Thursday, March 5, 2015

Doula Work Isn't About The Money...Except Doula Work IS About The Money


Nancy, administrator for Birth Boot Camp DOULA, applying counter pressure.

I have been a "birth worker" for a few years now. I started teaching childbirth education about seven years ago and it is an important part of my life. I am currently doing the coursework for Birth Boot Camp DOULA training, and I am learning so much. I am currently reading "Birth Ambassadors," as part of my doula training and I came across a most interesting paragraph.
"As much as doulas strive to be the 'latest addition to the maternity care team,' their limited presence at US births has not yet generated a strong enough moral agenda to stand alongside that of obstetricians, maternity nurses, and hospitals... Doulas struggle to sustain their practices, as individuals and in their multiple organizations, and have, as yet, been less effective in advocating for humanistic care during childbirth within a medical and institutional framework that does not put women's emotional needs, or perhaps even their emotional health, at the center."
What does this paragraph have to do with getting paid to be a doula? Well, let me explain my take on it.

Charging for birth work. Oh, this seems to be a hot button topic, doesn't it? At Birth Boot Camp DOULA, the co-creators, Amanda and Maria use the word "sustainability" a lot. Like all the time. It is very much a buzzword around these parts.

Amanda and Maria, co-creators, Birth Boot Camp DOULA
I am all for making a living doing birth work. For real. But I don't think I started to really understand what they were going on about until I read this paragraph in "Birth Ambassadors." I am sure I will learn a ton more from Amanda and Maria when I actually go to doula training in April, Eeeek!!

Why does having a sustainable practice as a birth worker or doula actually matter? First, I think it is important to decide what sustainable means. To me it means a profession that actually functions well within my life. That would mean that it works well for my family and myself. For me, something that is worth my time means that I am able to afford childcare, my husband doesn't hate it, and I can function and feel like it is worth what I am giving up to do it. (Because let's be real, you are always giving up something. Choosing one thing means not choosing another.)

Why does it have to be "sustainable"? Because if my work as a doula or childbirth educator is ruining my life then I am not going to last very long. I will quit because I just can't do it any more, because I am losing money, because I could make more doing something else, because my family is suffering, etc.

This really matters in birth work because birth matters. If, for example, a doula has a practice that is sustainable then she will be able to practice as a doula for an indefinite length of time, as long as her health permits it. A doula that practices for 20 years is going to  make a much larger impact on birth than one who burns out in two. She will help more couples and babies, she will make a bigger difference in her community, and hopefully, she will build respectful and trusted relationships with doctors, nurses, hospitals and midwives in her area. She will not just help more people, she will have a positive impact on the entire birth community as a whole.

And let's say we have hundreds, even thousands of these professional, sustainable, respected doulas in the country. Expand that influence out. We will see an exponential improvement in not just individual births but even in the attitudes and practices of birth professionals like doctors and nurses who work in hospitals. They will see the value of a woman who supports a woman, who listens to her, who recognizes the emotional impact of birth, who helps make breastfeeding more successful, and so on.

So, is doula work about the money? Well, yes and no. You may not make a million dollars as a doula, but for most of us, you will need to make SOME money working as a doula (or birth worker) or you will QUIT. I really care about birth. I mean, I deeply care about it on an emotional level. But if this work is ruining my life or my family and I am spending 20 hours with someone at their labor and losing money on it, then I am going to have to step aside and do something else.

Doula work is about the money. Not so much the money in itself, but the ability money has to make a profession sustainable. No matter how much someone loves and cares about something, if it doesn't pay the bills, it probably won't last for long.

In birth work this is even more important, not less. (And yes, there are too many birth workers who shame those doulas who are able to be profitable and successful in their business. Shame on the shamers, I say.) Why does it matter more for birth? Because change will come not when we hold a picket line, but when there are so many of us doing so much incredible and good work, that there is no other option but for people to take notice and improve birth.

I believe that sustainable doula practices (and other birth workers like educators) have the power to create positive change in the birth world, lower the cesarean section rate, improve birth outcomes and save lives.

But that won't happen if those doing the work can't pay their bills.

"Birth Ambassadors- Doulas and the re-Emergence of Woman-Supported Birth in America" is written by Christine H Morton, Ph.D. and Elayne G. Clift, MA
Join me at training and change the world!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Forced Vaccinations- This Isn't About Measles


I read that the two senators in my home state of California will be pushing a bill forward removing vaccine exemptions for children. This will essentially force vaccinations for children to enter public school. Frankly, I am horrified. I try not to be riled up by stuff like this, but mandatory vaccinations?


