Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Birth and Beyond 2013


Why do I love this conference and the women who work so hard to make it a success every year?

Because it's fun! We get to play!

And for so many other reasons. We get to stretch our boundaries: just like the perineum stretches so nicely when a baby's head moves past it, so we have to stretch our ideas and preconceptions when we meet the motley crew of professionals, activists, birthing women, and others, who make this conference the best of the year.

We also have to think. The speakers and movers and shakers at this conference are really good at pushing us to look outside the box: Jodi Hall has a superb intellect, and her grasp of complicated ideas is truly stunning. She manages to light up those ideas for us lesser mortals, and challenge us to use our brain power while we take pleasure in the exercises she prepares for us.  James McKenna and Diane Weissinger speak science: let's start thinking about "what would mammals do?" Gloria Lemay does not suffer complacency lightly - she will always challenge you to a duel. Robbie Davis-Floyd can always be relied upon to: 1. present complicated papers on birth from an anthropologists viewpoint; 2. tell hilarious stories about the rock stars in the birth world and 3. be the amazing woman who starts everyone singing.

We have to compromise: the intactivists breathed the same air as those participants who choose circumcision. The registered midwives discussed their work with the not-so-registered.

And, best of all, the participants at Birth and Beyond are truly lovely: from different walks of life and different places, with stories and paths that sometimes converge and sometimes not. And, somehow, we  all manage to get along just fine. Well, most of us. And that's because, at Birth and Beyond, everyone doesn't necessarily share the exact same viewpoint.

We get to talk about interesting concepts like LOVE, like VOLUNTEERING, like CO-SLEEPING,  like ENTITLEMENT, like FEAR IN BIRTH, like WHAT TO DO, like LOSS?

We learn and go on learning, we open our minds and our hearts, we meet people we would not expect to meet.

This is above all a conference that is dynamic and alive. It is not political, it doesn't seem to subscribe to a certain political line, and that is the beauty of it. Melanie and Shawn have managed to get all of the ingredients together for an event that is going to keep on moving, year after year …. don't you want to be part of it?

Get involved! Birth and Beyond 2014

Birth and Beyond 2013


Why do I love this conference and the women who work so hard to make it a success every year?

Because it's fun! We get to play!

And for so many other reasons. We get to stretch our boundaries: just like the perineum stretches so nicely when a baby's head moves past it, so we have to stretch our ideas and preconceptions when we meet the motley crew of professionals, activists, birthing women, and others, who make this conference the best of the year.

We also have to think. The speakers and movers and shakers at this conference are really good at pushing us to look outside the box: Jodi Hall has a superb intellect, and her grasp of complicated ideas is truly stunning. She manages to light up those ideas for us lesser mortals, and challenge us to use our brain power while we take pleasure in the exercises she prepares for us.  James McKenna and Diane Weissinger speak science: let's start thinking about "what would mammals do?" Gloria Lemay does not suffer complacency lightly - she will always challenge you to a duel. Robbie Davis-Floyd can always be relied upon to: 1. present complicated papers on birth from an anthropologists viewpoint; 2. tell hilarious stories about the rock stars in the birth world and 3. be the amazing woman who starts everyone singing.

We have to compromise: the intactivists breathed the same air as those participants who choose circumcision. The registered midwives discussed their work with the not-so-registered.

And, best of all, the participants at Birth and Beyond are truly lovely: from different walks of life and different places, with stories and paths that sometimes converge and sometimes not. And, somehow, we  all manage to get along just fine. Well, most of us. And that's because, at Birth and Beyond, everyone doesn't necessarily share the exact same viewpoint.

We get to talk about interesting concepts like LOVE, like VOLUNTEERING, like CO-SLEEPING,  like ENTITLEMENT, like FEAR IN BIRTH, like WHAT TO DO, like LOSS?

We learn and go on learning, we open our minds and our hearts, we meet people we would not expect to meet.

This is above all a conference that is dynamic and alive. It is not political, it doesn't seem to subscribe to a certain political line, and that is the beauty of it. Melanie and Shawn have managed to get all of the ingredients together for an event that is going to keep on moving, year after year …. don't you want to be part of it?

Get involved! Birth and Beyond 2014

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Salut Pauline! Loving my adopted province!

Last week, Montreal Birth Companions assisted a woman to give birth. Her hospital stay was very long and she finally left with a bill of over $20,000.

She was one of the many women MBC assists who do not have medical coverage here, who give birth in our hospitals at great cost. Some of these women are domestics who have been fired by their employers. Some are women who are here on the wrong kind of visa to be pregnant (hey, Harper! I thought you were against abortion!). Some are here illegally because they are afraid of harm or death in their home countries, but they do not qualify as refugees.

This woman was the kind of Muslim that Madame Marois wants: modern, educated, no head scarf. Her reasons for fleeing her country were valid and I will not explain more. She was taken in by an elderly Anglophone woman until the baby was born.

She needed a place to live, so we finally found her somewhere to stay until she gets on her feet. She is employable and will be fine.

But - her birth and postpartum search for housing was such a typical Quebecois event! The new mother was a Muslim. She wears western clothing and no head scarf. She was taken in by a Quebecois Anglophone, who is very old and appeared to wear a dressing gown. Her doula was a Quebecois Francophone who is a political activist. She rides her bicycle most days and has a couple of piercings. Her second doula was also Quebecois, who is a member of the Canadian army. The mentor doula is a Jewish woman whose politics veer from left to anarchist. She wears a headscarf. The shelter where she finally found refuge is run by a Muslim woman from Malaysia who regularly provides food for one hundred people at a nearby church. She wears a hijab and a floor length gown. The journalist who was interested in the story is a member of a visible minority. We all spoke different languages: French, English, Arabic, Bahasa Malaysia, Italian... and probably more...

