I have a new heroine - Aja Teehan.
This brave (and beautiful) mother is in the High Court right now, taking on the health service (HSE) to fight for her right to birth her baby where she feels most comfortable, at home.
She and her husband Charles are fighting the establishment in a landmark case which will hopefully improve the current difficult state of home birth choices in Ireland.
Aja looked glowing, at 29 weeks pregnant she had her baby bump dressed for success in a smart black ruffled maternity blouse, black trousers and heels. Her husband looked equally smart. Talk about a handsome couple! They were upbeat and modest, stunned at the great turnout outside the Four Courts this morning. Their campaign has been fantastic, using Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness and keep people informed.
During pregnancy the last thing any mother wants is the stress of having to fight a battle in court, and I think it is shameful that it has come to this for Aja. She is the first but she won't be the last. If I was in her position I'd be doing exactly the same. It's all about money, red tape, power and control, and the women and children are suffering.
Many women discover home birth after a traumatic hospital birth. I've heard heartbreaking stories of women feeling invalidated in hospital during labour, being subjected to interventions without consent, feeling violated by a system that puts policy before people. How dare anyone tell a mother where she must give birth. How dare any doctor tell a perfectly healthy woman she has no right to make the most important decision for her and her baby. Looking around the crowd today I saw women and men standing up for a basic human right, the right to bodily integrity.
As a country we've accepted abuse for so long I think we're blind to it. We were abused by the nuns, the priests, the Christian Brothers, the carers, the teachers. We've blown the whistle on them and they no longer have such a hold on us. But what about the Obstetricians, the Gynaecologists who every day in hospitals around the country implant a scalp monitor into a tiny baby's head, rupture the membranes to speed up a labour, cut a baby from a womb because they are going on holiday tomorrow. They pump drowsy-making drugs into a labouring woman, cut her perineum without her permission, tell her her baby will die unless she complies with the hospital policy RIGHT NOW.
I'm sorry if this is upsetting to read, it's upsetting to hear these stories from friends, and see them struggle to accept their birth experiences. Too much abuse is tolerated in maternity hospitals by vulnerable women. It's time we got angry and spoke out about it, or nothing will change. Let's bring about a revolution, take the power back for our birth rights and improve things for our daughters and our daughter's daughters.
Home birth needs to be a viable choice, everywhere, for everyone. Maybe you wouldn't choose it yourself, but maybe your sister or your granddaughter will. Let's not just shrug our shoulders and be happy we got home from hospital alive, with a live baby. That's not good enough anymore.
You can support Aja Teehan by following her case on Twitter #ajavhse, her website www.ajateehan.com. Campaign for improvements in the maternity services with AIMS Ireland (Facebook, Twitter) and home birth through www.homebirth.ie or FB: Hbaireland.