Monday, June 18, 2012

Tips for Becoming a Birth Activist

What an exciting weekend!  We just finished up our first Birth Boot Camp training workshop and it was AWESOME!  The November workshop is almost full, but we still have plenty of room in the September training.  It's just 3 months away, and there are a lot of certification requirements to be completed before the workshop.  I'd recommend it for people who are already birth professionals or have done a lot of the reading previously. 

I have another big weekend coming up.  June 22-24 is a  Birth Activist Retreat  sponsored by Where's My Midwife?  It is being held at The Farm in Tennessee, which is extra exciting because I'll be breathing the same air as Mr. Tim McGraw who lives less than 2 hours from there!  I am going with a couple of my favorite people from the Tarrant County Birth Network.  Really, getting there is half the fun!

I'm probably writing this post prematurely, as I'm sure at the end of next weekend, we will have come up with some great ideas for birth activism.  I just want to take a minute and talk about a couple of things in regards to this topic.

If I am an OB or a lawmaker, I'm thinking I am not going to listen to the "bra-burners" or picketers.  I need evidence and real stories.  I need to connect with the people who are trying to make change, including midwives and families who want birth options.  I have no interest in listening to (or taking seriously) people who are just loud -- demanding that I change my way of thinking.  I would be more apt to listen to people who are professional and rational.

I posted a question on my BFBS Facebook page asking what YOU do to change the culture of birth in your community.  A lot of answers were along the lines of talking to friends and posting on Facebook.  As you are probably well aware, birth is an emotionally charged topic, like politics or religion.  It's hard to bring it up on a personal level, but sometimes doing something on a bigger scale is less "in your face" to your friends and family.  It also has the potential to have a bigger impact, reaching more people.

I believe there are more and more women having amazing births and they want to change the way other women (and men) view birth.  We are seeing an influx of women wanting to become doulas because of this.  Many of them do a couple of births and realize "This is HARD!"  It is hard to be a doula and also have a young family.  Some people make it work and others aren't able to.  I think at the root of it all, however, is wanting to make a difference.  We all want that.

I know I am always touting starting or joining a Birth Network chapter in your area.  It really is a great way to get involved and make a difference.  You don't have to belong to a birth network however.  Some women have hosted a Red Tent event, encouraging women to listen to and tell birth stories.  This can be as simple or elaborate as you would like.

I know it doesn't sound as glamorous, but writing letters to the lawmakers, hospitals, and OBs in your state is a very important -- and real -- way to let them know what their constituents want. Back up your viewpoint with evidence and your experiences.  Birth is consumer driven.  In the 1980's birthing suites became popular and more "homelike" because women demanded it.  Some women were having their babies at home and the hospitals insisted that they were better than home, some even having full-size beds in many rooms.

Holding screenings (with appropriate permission and applicable fees) of various birth movies is something that has gotten a lot of positive attention for natural birth and is relatively easy to pull off.

Organize groups of women -- professionals and pregnant women --  to discuss various topics.  Sometimes giving people a forum is the most effective way to create change.

It is very rewarding to see women and families know their options and make informed decisions. No matter what you decide to do, think about your target audience and the message you want to send to them.  We should be taken seriously.  To be taken seriously, we need to take ourselves seriously.

Please share what you have done in your community that could be duplicated in other areas.  It's all about sharing ideas -- what works and what doesn't.

Until next week, my fellow birth activists!  Off to The Farm!


Jen said...

Just started a local ICAN group because we really need the support and activism in this area. One of the things that we are doing is gathering letters from moms who have had c-sections at our local hospital. We will be submitting those letters to the hospital administration soon. We are trying to change some of the very outdated C-section policies here.

By the way, We are just up the road and over the border from TN in Kentucky. We love The Farm! Tell Ina May we said "Hello". :)
Can't wait to read your notes when you get back.

Unknown said...

In the National Capital Region (of Canada), we have been hosting a CHOICE! Film Festival - check out our film line-up at We plan to screen "One Birth" in September - so awesome.

ceph said...

I opened a pregnancy and parenting store for natural pregnancy, birth and parenting. We have a sweet selection of birth books, cloth diapers, carriers, homeopathics, and so on. We talk with everyone about informed decisions and their own needs. We support first and sell second.