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lly is a midwife, hypnobirthing teacher, mama to 2 and a half year old Ihsan, and also post/pre-birth debrief consultant with her business mixing up motherhood. Illy helped me to fulfil a dream of mine for this series, which is to interview a midwife who has become a mum, to see how the process of becoming a mum changed both their professional and personal practices. Illy gave me so much more with her interview, and challenged a lot of my perspectives about advocacy, as well as reminding me of the importance of questioning ‘the norm’ whatever that norm may be - which we all already know, but occasionally forget or allow to pass us by when it matters most.
Having suffered from her own traumatic birth, something she said to me really stuck out - which was that if you suffer from a traumatic birth of a difficult birth, or have a complaint about your care, very often the last place you want to return to is the ‘scene’ of the crime. It is so obvious when you say it aloud or hear someone describe it but quite honestly I’d never thought of it like that, and how so many women must be avoiding those conversations with their care providers because they feel frightened, ashamed, weak or frankly just too traumatised to reach out and ask. Illy’s training as a hypnobirthing provider is undoubtedly a massive asset in this space, as she understands all too well the power of language. I know myself how simple adjectives people use to describe your birth can be devastating, even if well-meant, if you are still getting over something incredibly emotionally painful. This is where Illy’s power clearly lies and is something that I’m sure is a huge contributor to her success.
Illy mentions a few times her frustration with an excessive focus on mark schemes and policy around things that have a lot more nuance. Something I found incredibly frustrating at school and with my own education was the fixation on following an extremely ‘set’ path - our mark schemes were decided, the ‘right’ answer agreed even on more philopshiocal or interpretative subjects like English and Art, only to find that the so-called ‘right’ answer would change like the wind with a new exam board or mark scheme.
In a lot of ways, I think all of us feel at some point that the mark scheme mentality hasn’t really left us, and no more so than the space of birth. Whether it is judging our method of pain relief, our mode of delivery, our birthing location even, the baby’s birth weight, your own weight gain, how quickly you ‘snap back’ (ugh), we often hold ourselves to these arbitrary mark schemes. It is worth noting that these also change like the wind, as does our understanding of birth and the evolution of what being mother actually is. My 93 year old grannie had 5 babies at home and had to fight for that right to do so. In 2021, home birth these days is often not only celebrated and lauded but also encouraged by an increasing number of providers in the UK. In Turkey, the USA, and in many other countries, the caesarean is often the norm. There are huge variations between countries where birth is more or less medicalised in culture - another perfect example to me of how there is no right answer when it comes to motherhood.
What matters most is our perceptions of our experience, the importance of awareness and education, and kindness from whomever is supporting us in our birth experience. Birth is its own miracle with its own path, and is one of the few things in our overtly micro-managed lives that we can’t apply the same tick boxes to. Reading every book isn’t going to get your A star. The secret is, that the A star doesn’t exist, and feeling confident, safe and powerful about your birth experience is the most important things. Ah so much more to say on this, but I’ll let you have a think for yourself.
Introducing the amazing, Illy Morrison.