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Posts Tagged ‘options’

I was thinking about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his most famous speech- how one man articulated the dream of so many. It wasn’t his dream alone and he didn’t want it only for himself. The dream was so big & amazing and became possible only because so many were willing to speak out, be present and stand strong together for a common goal- real freedom & equality for all people regardless of their color.

My dream doesn’t make headlines. No one is marching – yet.

I have a dream that women (and men) might see more clearly that how women are treated during labor matters. That honoring the wisdom of the body, allowing labor to wind its way to birth, holding a sacred space for birth, and keeping intervention to a minimum matters- for both mother and baby (and for generations to come.)

I have a dream that women won’t have to struggle for informed consent and refusal and that the courts stop ordering medical management of pregnancy, labor and birth against any woman’s decisions. I dream that women have the resources they need to be educated about their body and the community support they need to remember their innate strength, and to find confidence from the experience of birth.

I dream that the hostility and judgment of women by women ends; that women unify to leverage their majority to create real solutions that support women and validate and honor individual choice.

I dream that women might not have to choose between caring for their children at home and earning a living apart from their families- that working together solutions can be found that allow babies to accompany their mothers if they choose to engage in professional work.

I dream women will no longer need to act like men to belong in the world. I dream that being feminine and female is honored- that the role of mother and nurture-giver is respected as valuable work; that women and men will each be respected for their differences- in perspective, in approach to problem-solving, in simply be-ing.

I dream that all women have the opportunity to understand and embrace conscious conception, bonding before birth, gentle pregnancy, and trusting birth; that women have empowered choices for labor; that they are recognized as the experts of their bodies.

I dream that my daughters grow up valuing their femaleness; and that being female is synonymous with wisdom and respect – and the right to bodily integrity.

What are you dreaming?

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In a way I want to begin this post by apologizing for my messy house. But the truth is, I’m not all that sorry. I don’t enjoy cleaning and scouring and don’t get the thrill of accomplishment, satisfaction of a job well done, etc., from cleaning- generally speaking.

So when I got up before 5 a.m. on Black Friday to get to a sale to buy a mop, my husband was baffled. (But other than his initial query, he knew it was better to not mention the fact that I don’t clean the floor very often.) I got to the store around 5:30. They had opened at 4:00- needless the say, the one in the flyer was sold out. But…

I found the last box for a different version of the same mop, also on sale. Woohoo! Success! (Not quite as cheap, but the cleaning pad was bigger and this makes more sense since 90% of my house is tile floor.)

I finally got the mop out of the box and put it together Sunday morning. I even read the directions (mostly about how not to electrocute yourself using water with an electrical appliance) and then ran the sweeper over the kitchen floor. I powered up the steam mop and then ran to get the camera to document the power of steam…

(this is before)

(this is after)

An hour later my husband found me kneeling on a towel, scrub brush in hand, bucket and rags nearby, scouring the kitchen floor, battling against the dirt (and winning!) So what happened?

The steamer worked pretty good. There were a couple spots that needed a little extra attention (the directions said that would be true) and I had applied a vinegar/water mix to clean them up and suddenly I was inspired by the mostly clean floor to really go all the way- to really get the floor super-super clean so I can keep it clean with my new mop. I’ve never been inspired to clean like this, so I was nearly as surprised as my sweet husband (who kept suggesting I take a break and watch football with him).

As I scrubbed with satisfaction, uncovering a much cleaner floor than I ever thought possible, it occurred to me how important inspiration and the idea of “ease of use” are in life- and in birth.

See, I think a lot of women are looking for “ease of use” in pregnancy and labor. So hypno-birthing, epidurals and other methods to make things simpler are attractive. For my first birth, I made sure to follow the hospital’s protocol for the epidural prior to my labor, so I would have a choice of how to manage the pain of my labor. I didn’t know what to expect, what it would feel like, and I wanted options. It seemed like a nice, easy alternative if things (like pain) got out of hand.

It gave me a kind-of safety net in my mind. I didn’t really want to go that route, but because I had that back-up plan, I felt I could manage better and longer. In some ways just having the choice available gave me inspiration to continue with a drug-free labor. Like knowing the steam mop would clean most of the dirt, an epidural might lessen most of the pain, but because it was there, I didn’t really need it. I knew I could do it, and the satisfaction at the end was a high unlike any other I’ve experienced. (It wasn’t the satisfaction of not having an epidural- it was the choice to believe in myself and follow what I really wanted.)

