Jodie Miller has written a memoir about what happened when she did a simple, but remarkable, thing.
She said yes. And she kept saying yes.
Spanning the period 1998 to 2019, Jodie shared her story of saying yes to starting a family, giving birth at the Birth Centre at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, joining the Friends of the Birth Centre, and stepping into the world of maternity care reform. She wrote of the battles to keep the Birth Centre open, to expand the availability of midwifery led continuity of care in Queensland, and to provide a pathway for people to become midwives that doesn’t require them to first complete a nursing degree. Along the way she explored issues relating to giving birth without a registered health practitioner, home birth with a midwife, birth trauma, perinatal mental health, women’s rights, and the additional challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as they negotiate pregnancy, birth, and the postnatal period.
Jodie’s writing was engaging – I felt like we were sitting in a cosy coffee shop, sharing stories, tears, and laughter together. While most of the people and places are known to me, Jodie filled in the personal stories behind the visible work that happened during that period. She was respectful of the stories entrusted to her, often changing names, and blurring the edges to maintain the privacy of those who who most needed this. The power of gathering women together to talk, then taking action, was made abundantly clear.
The standout message for me was about the strength and commitment of people, mostly women like Jodie with young children, who are not paid to work in, or on, maternity care. The expense, in financial terms as well as time and energy were clear. It is infuriating that the unpaid labour of mostly women has been, and continues to be, needed to ensure that fundamental rights in birth are upheld.
This is a book for people, like me, who have worked in, and given birth in, Queensland’s maternity care system (or outside of it) during these two decades. This is a book for woman and their loved ones who want to understand the tangled mess of the maternity care system they find themselves navigating. It is a book for people the world over who want to learn about doing the work of maternity activism. Mistakes made, lessons learned, and successful strategies were all shared generously. It is a book of triumphs – much has been achieved during the time span the book is written over – but Jodie also makes it clear that there is more work to be done. “What does it feel like being born?” is a book about the power of one woman, saying yes.