On Mother's Day this year, I attended a speech given by Ina May Gaskin at Town Hall in Seattle. There were over 800 people of them, many midwives and doulas but a surprising number of expectant parents. She spoke on her story as a self-taught midwife in the 1970s, described some of the keys to a healthy safe delivery and how important it is for those who care about birth to advocate for increased access to midwives and better obstetric practice.
At the end, it was opened up to the audience to ask questions. During that it became clear to me that Ina May is not familiar with Solace for Mothers as a resource for women who have had traumatic birth experiences. I should have gotten up and mentioned it but I didn't want to sound like an advertisement. Sometimes I just don't know how to deal with public relations!
One of the things that Ina May said she wished for was to have all of the birth advocates be better connected and able to work together. I share that desire with her and really hope that my current efforts will be able to bring that to pass. I really feel that we need an online social network that gathers birth advocates together in the same place and use platforms like the Care2 petition site, facebook, online forums, Change.org and Salsa Democracy to use viral advocacy techniques to bring a strong, united voice to what would truly improve maternity services in the United States and the world. I guess that's my job isn't? Since I am on the CIMS Grassroots Advocates Committee... Big plans, in progress... I just wish it was all ready and that it was common knowledge in the birth community!
I wish that I had had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Ina May but if that had been doing to happen, I should have attend the MAWS conference the Friday before. When prioritizing my desire to see her in person, I had to decide between being away from my kids all day Friday and leave them with a babysitter or be away for 2 hours on Mother's day Sunday and leave them with their dad. It was a tough decision but I chose to have more time with the children and be away from them on a day that's supposed to be especially for me as a mother anyway.
Someday I hope that I can meet and talk with her because I have so much respect for her work, especially on the Maternal Mortality Quilt. I would love to see a complimentary effort to honor and remember mothers who have experienced trauma and PTSD from their birth experiences. For each mother who died in childbirth, I am sensitive to the fact that if they lived, they likely would have been deeply traumatized by their experiences and their memories of being close to death. People traumatized by life events and who live afterwards know the special hell that comes from surviving something horrific and terrifying. I want those mothers to be remembered to. For women who experience trauma, they often find that they become shadows of themselves. They are the walking wounded and we need to be just as aware of them as we are aware of the family members who lost a woman in childbirth. I don't want what that would look like, whether it would be a Solace (thinking Support in Overcoming Labor And Childbearing experiences) quilt or a paper sculpture in the shape of a tree with leaves symbolizing one of the 1.4 million mothers who are traumatized each year. I had a nice talk with Penny Simkin about this and she is encouraging me to come up with something good and a plan to enact it. If you have ideas, please help!
Anyway back to the event with Ina May. After the questions and answers, there was a Birth Fair with birth and baby organizations and services from around the Seattle area. I met the midwives at Puget Sound Birth Center. When I told Val that PSBC is the most highly and frequently rated out of hospital birth center on The Birth Survey, she literally started crying she was so happy!
I was so glad that I was able to attend with my mother and my good friend Shawnette who became a doula after she attended Willem's birth as a volunteer doula. It was a really nice event and obviously, as seen by this post, inspired a lot of ideas and renewed energy and drive for me. It was definitely a special way to spend Mother's Day and a special thanks to my husband and children who were willing to facilitate my attendance.