Motherhood - the Ultimate Natural Science
I have been busy this week preparing for a session I am running at the Australian Breastfeeding Association Branch Conference this weekend. I am running this session as an ABA volunteer. The ABA has given me so much: training (as a counsellor and educator), mother-to-mother support, access to an enormous network of amazing women and on-going educational opportunities in particular.
The session I am preparing draws on my pre-mother experience. I am using training from my Masters in Science Communication to provide ‘presentation tips’ for the Breastfeeding Education Classes. Part of my attraction to training with ABA was that I felt that it met with my pre-baby world very nicely. In life BC, everything was Science. I have always (and I mean ALWAYS) been a ‘natural scientist’. All children are. Natural Science is about Wonder, about Knowing, about learning and building and changing and learning. Seeking to understand. So my formal education became seeped in Biology, Physics and Chemistry. I became frustrated at the general inability of communication. I would attend major conferences only to suffer the disrespect of a terrible speaker! Content great - delivery abysmal. The message was lost in the distraction of a terrible presentation. And so began my exploration of Science Communication. (my thesis: Science with Personality, can be read here).
This has all come together in Motherhood. Motherhood is the Ultimate Natural Science.
And communication is abysmal.
The message is lost in the ‘terrible delivery’. What a load sentence that is. Due to misinformation and lack of evidence, external management, conveyorbelt-pregnancy, distrust and lack of understanding of the natural processes, women are entering Motherhood blind and robbed. They are blind because the very people - the ‘experts’ - they trust to guide them do not see them. They see ultrasounds and heart beats, test results and ‘standards’, they do not see ‘rites of passage’, beauty, wonder and The Woman. At birth, they are attended by medical advancements, and interventions are occurring at an alarmingly unnecessary rate, robbing women of the very important natural process of birth. Natural labour and birth flood a woman with hormones that aid in her recovery, her transition, her relationship with her baby, her breastfeeding and her long term health and well being. There is so much more to birth than a healthy baby.
And so the Bellabirth mission began.
But this weekend, I put my ABA badge on, and my skills are transferred to my other great mission, with ABA. ABA is the natural progression from bellabirth. ABA Breastfeeding Educators may not see it this way, but I see this as a Science Communication role. Natural Science Communication. And in the Modern Mothering Climate, this is how we reconnect with our instinct.
The Breastfeeding Education Classes (BECs) are run by volunteers. They spend a year (or more) training to be Breastfeeding Educators and/or Counsellors and then spend hours preparing and continuing their own education to bring parents-to-be the best breastfeeding classes: they are the best because they provide information on normal biology, the basis ‘how to’s’ and important information about expectations with a new baby. But most important - the BECs are an avenue to a support network.
If you won’t be thin - At least try to look thin!
The other day a kind soul suggested I might like to wear tights with my new top.
Fair suggestion. It probably would look nice, and it is the fashion.
But this suggest was followed up with a ‘slimmer’ comment.
First, and foremost, is the ASSUMPTION that my aim in dressing is/should be to appear thinner.
My aim, when dressing, is to be comfortable. To be protected from the elements and to express myself.
Being thinner is not an aim I consider worth pursuing…why?
Who bloody cares - ask yourself why.
Why is it assumed this is my aim?
If I wanted to wear tights - I would have. Because they would have made me feel comfortable.
I like loose clothing.
It is comfortable.
But thanks for the suggestion.
The Top 10 Gifts You Can Give To Your Children
2. Self Esteem
6. Good Role Models
7. Good Food
8. Unstructured (non-electronic) Play
9. The Chance to Help
10. The Chance to Read
Who Determines Your Needs?
Walk into a baby shop (excited and fresh in your pregnant state) and you are Hit with the NEEEEED for all that STUFF!
It is so hard for parents to separate the needs (which will vary between folks) from the extras. The extras are fine - when you know they are extras.
A common question I have to field is “which pump should I get?” because they are led to believe that they HAVE to pump. The question is not “which”, but “WHY?”. There are some valid reasons to get a pump, and the which depends on the why…this is not a question the baby-store clerk is likely to answer. This is a question you ask a lactation specialist - who is not out to sell you the product.
There is no simple list of need’s, or do’s, or don’t’s…there is no one-size-fits-all. My mission with bellabirth is to meet parents on their turf. Help them find the questions they need to ask, and then the answers. All with enough time and freedom to be Informed.
www.bellabirth.org Your Birth Your Way
Natural Science: where the Informed Decision begins
When we set out to be informed in birth and parenting, we begin with the base-line of information: nature.