I was inspired to stay on track because I recognized I had options. What’s really great about recognizing options is then seeing how options for birth are everywhere. Even at home. So when my second daughter was born at home, the full cognition of my options made everything possible, all over again, even without an epidural standing in the wings.

I had chosen for myself. I had options available. I was free to make informed decisions for my care. I was inspired to believe in myself, to follow my gut, to trust birth. And this is what I wish for all birthing women- options limited only by your heart’s desire accompanied by trust in the process of birthing your babies. (And a clean floor might be nice too!)

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I love books about babies and pregnancy and childbirth. I love reading what others have to say. I love it when my mind opens to new information and I stand back and think to myself- Well, that’s a new way to look at it.

I spent so much of my first pregnancy devouring as much as I could and still feeling like I was missing out on something important. I felt talked down to at times. I felt pressured to “do the right thing” which amounted to whatever that author thought was best for me- for everyone, I guess.

I was already a stressed out, type-A personality, perfectionist, trying to do everything right. So why didn’t it feel right to be told what to do? I didn’t even like it much when it was my doctor. And it wasn’t the authority thing- I was a rule follower. Totally inside the box, I thought…

I recently came across a new book on homebirth. I had a hospital birth and a homebirth, so I like books that talk about differences, that give different sides to the whole birth story. I definitely preferred homebirth- but it turns out I’m a bit more “outside the box” than I thought 5 years ago.

When I went to Amazon to read some more and check the reviews, I was surprised by the number of negative comments about this particular book. The readers talked about the level of judgment in the author’s tone: that instead of being a positive “why homebirth is great” it was a judgmental “why hospitals stink” kind of book. I was disappointed and moved on to something else.

Then a bit later in the day, I saw a comment on Facebook where a woman said “there’s no such thing as a natural hospital birth.” Her opinion was that hospitals don’t do anything naturally, so there’s nothing natural about hospital birth- period. And it sounded like she might think there is a “right way” to birth, too.

Does it do any good to bash women over the head with opinions and judgment, when they make different choices?

I consider myself a homebirth advocate. I think it’s great. But it might not be for everyone. For example, if you want an epidural, you generally can’t get one of those at your house. To me, birthing naturally means going with the flow of your heart and soul and body. And if you feel safest in a hospital, you probably won’t find homebirth peaceful, because you’ll be all worried about the “what if’s.”

And if being in a hospital doesn’t bring you comfort, it’s time to consider alternatives like homebirth or an independent birth center. And just like the judgment of “hospitals are not natural” it doesn’t do any good to hear judgments like “you’re putting your baby’s life at stake” by choosing homebirth if that is what fits you best.

Truly, the most recent data shows homebirth to be as safe as hospital birth for low-risk mothers and babies under midwifery care. So I’m going to say that the other way too- hospital birth is as safe as homebirth for low-risk mothers and babies, especially under midwifery care.

And although the same study shows hospitals are likely to perform various interventions more frequently, I don’t think that was really ever questioned. It’s one of the criteria women use to make the choice of where to birth. Some women may actually want an intervention (like epidurals).

Here is my point: women who advocate choice in birth ought to applaud all women who consciously choose their birth place. Yes, it is often a default- not choosing, but for some women, hospital is their actual choice.

This whole argument about the “right way” got me thinking about how women are consistently told what to think when they’re pregnant. Like somehow people think that our brains are no longer capable of choosing for ourselves; we somehow lack the capacity for sound decision-making because of what? Hormones?

And educating women about fully informed consent, informed refusal, and consciously choosing options for birth can only happen when women can hear it. Judgment closes minds, creates defensive posture internally and shuts us down.

But helping a woman open to her own voice, validating the truth inside her- no matter what that looks like, respecting her as a wise and powerful woman, empowers her to be everything she is here to be; to choose the best way for her as an individual.

Most simply, I think of it like this: Although my experience giving birth at a hospital was a very negative experience, it gave me so much strength later on. I learned so much about myself because of that one choice. Who am I to assume that the opportunity for your personal growth in pregnancy and childbirth lies only in one specific direction?

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