Monday, January 28, 2013

Prenatal Classes starting February 18, 2013


Prenatal Classes starting February 18, 2013


Birth Witness


Montreal Birth Companions is an organization that serves about sixty women a year. We provide doula services for the poorest of Montreal's women - the refugees, no-status women, and very recent immigrants. We have been active in Montreal for almost ten years, without funding, and without office space. The volunteers are either trained doulas, or doula students, matched carefully with the women they serve.

We have seen our share of disrespect and abuse in the maternity care world here in Montreal, and we are now initiating a project which hopefully will be the beginning of a constructive dialogue.

We are gathering stories from women, which are about instances during their birth experiences where they felt uncomfortable or maltreated. 

We are not out to vilify obstetricians. Our goal is to help to create an environment within which a woman who will be going to the hospital to give birth can be secure that she is treated with respect, whatever her language, colour, marital status, financial level, or whether or not she has healthcare coverage.

We believe that a woman, any woman, has the right to be told what her options are; to be asked permission before she is touched; to be spoken to with respect.

We believe that the attending caregivers, whether they are doulas, midwives, nurses or physicians, have the responsibility to care wisely for their patients. This responsibility includes providing information, asking permission, and exercising cultural sensitivity. 

MBC volunteers have witnessed physicians loudly scolding women without health coverage, as their baby's head is crowning, about their financial mess. I have personally witnessed an OB who made an overtly sexual remark about a vaginal pack. I need to remind residents that it is not okay to rupture a woman's membranes without telling her, just because your hand is in her vagina. I myself pushed my agenda on a woman who was heading for what I considered to be an unnecessary cesarean section, resulting in her feeling betrayed and angry instead of happy about her birth.

We need to talk about this abuse loud and clear. We are not suggesting that every woman in Canada must have a natural birth. We are suggesting that we start to create a system where the woman is at the centre, surrounded by respectful attendants.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Justice

We used to be ridiculously politically incorrect in the olden days. Remember Flip Wilson, dressed in the judge costume, wearing a tilting greyish wig and the "Heah come da judge!" routine?

So, I had to go to court to testify about a case that involved my car and a driver who decided it would be ok to smash into me and then drive off. But two different people (me duh and someone else) got his license plate number. So I toddle down to court on the metro (subway in Montreal), on one of the freezingest cold days of the year, when I'd much rather be at home working on my book (yes, writing another one)...and anyway, the guy had paid his fine and I didn't have to go. They refunded my metro tickets and sent me home.

And I started thinking about justice and how it works.

1. Someone does something bad.
2. They get caught.
3. A group of people decide that the person did indeed do the bad thing, and how the person should be punished.
4. A negotiation starts.
5. Sometimes, justice is done. Sometimes, it isn't.

And I started thinking about the interesting projects I am involved in. I just started helping to organize Montreal's One Billion Rising event. This is a worldwide event that was conceived by Eve Ensler,  to demand an end to violence against women.

This is justice.

Montreal Birth Companions has started a Birth Abuse Witness Program, which will collect attestations from women who have been left uncomfortable with their birth experiences. These attestations are part of a campaign to change the maternity care system in Montreal.

This is justice.

Every week, MBC volunteer doulas assist women who have no resources, who are from other countries, who may not have families or partners here, who may have experienced abuse and violence. MBC doulas accompany these women to give birth and provide a safe and nurturing environment for them and their families during this important time.

This is justice.

At Bumi Sehat, in Bali, women are given quality care during their childbearing year. Midwives, doctors, acupuncturists, and others care for these women without payment because of the generosity of others and their desire to do good.

This is justice.

So, justice isn't only about hit and runs and terrible crimes. When those things happen, yes, we would like the state to get involved and do its thing. But the simple acts of justice, love and kindness balance out. They have to.


Let's find the balance.

Justice

We used to be ridiculously politically incorrect in the olden days. Remember Flip Wilson, dressed in the judge costume, wearing a tilting greyish wig and the "Heah come da judge!" routine?