Am I horrified because I think vaccinations suck and kill people and cause autism? Actually no. I don’t really think any of those things. I am horrified that the state/government/hysteria etc. would even consider that mandatory vaccinations is anything other than morally reprehensible and a clear flip of the bird in the faces of individual medical rights.


I believe (and I like to think that you do too) that parents should have a right to raise their children in the way they best see fit. This includes and covers things like freedom of religion, medical choices, and teachings within the home.


If you think this vaccination legislation has anything to do with Disneyland or measles, you are quite mistaken and you have most certainly become drunk on the measles hysteria Kool Aid.


There is an old saying about how if we do nothing when those in power try to take the rights of our neighbors, then there will be no one left to protect us when it comes time for our own rights to be taken.


To turn this around for a moment, lets talk about forced vaccinations in a different way.


Let’s say for instance that eating fast food, puffy cheese flavored snacks, jelly beans and basic “crap” food is bad for you. Let’s say that we can prove this with science. People that eat junk food get more diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Let’s say that that they take more than they give in regards to medical insurance.


Let’s assume for a moment that our tastes and the foods that we prefer are learned in childhood and that we could prevent the eating of crap food and the associated diseases that come with it, in adulthood, by changing the way we feed children.


Changing the way children eat would be a huge benefit- not just to them individually, but to the society at large today and 50 years from now. Children that learn to eat well (what the heck, why not organic!?) will be adults who eat well and require less medical care as they enter their 40s, 50s, 60s and social security years.


The evidence is clear, the epidemics are widespread and EXPENSIVE as all get out. It is time to do something about it.


We need to start forcing children to eat well. If their parents don’t comply and continue to feed them Happy Meals and Cheetos, they will be prosecuted. There will be no exemptions. After all, the unhealthy among us hurt everybody so to allow any individual to be exempt from healthy food (especially as a child) would be damaging to them and future generations.


If parents don’t comply then action must be taken. The children can be prevented from entering public school. Public schools have standards that keep everyone safe. After all, if a child comes to school with a soda in his lunch he MIGHT share it with his desk partner and then THAT child could get diabetes someday or develop a taste for corn syrup (I hear it is even addictive). This could most certainly end in disaster.


Sure, people have individual rights, but not when they can damage and harm the group as a whole. We want ALL the children to be safe. Those that don’t comply can keep their kids out of public schools or face charges. Keep the number for CPS on hand. Station patrols at popular fast food outlets. Test blood sugars regularly.


Expect medical doctors to enforce this rule. Institute detailed checklists that must be covered in visits so that they can make sure that they have maximum patient compliance. In fact, make medical doctors liable if parents are dumb enough to feed their kids jelly beans. I mean, if they allow those lunatics (who don’t care about their children or the rest of us) to be part of their practice, then they are part of the problem and thereby encouraging awful and harmful behavior.


First do no harm.


Sure, there will be celebrities who bestow the merits of the friendly, ticklish fizz of corn syrup laden drinks. Some few, ignorant, and easily swayed, WILL fall for their witty banter. You can’t expect everybody to give a crap about their kids.


Seems like a great idea, right? Healthier kids, healthier adults, lower social costs, muscular senior citizens. Sure, the compression sock industry and dialysis companies will take a hit, but somebody has to sacrifice.


Now I hope that no matter how much you love organic food and detest corn syrup that you see the error of this way of thinking. Just because something isn’t good does not mean that the government should force people to comply, even with their children. Of course we need some checks in society. People do some awful things and hurt their children intentionally. They abuse them and kill them. Some people harm their children just because they are misguided. We must have protections for these children.


But choosing not to vaccinate a child (or choosing to let a kid have a soda) is not a choice that the government or public opinion has any right to punish. No, not even if there is a sketchy weekend at the happiest place on earth. Not even then.


This is America. This is the land of the free. People don’t have a right to be happy, but they do have a right to make their own choices, especially about what they put in their bodies regarding their medical care, and especially about what they put in the bodies of their children.


I am not going to tell you what I think about vaccines or the status of my children. You can guess all you want. But I don’t think it matters, quite frankly. I respect the right of parents to vaccinate or not vaccinate their children. I respect the right of a mother to breastfeed or bottle feed her child. I certainly don’t agree with all of those choices. I most definitely will do all I can in my power to work to educated people so that they make the choices that (I think) are best for their children.


