Tag Archive | birth education

Sheila Kitzinger

‘Sheila taught me, from an early age, that the personal was political – not just by what she said but by what she did. As I was growing up I learnt from her campaigns for freedom and choice in childbirth that passionate and committed individuals can create social change. She never hesitated to speak truth to power. –Prof. Celia Kitzinger, Sheila’s oldest daughter

via Sheila Kitzinger 1929-2015 | Pinter & Martin Publishers.

Yesterday morning, I learned that childbirth education trailblazer, maternity activist, and phenomenally influential author, Sheila Kitzinger has died. By the end of the evening, her name was coming up as “trending” on Facebook, which is the first time I’ve ever noticed anything flagged for me as trending that wasn’t mainstream celebrity-related, holiday, sporting-event, OR horrible tragedy, disaster, or scandal related. So, Sheila continues to break new ground in maternity care activism!

My own work with birth and my philosophy of birth education and activism has been deeply shaped by this marvelous woman. She is one of my all-time favorite childbirth authors and may be the most quoted person on my blog! In fact, as I was scrolling through old posts to find some to share in memorial, I had to quit looking after the fourth page of search results because there were simply too many. Here are some of the ones I did find:

I agree with anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger who said that, “In any society, the way a woman gives birth and the kind of care given to her and the baby points as sharply as an arrowhead to the key values of the culture.” Our current birth culture does not value women and children. Though my focus is usually on the women, it also doesn’t much value men or fathers either. I also agree with Kitzinger’s assessment that, “Woman-to-woman help through the rites of passage that are important in every birth has significance not only for the individuals directly involved, but for the whole community. The task in which the women are engaged is political. It forms the warp and weft of society.”

via A Blessing…and more… | Talk Birth.

Same quotes used in two other posts:

These concepts—and the lack of a similar one in American culture—reminds me of a quote from Sheila Kitzinger that I use when talking about postpartum: “In any society, the way a woman gives birth and the kind of care given to her and the baby points as sharply as an arrowhead to the key values of the culture.”

via Some reminders for postpartum mamas & those who love them | Talk Birth.

And, Rites of Passage… Celebrating Real Women’s Wisdom | Talk Birth.

Touching on the political aspects of birth culture:

“In acknowledging woman-to-woman help it is important to recognize that power, within the family and elsewhere, can be used vindictively, and that it is not only powerful men who abuse women; women with power may also abuse other women.” –Sheila Kitzinger

via Birth Quotes of the Week | Talk Birth.

Personally influential to my own labors:

During my first labor, I experienced what Sheila Kitzinger calls the “rest and be thankful stage” after reaching full dilation and before I pushed out my baby. The “rest and be thankful stage” is the lull in labor that some women experience after full dilation and before feeling the physiological urge to push. While commonly described in Kitzinger’s writings and in some other sources, mention of this stage is absent from many birth resources and many women have not heard of it.

via The Rest and Be Thankful Stage | Talk Birth.

And, my own personal postpartum care: Ceremonial Bath and Sealing Ceremony | Talk Birth.

Her books shaped birth HERstory:

Women’s (Birth) History Month | Talk Birth.

And, my own birth education philosophy (as well as my core value in working with women):

Labour is a highly personal experience, and every woman has a right to her own experience and to be honest about the emotions she feels. Joy tends to be catching, and when a teacher has enjoyed her own births this is valuable because she infuses her own sense of wonder and keen pleasure into her relations with those she teachers. But she must go on from there, learn how difficult labour can be for some women, and develop an understanding of all the stresses that may be involved.

via Sheila Kitzinger on a Woman’s Right to Her Own Experience | Talk Birth.

And, she celebrated birth:

I hope all of the women I know who are giving birth in the upcoming season discover that, as Sheila Kitzinger said, “Birth isn’t something we suffer, but something we actively do and exult in.” (from promo for One World Birth)

via Invisible Nets | Talk Birth.

Thanks for everything, Sheila! You’re amazing!

“Childbirth takes place at the intersection of time; in all cultures it links past, present and future. In traditional cultures birth unites the world of ‘now’ with the world of the ancestors, and is part of the great tree of life extending in time and eternity.” –Sheila Kitzinger

via Tuesday Tidbits: Tree Mother | Talk Birth.

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You Can’t Be Everything to Everyone…

I got the following article in an e-newsletter and though it isn’t birth business specific, I think it has a lot of valuable food for thought in it for childbirth educators/birth professionals. I am going to answer the questions in it and post again with my thoughts!

You Can’t Serve Everyone: Clarifying Your Niche for Better Marketing Results

Before you even start implementing any marketing strategies, it’s important to be crystal clear about whom it is you are trying to reach. Some of the questions you should be able to answer around this include: What is your niche?  Who is your target market and what is it that they want?  What is your message to them?

