Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March 8, 2012, Festa della Donna

March 8 is International Women's Day, which means a lot of different things to different people. But for me it is a celebration of all that is life-giving and full of energy and love, and a denial of everything that tries to quell that force.

The boy dancing with his mother here was only three years old, years ago in Rome when we went to the airport to pick up our friends who were coming to celebrate the arrival of another baby boy. Mimosa blossoms  were being handed out in the airport, to celebrate the Festa della Donna. Him and his big brother each took a blossom and charged each other the full length of the arrival lounge, turning into knights in shining armor before our eyes.

I was in Cuba last week. The bar across the street from the cut-rate hotel reminded me of many of the bars and beer shacks in Africa, where the prostitutes did a brisk business with the white boys who came to drink, dance to the great sounds of east African music, and have a good time. The women were pretty, lively, and strong.



My mother is eighty-one. She comes to visit us in Italy every year around her birthday. She likes a good laugh, parties, and crowds.

We have a good crew of crones in our family - my great aunts all lived well into their nineties and most of them lived alone because of the Great War. One grew raspberries and kept bees. When I was pregnant with my first, she sent me a huge parcel of red raspberry leaves.

My aunt sailed across the Atlantic in a 21 foot sailboat and smoked a pipe. She was the one who rescued me from my first bottle of scotch when I was fourteen.



 I am honored to have met many, many women over the years who have committed to living life to the fullest. Some of these are my friends, some are my relatives, some I met randomly on a bus, some have been women I worked with. But all of them shared that spirit, that sense that life is not a padded hallway leading to some nice hotel room, but rather a difficult, sometimes dangerous and unexpected journey that leads to who knows where.

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March 8, 2012, Festa della Donna

March 8 is International Women's Day, which means a lot of different things to different people. But for me it is a celebration of all that is life-giving and full of energy and love, and a denial of everything that tries to quell that force.

The boy dancing with his mother here was only three years old, years ago in Rome when we went to the airport to pick up our friends who were coming to celebrate the arrival of another baby boy. Mimosa blossoms  were being handed out in the airport, to celebrate the Festa della Donna. Him and his big brother each took a blossom and charged each other the full length of the arrival lounge, turning into knights in shining armor before our eyes.

I was in Cuba last week. The bar across the street from the cut-rate hotel reminded me of many of the bars and beer shacks in Africa, where the prostitutes did a brisk business with the white boys who came to drink, dance to the great sounds of east African music, and have a good time. The women were pretty, lively, and strong.



My mother is eighty-one. She comes to visit us in Italy every year around her birthday. She likes a good laugh, parties, and crowds.

We have a good crew of crones in our family - my great aunts all lived well into their nineties and most of them lived alone because of the Great War. One grew raspberries and kept bees. When I was pregnant with my first, she sent me a huge parcel of red raspberry leaves.

My aunt sailed across the Atlantic in a 21 foot sailboat and smoked a pipe. She was the one who rescued me from my first bottle of scotch when I was fourteen.



 I am honored to have met many, many women over the years who have committed to living life to the fullest. Some of these are my friends, some are my relatives, some I met randomly on a bus, some have been women I worked with. But all of them shared that spirit, that sense that life is not a padded hallway leading to some nice hotel room, but rather a difficult, sometimes dangerous and unexpected journey that leads to who knows where.

Add caption









Thursday, February 16, 2012

Italy, July 2012?

The studio
We are very excited to present a storytelling and healing workshop with myself, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, Barbara Mainguy and friends that will take place in Umbria, Italy July 2012. It will be a unique retreat in a special place right in the center of the "green heart of Italy". We are inviting anyone who is interested in story, the healing power of narrative, writing, birth, or just plain relaxing and staring at the view.

Please go to Storytelling and Healing for more details.

Italy, July 2012?

The studio
We are very excited to present a storytelling and healing workshop with myself, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, Barbara Mainguy and friends that will take place in Umbria, Italy July 2012. It will be a unique retreat in a special place right in the center of the "green heart of Italy". We are inviting anyone who is interested in story, the healing power of narrative, writing, birth, or just plain relaxing and staring at the view.

Please go to Storytelling and Healing for more details.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Birth - The Need for Community

One thing I really enjoyed about the workshop I just led in Halifax was the feeling of community among the women there. Although the participants were mostly doulas, we also had participants from other professions who were just as happy to be there, and who enlivened the activities with their own insights. We ranged in age from just a few weeks old to quite elderly. Some of us work as private doulas, some volunteer, some have a "day job", and doula on the side. It was very refreshing to see such a mixed group of people really connecting and working for a common good - of course, that particular common good being the most women having the best birth experiences.

I had an interesting conversation with a midwife in the group who was discussing program options with an aspiring midwife who now works as a doula. The talk led to the issue of bullying and unkindness within the birth community, and unfortunately it is a real problem that does not go away if it is ignored.

Because birth is so important to us all, and because most of us who work with birth are usually very busy, there seems to be a natural progression to some bad habits. It is so important for all of us to take a good look at ourselves and our beliefs and actions every once in a while. We can see that, for example, we are holding on to a belief about birth that does not apply to every woman. Or that we are being less charitable to those less experienced, by simply criticizing instead of taking time to teach. Or perhaps we feel very strongly about a certain aspect of birth, and hold on to it too dearly.

Attending birth is all about letting go of your own ego and your agenda, and accompanying a woman as she makes her own journey to motherhood. It is also about reaching out to others who are on this path, and being able to accommodate the reality that there are many of us on the path, that we all have different opinions and histories, and that the most important thing is that we walk along together with an attitude of respect.

