Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Birth Uprising Manifesto

I have been thinking a lot about my basic values, and I've come to the understanding that these five simple words spell out my goals, in terms of my life work with families through the childbearing year, and specifically with women through their reproductive life journeys.

Safe and Sacred Birth Choices.

Let’s start at the end and work backwards to the beginning!

1. Choices

2. Birth

3. Sacred

4. and

5. Safe

1. Choice

Choices are so important! And in our reproductive lives these days, we do have many, many options and choices. But sometimes we’re presented with choices that we feel have been already made for us, or we don’t understand what choices we have. This is where the idea of informed choice comes in.

Informed choice and informed consent are often used together in a medical setting, but they’re not the same at all. Informed consent means that you’re agreeing to something that someone has explained to you. I said yes to something that you kind of explained was an absolutely necessary thing I had to do.

Consent means I said yes. The informed part can be really vague.

Informed choice can mean that too, but real informed choice means that all of the options are explained to you so that you fully understand them - and their consequences. And then you can make a choice.

A real choice. And that choice, just like in what we like to call consensual sex, might be “no”. "No", I don't want to have a child right now. No, I don't want to be induced. No, I don't want you to do that.

I want choices to be informed, respected, and real for women during their reproductive lives.

2. Birth

Well, birth is where we all come from so it’s pretty important. But birth choices, for a woman, can also mean making the choice not to give birth. Ever. Or not to give birth right away. Our choices around birth start with whether to have a baby or not and move through the whole process after that choice has been made, and beyond.

If you decide to have a baby, then the complex choices start: where will I give birth? Who do I want with me during this childbearing year? How do I want to be treated while I am pregnant and birthing? Why am I being offered this medical choice, or another one? When will my baby arrive? Can I decide when I’m going to give birth? Why does my labour not start? Why does this hurt? What should I do?

There is so much education and respect that is not available for women during their childbearing year.

I want every woman cared for with respect, humility, love, and compassion.

3. Sacred

The word sacred can mean different things to different people. Lots of you might feel some resistance or annoyance with the word. That’s okay. Except that this word might be a key to understanding the childbearing year, women’s reproductive life, and even life in general in a different way. In a way that recognizes and affirms that we are not ultimately in control, that there is something bigger and more wild growing and living through us. Even if it’s chemical reactions, or hormones, or nature (whatever that is) or Spirit, Creator, Universe or God…. if we start to imagine that we aren’t the captain of this boat, ESPECIALLY if we are attending a woman during her childbearing year, then that humility will lead us to a place where we can actually provide better care. If we understand that the body isn’t just the body, and it is made up of physical things and also things that we can’t really name, like emotions, intuitions and thoughts. And that the body and those more unnameable things work together to make not only that human being you are accompanying, but also yourself; So that we come as humans to assist, to attend, to accompany other humans, but never as a higher power or an authority.

Sacred care in birth leads to better physical outcomes, happier babies, happier mothers and a better world.

4. and

"and" can open up so much possibility … I just included it because it’s one of the five words …and why shouldn’t a simple conjunction mean as much as another fancier word? And for me, this is the truth of working with women throughout their reproductive life; again, it’s a question of humility. Who am I, fancy person with years of study, to think of myself as fancier than a simple person who has asked for my assistance? If I decide that she can no longer teach me anything, then I’ve closed the door to real healing. That little word “and” can teach us a lot: it’s a little insignificant word but it binds the two parts of the sentence together. Like love.

Every birthing mother deserves to birth in love.

5. Safe

I’m not going to talk right now about the dangers of childbirth. Just ask Dr Google and you can scare yourself silly. I won’t tell you all the scary statistics or tell you the horror stories. But what I will tell you is that our maternity system, the global maternity system that we have in place right now, is hurting women and babies. The affluent women are surviving technology-led birthing practices that take no account of the whole human beings in front of them. The less affluent women, and the black and coloured women in the US, are being treated worse than animals and are being denied decent care, either because of poverty, racism or both.

I want a maternity care culture where the safety: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, safety of the woman who is birthing the child (or children) is the absolutely most important thing in the world at those moments, for the people attending her.

I am working hard towards this goal.

This week, I’m crying for the mothers I’ve served. The details aren’t necessary for now but I’ve spoken to six women this week; one with a tragedy; one with rage against her doctors; one with a potentially fatal diagnostic error; one with a natural birth that was interfered with; one is expecting to birth alone; one setting her boundaries hard and high.

Women shouldn’t have to fight for their right to have good, respectful care during their childbearing year.

My demands are:

Birth attendants (doctors, midwives, nurses, doulas), do you know that there is a whole movement of women who don’t want to be cared for by you, because they don’t want to be treated badly? They are not children, they are humans with whole lives, and they want to be able to make choices that may be different from yours. These women also deserve SAFE care. Here are some suggestions:

Take some lessons in self-care. This is not an option. You can’t care for others, especially for those who are bringing a new life into this world, if you do not care for yourself.

Cultivate your ability to love others. Love is not an option. You must love the woman you are supporting.

Leave your ego at the door of the birthing room. No, you are not in control. No, you are not the captain, and, no, the buck doesn’t stop with you. You are an assistant, a vessel, maybe even a highly trained one. But your job isn’t to provide judgement.

Be honest. If you don’t want to take extra time before you reach in with an intervention, take the time to explain why and ask yourself honestly if you know what the consequences would be if you waited. If you’ve never waited, and there are no studies to show what happens when you wait, then it’s all superstition and you don’t really know. If you say, “I’m not comfortable with not waiting, but there are no studies to back me up” then a dialogue can begin. If you say, “We have to do blah blah or your baby will die.” then there’s no dialogue, just fear and power and ego.

Be curious. Maybe some of the methods and theories suggested by others are actually valid. Have a look; open your eyes; don’t do a knee-jerk “NO!”. This goes for all of you – I’m not targeting doctors here. I know enough alternative practitioners who are quick to judge as well.

Be attentive. Medical practitioners have forgotten how to be attentive with their senses, and not with their machines: Sight, smell, touch, listening are the four senses we use (and we leave taste for dinner!). And intuition, and the important sense of humour! I don’t know of any kind of healer, where they’re a specialist with sixty years experience or a beginning midwife, who does not value the kinds of messages their intuition will give them, if they’re open.

Listen to the woman who is birthing. Who is she? What does she want? What does she know?

And here's some advice for all you women out there, trying to navigate the realities of your reproductive lives:

Be curious. Ask around and find the path that suits YOU, not your friend, your mother, sister, or even your partner.

Learn and keep on learning. Knowledge is power!

Reach out! There is a whole world out there, and there are people who might be able to give you the answers you are looking for.

Don’t be shamed! Whatever you choose for your journey is your very own choice, based on who you are, who you were and who you will be. Whether to bear a child, where, with whom, and how are all personal choices that don’t belong to anyone except you and your partner. If you feel shamed by a friend, a group or a professional, stay away!

Listen to your body.

Demand choices! Demand your rights! Don’t be bullied, even when you are labouring. If something doesn’t feel right, stand up and say no! If you can’t do that on your own, then hire a doula. If you can't afford a doula, find a free one! I guarantee you I will find you a free doula if you want one…

Know that we love you! Find a community, we are around.

For more information about Birth Uprising, leave a comment or reach out, you can find me!

Love, power, peace and love again.

No comments:

Post a Comment