Thursday, June 10, 2010

Singing to the choir

I was in a meeting recently with some people I'm working with to start a food coop here where I live. I raised the point that we've made a grand effort to raise awareness among those folks who would be most interested in having a food co-op, but that it's time now to start pushing those boundaries and speaking to people who might not necessarily be interested in our message off the bat. Let's make it interesting, let's make it rewarding for them to get involved. It feels like a next-stage for us and I am excited to see what ideas we'll come up with around this.

I remember when I first became a doula, I had this fantasy (that quickly burned off once I started working in the 'real world' of birth) of getting a group of doctors, midwives, doulas, and nurses together to start really talking about giving the best care for women, rather than this territorial thing that happens. I think over time I learned that those in charge gain nothing by entertaining those who work against them being in charge- in other words, what would drive an obstetrician to take seriously the thoughts of professionals from other perspectives? If you don't have to change, you don't. No one is forcing anyone to look at what they're doing another way, and considering they have the market on 90% of the births, it's safe to say they're in a position of power.

I was recently reading the Midwifery Today which talked about birth as a human right, and then was looking at the photos of Ricki Lake visiting the CIMS Forum. Almost every face was female. I thought about the advocacy that I have been a part of, witnessed, supported over the years - and while I could list many women, there are only a few men whose names rise to the top.

This seems so obvious now, I almost didn't write about it, but isn't this another issue of singing to the choir? Granted, by no means have we reached critical mass! The choir isn't necessarily singing the same tune, but once we reach that place, it seems that the next phase of things is to convince not necessarily the obstetricians, but MEN in general, that birth is important, that women are important. It seems to me this issue isn't about birth at all, it's about the value this country places on women in general.

I'm tempted to call it a feminist issue but it truly is about human rights- by diminishing one gender, we diminish both. It is an issue for men as well as women - both men and women, both tiny infant boys and girls, are suffering in our current system. We are wedging babies out before they're ready, cutting open their mothers, exposing them to infection, complications and death. We are traumatizing families as whole units- not just mothers. If a mother is wounded, her marriage is wounded, her mothering is wounded.

It seems to be about women but what we're missing is that it's about men, too. We need to be singing to THAT choir.

Our culture teaches men that they are powerless in the birth space. Their women tell them where to stand and where to look and what they can and can't say, they charge their men with protecting them in the birth space with no tools to do so effectively. As a culture, we emphasize the ineptitude of men on television, broadcast for all to see, the panicking father who races through red lights and basically freaks out and is useless in the birth space. We see fathers who are disconnected from their babies, we hear constantly about men who are 'deadbeat' (disconnected?) dads and our expectations of our menfolk sink lower and lower.

Why should men care about birth as a cultural shift? We have not shown them that we believe in their importance, their value and necessity. One family at a time we make this shift where a father goes from doubting and insecure to powerful and present and protective - and then we do not use that energy to our advantage.

Can we make this culture of birth shift without fathers on our side, loud and vocal, organized even? When we get our men on board on equal footing with us, learning with us and passionate alongside us, I bet something big starts to shift. I don't think we can fight this fight without them.


Anonymous said...

Amen! We are planning a homebirth & I keep telling my husband that we will both actually be useful this time around... I'm sure if docs could do it without the woman's involvement too they would... I'm actually looking so forward to doing this WITH my husband... we worked together to make this baby, we will work together to raise him once he's here... it only makes sense that we should work TOGETHER to bring him into the world. I hate how even when dad's don't like what is going on with their wives in the hospitals they don't feel like they have the right to speak up. If you know that doc is going against your wife's wishes & she is in no position to speak up, then you, as dad & husband, have every right to say 'wait one damn minute doc'. If only they would have told my husband how far down my son was he never would have let me consent to the c/s. He would have cleared the room & told me no, we weren't in danger & no matter what they called it he was decending! But instead they had him off in a corner waiting for them to do all the work & waiting for them to welcome his son into the world.