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Birth and consumerism

“Are you pleased with the taste and the quality of your meal madam?”

Birthing Women as Consumers

[The following article was published in DONA International eDoula electronic magazine in February 2013]

“Are you pleased with the taste and the quality of your meal madam?” is what our kind Mexican waiter asked us during a dinner in a fancy restaurant, part of the luxurious hotel area in Cancun Mexico, during the DONA International conference 2012. We were impressed by his concern and his eloquence!

That night I was thinking of a simple and obvious metaphor: if, while having a meal in a luxurious restaurant, you should receive such ‘sensitive’ services, what is keeping women who birth in luxurious maternity hospitals, paying much more money for a much more important event than a meal, from receiving equally sensitive, respectful care?

These restaurants know how to please their customers. They take great care of all aspects of meal preparation and meal presentation, serving and tending to the customer. They train their stuff accordingly and allow no room for mistakes (I am pretty sure that a waiter would loose his job or at least be accountable for any disrespectful behavior to customers). They charge high fees but offer equally high services. Tips for caring waiters are expected and vary depending on the care you receive.

Maternity hospitals are no more than businesses. As Ina May Gaskin pointed out in the Human Rights in Childbirth Conference, in the past years there has been a clear shift from ‘the health care system’ to the ‘health care industry’.

Being part of international networks, we all hear about countries where women are receiving disrespectful care, often traumatic, abusive, and most of the times they pay good money for it and are totally unaware that they are being traumatized, abused, disrespected, just because they are not aware of other options.

This well-meaning phrase of our well-trained waiter has given me the extra boost to empowering my local community in asking for the best services. And what a great co-incidence that it should fall on the same day as the presentation of the International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative, and the Respectful Maternity Care Campaign. I know it is now time. As Victor Hugo had said, “There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come”!

Maria Andreoulaki

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