Lots of birth stuff to share this week! I may be slowly transitioning away from face-to-face birth work, but reading and writing about birth definitely remain on my agenda. First, this post about pivotal moments in one birth professional’s journey:
Thanks to a powerful recent blog by a doula in England about her experience in a Birthing from Within workshop, I have found myself reflecting on my own path as a doula and childbirth educator. Over the years I’ve done ICEA training, DONA Birth Doula Certification, and Birthing from Within Mentor Certification, along with apprenticing as a midwife and a Masters of Science in Parent-Child Nursing – more than my fair share of learning. Through the past twenty + years of practice I can identify the 7 core experiences that have shaped who I am as a birth professional.
Reading her list brought back some of my own pivotal moments and also helped me see how those moments relate to my current priestess/women’s mysteries path. I think I’ve already mentioned that I renewed my ICEA CBE certification this year, but I let my CAPPA certification lapse. I will let my prenatal fitness educator certification lapse as well and I did not renew my membership in several birth-related organizations. And, in a complicated decision related to a variety of factors, I withdrew my registration for a Birthing from Within mentor training this fall. I’ve wanted to train with BfW for ages, but I realized after we got home from California that I just can’t picture myself doing birth classes any more. Single day workshops or presentations, yes, but teaching (or mentoring) series of birth classes is just not on my radar any longer. I feel removed from or distant from it and I also feel okay with that. It is taking me quite some time to realize that birth writing is still a legitimate form of birthwork/birth advocacy/activism and I don’t need to feel like I “should” be doing something else in order to be valuable.
Speaking of birth professionals, I was interested to see this promising new blog by Amy Gilliand: Doulaing The Doula | Professional Development for Birth Doulas.
And, I’m so thankful that Missouri midwives have now known the freedom to practice for five years! I meant to post this link in an earlier Tuesday Tidbits post:
There is something so genuine, so deep, so…right about women serving women. Midwifery and midwives are intricately woven into the fabric of my life.
Don’t forget to watch the lovely Ballad of the Midwife video that goes with it! Both the video and the post were created by a talented friend of mine :)
And, speaking of videos, after seeing a pretty hands-on, baby-twisting sort of breech birth in Birth Story, I found this pictorial article to be a good reminder with lots of useful pictures:
Most important rule is HANDS OFF THE BREECH no matter how tempting it is just to pull on that leg DON’T. It’s the easiest way to create nuchal arms and a completely deflexed head. When you pull on the leg you create a morro reflex in the baby.
And, speaking of Ina May:
“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”
― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
And, speaking of watching Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and The Farm Midwives documentary, it made me think of this old post:
I know the traditional root of the word midwife is “with woman” (some sources say “wise woman”), but I’d like to offer another. When I was pregnant with my second son, I had a wonderful midwife and we spent many hours together talking about birth and midwifery. During one conversation she said to me, “you can’t be a midwife unless you love women.” This struck me profoundly—a midwife must love women.
Oh, and speaking of this loving women and this not being a lemon stuff…
Respect for our bodies, our babies, and our rights is never too much to expect.
That’s why I’m joining forces with the folks I thought were nuts. Remember the ones waving the signs? The ones I thought were nosy, yoga-ball bouncing doctor-haters? Turns out, they are none of those things. They are a smart, growing global coalition of people who recognize that we have a problem with the way many women are treated while giving birth. Nine out of 10 women give birth in a hospital in the United States. Through rallies and advocacy, ImprovingBirth.org is making sure everyone knows that all those women do not check their human rights at the door.
But, what happens after the birth? I’ve often thought that my role in breastfeeding support, while less “glamorous” or exciting than birth work, has had more lasting value to the women I serve. Breastfeeding is the day in, day out, nitty-gritty reality of daily mothering, rather than a single event and it matters (so does birth, of course, it matters a lot, but birth is a rite of passage, liminal event and breastfeeding is a process and a relationship that goes on and on for every. single. day. for sometimes years). Anyway, sorry for the brief side note, but I enjoyed reading this article about the celebrity culture surrounding pregnancy and birth with its obsession with who has a “bump” and then how after the birth the main deal is losing that weight and having a fabulous bod again! Woot!
And that’s it. There’s no talk of the hard decisions and challenges that arise when bringing another human in the world: coping emotionally, miscarriages and health risks throughout the pregnancy, emotions that range from excitement to loss, how the partner is coping, decisions surrounding the birth, doulas, home birth, hospital birth, breastfeeding, milk supply, c-section recovery, vaginal recovery, colic, sleep, schedules, being tired all the time, depression, regret, fear, hiding in the bathroom crying. Agonizing decisions about work, caregivers and new priorities. Maternity leave. Paid time off. Unpaid time off. Pumping at work. Making time for your partner. Making time for yourself. A body that has changed but can also do incredible things.
Instead it’s mostly about getting skinny again after the baby is born, which we’re told over and over again is the MOST IMPORTANT THING. And it’s not. I know it’s not, and yet I have a constant dialogue in my head about how I have thirty pounds to lose and my thighs rub together and my stomach is bloated and has the texture of a grape that’s not quite a raisin and my face is fat and I’ll never fit into my old clothes again. I say this to friends (who haven’t had kids) and the response is: “Focus on the amazing thing your body just did, girl! A baby came out of you! You’re being too hard on yourself!” And they are right. I know this. But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m a failure because I’m not the size and shape I once was. And then I feel dumb and embarrassed for focusing on my looks when I should be celebrating how awesome it is that I’m a mom to two healthy, wonderful kids. It’s an exhausting, stupid cycle.
There is an important conversation to have about motherhood that we’re not having on a larger level. I know this because I talk to moms all the time. None of us are talking about maxi dresses or nursery colors or how we worked out for 90 minutes a day with our trainers while wearing a corset. We’re talking about how our maternity leaves don’t feel long enough. How often there’s nowhere to pump at work so we do it in our cars. How frustrating it is to be making too much milk/too little milk. How some days we can’t stand our partners, and on other days they totally save us.
Reading all that and thinking about my own “grape” stomach that just isn’t quite making it back to “normal” after having my last baby, I was reminded of a quote from a very recent post:
“…we all need the renewing powers of ‘rhythm, ritual, and rest.’ This phrase reminds doulas of three helpful labor techniques outlined by legendary doula trainer, Penny Simkin. Rhythm, ritual, and rest not only aid birthing women, but they support all of us to move skillfully through our life’s labors. The power of rhythm restores vibrancy through dance, music, and motion. The power of ritual opens the way to direct encounter with the mysterious wonder of life. Rest renews and restores the very cells of our often tired and over-stimulated bodies and minds…” –Amy Wright Glenn
And, speaking of Amy Glenn, I loved her lovely blessing for mothers to be!
“…May your pregnancy unfold with ease
May gentleness surround you
Joy for precious days
Days of two hearts beating in one body
You radiate wonder
Inspiring poetry, art, worship of ancients…” –Amy Glenn
And, speaking of loving lovely words, I just have to re-share this quote as well: