Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The day Kate called the Midwives...

Being the birth junkie that I am, I couldn't avoid all the press about the newest princess in the British Royal Family, especially considering that Kate Middleton is reported to have had a lovely, quick, uncomplicated birth.

We'll never know all the details. I'm assuming it would be considered untoward and most certainly inappropriate to share whether a member of the Royal Family required stitches or gave birth in water or any of the other details so savoured by those who read birth stories.

But actually, it's not those details, or the lack thereof, that inspired this blog post. So in celebration of International Day of the Midwife... Here goes!

Let's start with the good news:

Duchess Catherine chose to be attended primarily by midwives, and the midwives worked as a team with the gynaecologists and perinatologist and various other designated officials.

But, what irks me is how patriarchal ideas about birth are being perpetuated in the press surrounding the event.

I hear you sigh - 'Grouchy Feminist on the loose!'

Actually, even my husband was appalled at the language used about the Duchess' birth. Let's have a look at some quotes and take it from there:

About her birth team, a headline from 'The Telegraph':

Royal baby: meet the doctors who delivered Kate Middleton's second child

Alan Farthing and Guy Thorpe-Beeston led a team of four that delivered the royal baby at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington (Ref)

This headline was followed by 11 paragraphs, or around 358 words describing their respective Curriculum Vitae and detailing how and when they met and married their wives. There was also a mention of the gynaecologist who wasn't there this time around, and even a quote by aforementioned absent gynaecologist to round things out. Interspersed in the quagmire of qualifications and dates, was one line, in the second to last paragraph:

They over saw a team of midwives looking after the Duchess in the Lindo Wing. (Ref)

Names? Qualifications? Families? Quotes? Nil. Zip. Nada. Nope.

Based in the US, the 'Boston Newstime' also published a rather extensive article detailing every aspect of the birth. In their section on the medical team, give or take 350 words are again devoted to the achievements and qualifications of the non-midwife medical team, including around 130 words about, or by, Sir Marcus Setchell, that same guy who wasn't even there. To his credit, his words did include a description of the nameless midwifery team at Prince George's birth as 'perfectly wonderful'. (Ref)

That full quote: Sir Marcus described the midwifery team as "perfectly wonderful" but added: "There are certain situations when someone is giving birth that it's important not just to have a specialist sort of available at the end of a telephone, but actually in the same room to deal with anything that's immediately going to be wrong.(Ref) (Emphasis added)

Are midwives not specialists then? Something 'that's immediately going to be wrong'? Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume this was just a slip of the tongue and that he didn't intrinsically see birth as an emergency waiting to happen that only someone with a Doctor's qualification could solve.

'Midwifery Team' - Names? Qualifications? No? Ok. I suppose the only qualification necessary is that the good doctor felt they were 'perfectly wonderful' - no names needed.

Princess Charlotte of Cambridge already has her own Wikipedia entry - but according the entry as it stands today (5th May 2015), there were apparently no midwives involved:
The baby was delivered by Alan Farthing, surgeon-gynaecologist to Queen Elizabeth II, and Guy Thorpe-Beeston, an expert in high-risk pregnancies and surgeon-gynaecologist of the Royal Household; both were present at the birth of the Cambridges' first child, Prince George, in 2013. (Ref)

But wait, 'The Inquisitr News', among others, reported on the 2nd of May that even though the 'suited surgeons' got most of the press coverage, they 'simply looked on to ensure that everything was going as planned ... the midwives were the ones that actually delivered both Prince George and the new Princess' (Ref)

So 'The Daily Mail' comes to our rescue, with the following headline:

Call the midwives! The calm duo who delivered the Princess after striking up close rapport with Kate

I'm so grateful they were calm. Not like those hysterical midwives you usually get...

At least here we have a mention of their qualifications:

Midwives Arona Ahmed and her boss, Jacqui Dunkley-Bent, Professor of midwifery at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust (Ref)

Professor of Midwifery! How delightful! 'Perfectly wonderful'! But not a 'specialist' according to the absent gynaecologist. 

The other qualifications of the midwives were summed up in the following sentence:

Both women are experienced, unflappable and have the full confidence of the obstetricians. (Ref)

Ah! There it is! You see, they had the full confidence of the obstetricians. Professor of Midwifery notwithstanding. Perfectly wonderful!

And don't get me started on how Kate was 'delivered of' her baby, as though she just lay there while someone else did all the work, or as though she was possessed rather than pregnant.

P.S. So in case you can't see what bugs me about this - it's the whole issue of gatekeeping - how is it that the men who weren't there and or didn't do anything except 'oversee' get the praise, the press and lists of qualifications and full biographies, while the midwives who did the work, whom the Duchess chose, are, on the whole, invisible, nameless and voiceless, and are qualified by the opinions of the doctors above anything else.

And then there's that line I haven't mentioned - where a number of news outlets state that Kate had opted to be seen first by midwives, and apparently a 'source' had qualified this with 'What the duchess wants, the duchess gets.' (Ref)

Like a child that wants ice-cream for breakfast.
Not like a rational adult woman with an actual choice in how she gives birth.
Perfectly wonderful!

Thoughts?  Please comment!
Enjoyed reading? Please share!


  1. I love your take on this - what bugs me most about this whole thing is poor girl. She must be tired and sore and there she has to strut out, ook stunning and wave to the world. I do hope they had her gown and slippers waiting at home.

    1. I hope so too! I can just see her walking through the door and into like an airlock chamber at home - a team standing waiting with gown and slippers and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. And sushi. And champagne. She won't be updating her own status on Facebook or posting pics of her sleeping baby on Instagram though... What a crazy mix of privacy and publicity!

  2. I feel the same way. I had a C section and I have to say that my midwife did the most work. She came before to give me details of the op. She made sure my mom was called when we were delayed. She held me through the spinal block. She helped me breastfeed afterwards. The docs? Breezed in and cut for a bit. And she got paid a measly amount too, while of course they get a lot more.

  3. Brilliant post, thank you - I was not partaking in the fuss surrounding the birth of this little human so I missed this. Wish I was still on facebook so I could share the sh!t out of it.