So, I had to go to court to testify about a case that involved my car and a driver who decided it would be ok to smash into me and then drive off. But two different people (me duh and someone else) got his license plate number. So I toddle down to court on the metro (subway in Montreal), on one of the freezingest cold days of the year, when I'd much rather be at home working on my book (yes, writing another one)...and anyway, the guy had paid his fine and I didn't have to go. They refunded my metro tickets and sent me home.

And I started thinking about justice and how it works.

1. Someone does something bad.
2. They get caught.
3. A group of people decide that the person did indeed do the bad thing, and how the person should be punished.
4. A negotiation starts.
5. Sometimes, justice is done. Sometimes, it isn't.

And I started thinking about the interesting projects I am involved in. I just started helping to organize Montreal's One Billion Rising event. This is a worldwide event that was conceived by Eve Ensler,  to demand an end to violence against women.

This is justice.

Montreal Birth Companions has started a Birth Abuse Witness Program, which will collect attestations from women who have been left uncomfortable with their birth experiences. These attestations are part of a campaign to change the maternity care system in Montreal.

This is justice.

Every week, MBC volunteer doulas assist women who have no resources, who are from other countries, who may not have families or partners here, who may have experienced abuse and violence. MBC doulas accompany these women to give birth and provide a safe and nurturing environment for them and their families during this important time.

This is justice.

At Bumi Sehat, in Bali, women are given quality care during their childbearing year. Midwives, doctors, acupuncturists, and others care for these women without payment because of the generosity of others and their desire to do good.

This is justice.

So, justice isn't only about hit and runs and terrible crimes. When those things happen, yes, we would like the state to get involved and do its thing. But the simple acts of justice, love and kindness balance out. They have to.


Let's find the balance.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lovers








We went out last night to talk. There's always someone around at our house, and everyone always wants to hear what we are talking about and why. Sometimes its nice to get away, in the event that we can't find Maxwell Smart's Dome of Silence.




Our favourite quiet lounge was being renovated (?why? It was perfectly nice before...) so we drove and walked around for a while - this may sounds pleasant but I find it hard to have a conversation when you're walking together in anything below 0 degrees C. We finally found a nice little bistro, and we sat and had a drink and I made lists of our whacky pipe dreams from 2003 ahead, and we tried to decide what to do with the next five years.

We've always been dreamers and planners. From the moment we met, we were arguing about how exactly to make the world a better place. Over the past few years, we've had all sorts of ideas - from going back and living on the mountain,


to opening a bookstore/cafe in Florence, Italy, to starting up a catering business in Barbados. 

Right now, the plan is to build up the place up on the mountain and let birthing women come there to have their babies....Sounds great, no? If you're reading this and you're interested in joining us in this project, let me know.

I digress. Lastnight as we were drinking, arguing - we rowed a little close to the shore a couple of times ("I can't stand the way you always do that..."), and writing lists, I noticed a lovely young couple sitting by the window.

She was pretty. Dark hair, tied up in an abrupt pony tail. Skinny body and face. She was dressed up in tight black pants, and a little sweater and waistcoat. Not much makeup. Her hair was falling in spirals next to her face where it had rebelled against the elastic. He was handsome in a typical boy-next-door-who-hasn't-shaved-in-two-days way. Sexy. He was wearing a button down shirt, with v-neck pullover on top, jeans. You could tell they had both picked out their clothes carefully.

They were in love. She held his hand. He would her hair around his other hand. They smiled at each other and laughed.


I'm putting this message in a bottle and throwing it into cybersea:

Keep your love alive. Never forget that feeling of awe that you had when you were sitting in that Bistro. Time will try to rob you, but don't let it. When you decide to have a baby, be careful. Don't let anyone tell you what to do. Go with your heart. Only you know what you can and want to do - having a baby is like making love, it's between the two of you and no one else.

Plan to sit together, in thirty years, and make a list of crazy dreams from your past, present and future...


Lovers








We went out last night to talk. There's always someone around at our house, and everyone always wants to hear what we are talking about and why. Sometimes its nice to get away, in the event that we can't find Maxwell Smart's Dome of Silence.




