Monday, December 27, 2010

Going global

I'm coming out all over the place, as a feminist, as a Mormon, as an activist, as an aspiring midwife. Awareness and passion for all of these ideas and activities has led me to expand my focus for what is wrong with the world and what I can do about it.

There is a great deal of conversation on birth blogs that birth advocacy is a inherently biased by privilege, class and race. And I could honestly be a poster child for that. White, middle-class, advanced education, had a negative birth experience and got all uppity about it. In my defense, I had to start somewhere and have my feminist awakening in some way.

I truly believe that my experience giving birth to Willem humbled me in a way where I felt compelled to be more compassionate and empathetic to the suffering of other women. I felt the need to do something about it and one step at a time, my perspective broadened and I took in more of the needless, unethical suffering women experience the world over.

For a few years now, I'm worked with Solace for Mothers and the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services on The Birth Survey. In the last year however, I felt strongly that there is more that I can do than tackle birth from a privileged view.

Some of the efforts of others have brought me to this awareness of thinking outside myself and people most like me. Through their efforts I have found the solidarity of sistership that comes from just being a woman among women. I know I will never be able to set aside my race or my privilege entirely but I cannot let that be an excuse to not be involved in where help is needed and where I am capable of doing something that can help.

Two documentaries shaped this broadening of thought and feminist activist: firstly, Tanya Lee Jones' documentary on preconception education and reducing prematurity in low-income, black America (I cannot find the link for the life of me, maybe someone can help) and "A Walk to Beautiful" which is the story of obstetric fistula patients in Africa who for years, in cases, are unable to access health care to repair their childbirth injuries.

Then I was introduced to two books, "The Life You Can Save" and "Half the Sky" both of which I reviewed (links go to my reviews) where I learned some of the simple ways to make an impact in relieving the suffering and poverty of women in developing countries.

In some ways, the activism work that can be done there seems much more simple than the activism that I do there. In developing countries, often it is infrastructure building and small micro-loans that can make a world of different to women and children who are without means to care for and educate themselves.  Yet, here in the United States, and especially with birth activism, its not about lack of resources its about misplaced resources. It is easier to build something than it is to move a monstrosity of an establishment that is entrenched in its ways.

Maybe its an act of trying to comfort myself, when I feel discouraged in getting obstetric violence laws enacted in the United States, or changing the way providers treat women during labor, I know I can get on and make a loan that will better someone's life.

But yet it goes beyond that, I want my children to have an awareness of the world that extends beyond vacations and resorts. I'd like to take them to Africa someday, not to stay where the tourists are, but to work with an organization like THARCE-Gulu where they can play with the local children, while my husband and I work to make a difference in people's lives. If one is going to travel to see the country and learn the culture, than what better way than among its people?

Please excuse the disjointedness of this entry. I am making sense of what is available to me and what I can realistically do. As a child being raised an a Unitarian Universalist, I developed a desire to make a difference and change the world. Now as a young mother, I'm still figuring it out. For a while I thought it was through my own family and being a mother to my children. But in being a mother, I found that I can be involved in changing the world for them. And it is through those efforts, that they too might have a desire to change the world for others. I do not need to put off these efforts until they are older, Someday I do hope to be a service missionary for my church and travel to countries in need of humanitarian aid, but as I learn about volunteer opportunities, I find that I can do some of it now and with children.

My next step is to figure out which organizations will encourage families to volunteer together. I know of where families with young children can go and volunteer on organic farms around the world. I hope that someday my husband and I will do a trip like that, but I also would like to find opportunities that are more in line with my interests as a feminist, and birth activist.  Do you know of any?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Geeking out with Christ's birth

I found this tonight which I think is interesting:

December 8th: Immaculate Conception of Maryis celebrated in many Latin countries as, according to Catholic doctrine, the day of the conception of the Virgin Mary. The doctrine says that God had preserved Mary from original sin, giving her his grace, the divine life of Jesus Christ.

This is actually referring to Mary's conception and birth but my mind immediately went to thinking about Christ's conception, and Mary's pregnancy with him. Fitting as its Christmas time and all.

We know that Christ wasn't actually born at Christmas time with most scholars thinking that he was actually born early to mid-Spring. Latter-day Saints believe he was born in April. Using the date, April 6, I thought it would be very cool to know the date of his conception AND birth.

If he had been born at 40 weeks gestation exactly, he would have been conceived in mid July. Using the birthing window that many women not ever faithful in their calculated due date, He may have been born between 37 weeks to be full term and 44 weeks at the outside, meaning he could have been conceived as early as mid June or as late as early August.

Wit that, I then ponder what those last few days of Mary's pregnancy was like based on those 2 scenarios.

The Mary is compelled to go to Nazareth with Joseph to pay the taxes decreed by Cyrenius and she was full-term but not quite to 40 weeks. Maybe she was 37 or 38 weeks pregnant. She hopes that on the trip the baby will not be born and she can return to her home in Galilee to give birth after the tax collecting is done.

The long, arduous, dusty and dehydrating trip caused contractions to start before her due date. As she arrives in Nazareth and they are looking for an inn, she is having contractions and they are increasing in intensity and regularity. If she were me, she'd been freaking out a little. They settle into the stable and within a few hours, Christ is born into hers or Joseph's hands.

The other scenario:
She's past her due date like the majority of first time moms, the baby hasn't been born yet and they have to get to Nazareth to obey the decree of the governor. She hopes that either the baby will wait until after they get back or that the baby can be born before they leave. In most mother's minds, anything is better than laboring on the back of a donkey or giving birth far from home without the presence of wise women: mother, aunts, sisters and cousins. She doesn't get her wish and contractions start during the trip. She's contracting while trying to find a place to birth her baby. The stable does the job and the Christ child is born there.

Either way, my heart goes out to this young girl who gave birth far from her family and home amongst animals and hay. Maybe she was as Zen about it as she is portrayed in the scriptures, but maybe that was a very stressful and upsetting situation for her to be in. Either way, I've been in both of the situations described above. And honestly, I think the over-due scenario would be worse.

Though its not mentioned, I do guess that Mary and Joseph would have been able to locate a midwife to attend the birth if they so chose. Though perhaps it was in the day when the midwife only was called when assistance was needed after some concern or complication arose. Whether Christ's birth was attended by a midwife or unassisted is a toss-up. The unassisted birthers like to claim that Christ was an unassisted birth, so for the sake of not knowing, I won't rain on their parade.

Alright, end of birth geek mode at Christmas time, but that's what you get from a midwifery student...