There is nothing wrong with telling people what you think. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. I am an old fashioned girl so I even think there is nothing wrong with thinking I am right and other people are wrong or even stupid or mean.


But there is something very wrong with taking away the right of a person to make their own stupid choices.


So if you think vaccinating is stupid, go ahead. If you think not vaccinating is stupid, then go ahead and think it. Call people names. Make a big deal about it. Educate in a way that you think is most effective. Fight the power! Show them who is boss!


But don’t you dare take away their right to make a choice for themselves and their medical care- no matter what the herd is doing.


Heaven forbid we live in a country where the government (by push from the people) dictates to me what I can and cannot put into the body of my own child.


This is not a one stop bus. Oh no. When you start this trip then it keeps going and there are no brakes. What comes next? Should homeschooling be illegal? I have met some really awkward homeschooled kids. We don’t want that! Home birth? That ain’t safe! All doctors know that home birth is for people with rocks in their head! For the sake of babies that should be illegal.


And the ride keeps going, until someday, the rights taken are not from you neighbor with her silly views and her Jenny McCarthy obsession. No, someday they will come for you.


Yes, I sound a little fatalistic. Well, Cowboy, I am feeling a little fatalistic. I can’t believe the idea of this could even be entertained. The right of a parent or anyone to make medical choices for themselves must be protected. What is next? Maybe we should force people with cancer to undergo treatment XYZ, because everything else is just not proven to work?


Don’t let this happen, even if you think that vaccinations are one of the greatest inventions ever. They very well may be one of the best things to happen to the world. They have saved countless lives around the world and will continue to do so. But if we want to get more people to vaccinate, you don’t require it by law. You teach. You educatate. You actually LISTEN to the concerns of vaccine hesitant parents. You don’t force them. You don’t make it near impossible for them to find a physician who will actually see them. You don’t make it difficult to put their kids in school. All of these things further marginalized people that are starting to get a little scared.


Forced vaccinations are not the way to increase vaccination rates. Listening to parents and their concerns is the way to create change- and if it doesn’t have the impact you want, then let them be. Education and empathy will do a lot more than force in this fight.


Be kind. Remember that there are never rights that belong to “other people”. There are only human rights, and when one group loses them, we all do.


The two senators sponsoring this legislation in California are:
Benjamin Allen (contact page)

or you can call or write :

Capitol Office

State Capitol, Room 2054, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4026
District Office
2512 Artesia Blvd., Suite 320, Redondo Beach, CA 90278; (310) 318-6994
and Richard Pan (contact page) or you can call or write:

Capitol Office

State Capitol, Room 4070, Sacramento, CA 95814-4900; (916) 651-4006

District Office

1020 N Street, Room 576, Sacramento, CA 95814; (916) 651-1529
All other California State Senators can be found on this page:

Photo credit: pennstatenews / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Can't Make You Feel Ashamed of Your Birth (Unless You Really Are Ashamed of It)


Oh, ladies.
"Shame on you!" is something my sweet mother used to say to me every now and again. Usually when I really fouled up. It usually involved a shaking finger in the vicinity of my face and a raised voice. Those were the good old days...

Ironically, now that I am a mid-thirties lady, it is actually pretty hard for somebody to make me feel ashamed of myself unless I am actually...ashamed of myself. (This is the big blessing of your 30's that nobody mentions. Man, I freaking love being 35.)

Shaming is a hot topic in the birth world though, isn't it? If you are dumb enough to have an opinion and share it then you are undoubtedly going to be accused of shaming somebody who did otherwise. If you state that formula is a poor substitute for breast-milk or mention that the cesarean section is a perverse form of birth control (OK, I admit the language was a bit harsh, but you have to understand how the internet works before you judge me on that one), or (gasp) talk about how much you loved your natural birth, then stand back. Because what happens next is you will be accused of shaming people.

Never-mind that the people who you have forced into feeling guilty because you had an opinion are full fledged adults who you have never actually met---never mind that! You got in their head, you twisted their emotions, you are now in charge of their brain. This is called brain control. Sadly, the only person who has it, is you.

Sure, it would be really nice and convenient if every time we felt bad it was actually somebody else's fault. Then nothing would be our fault. And if we did screw up, the bad feelings that went along with it would not be our responsibility.

But I don't buy and and I don't think you should either. (Yeah, I just shamed you. Did you notice my finger wagging in your face?)