We are united by love and goodwill, and by the urge to change this world for the better. Some of us wear head coverings, some of us don't. Some of us believe in God, some might not. But this Quebec is the place I like living - where we all get by and get along, sometimes speaking in broken this or that, trying to get along because we believe that getting along is a good thing. It's the place I brought my kids so they would get an education, and they are getting an education, and they speak several languages, including the language of tolerance.

So, Pauline, even though you have a bunch of liberal feminists on your side, and some aging would-be politicians, I would like you to come and visit our Quebec: the Quebec where we help people who don't necessarily believe in the same things we believe in, or speak the same language as we do, or wear the same clothes as we do. And I would like to remind you that while you are doing your politics, babies are being born and friends are being made and bonds are being formed across all of your artificially constructed boundaries.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Student Doula's Story

Here is a post from another blog by one of my Level One students … giving you an inside view of what it's like to be a student doula, volunteering for Montreal Birth Companions.

DEAR BIRTHING, WITH LOVE (thank you http://highalert.net/news/dear-birthing-love)

I am ready to stop typing and run to my phone if it rings. It may be a call from the doula I’m shadowing. There is a woman who will give birth any day now, and when this woman (the client/patient/mother-to-be*) needs birth support, I will go (with the doula) to be with her at her home, or maybe straight to the hospital.
Besides my own, the only birth I’ve attended was that of my little sister, and I was a 5 year-old, and it was late at night. This makes me a minority among the 16 women in my Level 1 doula training course with the Montreal Birth Companions, because I am not a mother.
You don’t have to be a mother to be a doula. You just have to be there. In the last few months of this course, I’ve learned a lot about birth: anatomy, pain-alleviation techniques, how it progresses and why it might stall, affirmations, visualizations, and what to pack in my birth bag. This is all important, but the most important role that a doula plays is of being present, and being loving.
Montreal Birth Companions, then, love hundreds of women a year. They provide free doula services to women in need. They are most often refugees, immigrants, women without family in Canada, and women who don’t have health care. They are women who just need a little bit of love at a vulnerable time.
With each ‘birth story’ that I hear from a fellow Montreal Birth Companion, I am filled with admiration at the important role they play at these births. They are advocates and peace-makers, negotiators and videographers, a friend and calm presence. I am also filled with a certain amount of frustration or anger at a medical system that seems, often, to desecrate such a powerful moment—perhaps the most powerful of all. Birth also has two sides: pleasure and pain. But, I’ve learned that pain in birth serves a function—it releases oxytocin which makes the contractions stronger and more effective, and stress hormones increase blood flow, which brings much-needed oxygen to the baby. I’m not confident, though, that the ‘pain’ of the medical system serves a purpose.
I’ll remain on high alert for calls to explore birth and love in the hospital. In the meantime, I encourage you to VOTE daily for Montreal Birth Companion’s campaign to provide more free pre-natal classes to women. You can like the MBC’s facebook page and select 'get notifications' for daily reminders.
*Serving as a doula is new to me and I am not sure what language I feel comfortable with, yet. As my teacher writes in her book The Birth Conspiracy, 'client' seems impersonal and business-like, while 'patient' may disempower the woman giving birth.

A Student Doula's Story

Here is a post from another blog by one of my Level One students … giving you an inside view of what it's like to be a student doula, volunteering for Montreal Birth Companions.

DEAR BIRTHING, WITH LOVE (thank you http://highalert.net/news/dear-birthing-love)

I am ready to stop typing and run to my phone if it rings. It may be a call from the doula I’m shadowing. There is a woman who will give birth any day now, and when this woman (the client/patient/mother-to-be*) needs birth support, I will go (with the doula) to be with her at her home, or maybe straight to the hospital.
Besides my own, the only birth I’ve attended was that of my little sister, and I was a 5 year-old, and it was late at night. This makes me a minority among the 16 women in my Level 1 doula training course with the Montreal Birth Companions, because I am not a mother.
You don’t have to be a mother to be a doula. You just have to be there. In the last few months of this course, I’ve learned a lot about birth: anatomy, pain-alleviation techniques, how it progresses and why it might stall, affirmations, visualizations, and what to pack in my birth bag. This is all important, but the most important role that a doula plays is of being present, and being loving.
Montreal Birth Companions, then, love hundreds of women a year. They provide free doula services to women in need. They are most often refugees, immigrants, women without family in Canada, and women who don’t have health care. They are women who just need a little bit of love at a vulnerable time.
With each ‘birth story’ that I hear from a fellow Montreal Birth Companion, I am filled with admiration at the important role they play at these births. They are advocates and peace-makers, negotiators and videographers, a friend and calm presence. I am also filled with a certain amount of frustration or anger at a medical system that seems, often, to desecrate such a powerful moment—perhaps the most powerful of all. Birth also has two sides: pleasure and pain. But, I’ve learned that pain in birth serves a function—it releases oxytocin which makes the contractions stronger and more effective, and stress hormones increase blood flow, which brings much-needed oxygen to the baby. I’m not confident, though, that the ‘pain’ of the medical system serves a purpose.
I’ll remain on high alert for calls to explore birth and love in the hospital. In the meantime, I encourage you to VOTE daily for Montreal Birth Companion’s campaign to provide more free pre-natal classes to women. You can like the MBC’s facebook page and select 'get notifications' for daily reminders.
*Serving as a doula is new to me and I am not sure what language I feel comfortable with, yet. As my teacher writes in her book The Birth Conspiracy, 'client' seems impersonal and business-like, while 'patient' may disempower the woman giving birth.