The Roar Behind the Silence: Maternity Care Book review

The Roar Behind the Silence

Why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care

One of the areas that writing Downs Side Up has led me into, is working with many wonderful medical professionals, including midwives. I have been invited to speak at many training events and conferences, and I'm always extremely proud to do so. You see, most of us are working towards the same aim, excellent support of women and the safety of them and their babies. These incredible, compassionate professionals are always keen to learn from the parents' experiences and build on areas that need improvement. 

Kindness   Compassion   Respect

One such inspirational midwife that I follow on Twitter with pride is Sheena Byrom, and I was very lucky to be sent a complimentary copy of a revolutionary new book that she has co-written with Soo Downe, entitled The Roar Behind the Silence: Why Kindness, Compassion and Respect Matter in Maternity Care. Sheen and Soo are determined to bring maternity care back to a place of kindness, compassion and respect, not targets and fear. They write:

"For many years there has been growing concern about the culture of fear that is penetrating maternity services throughout the world, and that the fear felt by maternity care workers is directly and indirectly being transferred to the women and families they serve.The consequences of fear include increased risk of defensive practice, where the childbearing woman and her family become potential enemies to those providing her care. In addition, the prevailing risk management and 'tick box’ culture in maternity services encourages maternity workers to give priority to the records instead of the woman. These factors contribute to the dissatisfaction felt by those using and providing maternity services. There is however increasing evidence that kindness, compassion and mutual respect improve efficiency, effectiveness, experience and staff morale within healthcare settings.

The Roar Behind the Silence provides information, inspiration and practical suggestions to support maternity care workers, policy makers, and maternity care funders across the world in their quest to deliver sensitive, compassionate and high quality maternity services. The book highlights examples of good practice, and offers practical tools for making change happen, using evidence and stories where appropriate."

The book comprises 32 chapters, each with a different story or example of maternity care from around the world. One of the chapters that engaged me the most was Through the Eyes of a Doula by Mum and doula Kicki Hansard

Having had the enormous honour of having a friend and doula present at the birth of both our girls, I am a firm believer that our birth stories and experiences would not have been the same without her. She gave me power and a belief in myself. She was a calm force, a comforter, and expert massager and gentle voice of encouragement. She was an expert in baby positioning and helped us achieve the natural births we wanted, by working with the midwives, communicating and translating our needs so to speak and also caring as much for my husband as for me during the labours. When Natty was born at home, she also helped calm and guide the novice midwife present. 

The other powerful chapter that has stayed in my mind is When Silence Roars: Finley's Stillbirth. You cannot fail to read Mel Scott's experience of loss through tears and with a heart that stops. What is beautiful to read of is the compassion and honesty that Finley's team showed towards his parents and the tender moments they helped them share with their son after his birth and death. 

In turn, despite their grief, they acted with grace and respect for their midwives too. Choosing not to adopt a place of anger, blame and more pain by following a lengthy legal process. Instead Mel has chosen to share their story, to help others build on lessons learned, in order to help future families.

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