Down the rabbit hole of maternity, who knows what can happen?
“If you were asking someone to speak at your funeral, it would be someone you know”
Women should have a say in what their maternity care looks like
A woman gives birth in a Dublin hospital. Nothing unusual about that. It is something many of us have done or watched our partners do.
Now a new play, Daughters of the Revolution, will dramatise this most dramatic but most normal of events. The new play is about so much more than one woman’s experience, says author and director Kate Harris. It has a lead character - the very pregnant Evelyn - but she is supported by a consultant, a senior midwife, a student midwife, the child’s father, Evelyn’s mother and her friend.
It might seem like a lot of people to be involved in the birth of a single child, but no woman is an island and the play emerged from two years of talking to women who gave birth here.
“It is about women’s experience of maternity in Ireland,” says Harris - herself the mother of a four year -old and an 18 month-old. “I wanted to look at the conflict between women and the institutionalisation of maternity. How women go along with their lives as individual people and then are shunted into this giant machine and lose their autonomy and their individuality.”
Evelyn is amalgamation of lots of women who told Harris their stories. And Evelyn is also in the best position a woman in Ireland can be. She is not poor. She is educated. She is not a refugee. But even when everything is on your side “the system takes over,” says Harris. “Evelyn gets pregnant, then she gets sucked into this machine”.
The play is intended to create a conversation between women giving birth and those caring for them. Harris is hopeful that the system can and will work better.
“There was no place to go with my experiences of giving birth,” she says. “I could have made a complaint, which is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to make the system work better and there was no place for that. I want to start a dialogue between consultants, midwives, students and women.”
Women should have a say in what their maternity care looks like, says Harris. The play teases out the conflict between women’s knowledge of their own bodies and medical knowledge of those bodies, which Harris thinks is “given more credence.”
Ultimately, Daughters of the Revolution is about how childbirth is medicalised, even when there is a normal birth with no complications, says Harris.
So what would the perfect birth look like for her?
“If I was going to have another child, I would love to go to a birth centre. I wouldn’t have it in my house, because it is so messy, but go to a birth centre and know that the person who is going to deliver my baby knows me and I know them.”
Consistency of care, then?
“If you were asking someone to speak at your funeral, it would be someone you know,” says Harris. It is a good point.
Women should be able to choose themselves the level of care they want, she says. “I talked to some women who were very happy having their babies in a hospital and that should be honoured as much as a woman having a birth in the home. It is all about what women choose themselves.”
So why call the play Daughters of the Revolution?
“I chose that title because this generation are the daughters of the feminist revolution of the 1970s, who were in their turn the daughters and granddaughters of the suffragettes.”
And of the women of the Rising too? “For more than 100 years women have fought for equal treatment under the law and we are still not there. We have to keep the revolution going for this generation and the next.
“Once you go down the rabbit-hole of the maternity services, who knows what could happen?”
Daughters of the Revolution is at the Harbour Playhouse, 30 Avenue Road, Dublin 8 on March 4th and 5th at 8pm and March 6th at 4pm. It is accompanied by an art exhibition and a panel discussion. Tickets: brownpapertickets.com/event/2507505