08 Apr

Book review: The Roar Behind The Silence, edited by Sheena Byrom and Soo Downes

The first impression I had of The Roar Behind The Silence was that it is so densely packed: 50 chapters contributed by midwives, researchers, parents, obstetricians, doulas, antenatal teachers and one eloquent anaesthetist, covering such a huge range of thought: many different perspectives on why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care.

Surely this ought to be a no-brainer. The implication that kindness, compassion and respect matter is right there in the word “care,” but it’s very clear from some of these stories that in our risk-averse culture, mothers are sometimes dehumanised in the baby production system. This is ground that has been covered by many authors, but Roar comes at a time when compassionate care is right in the headlines, a time when it is really important to agree on what this means, and how to make it happen.

The book is divided into three main sections. First, stories and persepctives from maternity care, including Mel Scott’s harrowing stillbirth story, and obstetrician Alison Barrett’s understanding of where the midwife stands from the consultant’s perspective. Next, principles and theories underpinning current practice and possible new ways of working. And finally Making it happen: solutions from around the world – both in terms of global experience, and different approaches to practice. This last section is probably the most useful and informative, setting the bar much higher than a healthy baby as the only valued outcome.

Most of the chapters are short and the book could be read in an ad hoc way; however I found most of the contributions compelling, and read it straight through, making a few notes. I was struck by the prevalence of social media in many of the chapters, as a way to share experience and compassion with colleagues and other interested parties; though it might also be worth acknowledging the downside of potential for kneejerk reactions in such a public space.

I particularly enjoyed the two contributions from anaesthetist Robin Youngson, who perfectly summarises the impact of relationships – good and bad – and the importance of kindness in all aspects of care. Which should, as I said, be a no-brainer.

I’m hoping to talk to co-editor Sheena Byrom for our next episode of Sprogcast, and looking forward to asking her how she chose and organised the contributions.

Disclosure: Mark very kindly sent me a copy of this book!