Friday, June 24, 2011
When I read the recent post by Dr. Micheal Klein in the Sense and Sensibility blog telling us that both OBs under the age of 40 and pregnant moms are fearful of childbirth today, and that this is deeply worrying if we want to have a women-centered model of giving birth, I had a flash back:
It was 2004, I lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, and had just learned that Dr. Marsden Wagner, former director of Women’s and Children’s Health in the World Health Organization for 15 years, lived three blocks from my house. Since I was writing a play on childbirth I thought it would be useful to speak to him so I called him up. He said come on over. He was finishing up the manuscript for his book "Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity Care System Must Be Fixed To Put Women and Children First " when I walked in holding my notepad. Within a minute I began scribbling furiously...the passion and urgency in his voice was palpable.
Why don't pregnant moms make better birth choices?, I asked.
They are being sold fear by the medical establishment, he said.
Why are they buying it?
Because power is sexy, he explained, and OBs have power.
How is this going to change?
Two things: First, the education of OBs must change. If all they get taught is fear that's all they will have to offer. Second, pregnant mothers have to change. Ultimately, they are the power brokers.
How do pregnant mothers have to change?
They have to say no, he said.
Yes, no...no to a medical system that puts them last on the list, no to the lack of true midwifery options, no to the way they are spoken to at prenatal visits...or not spoken to and not given accurate information.
What do you think will change childbirth today?
A revolution led by mothers. It's the only way forward, he said.
At the time as a playwright interviewing my subject I thought Dr. Wagner was eccentric, and he is. But as a mother, birth activist and life-long community organizer I also knew he was right: revolution is the only way forward.
It was hard back then to find an OB who would echo Dr. Wagner's sentiment. Revolution was just too radical a term in 2004. Wasn't there a more polite way to call for social change? Well, today Dr. Wagner has a few obstetric friends in Camp Revolution. Dr. Klein is one of them.
1. A forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.
Dr. Klein's recent blog post got me thinking again about the wisdom of this idea. How can we improve childbirth choices for pregnant mothers and start teaching pregnant moms and new OBs to trust childbirth, not fear it? How can we overthrow a maternity care order for a new system?
I think there are a few mini-childbirth revolutions happening in some communities - mothers are standing up for their childbirth rights (thank you Joy Szabo). And even attempts on a global stage (the Women Deliver conference, but having attended it last June I was let down by the 'show' of it).
Ultimately the community organizer in me knows that sustainable change has to come from a revolution by the grassroots - from the pregnant mothers themselves - a trickle up process - who must stand up and say they are fed up with childbirth models that for the most part don't work for pregnant moms.
If we want social change revolution is the answer.
My revolution looks like this: let's teach freedom instead of fear to pregnant moms and their partners today, and to the pregnant women and men of tomorrow, and to a new generation of OBs. Let's examine social change movements around the world, find the ones that work, and use these models to build a women-centered childbirth model that works.
Friday, June 17, 2011
A recent LA Times piece that reports "a shockingly high number could not answer basic questions regarding the pros, cons or safety issues associated with epidurals, episiotomies, Cesareans and other childbirth options" has got me thinking alot about why I wrote the play BIRTH.
Back in 2004-2005 when I was interviewing pregnant mothers about their birth experience I continually got the line "I didn't know."
I DIDN'T KNOW that there could be complications from a c-section.
I DIDN'T KNOW that if I had an epidural my baby may get a fever and me too.
I DIDN'T KNOW that once I had the baby they were going to take him from me immediately.
and one of my all-time favorites:
I DIDN'T KNOW midwives delivered babies other than out in a cornfield in Iowa.
I needed a deep breath. And that deep breath turned into my play BIRTH.
While I found it shocking 10 years ago that pregnant mothers did not know so much basic information about childbirth, today it's not only shocking it's inexcusable. Ten years ago women only had a few okay childbirth books and if they were lucky they got to see one of a few low-budget films on childbirth that talked about birth options. Today pregnant women can literally swim in an ocean of empowering childbirth information - both on the web and in the theatre. There is no excuse for not knowing your childbirth options today.
