Wednesday, June 27, 2007
What a great long weekend in Chicago! BIRTH was part of a International Women Playwrights festival last weekend in Chicago. While I thought the actual reading of the play wasn't great (a few cast members were good, but overall I've seen it done SO much better it was disappointing), the themes of the play were all still there and many people came up to me after the play to say it had a strong impact on them. In fact, after the show, the BOLD Chicago Organizer, Julie Lambert, organized a post-show discussion at a nearby coffeehouse and a large group of people came over to chat about the play and the Illinois birth scene.
What a birth scene in Illinois! The majority of the women get epidurals, the area hospitals all seem to have a c-section rate holding around the national average (30%) and most women, even if they wanted a mother-friendly birth experience, don't have too many options. There are no freestanding birth centers (although the law just changed and now they are legal) and direct-entry midwives are not legal and VERY underground. Many women who want a natural birth are going to deliver their babies over state lines, in Wisconsin, and one mother told me she was traveling back to her old state of Minnesota so she could have a homebirth with a legal midwife.
There is hope! The day after the play we met at a wonderful yoga studio called Sweet Peas and the owners seem to be bringing alot of childbirth education into their mother/baby-based yoga studio. Also, Ina May Gaskin will be in Chicago in July for the La Leche Conference and she is planning to do a fundraiser for Illnois Families for Midwifery who is waging a strong campaign to pass a bill in the Illinois state congress to legalize direct-entry midwives. I think the quote on Illinois for Families website says it all when it comes to Illinois and birth. It quotes Marsden Wagner, MD, MSPH, and world renowned expert in Maternal and Infant Welfare. In 2001 he said:
"Wherever I go people say to me, WHAT'S WITH ILLINOIS?"
Unfortunately, there's alot that needs to improve when it comes to mother-friendly birthing choices for families in Illinois.
But I met a great woman, Jo Anne Lindberg, who founded BirthLink, an organization that refers parents free of charge, to local Chicago area maternity care providers. What a great online resource this is for mothers in Chicago! If you're pregnant in Chicago check it out: www.birthlink.com.
So there is hope...and many fabulous people dedicated to making Illinois more mother-friendly.
I wanted to say one other thing about my trip to Chicago (besides how many groovy restaurants I ate in!)...something one of the actresses said to me after the show. She said she was asked to do the play and after she heard the title of the play was "Birth" she thought: I bet it's going to be a comedy making fun of birth and mothers. Instead, she said as she said down in the sand along the beach beside Lake Michigan to read the play, as she began reading it quickly hit her that this play was no comedy. (although I do think it has funny moments!) In fact, she said, as a person who believes birth is very much a woman's health issue she was overjoyed to read that this play makes exactly that point: that giving birth is definitely a woman's health issue and an important one, that's experiencing a crisis not only of numbers but inside people's souls.
Aaah, I thought. She got it.