Unexpected Birth Outcomes

When he was a week old, we got a call that his metabolic screening panel came back positive for congenital hypothyroid. I think this call, this first pronouncement, was from our midwife, but I don’t remember her calming tones, her everything-will-work out demeanor: I remember the blood in my ears, the grip around my perfect child tightening, the irregular shape of the bricks outlining our empty fireplace.

From Congenital Hypothyroidism: The Past

One of the births I attended in the past year was at that of a baby born with a previously undetected congenital defect. In the ensuring 12 hours or so, I had the profoundly humbling experience of watching a family’s understanding of their lives, plans, and realities change forever. Irrevocably.

It was something I had assumed I would encounter eventually, but isn’t that true with all complications of labor and birth? Some day I might see that. Not now. Not so soon, so early in my training. But there I was helping a family navigate suddenly the difficult world of grief, readjustment, hospitals, specialists, tests, etc. and ad nauseam after their beautiful homebirth. Trying to serve the needs of both parents who dealt with this information very differently, and trying to make this experience as holistic, loving, informed, and as close to the midwifery care they received before birth as possible.

Which is why I was deeply touched that Arwyn chose to share her story of discovering that her son had congenital hypothyroidsim on her blog Raising My Boychick. She talks about how it transformed her son’s babyhood and how her feelings about it have changed now that he’s older and now that she’s pregnant again. It’s a moving account, an apt commentary on ableism and disability activism, and in general an important read for birth workers.

You can read the whole story (in two parts) here: Congenital Hypothyroidism: The Past and Congenital Hypothyroidism: The Future.

Fighting for racial justice IS queer

Mia Mingus is amazing and if you don’t know who she is, you should definitely go and check her out. She is “a queer disabled woman of color korean american transracial and transnational adoptee working, creating and loving towards wholeness and connection, love and liberation” and one kick-ass activist.

Her recent blog post “Intersectionality” is a Big Fancy Word for my Life pares down the keynote address she recently gave at MBLGTACC 2010. I think I’m in love. Listen.

We have to confront white supremacy within LGBT and Queer communities.  A queer politic MUST include solidarity with people of color; it MUST include fighting racism and white supremacy.  Because we aren’t queer OR people of color; queer OR white; queer OR able bodied; queer OR working class.  We can’t just decide to come together as queer people and expect that we are all going to be united and work together—or that we’ll even feel comfortable.

We must be willing to have hard conversations as queer people with each other about how we are different as queer people.  It helps us to expand what “queerness” is—to see that there are many different ways to be queer.

This talk about intersectionality is my kind of politics. The more I move out in the world, the more I realize that thinking in this way is part of a radical politic. Also, the more I grow the more I know without a doubt how absolutely necessary this kind of thinking is.

Racism and white supremacy are so pervasive, that we don’t even have to be consciously or intentionally doing anything to participate in them.  It’s in the air we breathe; it’s how the machine rolls; it’s the default.  It’s backed by everything in our society.  That’s the thing about oppression, power and privilege: unless you are actively challenging it, you are colluding with it. We live in a heterosexist society, we live in an ableist society and we all have a responsibility to actively work against it. We can’t guarantee that things won’t be ableist or won’t be racist (that’s not the world we live in right now); but we CAN guarantee that when there is racism, when there is ableism, that we will do something about it.  We will LISTEN to those most impacted; we will listen to people of color, we will listen to disabled folks; we will listen to trans folks; we will listen to queer disabled people of color—and hear them.  We can guarantee that we will act and communicate with each other.  And maybe we will make mistakes; and we will learn from them.

There is no such thing as neutrality.  If you have privilege, you can never be neutral, because you are constantly benefiting off of that privilege—even at the same time as you are also being oppressed. That is what “intersectionality” (for lack of a better word) is about.  It is about moving beyond single-issue politics; it’s about understanding the complexities of our lives.  It is understanding that fighting for racial justice IS queer; fighting for disability justice IS queer.

Intersectionality informs the type of student midwife I am and the type of midwife I hope to be. How can we wake the birth community up to the necessity of this expansive way of thinking?