In addition to my play BIRTH which is performed in locations around the world as part of the BOLD movement, there are now widely distributed films like Ricki Lake's super-fantastic The Business of Being Born (and her online community My Best Birth), Debra Pascali-Bonaro's passionate boundary-breaker Orgasmic Birth.
The information is out there for pregnant moms. And these creative efforts have had impact. So the question I ask myself is what next? What is the next step so that even more pregnant women "know"? (so that every pregnant mother knows!)
For me, I have recently gone beyond my play BIRTH to train birth workers in my FEAR to FREEDOM Birth Facilitators Program which uses my play BIRTH and other tools to empower pregnant mothers. And I'm thrilled to hear Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's next step is doing more too. I believe their soon-to-be-released More Business of Being Born films and my FEAR to FREEDOM Birth education will revolutionize childbirth education to become a hip, upbeat experience where childbirth empowerment is not a dirty word but celebrated as a woman's right.
So when I read the LA Times piece today it made me even more determined to wake pregnant mothers up. (and the young doctors, who the article said, prefer to c-section mothers than encourage vaginal births).
Your birth choice is your birth choice, but to walk into your birth uninformed is not a choice. It's a cop-out. I know pregnant women are better than that. Let's learn how to shed the fear about childbirth that we've been taught by our culture and educate ourselves about an act that affects not only our baby's body, but our body.
As Amanda says in my play, "My Body Rocks!"
Do you want to rock? Know your birth options.
By the way, you can support More Business of Being Born to distribute it to the most people possible here.
The next FEAR to FREEDOM Birth Facilitators Training starts September 27! Our pre-launch class this summer has 31 women from 4 continents!
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Every day another exciting BOLD idea comes into my inbox. BOLD St. Louis is now about to perform BIRTH for the 3rd year. I loved this poster I saw today. And I just loved hearing about their BOLD plans to take BIRTH on the road to college classes, OB residents, women's groups, and more. (and all attendees of these shows will not be charged!).
BOLD St. Louis start their performances this year on August 28.
St. Louis' initiative shows even more BOLDness in action!
"Waa-hoo!" to that.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Welcome ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) of Juneau in Alaska to BOLD! ICAN of Juneau just registered to perform the new BIRTH script this September to raise awareness about VBACs. Waa-hoo to that!
While their birth community has many positive birth options, they told BOLD that:
"one failure that we are fighting right now is the VBAC Ban at our local hospital. Our ICAN Chapter is taking measures to see this change."
And that's why they are performing the play BIRTH.
This is BOLD-ness in action!
ICAN Juneau's application to do a performance of BIRTH is part of a larger BOLD/ICAN initiative this September to use the new BIRTH script as a vehicle to raise awareness about VBAC issues. Throughout the month of September ICAN and BOLD are asking all their locations to premiere BIRTH with the new VBAC story to celebrate BOLD’s 5th anniversary and promote awareness on this important issue.
Yes! A social-change-birthday-bash to make maternity care more mother-friendly!
Each ICAN location that performs BOLD will have the opportunity to raise awareness about VBACs as well as raise money for their local chapter to do the important support ICAN provides to mothers who have had cesareans and may be looking for options to do it differently for their next birth.
All the BOLDness will kick off this September on Labor Day Weekend! Keep your eyes open for locations to see the play near you (and, by the way, the ICAN locations will be in addition to our already BOLD locations in September in London, Leeds, Peterborough, Fort Worth, Texas, New York City, Bremerton, Washington, Austin, Texas, and Montreal).
Step into your BOLD-est self this September. Organize a performance of BIRTH or attend a performance.
See you there!
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Today I published the new BIRTH script. Whew! This BOLD mama is tired!
I can't wait for BOLD locations to start performing the new BIRTH script this September! As part of BOLD's 5th anniversary I've written Sandy's second birth story into the play - a VBAC!
The new story is gonna knock-your-BOLD-sock-off!!!! Especially the "Tiger in the Room" scene. (wink, wink to all you Birthing From Within instructors!)
Go see BIRTH this September to check it out! Or consider organizing a performance in your community to raise awareness and money to make maternity care mother-friendly.
The new script is as BOLD as ever!