Birth Activism That Works

Birth Activism

What Made YOU Care About Birth?

As mothers changed by birth, it is natural to want to reach other people and help them have a wonderful birth experience. But before we get too riled up, I think it is important to think back to what finally got our own attention and caused us to really care about birth in our world.

There are a million ways to reach out and affect change and different people approach this differently. For some media is their area of expertise. Think of Ricki Lake and her movie, “The Business of Being Born”. Ms. Lake was already an actress and media personality. She used her talents to reach millions of people with a movie chronicling the birthing journey of several women and included testimonials from a dozen birth professionals.

I think too of writers like Ina May Gaskin. Ina May isn’t the only woman who helped revitalize the resurgence of midwifery care in America, but she helped make it famous with her book, “Spiritual Midwifery” and with her gift of writing. Midwives like Peggy Vincent who wrote “Baby Catcher” and Carol Leonard who wrote “Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart” also helped spread the magic of midwifery care to thousands with their books and memoirs. The husband and wife team of Dr and Martha Sears changed the way that millions approached infant parenting and boding with their series of baby and parenting books.

Very often personal relationships and family stories are the things that give us the confidence to birth naturally and the knowledge that birth mattes to every woman. I remember hearing my mother talk about her births and I remember her plans for home birth. Even though things didn’t always go as she had planned, I knew in my heart that home birth was an option and for some an ideal. For the vast majority of my students in my birthing classes, they have come to embrace the idea of natural birth for this very reason. Somebody they loved told them that birth could be wonderful and they believed and wanted that for themselves.

Maybe you didn’t think twice about birth until you had your own baby. For many people their only thoughts about motherhood concern colors and furniture for a nursery. Then they have a baby and they suddenly realize that this event called birth is going to change them forever. If birth (even an unpleasant one) is what made you care about obstetrics, would anybody talking to you have changed your mind? Sometimes we have to experience something to know it matters. Sometimes nothing short of a negative experience will open our eyes.

For many of us education is he key to experiencing a wonderful birth. Simply learning about natural birth and how to do it from a trusted friend and childbirth educator was the key to my own ability to experience a fabulous natural birth despite a long and exhausting labor. Because education in particular was the key that unlocked the door to a new world for me, that is where I dedicate my time as a birth activist and creator of change. That is why I teach natural birth classes. That is why I train new teachers. That is why I write about birth.

I don’t know what triggered your passion for birth, but I would love to hear about it. Sharing your story helps others who seek to create change and improve birth for women, children and their partners. Sometimes I think we get caught up in the fray and get a little angry about the way things are going in obstetrics. It is fine to get angry sometimes. (In fact I often think if you aren’t a little angry about obstetrics you must not be paying attention.) But when we forget what started us on this path then we forget how to reach others. Don’t forget the talents you have for communicating with others. Even if your gift is a listening ear and a kind heart- that CAN and WILL create change.

People learn about birth when it comes to their door- when it impacts THEIR life and THEIR relationships and THEIR baby. Do you remember when it touched you?

Think back. Reflect. Is that how you are reaching out to others?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

About Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark is a mother of four, a natural birth educator, a teacher trainer for Birth Boot Camp and a writer. She blogs at the Mama Birth blog about mothering and birth and when she isn’t doing that, sometimes she mops the floor or folds laundry.  (It is really quite glamorous.)

2 thoughts on “Birth Activism That Works”

  1. As I read your post, I reflected on what started it for me. My husband went to college with a girl who’s mother is a midwife. She (the friend, not her mother) was actually a guest at our wedding, and she joked with us to tell her when we got pregnant and she would hook us up with her mom (little did she know!). Also, I am very fortunate that our pastor’s wife had read Childbirth Without Fear in the early 70’s when she had her son. She talked about the possibility of painless birth (she had one, if I remember right). And so of course, when we got pregnant just a few weeks after our wedding, we contacted the friend and met with her mom at the practice she shared with another midwife. She recommended Dr. Sears’ books and I soaked them in. I also found a couple of natural birth websites. I was going to have a homebirth, but circumstances didn’t allow that to happen. But since then, I’ve always been passionate about birth. I’m glad that I had those influences in my life (my family is not natural birth minded, so there have been a few raised eyebrows over the years). Over the past 6-7 years, I’ve tried to reach out to other expectant moms, and some are receptive, some are not. I’ve learned to be a little more “low-key” with my passion, and really try to just be an example and reach out to women as I sense that they have a desire to do something different than what modern birth practices have offered. One day, I would love to teach other women in a more formal setting as a childbirth educator. :)

  2. I was born via emergency c-section, and I’m an only child. So, that was my understanding of birth. It is scary and leaves scars. My mom’s c-section also left her unable to conceive again. When I became pregnant, I planned to get my prenatal care and deliver my baby at the hospital with the highest c-section rate in our area, because I had heard that it was the “safest” place to have a baby. I was, I think, 9 weeks pregnant when my dear friend said I should consider a home birth. She also told me to watch The Business of Being Born. I inwardly dismissed her idea, but did watch the documentary. It was a total game changer. I wept as I watched. As a survivor of both an eating disorder and sexual assault, I have had a turbulent relationship with my body. Being pregnant was a dramatic shift, but it occurred to me as I watched that documentary that my birth could deeply change my relationship with myself, AND it could mean the best possible start for our family. I was committed to birthing naturally in a hospital, but still planned to go the hospital route. Then, a conversation with the woman on the mat next to me before yoga – who became my daughter’s first pediatrician, and who was 8 months pregnant and planning a home birth – changed my mind completely. I chose my midwife easily – I just “knew” when it was the right person. My birth went exactly how I hoped it would – it healed me, and was such a beautiful way to start our family. So, my passion for birth happened very organically. No one could have “convinced” me to have a home birth, and no one did. I share my story very eagerly, and everyone who knows me knows birth is a passion of mine, but I never tell a woman what they should do, or try to make it seem like the way I chose to birth is the only right way. I figure that they can tell from the way I talk about my own experience that it’s worth considering. =)

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