Here is the thing- life gets real miserable, real fast, with this mentality. I have seen it happen. Trust me.

I have watched women go from happy with their epidural birth to ashamed of it when they met somebody who had a different birth. Then they love their awesome home birth. Until somebody told them how unsafe home birth can be and how they know somebody whose baby died in a home birth. Oh no, now mom feels bad again!

Seriously?

True story- I had an episiotomy with my first birth. It, of course, was not what I wanted or planned. But it happened. It might have been prevented, but all in all, I think it was probably necessary given the situation and wasn't the end of the world. I still had a great birth. I still can teach about episiotomy being unnecessary "most" of the time. It doesn't make me cry to talk about it. It doesn't make me ashamed that I had one. It doesn't make me jealous when other women didn't have or didn't need one. It is what it is and even though it was part of my birth, I have no problem telling women that they probably don't need them and they are often (almost ALWAYS) unnecessary.

I had two home births, one (accidentally) unassisted. I have read some really angry blogs from some really smart people who think home birth and/or unassisted birth is horribly dangerous. It CAN be dangerous. But the opinions of those people don't make me feel any different about my birth. I loved my home births. They were incredible.

You know why?

Because it is MY BIRTH and I can feel any way I want about it. As an added bonus, I am strong enough to handle it.

And ladies, so are you.

So stop accusing people of fit or fat or formula or birth or cesarean or natural birth SHAMING. Own it. We are women and we should start acting like we are. And women are tough. I pushed roughly 35 pounds (total) of baby through my vagina in my lifetime. I have caught vomit in my bare hands, fished toys out of public toilets, lived in Texas and even puked in a bag on a full flight. I can handle your opinions about my birth.

Chances are, I don't even know you. And if I did, you would think I was hilarious.

http://www.quotesvalley.com/no-one-can-make-you-feel-inferior-without-your-consent-3/

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America- A Book Review


Ever wondered why the c-section rate is so high and just seems to keep growing? Ever wonder what, if anything, we can actually DO about it as citizens, women, mothers, and voters?

Sometimes I literally feel like I live and breathe birth. I write about it. I read about it. I teach about birth. I train teachers to teach birth. My paid work even revolves around childbirth. With all of that and all that I see others doing, we do see good things happening on an individual basis. But we continue to see a ridiculously high c-section rate and so many women convinced they needed a surgery when the data clearly shows we are doing too many c-sections.

Enter Theresa Morris and her recently published book, Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America. Morris is a sociologist whose academic background, and her own cesarean and subsequent VBAC, seem to have inspired this fabulously important book.

While separating the reality from the assumed, Morris delves into the institutional constraints that drive cesarean. From insurance companies to peer review to an oppressive fear of litigation that physicians face, her approach is systematic, unemotional, and exactly what is needed to more fully understand the crisis in obstetrics.

As I listen to women's fears as they prepare for birth, many want to avoid a cesarean. They are afraid of doctors in general. They have heard of these men who schedule cesareans around their golf games and ski vacations. While surely such men exist, the cesarean section rate hovering over 30% signifies a problem much bigger than golf games.

When I talk to women after their cesarean, many are fine with their surgery. They were told by their trusted physician that the surgical delivery was necessary. They were there. They know the explanation. They feared for the safety of their child and so did their doctor.

Morris dispels the myth of a rate driven by jerk doctors as well as the myth that every cesarean is necessary. Instead, she describes a reality much more complex. Weighed down by excessive insurance premiums, constant fear of litigation, and a hospital culture that encourages (possibly without meaning to) cesarean, doctors are often only players in a brutal game much bigger than their own desires. While women often are told they needed a cesarean, their physicians motivations may be very different than we realize. Fear and liability, not golf games are driving factors in cesarean rates. Doctors and women are making the best choices they can within a system that desperately needs improvement.

I love what Dr Morris has done in deconstructing this problem, in an unbiased and academic manner. I love to see people from different disciplines approach childbirth in America and look at it with their own lens. When we read the works of people like anthropologist, Robbie Davis-Floyd, journalists Dr Jennifer Margulis and Jennifer Block, and a sociologist like Theresa Morris, we gain a bigger picture and greater understanding of what is really happening with birth.

Perhaps most important of all is that Theresa Morris provides lists of things we can actually DO to lower the cesarean section rate. Did I cheer when the first thing she mentioned was recommend that women take an independent childbirth class? Maybe, just a little...

