Women do the allowing



As the woman who is pregnant, who is carrying the baby, who is giving birth to the baby from your own body, you, and only you, have the authority to allow or not allow something to happen. So many times women hear that midwives/doctors/midwives do or don't allow something. 'We'll only allow you to go to 41 weeks because you are old/fat/had a previous caesarean/having a big baby.' 'We don't allow you to eat in labour if you are high risk.' 'We will allow you to go home once baby is feeding well.' It is your body. It is your baby. It is your choice. Most of the time it is just that health professionals have just got used to doing things a certain way. It’s their daily job and they get into routines and use phrases without thinking sometimes. But as pregnant women, or their partner, you are influenced by the language. Sometimes midwives and doctors can get caught up thinking about their work practices and following the hospital policies, forgetting that women have the right to accept or decline, and feel under pressure to get you to comply. Sometimes the 'only allow' is because it fits better with the running of the hospital. Doesn't matter why the word 'allow' is used though, it is still your choice. This means there is no 'should' or 'allowed'. Mary Cronk was one of the UK's most respected and renown midwives. Sadly she died in December 2018. I was lucky enough to hear her talk at several conferences put on by Chichester Home Birth Group. Her words live on. A few months ago a midwife shared a story about Mary. Mary had accompanied a client transferring in from a home birth, and was doing a hand over to the hospital midwife. A doctor came in and asked who was in charge. Without missing a beat, Mary replied "I think you'll find my client is in charge." (Imagine this being said in Mary's Glaswegian accent.) Mary would say that women should start using the word 'allow'. 'I will allow you to do this blood test.' 'I won't allow anyone to do a vaginal examination on arrival at the midwife led unit.' Mary was an amazing, wonderful and wise midwife. She has some great phrases about consent to treatment which she recommends women and their partners learning off by heart. You can watch Mary talking about her phrases, her training and her midwifery experiences. You can also read about the first time iron entered her soul here. I tell my clients about her and share her story. Most of them go on to have their own Mary Cronk moment. One was feeling down about having to stay on the postnatal ward for a spurious reason, when she was desperate to go home and sleep. She remembered this story, felt strengthened, and discharged herself and her baby.


You can read Mary Cronk's guidance on vbac scar monitoring, vaginal twin birth and vaginal breech birth. You can read this special obituary by Mary's friend and fellow independent midwife Joy Horner.


This post is taken from my Birth Rights Advent Calendar. It is always one of the most shared and commented posts. One woman commented,

"This one (from last year) gave me the courage to decline induction and intervention and go on to have a mentally healing vaginal delivery."


Another said it gave her confidence to continue with her home water birth with twins, giving birth at 42+2 weeks. She was well supported by the NHS consultant midwife. Her birth story is my next article. So remember, women do the allowing! Think about channelling your inner Mary Cronk. If you have a 'Mary Cronk moment', please let me know about it!



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© 2017 Cathy Williams, 41 Preston Rd, Toddington, Beds, LU5 6EG