Our culture is immersed in technology, in devices and enhancements. If it can be marketed - it is probably not vital, and you can make an informed decision.
Technology is grand - I embrace it. I have my lap top, I rely on the internet, telephones and flushing toilets. But I think CRITICAL THINKING is lost to so many, and generally it is thought that technology = advancement = better, but there are some things that are fine without technology.
Evolution has sorted us out - nature is not the enemy.
Birth and breastfeeding, if left alone, will be just fine for the far majority of mothers. Parenting gently and with confidence, rather than with anxiety and fuss and interference. Embracing children as a part of society, and mothers alongside them, rather than segregating people according to age and employment status. But ultimately, recognising that as a society, we have CHOICE. But first we have to see that all options are open to us, freely and respectfully. When we empower ourselves, look at all our options and see them as all freely available to us, we can own our choices and be confident that we have done the right thing for ourselves as individuals.
And we will all choose differently. Because we are all different.
Birth Control - A Pirate’s Code
This news item is cause for concern. This passage in particular:
The state government said it is not against women having babies at home, as long as deliveries are conducted by trained practitioners under strict conditions.
“It’s aimed specifically at the shonks who offer their services as a midwife,” Mr Snelling said.
He said the law does provide protection for those who may be the only assistance for pregnant women in an emergency.
“Police, ambulance officers, even taxi drivers will be protected, obviously in an emergency situation,” he said.
Anyone caught flouting the law could face up to a year in jail or a $30,000 fine.
Why? Is Autonomy, Self-responsibility, really such a threat?
and define “shonk”.
Women have the Right to birth as they choose. With that Right comes the Responsibility to be informed and prepared. It is folly to give our trust fully over to a care provider. The planned homebirth is usually the most prepared for birth. The what if’s are considered, the back ups in place. The mother has an understanding of normal biological birth, is aware of her own condition and surrounds herself with the support she needs.
Sometimes this means she is ‘unassisted’. Depending who you ask, a “free” or “unassisted” birth is one without medical attendance. This option, chosen by very few, is never undertaken lightly and those supporting her should not be at risk.
In 2012, as I awaited The Captain’s birth, my third birth, I did so knowing that my Partner was supportive and ready for our planned ‘unassisted’ birth.
The preparation I did for The Captain’s birth was monumental! I had every conceivable outcome planned for.
I had to, with a history of fast birth, a history of natural birth and uncomplicated pregnancy, and over an hour to get to the birth centre.
Why should a labouring woman travel?
Was I really expected to birth enroute? in an ambulance?
What a dramatic and traumatic way to birth.
No I was safest to stay put, stay calm, and just get on with the ‘job’. I was able to be safe and calm because I was prepared. I had considered the ‘what if’s’ and had workable plans. I knew my baby was in optimal position, thanks to midwife antenatal care, I knew I was uncomplicated. An independent midwife would not have made it to my birth. The nearest one was 1 hr away (assuming she was at home and ready to leave). I had phone support.
Birth does not follow a textbook, it is unpredictable - but that does not make it dangerous. That does not make it something to be feared.
That makes it something to be prepared for. Something to understand and embrace.
It seems technological approaches are clouding the natural processes and the powers-that-be would rather keep women ignorant and afraid.
This proposed Pirate’s Code to Birth Control would rob women of their Rights, remove their freedom of responsibility and create unsafe environments. And the few who are prepared to birth unassisted will continue to do so, not because they flaunt the law - but because they know their Rights and Responsibilities. They will just need to add a new risk into their calculations. This risk of prosecution…or is that persecution.
Advice I Could Use!
In the led up to my first birth, in 2007, I had 4 experienced mothers support my preparations. I was fortunate that they all had positive experiences.
My Mother: Naturally birthed twins (me and my sister) and described labour ‘pain’ as “like period pain”..she was matter-of-fact and fearless. Birth is something women Do.
My Sister: “Go with the Flow” meaning to ride the waves and trust my body.
My Brother’s Partner: The Ring of Fire means don’t push, go slow, breathe. Work with your body, not against it.
My Husband’s Sister: “Leave your Dignity at the Door”, which sounds terrible, but what she meant was birth is no time to worry about the superficial or care what others think. If you want to be naked be naked, move as you need to, make noise if you need to.
