Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Sovereign Womanhood and the Misappropriation of Reproduction



We DO have so much power in us. So then how do we end up filing into our hospitals with our birth plans and coming out cut or broken, with a baby in our arms?

All over the world, and especially all over North America, women are finding new ways to birth in their own sovereign power. This can be terrifying. It can be fulfilling. It can be both.

I am speaking to old women who are attending birthing mothers as Traditional Birth Companions. I speak with younger women, mothers of young children themselves, who are devoting their time to attending the births of the women in their communities. I am speaking with women who have said "No!" to the maternity care system we have installed in our countries, and who are giving birth alone or with their families. I see sisters helping sisters. I see communities that are thriving, attending each other in birth, as in life.

Here in Canada, we have very strict regulations about what constitutes someone's right to provide care to a woman during her childbearing year. If you perform any of these restricted practices, without an officially regulated midwifery license, and without being employed by and liable to the health services establishment, then you are practising midwifery without a license.

Billie Harrigan is a Traditional Birth Companion in Ontario. She does not perform restricted practices, and she does not call herself a midwife. She says that Vaginal exams are rude, but also that they constitute a very clear message that our reproductive life and our bodies are not our property: they are the property of the state, and only people mandated by the state can invade them. Number 7 of the Ontario Midwifery Act states that vaginal exams are a restricted practice. In other words, you cannot put "an instrument, hand or finger beyond the labia majora or anal verge during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period."

Ok, don't get me wrong here. I don't actually WANT to do vaginal exams. I also think they're rude. Not only that, my doula students have heard me say for years that the only reason for so many endless vaginal exams is that medical professionals are not taught about how sexual birth is. The sexuality and the mind-blowingness and the all-out intensity of birth is sublimated into rituals such as vaginal exams (actually, it is absolutely amazing to feel a baby's head in someone's vagina. Just saying. But I keep my hands to myself.)

But my point is, that women have been regulated for far too long. Our bodies have been misappropriated by a maternity system that pretends it is doing things to us for our own good, and it is not. Why do you think many a woman going into the hospital wants (or discovers she needs) a doula by her side? Because the doula can try to prevent some of the grosser abuses from taking place. But not all. And certainly not enough. Not enough to make the difference to so many, many women who feel that they have been violated (and they have!) when all they wanted to do was to give birth to their child.

So, what is happening? Just when the pandemic started making our lives more restricted and difficult, women started wanting to birth away from Covid-infested hospitals. We all, as our lives changed, started to take deep breaths and realize that we don't actually want to go back to the old "normal". I am getting weekly calls and emails from women who want to learn about new ways of birthing. I'm connecting with women around the globe who are moving forward to change the face of birth; to change the world, starting with birth.

Want to come on board? Come along!

“Come, come, whoever you are. 
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. 
It doesn't matter. 
Ours is not a caravan of despair. 
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. 
Come, yet again, come, come.” 
Rumi

And, if you are one of us who has indeed experienced trauma, abuse, and despair during your birthing, even more reason for you to move away from that reality, bring your scars and hold your head up high and cry out: "Enough!"

What is to be done?

You can listen to the Baby Magic Podcast for inspiration.

You can join our monthly virtual Full Moon Women's Circles.

You can reach out to me or to any of the fine women on our podcast for community, information, wisdom.

You can reach deep into your womanhood and remember that you are strong! You are magical! I love you!




For those of you who have a legal interest:

Here are the restricted practices in Quebec:
"Any act the purpose of which is to provide the professional care and services required by a woman during normal pregnancy, labour and delivery and to provide a woman and her child with the professional care and services required during the first six weeks of a normal postnatal period constitutes the practice of midwifery. The professional care and services concerned consist in
(1) monitoring and assessing a woman and her child during pregnancy, labour, delivery and the first six weeks of the postnatal period, and include the provision of preventive care and the detection of any abnormal conditions in the woman or child ;
(2) conducting spontaneous deliveries ;
(3) performing an amniotomy, performing and repairing an episiotomy and repairing a first or second degree perineal tear or laceration.


In addition, in an emergency, while awaiting the required medical intervention or in the absence of medical intervention, applying suction, conducting a breech delivery, performing manual placental extraction followed by digital exploration of the uterus or performing resuscitation procedures on the woman or newborn also constitutes the practice of midwifery."
(http://legisquebec.gouv.qc.ca/en/ShowDoc/cs/S-0.1
In Ontario, they are much less vague:


"1. Communicating a diagnosis identifying, as the cause of a woman’s or newborn’s symptoms, a disease or disorder that may be identified from the results of a laboratory or other test or investigation that a member is authorized to order or perform on a woman or a newborn during normal pregnancy, labour and delivery and for up to six weeks post-partum.

2. Managing labour and conducting spontaneous normal vaginal deliveries.

3. Inserting urinary catheters into women.

4. Performing episiotomies and amniotomies and repairing episiotomies and lacerations, not involving the anus, anal sphincter, rectum, urethra and periurethral area.

5. Administering, by injection or inhalation, a substance designated in the regulations.

6. Prescribing drugs designated in the regulations.

7. Putting an instrument, hand or finger beyond the labia majora or anal verge during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period.

