The Other Mothers
I've spent a lot more time reading through the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey data over the past few days. I'm eager to pick up where I left up where I left off blogging the survey data last weekend. I don't have time to do that tonight, but I wanted to make one quick comment. [Famous last words.]
Tonight, when I was reading the survey data booklet for mothers -- Mothers' Voices -- I realized that a much more troubling omission has been made -- one the researchers themselves are quite forthright about. There are a number of mothers whose voices have not been heard at all:
"The survey did not include First Nations women living on reserve, women whose baby was stillborn, had died following birth or was not living with them, women who gave birth to more than one baby (twins, for example), and women living in institutions (such as prisons or psychiatric hospitals)."
- ("About the Maternity Experiences Survey," Mothers Voices).
Just picking three statistics from this list -- ones that can be sourced quite readily: the incidence of twins (12 per 1000 births, PHAC, 2004); the stillbirth rate (6.4 per 1000 births, Statistics Canada, 2006); and the aboriginal population rate (4.4 percent, of whom 20% live on reserve (Statistics Canada, 2001) -- it's apparent that the experiences of significant numbers of Canadian mothers were not reflected in this data: more than 3% of the population, just based on this partial count of a portion of the missing moms.
I find this troubling for two reasons:
First, many of the women whose voices are missing from this report are all-too-often marginalized or excluded from the mainstream pregnancy experience. Did that have to happen to them in a government-funded study as well? Consider, for example, the First Nations mother living on reserve; the mother who is pregnant with triplets (who may be subject to insensitive comments throughout what is already a high-risk and high-stress pregnancy); the mother whose baby is stillborn or who dies during labor (and who may wonder at times if having her baby die means that she's not really a mother); and so on.
Secondly, by failing to include these mothers' stories, the entire body of data ends up being skewed -- and the opportunity to learn important lessons from these other mothers is lost. What could we have learned about offering more compassionate or holistic care to a mother who has been through stillbirth or infant death; or better meeting the needs of a mother who may have been let down by the health care, social service, and/or justice system in ways we cannot even begin to imagine.
When do these other mothers get to have their say?
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ON AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT NOTE: In case you haven't heard, BabyTime is at the International Centre this weekend. I'll be playing game show show host once or twice a day (see the schedule) and hanging out in the "Ask Ann" booth (like of like the booth that Lucy had, except that you don't have to pay 10 cents. I'll be there all three days (Fri., Sat., and Sun.: from 10 am to 6 pm each day), so drop by anytime if you plan to be at the show.