I think Lena raises some important questions here. Any thoughts?
I’ve been mulling over this topic for a while now…as a doula, I witness the birth of new families all the time. As an adoptee, I can’t help but wonder how this experience of becoming a parent might carry a different meaning for adoptees.
What is it like to become pregnant when your mother hasn’t experienced pregnancy? What is it like to look into your child’s eyes and recognize yourself in someone else for the first time in your life? Does becoming a parent kindle a desire to search for birthparents? How does becoming a parent change your perspective on your childhood and the way you were raised? Does it make a difference, or not at all?
Read the rest of the blog post here More on Adoptees as Parents | Borders and Bridges.
In my last post, I mentioned that I was listening to this radio broadcast talking about homebirth and midwifery in communities of color both in Miami and internationally. The broadcast features Tamika Middleton a doula who is also a co-founder of Black Women Birthing Resistance and the two midwives from the brand new nonprofit Mobile Midwife, Jamara Amani and Anjali Sardeshmukh. The entire program is worth a listen, but I transcribed a few pieces that I found to be particularly interesting dealing with race and birth outcomes. I’ve been talking and thinking about this topic for awhile, but I think these women said it particularly eloquently. (Emphasis below is mine.)
Jamara Amani: Locally here in Miami Dade county one of the things that we’re really concerned about, and it is a problem across the nation, is the high rates of maternal and infant mortality. And it really does impact Black communities disproportionately. There’s huge disparities. Black women are four times as likely as White women to die in childbirth or in a cause related to childbirth, and Black babies are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as White babies. And there’s several factors that are involved in that. Tamika talked about the generational trauma around birth, around raising our babies. You know, there’s lack of access to resources, there’s the stress of living in a racialized society, there’s economic injustice, lack of access to healthcare, and one of the major issues that we’re raising is lack of access to midwifery care. And we know from research and studies that have been done that midwives can help to greatly reduce these disparities by helping women to stay healthy during their pregnancies, to work through some of those traumas, to develop a relationship with trust and a rapport that is individualized for that particular woman’s experience, to provide her with education that she needs to have a healthy outcome, and then to provide birth support that is natural, that is not full of unnecessary interventions that happen in hospitals such as medications and surgeries. And so what we’re working to do is to raise awareness about midwifery as a solution to these glaring health disparirites…
Anjali Sardeshmukh: Midwives do provide a lot of care afterwards too, and that’s a really important time. So when Muhammed talked about this isolation that happens I think one of the gems of midwifery care is that it really does look at … who is this person and who is in her community and where is she from and to honor that too…
Jamara: I want to just say too that some folks may feel like, “Well, this issue doesn’t really apply to me ’cause I’m not pregnant or I don’t have kids or I’m a man or I’m too old to have kids” or whatever reasons but this is really a community issue. It’s an issue of justice. If you were born, then this affects you so it affects all of us. And healthy mothers and healthy babies are everybody’s business. Because at the end of the day if we want to have a healthy community, we really have to take care of our moms and babies and this is an issue of justice, of liberation. Because how we birth has a lot to do with how we live …where do we enter. And there’s a saying that a lot of midwives like to say which is “peace on earth begins with birth.” So if you have a peaceful, gentle birth experience where your mother feels empowered, feels like she can do anything, feels like … her rights are being respected, then how does that affect how she mothers you? How does that affect how you’re raised? How does that affect how she interacts with, you know, other aspects of mothering? I think it’s just … such a initiation point and a transformation point for women … entering motherhood. It’s a place where I feel like we have to have justice.
I’m in the middle of reading Confessions of The Other Mother: Nonbiological Lesbian Moms Tell All! by Harlyn Aizley. I’m reading it because it was recommended to me. I’m not very far into the book but so far I’m enjoying it. It’s filled with stories that don’t normally get told, ones that I very much want to hear. However, I couldn’t even get through the introduction by Aizley before I found myself rocketed out of this happy little homebirth world I’ve been cocooning myself in. Aizley says “[g]ranted I was doped up on hormones, painkillers, and fatigue” when recalling her immediate postpartum period and describes life with children as a “Cheerios- and Elmo-filled, world.” These phrases leapt out at me from the page. It’s not that these two phrases aren’t descriptive of many people’s experiences with birth and parenthood. Of course they are. It’s just that I find the simplicity with which they were stated as a matter of course and the lack of reflexivity that accompanies this sort of writing staggering. It comes across as so shocking because this is not what I envision for myself as a future parent, nor is it the reality I see most of our homebirth clients engaging in. I’ve gotten myself so buried in this alternative birthing and parenting world that I didn’t even notice I was doing it.
I like that my world is filling up with beautiful homebirths, happy children, and alternative parenting. But I also don’t want to lose site of the rest of the population. I love the stories told in Confessions of the Other Mother and think it is crucially important that these stories be told. I wish more families would choose the type of beautiful gentle births I’ve been attending lately, especially queer families. While anyone laboring in the hospital could face injustices, indignities, and less than subpar care, it is more likely to happen if you are not white, straight, middle class, etc. etc. etc. Reading Confessions of the Other Mother has reiterated to me the importance of providing decent, caring alternatives to a typical hospital birth as well as the importance of educating my own community about their labor and birth options.
