019 RTE s Late Late Show chose to air a piece in which a dummy (woman) was laid supine on a bed with her entire lower half exposed to the nation whilst she was told to “push into her bum” and “keep going” by a medical student in order to produce a fake baby out of her fake body.
There are so many things wrong here it’s hard to know where to begin.
Airing a piece like this without ANY regard to how this might affect women and their families who have had diffucult maternity experiences demonstrates a complete willful disregard for women in the most vulnerable of circumstances.
It was an appalling error of judgement on the part of the editorial team and AIMS Ireland demand an apology and recognition of the re traumatization this piece may have caused for so many families.
In the light of the recent Joe Duffy show’s sensitive treatment of so many difficult stories this piece is particularly disappointing.
Doctors (and midwives) of course need to learn the mechanics of the 7 Cardinal movements of birth in educational spaces, but to extend the use of a dummy beyond pure mechanics and imply that the dummy can actually be interacted with via conversation and instruction introduces the concept of a woman as a passive passenger in her birth, and as such is completely inappropriate, unacceptable and educationally counter productive.
Using a dummy/ machine like this to represent a woman in this context reinforces the notion that birth is “done to women” and that they are not active participants in their own birth experiences.
Airing this vignette on national TV on one of the most watched shows on public broadcasting TV does the public a disservice. It reinforces stereotypical imagery that birthing people should lie on their backs (something reseach has told us is not good for mother or baby) and should be coached into holding their breath and forced pushing (again something research has told us is not the best option for mother or baby). The piece had a throwback feel to the famous Monty Python sketch from the 1970s “The Machine that goes Beep”
Furthermore, there is no room for the concept of “woman centred care” in this training scenario. It implies the same verbal discourse and approach can be used in every case. The concept of woman as “vessel” is written all over it.
There is no “one size fits all” response to birthing women. We need to move away from any training or concept that implies there is.
Doctors and midwives need training to actively understand how to afford the birthing people in their care dignity, respect and compassion. By contrast what was on display on the Late Late Show reinforced that the act of giving birth is mechanical and divorced from any emotional input Birth is an holistic event in which the birthing person undergoes a physical emotional and even a spiritual process. That should never be forgotten in training or clinical practice.
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