Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘The Business of Being Born’ Category

Following my recent posting when I mentioned that some women choose unassisted birth as a result of previous trauma, I have recently read that  American actor and talk-show host Rikki Lake has revealed that she was sexually abused as a young child.

Ricki Lake bravely discusses her past in her new book “Your Best Birth”.  Lake discusses her past battles with her weight and body image but goes on to describe the healing that she has experienced through her own birthing experiences, and I have to say that this concurs with my experiences as a midwife – I absolutely believe that a positive birth experience can be healing and empowering for women whether their past trauma was sexual abuse or a traumatic birth experience and am very happy to speak to women about this subject   It is well recognised by midwives that pregnancy and birth are significant times for women who have experienced sexual abuse – memories may well come to the fore, or a woman may remember events that she had previously buried and forgotten.

The documentary “The Business of Being Born”,, which Lake made with filmmaker Abby Epstein, has touched many people and was championed by both the Independent Midwives Association (IMA) and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and has been shown to packed audiences around this country and abroad.

Help is available for survivors of child sexual abuse from a number of sources including:

I am really sad, but not suprised as the news has unfolded this week about the Healthcare Commission Report into care given by Stafford Hospital.

I believe that similar situations are occurring throughout the UK, and that what has happened at Stafford is merely the tip of a terrible iceberg.  Whilst I am sure there have been mistakes made, I was outraged by Alan Johnson’s comments about poor management at Stafford.  The Government must take some responsibility for what has happened.  The NHS is in crisis.  Someone (with a greater mind than me) has to look at what is happening and make changes.  Clinical staff are overworked, indeed a year ago nurses and midwives were being made redundant in many Trusts and staff are expected to work even harder to make up shortfalls, alongside being given additional work in the form of clinical responsibility and paperwork.

The Report cited low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, lack of leadership, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong.  I know from personal experience that the NHS is often reactive rather than proactive – staffing shortages mean that training sessions are often cancelled, and there is no time for proper planning.  Sickness levels are high due to exhausted staff.

I don’t want to scaremonger – I do believe that the NHS, on the whole, delivers “just about” safe care.  But that is it.  It is just about safe.  No TLC, no extras, and much basic care such as washing and feeding of patients is done by relatives.

It is for these reasons that I decided to leave the NHS and work in Independent Practice,  It was not an easy decision, but I felt that I was unable to give the quality of care and the continuity of care that I felt clients deserved.  I spent so much of my day apologising, and promising to get back to clients.

I am now very happy, giving good quality care, time and full continuity to my clients, but I do feel guilty that this care is not available to all, and I do feel huge respect for my colleagues who are still working within the NHS.

I believe that the public HAVE to be heard.  Staff are so exhausted that they don’t have enough energy to campaign, and they probably aren’t listed too.  As happened with maternity services in New Zealand, it is only when women and midwives work together that change can be effected.

We recently had a series of showings of “The Business of Being Born” around the country; women need to mobilize to improve things.

For ideas I suggest you look at or or feel free to contact me at to discuss your ideas.