Morris' solutions were more than just for women but for their providers, for insurance companies and policy makers. Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America, is an important book and one I would strongly encourage anyone who seeks change in childbirth to carefully read.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Have a Flabby Tummy, But I Still Love Maria Kang


Have you heard of Maria Kang? The "No Excuse" mom. Three kids, hard body, bikini pictures, calling us all out on the carpet for our excuses. "What is your excuse," she asks?

Wow, she really (and I mean REALLY) ticks people off. (I have been trying to use big letters less, channeling my inner and more subtle, Elmore Leonard, but in this case, they are appropriately used.)

I write for Mothering Magazine online and I read a post on there the other day about Maria Kang written by someone who obviously didn't adore her. Well, I think she used the "F" word and talked about hitting her. So the author seemed pretty upset...

Maria has upset a lot of people with her "No Excuse Mom" movement. She challenges us to take care of ourselves, exercise, eat right- basically to show ourselves that we love ourselves by caring for our body rather than what many of us do- hurting it. She boldly declares that having children isn't an excuse for not taking care of your body as best you can.

Oh, and she posts a fair amount of bikini clad pictures of herself on her social media sites showing that, yes, you can look great after children even without a trainer a chef or tons of free time.

But I still love her. I don't look like her, I don't really follow her advice. I have a muffin top and like cake and get second helpings on dessert way too often. Still she manages not to offend me. "What is your excuse," kind of...inspires me. What is my excuse? Why would I eat poorly and not exercise and then blame it on my children? Is that fair to me? Is it fair to them?

I follow her page on Facebook and she makes me want to drink more water and try harder and find the time to have fun and practice self care that includes things that make me happier and my life healthier. I love it.

I know those excuses. I have them. I don't have a trainer and it is hard to exercise and usually involves me missing at least an hour of sleep and/or work opportunities. I gave birth four times and gained a grand total of 185 pounds in those pregnancies. I lost most of it. But not all.  If you think having that many kids in six years isn't a freaking awesome excuse for being chubby or tired or a full blown alcoholic, then you are an idiot. I have excuses and I also have legitimate reasons for not being perfect physically or in any other way.

Still, it clears my head and makes me feel better to exercise. It allows me to keep up with my kids and bike with them or run with them. It lets me set an example of not just fitness, but of taking time to appropriately care for myself. It helps me yell less and smile more. Exercise helps me feel better about me.

Maybe that makes me shallow, but I think it just makes me honest. We all feel better about ourselves when we are being the best version of ourselves that we can be. We all feel better about ourselves when we set goals and work towards them, no matter what those goals may be. The best version of myself doesn't look like Maria Kang. First, I am not Asian. Second, I have never owned a bikini. But my best version does include me exercising and eating well.

You know what, even though "my" best version and "my" no excuse life involves a muffin top and stretch marks and my hair in a pony tail, I don't feel intimidated by Maria Kang and HER best. Even when I am at MY best even my version looks nothing like hers.

Having no excuses isn't about looking like a fitness model or being tan and swimsuit ready all year round. It is about taking a hard look at yourself and being honest about what excuses you make that hold you back from being the best you can be. I hear people say they are too stupid or too busy or too old or too whatever to do things that they are perfectly capable of doing. Usually what talks them out of being their best self is fear, but the excuses help make it feel OK.

Then, they get a little mad at Maria or someone like her for shoving in their face that it is possible. This happens with fit women, but it happens with many others. I see women seriously offended when they hear that somebody has...wait for it...a natural birth. Oh, but if you really want to tick people off then have a VBAC. Or a VBAMC! "What? That isn't safe so I didn't do it." It happens with women who achieve in business. "She is really aggressive..." It happens all the time. Maria is just bold enough to throw down the virtual glove and call us on it.

There will be no Hawaiian selfies of me seductively walking out of the ocean in slow motion on this blog or my instagram. But Maria Kang, I will take your challenge and try to live with less excuses.

Bring it.

(By the way, her movement has started free moms groups all over the country. I LOVE that.)

"Lean In"- Feminist Babble or Words of Wisdom?- A Book Review

The company I work for, Birth Boot Camp, recently launched  a doula program. I am not certifying to become a doula with Birth Boot Camp (yet), but I figured it would be good to check out the doula reading list. Amanda Devereux and Maria Pokluda put it together and had some interesting choices. They didn't just include the typical birth support books but added a book specifically about women in business. Titled, "Lean In," and written by Sheryl Sandberg, I had never heard of it, but was curious.