Often, small business owners are afraid to narrow down their target market for fear that this will limit them. Countless times I have heard people say “my target market is small business owners” or “my niche is really anyone who needs what I offer.”

The truth is, you can’t be everything to everyone, and it is actually easier to market and attract prospects when you focus on a particular group of people.  It is also easier for others to refer people to you when they see you as someone who works with a specific group.  To further illustrate, here is a simple example: Instead of “I’m a financial planner,” you could clarify it to say “I’m a financial planner who specializes in families with special needs children.”

Or, instead of “I’m a marketing consultant,” a more descriptive way to say it would be “I’m an online marketing consultant who specializes in social media strategies for coaches.”

Online, a good way to create the type of presence that draws people to you is to clearly communicate who you are, what you are about, and why people should take notice. In order to figure this out, some of the questions you could ask yourself might be:

*How would you describe the essence of who you are in a single word?
*What are your top three passions related to your work or three unrelated to your work?
*What would be three adjectives used to describe your business?
*Who your best clients or the people who are most likely to benefit from your work?

Those are just some of the questions you can ask to really get clear on who you are professionally, as well as who you are personally.

Clarifying your niche is a point of “stuckness” for many business owners and it does take a bit work to discover if you aren’t clear on it yet.  But once you have that specific niche narrowed down, reaching them with your marketing becomes a whole lot easier.

© 2010 Communicate Value. All Rights Reserved.

Want to use this article on your website or your own e-zine? You can, as long as you include the following:

Christine Gallagher, The Online Marketing and Social Media Success Coach, is founder of Communicate Value, where she is dedicated to teaching small business owners and professionals how to conquer the overwhelming aspects of online and social media marketing to increase business and maximize profits. To get your F.R.E.E. 5-Part E-Course and receive her weekly marketing & success articles on leveraging technology, building relationships and boosting your profits, visit http://communicatevalue.com.

Birth Symbol

At the very end of August, I went to see Birth, the play in St. Louis. I was about 5 weeks pregnant at the time. Following the play and “talkback” event, there was a BOLD Red Tent (birth stories sharing circle). Right before the birth stories portion of the Red Tent, we did a birth art project. The Birthing from Within Mentor who was facilitating the Red Tent asked each of us to draw a symbol on a card that communicated what we would want to share with other women about birth—not in words, but a visual representation of the message we’d like to share. We then painted our symbols onto prayer flags to be strung together as a whole “language of birth” in symbols. We left the flags with her to be taken to births to share the symbols with other birthing mamas. I drew a spiral and explained that the message I was sharing was, “You can do it. You’re okay. Let it happen.” I also added a little birth goddess with wild hair that to me represents the intuitive birth wisdom women carry with them (when I was pregnant with my first baby I was worried about being too “in my head” to give birth powerfully–I created a series of needled felted sculptures of birth goddesses with wild hair and worried that the hair showed that I was too in my head. After he was born, I realized that my sculptures were telling me about the wild, natural, birth wisdom I had in my head, not the “book learning” that was also there and was what I had worried about interfering with the flow of birth).

A few days following my miscarriage in November, I received a Facebook message from the BfW mentor (and friend) who had facilitated the Red Tent session. She attached a photo of the flag I had painted during the Birth Art session and asked me to “allow the gift to come and sit with you” (as well as gifting me with “no response necessary”).

It was amazing to have my own birth symbol come back to “speak” to me in this way during such a painful (and also transformative) time.

“You can do it. You’re okay. Let it happen.”

Three Hours into 1.5 Minutes??

I most often write blog posts directed at pregnant women, not birth professionals (though I hope the pros find my posts useful as well!). Via the excellent Passion for Birth blog this morning, I read this article that is very relevant to childbirth educators.

The article addresses how educators/presenters can attempt to cram three hours worth of information into 1 and half minutes and how that is NOT effective or helpful. They do so out of fear that this is their “only chance” to reach those learners (but the cramming style actually does not reach learners either).

Ugh. I found myself cringing a bit when reading because I think I have this tendency for sure. It was also relevant to me in my non-birthwork life. I am faculty at Columbia College and am teaching my first college class this session (final exam tonight!). All of the principles in the article are things I strive to keep in mind when teaching college students as well (and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. The actual class is 5 hours a night—though now six, because I missed one week and made it up sequentially over the following 5 weeks of class—which makes it tricky to keep people engaged, though also gives me plenty of time not to be cramming information into people’s heads).

