What does Money Ball teach us about ‘The Maternity Review’?

You may not have heard of the film Money Ball, but you definitely know about the most recent review of maternity services called Better Births, The review was chaired by Baroness Julia Cumberlege. I know that many of us have high hopes that this report will be the catalyst that begins the process of transformation in our uk birth institutions.

In the film Money Ball, Billy Bean played by Brad Pit, is a base ball team manger, and in the clip coming up he has just taken a baseball side beyond what it 'should' have been capable of accomplishing. He has done it using a 'way of thinking' that, until this point, had never been applied to baseball before. He has transformed how baseball managers think with regards to managing a baseball team, and frankly they don't like it, in fact they hate it and they are out to get him. Change can rock the boat, but transformation threatens the ship.

The clip below is a scene from the film, after such amazing success he is being offered a 'big money' opportunity to take his 'system' of management to the highest level.

Have you watched it? If not do it now!

The rest of this blog will make more sense.

So what, I hear you say, has the Baroness and Brad Pitt got in common?

The Baroness was certainly one of the 'first through the wall', way back in the early 90's she headed a review committee that recommended 'continuity of known midwife' for women who were pregnant, some of you probably remember it? Right? Changing Childbirth. That was over 20 years ago! 

I remember being so excited about the fruit of her work back then and it spawned a wealth of innovative projects designed to achieve what women were asking for.

I was deeply involved with a case load bearing experiment that culminated in a home birth rate of 18% locally and women getting what they had said they wanted regarding knowing their midwife as they gave birth.

In the years that followed things didn't work as we all expected, and baroness Cumberledges' vision has experienced what you might call 'bloody teeth', after all she was the 'first through the wall', she has paved the way.

With the publication of the most recent 'maternity review' report Julia has demonstrated yet again her heroic commitment to pregnant women and their families. She has wiped the blood from her mouth, and come out swinging.

The report leads with what seems to be a deeply felt need of pregnant women, they want to be given choice, and for those choices to be expressed in the context a growing relationship with a midwife they know, trust and even love.

All of this leads me to ask the question, what has stopped her 20 year old report from having the impact that we all hoped for, bearing in mind that this 2016 report seems to echo many of her early 90's insights?

The Money Ball clips hints at what some of the reasons might be.

What the report is definitely doing is threatening the game of how birth structures in the uk are set up currently, and those in power will probably respond defensively. There will be all the out ward noise regarding how important it is to respond to the reports findings etc etc, but I'm expecting a defensive response. Why? At a deeply unconscious level those who manage maternity services in the uk are afraid, and this fear, the fruit of millions of years of evolvolutionary adaptation is working perfectly.

The human animal has adapted the ability to spot a pattern and repeat a pattern over and over again, in fact I would go so far as to say that this skill has kept us alive on planet earth until now. If we had not been able to notice risks in our environment and repeatedly avoid them we wouldn't be here today. It has been tested over hundreds and thousands of years, and it has worked perfectly; we are alive aren't we?

The fear they are experiencing has its deep roots in the human animals need to survive.I've watched debates on Twitter and Facebook unfold with a painful recognition of this pattern out working, the personally focused attacks made by both sides of any birth related polarised debate bear a sad testimony to the existence of this pattern, fear driven communication abound.Potentially nothing new will come of this fabulous report produced under the leadership of the Baroness if birth professionals of all kinds do not learn the truth expressed in the film clip you have just watched.

No one would deny that it is time for a root and branch transformation of how our birth institutions in the uk seek to support pregnant women and their families in this country.

Will we, as a professional birth community, be able to move forward with the transformation that is needed? A lot will depend on how we manage our fear. As our existing patterns for doing things begin to change, will we be able to recognise the visceral fear that transformation creates and change any way?

One thing is certain, the transformation that pregnant women are desperate for will not be brought about by on person alone, the Baroness has given us leadership but that’s not going to be enough. For the kind of root and branch transformation that is currently needed groups of birth professionals that currently are in opposition to each other will need to learn ways of communicating that lead to consensus.

My question, will we be able to manage our fear responses well enough, so that maybe for the first time, we begin to hear what those on the opposite side of the debate have been saying? Only then will we be able to move forward together, into a period of time where birthing women are offered the kind of service that truly honours the brilliance that resides inside them.