Each woman was different, but all viewed birth as normal. Not something to be feared, but something to be accepted. Not something that Happens to us, but something that is OF us.
Thanks to these women, I looked forward to my Rite of Passage into Motherhood. I welcomed it calmly, joyously and with confidence.
My Mothering and subsequent births were, of course, informed by this experience. By having such a good first experience, I was well placed for a positive transition into motherhood. I felt supported, encouraged and most importantly - in control.
I am not sure why it has become culturally normal to fear birth, popular media certainly does not help this. I am not sure why it has become social acceptable to isolate mothers and children, to medicalise pregnancy and birth, to devalue mothering and to fob of the ‘birth experience’ as indulgent and selfish.
I am a Woman. Not a Womb. Not Breasts. Not a Brain.
A whole person, more than the Sum of MY parts.
When Women Gather
About a year ago I gathered a circle of women around me.
It was a ‘blessingway’, perhaps the most important part of my birth planning. In the months leading up to the gathering, I was very much in Informed Birth Planning mode. My brain was engaged and serious, I was lining up all my ducks, covering all my bases, putting my chickens in separate baskets…by August last year I had my Birth Document. This document informed all my carers, it was agreed to by all who may or may not attend me. A thorough and involved plan - a map - my safety net, my reassurance was done. But a very important element was missing, and it was this element that would take me from my thinking, organising, analysing self into my instinctual, prepared, safe, ready self.
This element was the Gathering of Woman. My circle of bellabirth. I was surprised at how many woman I was able to gather. Motherhood has given me many gifts, but I never expected to find a Community so beautiful, so supportive and so Big.
The day of gathering was a warm, late winter glorious day. Everyone brought delicious food to share and we had a very relaxing day together. The magic in this day was that I was reminded that birth was normal, safe and that I was ready and supported. In the month between the gathering and the birth, I sank deeper and deep inwards. I keep enough of myself outwards to stay connected to my family, but allowed myself to let go of all other responsibility. It was a beautiful time. A time of anticipation, of gentle hope and trust, of much love and strength in friendships, of honouring the transition. A physical transition, an emotional transition, a transition for the family.
This article focuses on the US system, but the importance of informed decisions stands world-wide.
From the article:
"What Should Informed Consent Look Like?
If I am asked by doctors or midwives what informed consent should mean in birth care, I tell them that it could be said to consist of three parts:
1) Inform. Tell the woman about what you observe to be going on at this moment in the pregnancy or birth. Tell her about all of the healthcare alternatives that are available to her. Not just the one you think she should do. Tell her as much as you know about the risks and benefits of each alternative, and what kind of evidence exists for this information. This part of the discussion should be a transfer of objective facts, and you should leave your opinion out of it.
2) Advise. Tell the woman what you think she should do. Tell her why. This is a good moment to express the limits of your own skills and knowledge. Are you advising a cesarean for breech because you haven’t been trained in breech births? This is a time to mention that. This part of the discussion can be an expression of your subjective opinion about what you would counsel the woman to do.
3) Support. Support the woman in the exercise of a decision between the alternatives. This includes the decision not to follow your advice. It isn’t informed consent unless the patient has the ability to choose an alternative other than the one that the provider recommends.
Informed Consent is the bridge between evidence-based care and human rights in childbirth. The information is evidence—all patients have a right to be informed about the evidence regarding the healthcare alternatives available to them. The consent is the human right, the legal right, the constitutional right. Pregnant women, like all citizens, have the right to informed consent.”
I would add to this: TIME
An informed decision requires advanced notice and the freedom to fully investigate options. The main problem with relying on our care providers alone, is we find out on an as-we-go timeline. So for many woman the first time they hear about a procedure is when they are being asked to consent. For example, a first time pregnant woman at her 36 week appointment is told she will be tested for GBS. Or at the 39 week appointment she is given a ‘heads up’ about the routine Vit K. If she has her baby the next day, she has had no time to consider this.
When booking into care, often a woman is given an info pack with pamphlets about routine procedures, but it is not pointed out that she must consent or that consent is to be ‘informed’. The provided information is NOT sufficient to make an informed decision. And the time given during appointments is often inadequate to discuss these issues.
Many woman approach subsequent births with the privilege of hindsight. Many women find it is their 3rd+ birth before they become aware that have alternative options. Even if they would not have made different choices, it can be confronting to learn that you had options to consider.
Is there something you wish you knew in your first pregnancy? (if your knew then what you know now)
Would you have done things differently?