The first step in many journeys is to admit our shortcomings. It’s not an easy thing to do and why many people refer to the ‘first step’ as being the hardest. It’s challenging to approach something that makes us feel inadequate.
Yet, we gain the most when we realize we need to be open to other ideas, information, and knowledge. Stepping out of our comfort zone opens our minds and hearts to what others can tell us. This is where true learning occurs. This is where growth occurs. This is where progress occurs.
I am so proud to be a part of the past Stillbirth Summits, and the one coming this June. It’s a wonderful education event and it’s exciting to hear about the latest research. But, I’m proud of it because of the collaboration and dialogue that are critical to its success. I’m proud of the people who have joined us in this effort. They are researchers, health professionals, advocates, and families who all want better prevention and care for families. The beautiful part is that they keep this overarching goal in mind and work together to that end. Egos are checked at the door, and titles and degrees are only part of the story because we know that everyone there has something to contribute to this cause. And that none of us have all the answers. We must work together and learn from each other to make true progress.
I gained additional gratitude for the health professionals who have attended the Stillbirth Summit when it was pointed out to me that many OBs and midwives consider stillbirth a personal failure. This makes me sad because I believe failure actually occurs when we don’t even try. It takes a lot of courage and wisdom to acknowledge that there is so much we don’t know about preventing these deaths. And even more courage to take 3 days away from work and family to learn as much as possible so you could possibly prevent future heartache. Acknowledging that we don’t know everything we need to know about this topic is that first step toward wisdom and success.
Sadly, people who are willing to take this approach are not as numerous as I wish. I know of 3 medical conferences in the last year that have sought to silence those who presented differing information or challenged the status quo. In addition to being unprofessional, unkind, and unethical, these actions do not help advance the science. If we refuse to hear other opinions, we have closed our own minds to wisdom and knowledge. There is too much of this in our world already, and I expect more from my colleagues.
Similarly, I want health professionals to be comfortable telling patients when we just don’t have good answers. We frequently hear stories of providers not sharing information with a woman about her pregnancy because there isn’t a ‘fix’. They are fearful of admitting they don’t know what to do or how to help. Or we also hear from families who think their provider isn’t telling them all the information or the correct information about why their baby died. This may or may not be the case, but the fact remains that we need to have open and honest conversations about what we each know and don’t know.
We should thank people for telling us when they are unsure or don’t have an answer as much as we do when they are confident and able to answer all questions. That is how partnerships flourish. That is how we learn. It requires communication and open-mindedness. But that is where we grow and where we will find wisdom.