8. Administering suppository drugs designated in the regulations beyond the anal verge during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period.

9. Taking blood samples from newborns by skin pricking or from persons from veins or by skin pricking.

10. Intubation beyond the larynx of a newborn.

11. Administering a substance by injection or inhalation as provided for in subsection 4.1 (2). 2009, c. 26, s. 16 (1). (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/91m31)"

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Happy Birthday Ibu Robin!


In 2012, I went to Bali to volunteer in the birth centre Robin Lim created, Bumi Sehat. I became friends with her and she stayed with me in 2013 when she came to Montreal to raise funds for her birth centre. 

In 2014, she wrote to me after my mother died. I had just received my Certified Professional Midwife credentials, and she wrote a beautiful note to me about doors opening and doors closing, midwifery, birth and death, and Love.

Ibu Robin is a mother and grandmother, a midwife, and a mover and changer of hearts and minds. She does what she does to heal Mother Earth, through birth, through Love, and through action.

Every year, on her birthday, Ibu Robin sends out an email like the one you can see here.

Ibu Robin is turning 64!!

At the end of November Ibu Robin will become 64! You are our Circle of Support, and many of you ask me what Ibu Robin  would like for her Birthday.  All She ever wants and needs is help for Bumi Sehat.
 
Bumi Sehat has been embraced by GlobalGiving. December 1st, will be Giving Tuesday. Donations made on that specific day, will be amplified by Global Giving. If it works for you to put Birthday contributions through on December 1st the benefit would be significantly more. This is the link to the Bumi Sehat Page on Global Giving:  BumiSehatGG
  
 Please accept our love and gratitude. May your families be safe and well, may the heart-storms of this challenging time on Earth, pass quickly. 
Love, Ibu Robin and Team Bumi Sehat.

I am very happy to be chatting with Ibu Robin live on her birthday on the Baby Magic YouTube Channel.

Tune in at 6pm EST on November 23; 7am Bali time on November 24 to listen live!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Baby Magic Season Two: The Birth Conspiracy

 

I birthed my new podcast on August 21, 2020 ... commemorating my 64th journey around the sun. A couple of weeks ago Season One came to an end with Episode 8, where I chatted with a volunteer doula from Montreal Birth Companions, the greatest, most radical volunteer doula organization ever that met its untimely end in 2016. 

Just last week, a couple of lovely colleagues and friends, Sylvia Otvos and Jenny Bee,  invited me to chat with them on their show aptly titled Wombs with a View (maternal musings with Jenny and Sylvia). They wanted to ask me about my views on hospital birth, freebirthing, home birth and why women should or shouldn't give birth in the hospital.

The Birth Conspiracy is the title of my book. It's also the title of Episode One of Baby Magic, Season 2. Listen up and you will hear what the conspiracy is all about!

So, should women give birth in a hospital? Actually, I believe that hospitals should be reserved for sick people. During pregnancy, birth and postpartum, of courses, sickness happens. But pregnancy and labor are not sicknesses and do not belong in the hospital. 

Where do they belong? Certainly not in any space at all where the woman does not feel safe, whether that is a hospital where overworked and overtired staff members just want to get the birth over with in the least amount of time, and preferably in the quietest manner possible. And neither all by herself at home, where she has decided to give birth because she's scared of going to the hospital and wants a midwife but can't find one. Nor in a birthing centre, where the midwives are so controlled by government regulations that they regularly send healthy labouring mothers to the hospital to give birth where they didn't want to in the first place.

Birthing women, as the creators of new life, belong wherever they damn well please. We should be working hard to provide safe, respectful, sacred care for mothers and babies everywhere. Home, hospital, center; all of these places are appropriate for birth. It's what we fill the spaces with that is so much more important than what the space is. Hospital birthing rooms should be safe, respectful, and woman-centered. Informed consent means that a woman is explained what her choices are, objectively and truthfully, and then she makes her choice, and then that choice is respected. Sacred care means that the whole of a birthing experience is respected: the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of the mother and baby are held in the highest regard by the care providers.

Home birth spaces should have that same access to safe birth practices: a midwife shouldn't have to lie to the hospital staff if the birthing mother needs medical care. Access to midwifery care should be universal, and regulations surrounding midwifery care should be created by midwives, for midwives. 

Some women choose to give birth completely on their own, or with their partners and other children. This is a sovereign choice and should be respected as such. But a woman should only make the choice to "freebirth" or give birth "unassisted" if it is a positive choice, that is, it is a choice FOR freebirth and not AGAINST her other limited options. 

Of course, I'm not imagining that it's going to be easy to change our broken maternity care system. It's not. When women are birthing with our sovereign power, in our spaces, with our sisters, and feeling the energy of creation moving through us, the world will tilt on its axis and life on earth will change. Don't imagine any different. When we birth standing up, squatting, lying down, crawling, surrounded by our sisters in loving-kindess, a new life will emerge. 

It's time, sisters, to say out loud what you want. Do you want to go to the hospital during the times of Covid and bring your doula and your partner? Let's find a way! Do you want to birth your twins at home? Let's find a way! Have a VBAC at home? Let's find a way NOW!