Anyway, so the summary of points from the article (OMG. I’m taking a metaphorical three hours to get to my point…;-) were as follows:

Learners want relevance
Learners don’t care about history
Learners want minimal detail
Learners want connections
Learners want focus
Learners want applications
Learners want practice

I remember reading somewhere else at some point (I think during my ICEA certification process), that most learners do NOT want the amount of information and level of detail that you can provide. The first three on my list above are things I find myself falling into in birth education—I tend to give lots of details and some end up being irrelvant (I don’t want anyone to miss anything!) and I do have a tendency to give lots of history, background, and overexplanation.

So, good things to keep in mind! I want to be effective, not inefficient or irrelevant. I have been thinking a lot lately about my classes and how I’d like to improve them and change them and “deepen” them. Reading this article made me think even further about my approach and what I hope to accomplish. I have this sense lately that something just isn’t “working” and I want to go beyond—stretch my boundaries and dig in further.

And Even More Birth Quotes

Continuing my semi-regular addition of birth quotes I’ve used on the Talk Birth Facebook page recently.

“When women understand what’s available to us at birth, then we won’t ever give that over to an ‘expert’ the birth power, the orgasmic power that’s in our bodies” –Christiane Northrup

“Women have the inner power and the inner knowledge of giving birth. There is a parallel of sexuality and giving birth. Women who are giving birth, trust yourselves. Trust your inner power. Trust your ability to give life. This is something absolutely sacred that is inside all women in the world.” –Ricardo Jones, MD

“If women experienced the ecstasy of birth, they would have the high that would get them through the hormonal changes of the next week. Your body and your inner wisdom give you that high.” –-Christiane Northrup

“While many of us believe that encouraging a laboring woman to move when and how she wants to is healthier and safer than making her stay in bed, waiting for evidence that it produces better health outcomes is putting a burden of proof on normal birth that has never been applied to routine intervention.–Amy Romano

“Pay attention to the pregnant woman! There is no one as important as she!” –Chagga saying, Uganda

“A pregnant woman is like a beautiful flowering tree, but take care when it comes time for the harvest that you do not shake or bruise the tree, for in doing so, you may harm both the tree and its fruit.” –Peter Jackson

“Can we create a world where all needs are met with dignity and individual culture is retained; where a baby anywhere in the world is born nonviolently and according to the instincts of its mother; where people progress in directions of full potential and spirit is not sacrificed; where women no longer obey, submit and apologize for who they are?” –Sister MorningStar

“If birth were a medical disaster in waiting, routine medical intervention would not disrupt the process. It does. If technology were integral to the process of birth, routine technology would improve outcomes. It hasn’t. If birth were inherently painful, all women would suffer without medicine. They don’t. The initial assumption[s] are proven faulty.” –Kim Wildner

“Having a baby [is] an opportunity to transform a life, because in the moments of labor and birth all the forces of the universe are flowing through a woman’s body…’If you have 12 babies you only get 12 of those opportunities. This is big fun.'” –Sister MorningStar

“I think that women can be just completely surprised by the change in them from giving birth—you have something powerful in you—that fierce thing comes up—and I think babies need moms to have that fierceness—you feel like you can do anything and that’s the feeling we want moms to have.” –Ina May Gaskin

“Birth has been broken. The spirit of women with respect to their innate birthing power has been broken. We can do nothing about the millions of broken births that have already taken place, but by seriously looking at the effect of fear–the powerful emotion that clouds our thinking and causes the birthing body to break down–perhaps we can keep the finely tuned, precision bodies of women whole for future generations…” –Marie Mongan

“When you destroy midwives, you also destroy a body of knowledge that is shared by women, that can’t be put together by a bunch of surgeons or a bunch of male obstetricians, because physiologically, birth doesn’t happen the same way around surgeons, medically trained doctors, as it does around sympathetic women.” –Ina May Gaskin

“In a modern world, ‘getting through’ labour without numbing or dumbing the process can be a very powerful experience for a woman, and very challenging.” –The Pink Kit

“When it comes to pregnancy and birth, we as a culture and as individuals need to wake up and claim our right to literally birth right!” –-Christiane Northrup

“Birth may bring you face-to-face with your insecurities, doubts, inadequacies and fears, as well as your joy, determination, willingness and courage.” –The Pink Kit

“$13 to $20 billion a year could be saved in health care costs by demedicalizing childbirth, developing midwifery, and encouraging breastfeeding.” –Frank Oski, MD

“Let us initiate our daughters into the beauty and mystery of being strong and confident women who claim their right to give birth and raise their children with dignity, power, love, and joy.” –Barbara Harper

When it comes to birth classes, “restricting yourself to what ‘everyone else does’ will only get you what everyone else got. The numbers say this is a very sad limitation to place on yourself.” –-Kim Wildner

“In the absence of the medical indication for which they were developed, birth interventions are at best worthless, at worst, harmful.” –Kim Wildner