Our favourite quiet lounge was being renovated (?why? It was perfectly nice before...) so we drove and walked around for a while - this may sounds pleasant but I find it hard to have a conversation when you're walking together in anything below 0 degrees C. We finally found a nice little bistro, and we sat and had a drink and I made lists of our whacky pipe dreams from 2003 ahead, and we tried to decide what to do with the next five years.

We've always been dreamers and planners. From the moment we met, we were arguing about how exactly to make the world a better place. Over the past few years, we've had all sorts of ideas - from going back and living on the mountain,


to opening a bookstore/cafe in Florence, Italy, to starting up a catering business in Barbados. 

Right now, the plan is to build up the place up on the mountain and let birthing women come there to have their babies....Sounds great, no? If you're reading this and you're interested in joining us in this project, let me know.

I digress. Lastnight as we were drinking, arguing - we rowed a little close to the shore a couple of times ("I can't stand the way you always do that..."), and writing lists, I noticed a lovely young couple sitting by the window.

She was pretty. Dark hair, tied up in an abrupt pony tail. Skinny body and face. She was dressed up in tight black pants, and a little sweater and waistcoat. Not much makeup. Her hair was falling in spirals next to her face where it had rebelled against the elastic. He was handsome in a typical boy-next-door-who-hasn't-shaved-in-two-days way. Sexy. He was wearing a button down shirt, with v-neck pullover on top, jeans. You could tell they had both picked out their clothes carefully.

They were in love. She held his hand. He would her hair around his other hand. They smiled at each other and laughed.


I'm putting this message in a bottle and throwing it into cybersea:

Keep your love alive. Never forget that feeling of awe that you had when you were sitting in that Bistro. Time will try to rob you, but don't let it. When you decide to have a baby, be careful. Don't let anyone tell you what to do. Go with your heart. Only you know what you can and want to do - having a baby is like making love, it's between the two of you and no one else.

Plan to sit together, in thirty years, and make a list of crazy dreams from your past, present and future...


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Trust Birth?


I read a post on the ubiquitous Facebook the other day about a triumphant birth. A woman and her husband went to the hospital with their doula. The woman laboured with the support of those around her - her doula, husband, and the medical staff. She required no drugs, no medical interventions at all. In fact, she had a natural birth in a hospital setting. Which is wonderful, joyful, and, unfortunately, increasingly rare.

Why did she have a natural birth? Was she lucky? Did she just happen to have the right combination of a good pelvis, an agreeable baby, health, happiness, strength, the right medical staff, and good timing? Or was it really because she did a prenatal class that was somehow better than any of the other prenatal classes out there? Or was she determined? Or was she a positive thinker? Or did she have some good karma coming her way?

Probably a little bit of all of the above. When I am working with a woman I feel confident about, she has a good combination of strength, flexibility, confidence, vulnerability, self-knowledge, and a touch of who-gives-a-shit. She may or may not have an amazing support system and wide hips. She may have had a terrible childhood, and she may not be a very nice person. She may be having trouble in her relationship. She may have a lousy relationship with her mother. She may be tiny. She may be fat. She might not eat too well.

But there is a certain woman power that she will have, that will come out when she is birthing, that reassures me that this woman will not be too much of a challenge during and after labor. I am confident that labor will unfold, it will be powerful and most probably painful. It may make her feel like she is going to die, but I will be able to keep her to her path.

Most doulas, midwives, and physicians can tell you that they have a sense of a woman who is heading for a natural birth, if she is given the chance. The problem with most hospital births these days is that very few women are even given that chance. The epidural rate for first time mothers in the hospitals in Montreal is over 90%. That is no chance at all, for a woman who is feeling labor for the first time.

So, as the Muslims say, pray to Allah, but tie your camel to a tree. That is, don't rely on faith to make things happen for birth. Although much of it is chance, or fate, karma, or the divine, what is left over is human intervention - or human strength - or woman power. Let it shine!

Trust Birth?


I read a post on the ubiquitous Facebook the other day about a triumphant birth. A woman and her husband went to the hospital with their doula. The woman laboured with the support of those around her - her doula, husband, and the medical staff. She required no drugs, no medical interventions at all. In fact, she had a natural birth in a hospital setting. Which is wonderful, joyful, and, unfortunately, increasingly rare.

