Retro - Secretly and quietly

By Melody Hansen Switch to German for original article

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The Lëtzebuerger Journal is already celebrating its second digital birthday. We have found our place in the media landscape, evolved and are ready for 2023. None of this would be possible without the people who tell us their experiences and perspectives. To mark the occasion, each team member looks back on a story that was particularly meaningful to them this year.

Negative news are everywhere, they are loud, and they are almost impossible to avoid. Positive news, on the other hand, are hard to find. Does this mean that only bad things are happening in the world? No. But I will explain why progress just makes it much harder to make it into the media with a personal example.

Flashback: in 2018, I wrote an article about a lactation consultant. One of hundreds of daily emails in my inbox had grabbed my attention: it was about World Breastfeeding Day and the profession of lactation counselling. "Aha, what's that?", I thought, and requested an interview.

An interesting conversation followed, the publication of an article about the profession of breastfeeding counsellor… and an angry call from the Association Luxembourgeoise des Sages-Femmes (ALSF). The midwives were not happy that my article made it sound as if they were not capable of advising and supporting mothers in breastfeeding. They invited me to their general assembly a few days later.

There I learned how much the midwives in Luxembourg had been struggling for recognition for years, that at the time they were hardly allowed to provide services that were reimbursed by the health insurance and that very few women would have their pregnancy, birth and childbed accompanied by a midwife. My visit to ALSF was in October, and they told me about Roses Revolution Day and what it was about. "What, violence in midwifery? Does such a thing exist?", I asked, stunned and shocked that I had never heard of it.

"It is a special feeling to follow an issue for years, to talk to all kinds of people about their points of view and to observe how things are moving forward."

In the following years, I conducted interviews with mothers, their partners, midwives, doulas, doctors and psychologists – about violence in obstetrics, but also about the fact that women in Luxembourg had no choice about where and how to give birth. Hospital births were the way to go, but a few were able to give birth at home with the help of Martine Welter – at that time the only midwife who performed home births. Still others took the journey to Merzig or Namur to have their child in a birth centre at their own expense. I remember saying, "If in my career as a journalist I can be present when a birth centre opens in Luxembourg, then I'll be happy." At the same time, I would have thought that this would only be possible in twenty years at the earliest.

A lot has happened since then: midwives got a new nomenclature and new tariffs, Martine Welter retired, and several midwives in Luxembourg perform home births again. Meanwhile, the opening of a birth centre is being discussed in parliament and midwives have founded Gebuertshaus Lëtzebuerg asbl.

And I was somehow part of it. It is a special feeling to follow an issue for years, to talk to all kinds of people about their points of view and to observe how things are moving foward. Because all too often we have the feeling that nothing is happening, that everything is developing for the worse. My experience is the best example of the fact that there are hardly any hero and heroine stories. Progress is quiet and inconspicuous; it happens over years and is driven forward by many people. When the time finally comes, it is even more beautiful to take a step back and admire all that has been achieved. We just need to remember to do the same.