Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This was my response to an inquiry about a conversation I had recently, just tossing it out to the masses for discussion.

All my own opinion and practice here...

Meeting clients where THEY are at is the first step. It can't be done with your head, it has to be done with your heart. Hearing their fears, hearing their concerns, and standing behind THOSE while keeping the long view- the shadow is where their fear lives and that is often the guiding force of their decision making. What right do we have as professionals do DIMINISH that?? What right do we have to qualify their experience? It's one thing to say that it's frustrating to see that parents are not getting the information they need to understand how common a nuchal cord is, or to discuss the larger culture of birth, and it's another to diminish their experience because it seems silly, or even because the families just don't know any better.

For me, this reeks of the stories I hear of my friends who pursue nursing and have to stand at the L&D nurses station and hear the nurses criticizing and (this kills me) *laughing* at the mothers because of how they want their labor to go, or how they're handling it. Laughing at them!!! Now I realize that this is not what was happening but this is the seed of it- thinking we have something that they don't have, just because we are experienced and knowledgeable.

The judgment of parents puts us on the other side of a wall, not next to them which is where we desire (and they desire for us) to be. It's the shiny new doula with her ideals about how she's going to convince every client how amazing a natural birth is and to want it (that was me, 7 years ago). It's the birth professional who isn't truly listening with her heart, but processing with her head and the 'shoulds and should nots' that are just not helpful.

The client should do *exactly* what they're doing. They invite us in to help guide them and that is our role, to do that, to *serve*. This service requires the ego to step down, our encylopedic knowledge to take a back seat to a loving touch and a caring word, sometimes.

If one is going to make a lifestyle change, they must make it 24/7 a day until it becomes normal. They can't just do it when people are around. If we are going to TRULY elevate parents and hold them higher so that they might see themselves higher, then we must do it 24/7, with every word as well and this is what I strive for.

The beauty is that we are all exactly where we are supposed to be, wonderful teachers to each other! The call was a wonderful teacher for me, hearing the conversation and noticing my reaction to it- your inquiry was the next, because I had not formed these thoughts fully into words until now and it feels good to see it clarified. :) Thank you for inviting me to share!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake & Abby Epstein

I'm currently reading Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, a pleasant surprise from my local library. I love that they're getting current birth books; occasionally I'll forward them a list of books I think they should have on hand and I've had good luck with seeing them on the shelves before too long. It helps that I tell them that I'll be referring my clients to the library to find the books.

Oops, went off on a tangent there- hope it's helpful to someone anyway. :)

So I'm reading this book finally- I did see the Business of Being Born and I know that I will eventually own a copy and lend it to clients. I'm enjoying the book thoroughly; it tells the story that as of yet, I've not seen another book explore. Ricki and Abby do a brilliant job making the complex maze of maternity care in our country seem to make some kind of sense (even if it's not what you wanted to hear), without vilifying anyone. The maternity system is what it is - it's easy to point at everyone else as the reason but the reality is that we have all brought it to this place, and now we must keep shifting.

One thing I read that I thought had a great foundation (if only needing a few tweaks, for my taste) was talking to women about what questions to ask when you visit the hospital where you will give birth. Rather than asking questions that are easy to gloss over, "Do you have birthing tubs?", asking something more specific to what you want to know, "What percentage mothers use the tub for pain relief in labor?" It's easy to hear "Yes, we have tubs," and then run with the idea that if they have tubs, it must mean that they use them- but it may not necessarily be true.

This book isn't about what your uterus is going to do in labor, it's more like a handbook for navigating the political side of birth to get what you want. I know birth professionals have been quietly coaching our clients with this information, how to talk to your provider to find out what you really want to know, how to avoid routine procedures you don't want, how to ask for what you do want, how to craft a birth plan that will communicate effectively for you... it's a huge boon birth professionals to be able to point clients to this book - easy to both read and comprehend - and it's a boon as well to the women who will see a familiar face in Ricki, and pick it up just to hear what she has to say.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Birth Activism

Especially now since being on Facebook and seeing that explode, and having been a doula for as long as I have, I've seen many birth activism efforts over the years. Every single one has passionate, fierce people behind it, and each one, in their own way, thrusts the movement toward informed consent and true choice for women and babies a little bit closer to the target.

I was 20 when I had my first child and I was nothing if not ferociously passionate! I couldn't imagine why any woman wouldn't want to breastfeed her baby. I couldn't even speak to women who wouldn't try without feeling disgusted and superior. All my passion was mixed up in judgment but it was there! (Another post about judgment is forthcoming, methinks.)

I see these amazing orgs and groups with their machetes, chipping away at the dense, prickly and predator filled jungle that is American birth - and I no longer feel pulled to be alongside. I'll walk behind them, lifting women up to sing their birth songs and find their own machetes. I suppose maybe this is my own way of chipping away at American birth, by helping women, wide eyed, yelling, laughing, bawling, sweating, but every single one SURGING in her own way, to discover where they want to stand on this path. We all choose, even if we choose not to choose.

I sometimes feel guilty that I'm not writing letters at every opportunity, attending every conference (or any, for that matter, but it's solely due to cost), staging protests - I feel the urge to do it but realistically, it's just not realistic for me.

My heart, love, and pride is with every person out there who is working hard, every day in action and in spirit to make things better for families in our country - and soon enough my hands will be alongside yours. Is being a doula enough? Is telling women they have options, standing beside them as they tell their truth in shaky voices, and witnessing them discover the Mother Warrior within themselves - is that enough? For now, it will have to be.