Not to say that we can't ever disagree. Of course we can. Nothing better than a good argument. But that argument should never, ever take place in a birthing room. It should never descend to personal insults. And if there is no accommodation in sight, no agreement to be reached, then at least we can agree to disagree and continue to work together to provide the very best care for women and their families.








Monday, February 6, 2012

Gentle Birth

I saw my favorite birth film again the other day. It's an old film, only ten minutes long, not too dramatic or brash. Just very calm, quiet, gentle images of women giving birth.

It's called Birth in the Squatting Position, and the voice-over makes it clear that this is definitely the best position to birth in, not only from the woman's point of view but also from the baby's. It is the position that we see in images that are centuries, even millenia old, and when we think of traditional ancient midwifery, we think of a woman squatting on a stool or on the ground with her attendants around her.

In this film, the women squat on small stools like meditation cushions. Under her is a soft pad, and the baby lands on the pad. In a few of the births, you see the attendant's hand gently cushion the baby's head as it lands.

What strikes me about these births is that there is no excessive emotion. The women do not grab their babies, or have their babies given to them. The baby lies there, the woman watches, then she reaches down and strokes or picks up her newborn. The attendant does nothing.

I am not a great advocate of the squatting position - it's value is overshadowed by all the greater obstacles we have to struggle with. If a woman manages to give birth vaginally and without drugs, that is already a great achievement, and sometimes the smaller details are let go.

But I am an advocate of gentle birth. I am an advocate of silence in the birthing room. Of a hands-off approach. Of respect. Of allowing a woman to greet her new child the way she wants to.

A doula can facilitate this gentleness and respect even when everyone else is busy with their hands on, in and around the birthing woman. She can put her mouth close to the woman's ear and whisper encouragement. She can let her know that it is okay if the newborn just nuzzles and does not exhibit a perfect latch within the first few minutes. She can create a bubble of calm and comfort around the birthing woman, her partner, and her new baby.

Let's all work together towards gentle birth!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Birth and Fear - Advice??

I spoke to a lovely woman this morning who will soon be giving birth. She is afraid.

We talked about that fear. We are all afraid, all of the time. Most of us control ourselves, and only let that fear be felt when we are in extreme situations. Some of us pretend we never feel it. Some of us feel it so intensely, all of the time, that it drives us mad.

I wanted her to know, that as her doula, I would be her companion, at her side,  holding her hand or hugging her tight, or pressing warm compresses on her perineum as she was birthing. But I wanted her to know as well that I was not attached to her birth. That it will be HER birth, just as her life is her life. I will give her my advice prenatally, and share my opinions prenatally, and help her tell her birth story postpartum. But I will not
interfere with her birth experience. I will support her, honor her, and respect her. I will provide her with information and give her a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold. I will try my best to fill her birthing room with love.

I will let her know that we are all in this large and daunting place together. I am with her, as far and as close as I can be. Then she is on her own, although she will hear my voice as I am telling her she is doing fine. She will move through her birth tunnel and, yes, she will come out the other side. How that tunnel is constructed, what the pictures will be on the wall, no one can say. All we can say, with absolute certainty, is that she WILL give birth, and she will get through it. And it may be very scary. And, yes, very, very rarely (thank you,  modern hygiene and good nutrition), women and babies do not make it. But birth is like life - you never know. The world is big, bright, and round. Babies get born.


World from Above
I was so happy that you all responded to my last post, and I got several more private correspondences about that doula experience. I am opening the floor - What do you do, as a doula, to assist a woman when she is being held by that kind of fear? This woman in particular was quite striking, as she did not appear to have any "reason" for the fear, such as a past traumatic birth.

Birth and Fear - Advice??

I spoke to a lovely woman this morning who will soon be giving birth. She is afraid.

We talked about that fear. We are all afraid, all of the time. Most of us control ourselves, and only let that fear be felt when we are in extreme situations. Some of us pretend we never feel it. Some of us feel it so intensely, all of the time, that it drives us mad.

I wanted her to know, that as her doula, I would be her companion, at her side,  holding her hand or hugging her tight, or pressing warm compresses on her perineum as she was birthing. But I wanted her to know as well that I was not attached to her birth. That it will be HER birth, just as her life is her life. I will give her my advice prenatally, and share my opinions prenatally, and help her tell her birth story postpartum. But I will not
interfere with her birth experience. I will support her, honor her, and respect her. I will provide her with information and give her a shoulder to lean on and a hand to hold. I will try my best to fill her birthing room with love.

I will let her know that we are all in this large and daunting place together. I am with her, as far and as close as I can be. Then she is on her own, although she will hear my voice as I am telling her she is doing fine. She will move through her birth tunnel and, yes, she will come out the other side. How that tunnel is constructed, what the pictures will be on the wall, no one can say. All we can say, with absolute certainty, is that she WILL give birth, and she will get through it. And it may be very scary. And, yes, very, very rarely (thank you,  modern hygiene and good nutrition), women and babies do not make it. But birth is like life - you never know. The world is big, bright, and round. Babies get born.


World from Above
I was so happy that you all responded to my last post, and I got several more private correspondences about that doula experience. I am opening the floor - What do you do, as a doula, to assist a woman when she is being held by that kind of fear? This woman in particular was quite striking, as she did not appear to have any "reason" for the fear, such as a past traumatic birth.