I finally have a "fancy" phone and so I ordered it on Audible. I spent the next week listening to "Lean In," on my walks or whenever I had a chance. I mention that because listening to a book is slightly different than reading it, especially when the voice over is not the author. It gives the author a voice that might not sound exactly how I would have pictured it otherwise.

I have to admit that I didn't care for the first chapter. In fact, I almost just stopped listening because it was really not the way I wanted to spend my free time. It just sounded like all the old complaints I have heard a thousand times about women not getting ahead and about equality and history and sad family stories about how hard life is on women.

There was also a lot of stuff about "bossy" girls and how we shouldn't call girls bossy. As a mom of four kids, one boy and three girls, I can unequivocally say that both boys and girls can be bossy and it is equally annoying no matter the gender. It tend to just call a spade a spade. If somebody is bossy then they are bossy. And there is a difference between bossy and assertive. Assertive isn't annoying and rude, bossy is. Assertive stands up for what they know is right, shows leadership, and takes responsibility and works- all traits I try to promote in all four of my children. I probably call my son bossy far more than my girls (though not often, don't shoot me). Truthfully, I really dislike the "no more bossy" campaign. I also don't believe for a second that it is OK for anybody to be bossy whether they have a pecker or a set of breasts. Gag- just stop it. I didn't even KNOW this was a thing that was just said to girls before the campaign began.

Anyhow, but then I got into the book.

You know what- it was one of the best books I have read in a while. I normally fill my mind with birth books and murder mysteries- real deep stuff. I can't remember the last time I read something that could be dubbed "self-help," but I really enjoyed most of what was said in "Lean In".

I have realized in the last year that I am shockingly a "working mother." I don't know why but I felt somewhat ashamed when I was "just" a housewife and now I feel somewhat ashamed at the work I do for pay, even though it is almost entirely in my own home. (I work from home part time and travel five or six times a year for trainings and other events.) I manage to feel not good enough in all my endeavors despite the overpowering love I have for serving my family and the deep passion I have for the work I do trying to improve birth through education.

Talking about this honestly and openly was something that the author, Sheryl Sandberg, did in "Lean In" that was very eye opening for me. What is up with women, myself included, being so hard on ourselves because we have to make choices in our lives? Obviously if we want or need to work some sacrifices will need to be made in our home. The opposite is also true. Priorities must be made and hard choices will be involved. Why do we feel so bad about it and so guilty no matter what we do?

Her chapters about figuring out how to make this whole "balance" work were so helpful to me. Sheryl Sandberg talked about the realities of life- that things have to give sometimes but that isn't always a bad thing. It helped me schedule myself better with my own work. I have a tendency to never turn it off or set aside my computer or my phone. Because I do work from home it is easy to work all day long at the expense of my children and my husband. My desire to do well at my work sometimes trumps my long vision and what is best for our entire family.

Hearing Sandberg's words helped me organize things better and work more efficiently while making time for my family. It helped me see that if the powerhouse woman helping lead Facebook can focus just on her family over the weekend, then certainly, I can too. This was actually a revelation. My life is literally better now.

Sandberg's talk about "coming to the table" and how women often dismiss themselves from the conversation in an effort to be...demure?!...was eye opening. Her talk about working hard and fighting hard for the best job and the best pay is so incredibly important. This in particular is why I believe the genius women behind Birth Boot Camp DOULA chose this book for every single doula to read.

If you truly understand the WORTH of what you do and refuse to give it away, then you can be a powerhouse in your own business. Women need to start valuing their work no matter where they do it and no matter what they do. I have to admit, the fact that many women lack confidence and the self assurance to expect profit from their labors is a HUGE hindrance for all women. This is especially applicable in the birth world with many birth workers giving away their labors or sorely under valuing them in an effort to serve all women. They do this at the expense of their own families and the value of birth work in general. In fact, there is often spite directed at women who charge and apologizes issued from women who dare charge for their work.

Sandberg's discussion about how women who do achieve are often looked down upon or viewed as bossy or "bit#$y" is sadly so true. We see that a lot in birth work too. I think sometimes people are threatened by someone who seems able to accomplish what they haven't. This tends to explain the "mommy wars" too, doesn't it? Why do we care so much if somebody does something differently than us? Why do we feel like failures if another woman has tighter abs or a cleaner floor or a higher paying job? Why do we then lash out at them rather than just appreciate their time and talents?