I remember back to the first doula birth L. attended. The clients were a lesbian couple having their first baby together. It was particularly long and grueling labor filled with hours of back labor, nurses who were sometimes just unfriendly and other times overtly homophobic, as well as a few other complications. At the end of this difficult labor and birth, L. recalled that social workers immediately came in to assess the situation and determine whether the nonbiological mother was fit to continue with their planned second-parent adoption. I just can’t imagine having that happen my or my partner’s birth, let alone after such a difficult labor. Having to battle institutionalized homophobia and heterocentrism at that moment – one of the most tender and sweet moments of life – sounds like a nightmare to me.
Not to say that homebirth midwives have it all together when it comes to serving queer families. They don’t. You have to be choose carefully just like everyone else. But with the right care provider and the right circumstances, you could have the kind of sweet, powerful, humbling, and divinity-filled homebirth that I’ve been witnessing lately. Complete care providers that protect and honor your bonding time afterwards. You will still have to go through the bureaucratic bullshit, but later and at a more appropriate time.
I could not not share this with you all. It is incredible. Check it out!
HT to The Unnecesarean
So we are heading towards the end of my first year as a midwifery student. My last day of classes was last week, the last day of finals is next week. I had the honor to attend two births this week, my very first as a midwifery apprentice. I feel humbled and in awe, as is appropriate. I have also learned a TON over these past two weeks. It confirmed for me that this is absolutely the profession I want to make my life’s work. And just the chance to observe the two midwives I am working with taught me so much about how to midwife a birth. Not to mention it makes everything we are learning in class so much more real when you are actually doing it, hands on. I got to do things like be the supreme gofer, play with children, listen to fetal heart tones, and provide encouragement and kind words. I feel humbled and honored and blessed, emotions I expect to become very familiar with over the next couple of years. And I feel re-energized and fired up to keep learning. Now I just have to get through exams!
It’s official! I’ve been passed the all important beeper which signifies that the old apprentice is no longer on call for births and now I will be. Another week and a half of freedom, and then I go on call. Delicious, exciting, ants-in-your-pants-can’t-wait on call. It feels momentous. I keep gearing up by attending more prenatals and postpartums. I finally feel like I’m getting a little bit better at performing Leopold’s Maneuvers, which is exciting as all get out.
In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the rare sunny and beautiful weather this weekend and attending the 2010 Reproductive Justice Conference coming up at Hampshire College. I cannot wait! So many good topics and so many good speakers, plus I get to be back in the Pioneer Valley where I went to college. I might even visit the old alma mater while I’m in the neighborhood (are you kidding? I’m chomping at the bit to get my feet back on that hallowed, beloved ground).
I attended a birth as a doula this week. It was my first “natural” birth and an all around beautiful one. (As an aside, I’m still looking for a better alternative that “natural.” The reason I don’t love the term is exemplified in stories like this one. Any ideas?) It was a birth I walked away from feeling profoundly honored to have been able to attend – let alone to be in a role supporting such an incredibly strong and centered mama. It was also a remarkable birth for a hospital birth – the staff cared about this laboring woman, read her birth plan (for real), and did everything in their power to provide her with the labor and birth and type of care she wanted. I definitely applaud the work they put in to making this happen! And you know what else? I got to cut the cord! A very exciting honor for anyone, let alone a midwifery student.
It definitely feels different having attended a birth in midwifery school. There are all sorts of little things along the way on this journey that make it a little bit more real – things like learning hard skills like venipuncture and speculum exams as well as attending and participating in prenatal and postpartum appointments. When I do these things, I feel a little bit more like some day I really am going to be a midwife – it’s not just a far-off distant dream. Attending a birth feels like a huge step towards the reality of being a midwife. And it seems like a necessary rite of passage – it certainly feels like I’m really a midwifery student now, not just someone attending midwifery school.
If you haven’t read Dooce, you really should. It’s one hell of a funny blog. The author, Heather B. Armstrong, is clever and down to earth and writes in a style that makes you think you’re talking to your best, funniest friend.
Armstrong wrote a brilliant and moving review of Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. I’ve written about Your Best Birth before and I’m so pleased to see someone else (especially such a widely-read someone else) giving it such a good review.
And then, oh God, the worst thing happened. And I didn’t even see it coming, but I’m sitting there reading that book, gritting my teeth, shaking my head when all of a sudden it started to make sense. I started to see just how medicalized labor and birth have become in America AND THERE GOES MY WORLD VIEW.
I’m not going to get into the specifics and the really convincing and at times jaw-dropping statistics of it here, there are so many other places and people who can write about it better than I can, but I will say this: if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, GO READ THAT BOOK. From now on when someone asks me what is the one piece of advice I would give to a pregnant woman, it will be: GO BUY A COPY OF THAT BOOK. Listen, I am not affiliated with that book in any way, I do not know Ricki Lake, she and I do not vacation in St. Tropez together (although if she’d like to come ride four-wheelers at my Mom’s cabin in Duchesne, Utah, THE OFFER STANDS), I do not owe that publisher any favors. But IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I’m not even kidding, I’ll say it again: IT CHANGED MY LIFE.
Read the whole blog post here. I can’t wait for her to write the second part of her birth story.
H/T to Unnecesarean.
Birth Matters Virginia recently held a video contest in order to raise awareness about childbirthing options for women. The entries were judged by Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein, Sarah Buckley, M.D., and members of Birth Matters Virginia. Of their three top ranked videos, here is my unequivocal favorite. I love that these women come across as real, everyday women you that you can take seriously.
HT to Citizens for Midwifery