Birth is Political

Like everything else. Birth is political.

I am on the train right now going through lovely Ontario, on my way to a conference. I will be presenting two workshops tomorrow. One is for birth attendants, exploring the ways we can assist women to have natural births in the hospital setting. One is for anyone who is interested in setting up and maintaining a volunteer doula program, on zero funding (Montreal Birth Companions has been going for close to ten years now, and we have assisted up to 100 women a year).

The conference has been the subject of some controversy because of one of the speakers. Emotions and opinions are strong and heated.  Everyone believes they know best. Best for the woman, best for her baby, her family, and the world at large.

I, too, believe that my opinions count. I believe women's bodies are made to give birth, that most women can retrieve their physical knowledge of how to birth, and that if well nourished women are given the right kind of care and a safe space in which to do it, they can usually give birth to healthy babies without much problem. I believe the physiologic need for surgical intervention should probably hover around 2 to 5 per cent, for women who have had good prenatal care. Our present rate of 25 to 30 per cent is a crying shame.

But I also know that my opinions are hotly argued against by others who consider themselves more educated, more scientific, and more knowledgeable.They may even consider my opinions to be dangerous. Or, indeed, inconsequential.

Most of my activities don't rock any boat. When I sit quietly in a hospital room and surround a laboring woman with love, and watch closely as the doctor, acting in good faith and confidence, persuades her to take an unnecessary epidural, or a needless induction, I am being a good citizen.

When I coordinate a volunteer doula for a refugee from Somalia who has been circumcised, and who wants to have a natural birth, I am just rocking the boat gently enough that the passengers will feel comfy and slightly sleepy.

When I suggest to a woman who has not been able to obtain a registered midwife, and who doesn't want to give birth in a hospital, no matter how friendly it may be, that she look around for an unregistered, "illegal" midwife, then I am starting to make some small waves, but still not even good enough for decent boogie-boarding.

Let's try to sail together into the future, taking the waves as they come, breathing together...

Oh! my metaphor is hitting shoals - of course - who is the captain? The right answer is: the captain of the Birth Boat is the woman who is laboring and giving birth. She is the one we are attending. We are the ones with the knowledge and we can use it wisely and quietly, without scaring her as she works at bringing her baby into the world.

The root of "radical" is "root". We are trying to discover the root of the problem, we would like to root it out, to make a fresh start in the world of birth, and in the world.

Come visit me at the Radical Doula site:

Rivka


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