Changing Roles – for a change!

I have been reflecting in the last week about whilst trying to change the way the wind blows  – in the same direction –  we can find ourselves cast in contrasting roles.

I think it struck me most, to the point of needing to take a few minutes breath, when I found myself in the role of mediator twice in two weeks trying to bring harmony between passionate professional mothers supporting mothers and NHS professional midwifery.  What has happened I wondered to the radical, ostracised from the Trust for her outspoken views? In this new role, being trusted by two groups who find it difficult to trust each other, can I pull off progress without selling out to the Mums we serve and the change we wish for?

I think there are different roles or tools within the movement to change the way the wind blows.  And some of them overtly contradict each other, they need different people to play them simultaneously, and sometimes as the need demands it we need to drop one tool or role and move on to antoher to effect the same change we are looking for.  The knack is to know when to move roles and how to keep your own integrity within the games that are being played around you. 

To describe the classic campaigning roles I find myself turning to my previous life as an academic theologian – to the prophets, the seers, the campaigners the change makers of Biblical times and places.

There is the John the Baptist: the voice calling in the wilderness.  Utterly outside the mainstream, removed physically and structurally, speaking an undiluted message of principle and change.  Often poor or penniless, you can gain fame, notoriety  – people came many miles into the wilderness to hear John’s message – or be completely ignored.  It can be lonely and isolated.  And if the authorities decide your time is up then often you have little to defend you except your moral high ground!

We need these campaigners who set the benchmark high that say nothing less than one to one midwifery will do, that birth is normal and does not need routine medical attention, that calls the anti feminine technocratic, power holding medical industry to account. 

There is the Prophet Isaiah, 1St Isaiah if you want to be correct.  This was prophet and statesman, and whilst still preaching a challenging message to the authorities of the time (EG. the Lord says “ When you lift your hands in worship I simply see the blood on them!”).  Yet he also held their respect and in times of crisis they turned to him for advice and guidance, which he provided with statesman like leadership.

Here is independent minded engagement with the system, whilst in touch with the prinicples, here is a man working daily in the reality.  A man who manged to place himself in a role of leadership and respect within the ruling classes of the time.

There is a role for passionate, clever, politically astute mothers and midwives to get involved in the reality of the system, who are known and respected for their independent views even whislt being vehemently opposed, who whilst asking for the moon are willing to work in Doncaster.

There is Nehemiah – the city builder.  Here was a prophet who could have stayed safe in exile in the court of the Emperor but returned home to a ruined native country to rebuild it.  He led the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple with steely determination, excellent organisation, and probably force of character. Against difficult odds eg no money and opposition from local groups who saw a rebuilt Jerusalem as a threat (does this sound familiar?)

We need  the John the Baptist’s of our world, to call to account, to point to the weakness and the badness in the governance and care of our maternity services.  AND we need people who have the ability and the willingness and resilience to roll up their sleeves, get in there and build a system, or unit from scratch and against the odds.  These kinds of people (both kinds ) need lots of support and lots of patience from other people!

The suffragette movement had all these roles played out in the movement, with the radical chain wearing, hungerstrkin radicals that hit the headlines with their strong simplet message, to the mainstream movement that could lever in change using the impled threat of their radical wing.  There were the middleclass and upper calls women and men who used their influence and position to change, and there were the mill workers like Hannah who built grassroots support and campaigning on a mass scale.  There were the skilled negotiators and policy writers getting the act through Parliament.  All these roles were needed to bring about a watershed change in our history and consciousness as women and citizens.  And many women played more than one role, and many women showed considerable and asacrifical courage and resilience over many years.

We are part of a birth movement, a birth movement that is worldwide, a movement that seeks to change in asimilar concious shifting manner the act of birth to make it womanfull, soulfull, life giving.  We need to take on the roles required and respect and support one another – especially those at the sharp end taking on the difficult and most exposed postions on the campaign spectrum.  We have the gifts of co-operation, tenacity, patience borne of our childbearing and midwifery roles, we may also need to learn political guile and organisation, enterprise and hard headed strategy.  But we need to build a powerful passionate prophetioc birth movement, and we need to be fulfilling the roles it give us today. 

  • Think what you can do (not what you can’t)
  • Be strategic about using your limited time and resources
  • Use all your guile and cunning to influence the people you can influence (someone else can influence the rest)
  • And connect and network and support others to grow the movement to change the way the wind blows

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