Why did she have a natural birth? Was she lucky? Did she just happen to have the right combination of a good pelvis, an agreeable baby, health, happiness, strength, the right medical staff, and good timing? Or was it really because she did a prenatal class that was somehow better than any of the other prenatal classes out there? Or was she determined? Or was she a positive thinker? Or did she have some good karma coming her way?

Probably a little bit of all of the above. When I am working with a woman I feel confident about, she has a good combination of strength, flexibility, confidence, vulnerability, self-knowledge, and a touch of who-gives-a-shit. She may or may not have an amazing support system and wide hips. She may have had a terrible childhood, and she may not be a very nice person. She may be having trouble in her relationship. She may have a lousy relationship with her mother. She may be tiny. She may be fat. She might not eat too well.

But there is a certain woman power that she will have, that will come out when she is birthing, that reassures me that this woman will not be too much of a challenge during and after labor. I am confident that labor will unfold, it will be powerful and most probably painful. It may make her feel like she is going to die, but I will be able to keep her to her path.

Most doulas, midwives, and physicians can tell you that they have a sense of a woman who is heading for a natural birth, if she is given the chance. The problem with most hospital births these days is that very few women are even given that chance. The epidural rate for first time mothers in the hospitals in Montreal is over 90%. That is no chance at all, for a woman who is feeling labor for the first time.

So, as the Muslims say, pray to Allah, but tie your camel to a tree. That is, don't rely on faith to make things happen for birth. Although much of it is chance, or fate, karma, or the divine, what is left over is human intervention - or human strength - or woman power. Let it shine!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Birth Abuse

Birth Abuse. This is a commonly heard term these days in birth circles. What exactly does it mean?

Is it abuse when a woman wants to have a home birth but can't find a midwife because of government regulations, so she ends up compromising on one of the most important decisions in her life, and having her baby in a hospital, lying on her back?

Is it abuse when a woman from another country comes to the hospital in active labor and is spoken to very loudly as if she is a slow-witted child?

Is it abuse when a woman wants to give birth squatting, after a two hour labor, but the doctor insists she lay down, and after the head is born, a shoulder dystocia develops and the doctor pulls so hard on the baby's head that he breaks her collarbone?

Is it abuse when a resident has his hand in a woman's vagina, reaches for the amnihook, and before anyone can say "boo", he breaks her waters?

Is it abuse when a midwife insists that a woman lift her shirt so that she "feels more relaxed" as her baby is being born?

Is it abuse when a doula pushes a woman just a little bit too hard to avoid taking an epidural, and afterwards the woman feels she has been traumatized by the pain?

Is it abuse when a woman is pushing and the doctor stands between her legs and yells at her, demanding to be paid in cash?

Is it abuse when a doctor speaks in a sexual way to a woman who is ecstatic, just after giving birth?

I have witnessed all of these situations, and I believe they all are examples of birth abuse. Yes, some are more shocking than others. Some are definitely in the grey area. But, essentially, abuse in the birth world takes place when there is an absence of respect. Respect is paramount when a baby is being born. The woman who is doing the work of bringing a new life into the world is more deserving of respect than anyone else. But, strangely, in our world, this has been turned on its head. The birthing woman is under everyone else's thumbs, saying "yes" and being a good girl, and agreeing to other people's agendas and priorities.

Is it abuse when a woman goes to the hospital after laboring at home for many hours, and a collective decision is made that this baby needs to be born surgically? NO.

A simple procedure, or surgery, or an interventive test, do not constitute abuse. Abuse takes place when anything is done to a woman against her wishes, or without her agreement. Simple.

Birth abuse is big. Everyone who works with birthing women - doctor, nurse, midwife, doula, anyone - should take a few minutes out of each working day and have a close look at the way they have treated their clients, and if they feel they have not treated the birthing women in their care with the UTMOST respect, then they should make changes.

Birth can be powerful, it can be joyful, it can be frightening and terrible. Birthing women need to be at the centre of everyone's vision so that we can recover an essential balance that we have lost. When women are at the centre of the birthing world, who knows what miracles we will encounter?