I, the Exception
Both mothers and midwives are guilty of falling under the spell of the “personal fable,” a term that refers to a person’s perception of herself as unique and special. People tend to think of themselves as the central player in the world, the heroes of their own life stories. Often associated with adolescence, this concept plays into the familiar “invulnerability” attitude that young people are particularly known for. No doubt the, “it might happen to some people, but it won’t happen to me” thought process must figure prominently in the minds of women who select a birth scenario with a higher chance of ending in tragedy. (It certainly did in mine.) If a woman knew in advance she would definitely experience a rare but serious complication during birth, it would be a most unusual woman indeed who would want to be far from a modern hospital. The denial that such a complication will occur simply due to its rarity is familiar to most who engage in risky activities.
Midwives also experience a personal fable when they imagine that their actions will never cause harm or death to anyone. If anything goes wrong, it is not our heroine’s fault; it must have been bad luck, some dramatic adversity. Thus, whenever a midwife is held accountable for a death or injury that occurred under her purview, it is labeled a “witch-hunt,” and dismissed as the work of vindictive obstetricians and overzealous law enforcement. The community rallies around her, showering her with attention and adoration, and often money for her legal defense team.