“Let parents know that they don’t need special techniques and gadgets to give birth safely and happily. Make sure to communicate to every mother you help, that she has all the essential ingredients for a safe, healthy birth within herself. A womb, a baby, a vagina, and a few warm pieces of fabric make an excellent, complete birth kit.” –Laura Morgan

“Women’s bodies have their own wisdom, and a system of birth refined over 100,000 generations is not so easily overpowered.” –Sarah Buckley

 

 

Birth Talk

As I have referenced several times before I have a special interest in the language of birth. That is part of the reason my blog/business is so-named—because is it is a blog that “talks birth” (as in, “let’s get together and talk birth!”), but also because the way you talk about birth matters. I have also referenced before that it was originally going to be called Birth Talk, but when I went to get the gmail address, it was already taken (by a childbirth educator I coincidentally later came to know!). I’ve come to really “bond” with my Talk Birth name and now “birth talk” sounds slightly odd to me (though “talk birth” is really the odder phrasing).

A couple of months ago, I read an interesting article by Debra Bingham about Taking Birth Back. It it, she asks you to consider–when talking about birth–how your basic assumptions affect your discourse (the way you talk about birth):

1. Does your discourse include stories about the power of women?
2. Or do the stories shift the locus of control away from women and their bodies to other authority figures such as nurses, physicians, or machines?
3. Does your discourse assume that women are physiologically capable of giving birth and nourishing their own children?
4. Or does your discourse assume that women’s bodies are fundamentally flawed and in need of medical attention and intervention?

I am frequently attempting to shift the locus of control from “authority” figures back to women–it is shocking to me how ingrained the terminology is about medical care providers (even midwives!), “letting” someone do something, etc.

And, an enormous part of my life revolves around stories about the power of women, so I think I have that one down 😉

The prevailing social discourse about birth assumes a locus of control external to the woman and you rarely hear stories about the “power of women” amongst the general public or mainstream media. Ditto for the assumption of women’s bodies as fundamentally flawed, except replace “rarely” with “frequently.” These messages are so dominating that I think it is hard for women to really “hear” positive birth talk–it seems like a “joyful birth” must be a myth or impossible. Likewise, when a woman is striving to keep the birth talk around her positive, it can be very difficult to override the predominately negative messages coming at her from every side. I see this in my classes, “I believe birth is a natural event, etc., etc. BUT….” (followed by a  “I trust my doctor’s judgment and if he wants me to have this GTT test or this extra ultrasound to check my fluid level, etc. I guess I will do it…” comment that contributes to the “climate of doubt” in her life). There are also the woman’s own “inner voices” to contend with—I hypothesize that the loudly-shouted cultural voices about birth contribute a good deal to the “negative voice” in her inner dialog.

I don’t know any way to “fix” this  other than to continue “talking birth”–good, healthy, positive, normal, humanistic, natural, joyful birth–as widely and frequently as I can!

Birth as a Rite of Passage & ‘Digging Deeper’

July 2015 135Childbirth is a powerful rite of passage. One of my favorite resources, The Pink Kit, has some great reflections on this rite of passage and the words we use to describe the powerful, indescribable act of giving birth:

Whatever the culture, when a woman surrenders to the process, accepts the intense sensations, works through each contraction, and digs deep within herself to achieve the end goal–giving birth–she is touched by the Unknown and Unknowable. Many traditional cultures send their young men into initiation rites where they, too, can learn to understand humbleness and achieve the self-control that women learn in childbirth.

All cultures believe that women become better and more generous through the process of giving birth. That is why some cultures use words such as ‘sacrifice,’ ‘suffering’ and ‘labour.’ These terms can seem overwhelming and to be avoided’ however, seen from a different viewpoint, childbirth helps us to become strong, resourceful and determined.

In a modern world, ‘getting through’ labour without numbing or dumbing the process can be a very powerful experience for a woman, and very challenging.

I like the concept of “digging deeper.” This how The Pink Kit explains it:

You might avoid the pain in labour by moving into a position which is comfortable for you (i.e. reduces the sensations), but it slows labour down and then you stay there for hours. Doing that will increase the likelihood of medical intervention because you will become tired, bored, or frightened, and labour doesn’t progress. Instead, consider remaining in positions that keep you open and the labour progressing, while using your skills to manage the sensations. This is ‘digging deeper’.

I have noticed an emphasis in other natural birth preparation books and explanations about finding positions that are “comfortable.” I very much like the concept of finding positions that help you feel “open”—these positions may certainly also comfortable (and that is great!), but if you remain mindful of “staying open,” it may lead you “dig deeper” and find positions that really help move the baby. In my classes, I encourage women to welcome labor “getting bigger” (not more “painful” or “difficult,” but make it “bigger” and be excited by that change!). I think this idea goes hand in hand with digging deeper.