There was lots more to the book. I loved and appreciated her focus on real things that we can each personally do to improve our standing and our value. Some of it was more applicable to women seeking to climb the ladder in corporate America than me. I will admit that I didn't agree with every sentiment in the book. Sandburg seems to feel that men are just as capable of staying at home and raising children as women are. And while I have to admit that it would be much more likely that we achieve true equality economically if more men stayed at home or more women worked, I don't view that as an ideal.

I am politically incorrect and incredibly old fashioned in my belief that women are divinely designed to be nurturing mothers and should be providing a lot of care for young children. But you can't really say things like that out loud any more.

Realistically though, she is right. We live in a capitalist society and worth is measured by money, usually money produced. While the work women do in the home is worthwhile, it doesn't directly produce income and so they are of no value in a society that measures value with dollar signs. I wish it was different, but it isn't.

Even if I didn't agree with every single thing stated in, "Lean In" and even if Sandberg and I might vote for different people every now and again, I really loved this book. (And I hope she won't be offended that I disagree with her a little. She seems like the type who can handle it.)

And don't worry guys, I think you are good at stuff too. Women are unique in our ability to grow and nurture children, but you are usually much better at arm wrestling. And that counts for something.

If you are curious about the book, this TED talk from Sheryl Sandberg covers a bit of it. The book is much more in-depth an worth the time, but this will give you the basic idea.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders?language=en#t-731698

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

You Always Have Options in Birth- Until You Think You Don't

I believe that women will be the driving force in changing birth and lowering the cesarean section rate. This will come from nowhere else. I also believe that women have options in their births- often options they never realized were there.

And while I can freely admit that there are many things making options in childbirth appear diminished or even non-existent (lack of funds, insurance limitations, doctors orders, proximity, health concerns, etc) that doesn't scare me near as much as another much more common problem.

Women, in general, do not believe that they have options regarding how they birth their child. Sadly, we are often our own worst enemy when it comes to choices in childbirth.

The (empowering) truth is this: there are options when it comes to birthing our baby. Some of them may be unpleasant, some scary, some seemingly out of our reach- but they are there. Those options, however, no matter what they are, become instantly invisible when we ourselves deny that they exist.

I don't know how many times I have heard women say things like this:

"I have to birth at this hospital."
"I can't afford a (insert) doula, midwife, home birth, childbirth class, etc."
"That birth center is too far away from me."
"My insurance doesn't cover it."
"I don't have time for XYZ."
"I am too late in my pregnancy to change care providers."

The list goes on. I get it. These are all legitimate concerns. They are also very limiting when we ourselves believe that they are the only thing possible.

I have also been around long enough to see women travel to different states to have a baby with a care provider who believed they could VBAC. I have seen women scrimp, save, trade, or beg in order to afford a care provider or support person or childbirth class that could help them get the birth they wanted. I have seen them make sacrifices in an effort to get the best possible birth for themselves and their baby.

Making the sacrifices, hiring the midwife, paying the doula, doing the childbirth class, reading the books and all these things don't actually guarantee the outcome you want. But they do guarantee one thing: no matter what happens YOU will know that YOU did all you could for this birth. You can look back and know you did your part.

There is comfort in that and there is power in that. There is great peace in knowing that we did the best we could.

We talk a lot about empowerment in birth circles. I have to admit, it isn't my favorite word. I think it is over and misused far too often. Empowerment however is a very real thing. But empowerment NEVER comes to those who refuse to own their own choices, refuse to make their own sacrifices, and refuse to believe that they actually get to play a role in the choices surrounding their births or their life in general.

You always have options, as long as that baby is in you.

The current obstetric climate can be hostile. We all know this. But it isn't all bad. There are wonderful OBs out there. There are amazing midwives who do great work. There are good hospitals and affordable birth centers and people willing to work with you to help you. You can blame the system, but know this- blaming the system (or complaining or being angry or hurt) DOES NOTHING TO CHANGE IT.

YOU have to try. I am tired, (sick and tired), of women throwing up their hands in submission before they have even begun to fight for their best birth. We are often the limiting factor when it comes to getting the birth we want.

Did you hear that?

Yes, at the risk of offending every woman on the planet I am going to say it again. YOU have choices, but YOU have to make them. They won't be easy but they are yours. Stop listening to your own excuses and start working towards getting what you want. Don't be the person who stops you.

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