Sunday, May 15, 2011

My special Mother's Day

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, 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.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What will they (I hope) say about me when I die?

also posted on my spirituality blog: Jenneology

I am lifting the following exercise from a recent post on Feminist Mormon Housewives. A new self-help book aiming to assist people of my generation to find their purpose in life provided the exercise. What follows are my answers:

Thought Experiment: You’ve died. You are at your own funeral. What do you want your friends and family to say about you? What did you do with your life? Write down five things you hope people say about the legacy that you’ve left. Write down five things you hope people say about your personality.

1. She was a seeker of truth and was open-minded, and respectful in the finding of it. She embraced the belief in the gospel that all good things come from God and that all truth can be circumscribed into one great whole. She would embrace truth, quite literally, wherever it could be found--in Islam, Unitarian Universalism, Paganism, Gnosticism, Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry. She was a student of life and found great joy in it.

2. She wanted to make a difference in the world and she worked diligently to address some of the injustices and inequalities that people, especially women throughout the world face. Her involvement in non-profit organizations and humanitarian works helped the lives of many. One of the things she was fond of saying was that she didn't want to make a difference in the life of a child, but she wanted to make a difference in the life of many. She worked at the systems level to address the root causes of poverty, abuse and barriers to living a full and happy life.

3. She prioritized her family while at the same time set the example to them to be anxiously engaged in a good cause (or in her case, many). Her children were involved with her and shared her with the people of the world. They had the opportunity to see and do many things that provided service to others because of the example and encouragement of their mother. She was actively involved with them at all levels of their lives and somehow found a balance in the limited hours of each day to show them they were loved and benefited from her presence and involvement in their lives.

4. She was a believer in the radical Jesus: the Jesus who was friends with the sinners and who was compassionate to their experiences, the socialist who believed in complete redistribution of wealth, the empowerment and equality of women and the Christ-like love that each person needs to achieve their potential.

5. She knew hardship, difficulty, pain and injustice and she was able to find strength from her experiences and turn them around to be compassionate towards others, to support and comfort them.

5 personality traits: tenacious, determined, creative, compassionate, advocate

Core Values: Discover what drives you. What principles guide your actions and ideal self? Try to strip away all cultural conditioning and/or religious rhetoric and assess five core values by which you live your life and inform who you want to be. Write these down. Evaluate if there any disconnect between what you wrote down in step one and step two.

Maybe I already did this up above. Just pulling from there, we find that I value: openness to truth/goodness, compassion, advocacy, social justice and idealism.

Find Your Purpose: Why does what you are doing matter? What motivates and inspires you to keep following these values? Chose a purpose. It can be big or small, but has to be intentional. It is the reason for your goals and can change over time. If you are struggling to find your purpose try this experiment. Write down your five most valuable gifts and talents. Next, write below those what each of these can be used for. Finally, evaluate what types of careers or activities you would enjoy that would utilize some of these talents.

I'm already doing many of the things I hope to be remembered for so my purpose is described above. Involvement in Solace for Mothers, LDS WAVE, The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services already address some of those values that I hold so deeply. I would someday like to turn those desires and abilities into paid employment and I hope that it will be doing something that addresses the root causes of injustice in the world. I would love to work in humanitarian aid (whether it is at the local, national or global scene) but at the systems level. One of my skills is to look at big picture and see ways to build coalitions and to bring people together, to create ways that people from very different viewpoints can interface with each other in cooperative ways. Most of my efforts are somehow related to system building and connecting people in large communities to harness their combined power into a stronger more unified voice.

Test Your Purpose: Today my purpose will be _____________. To accomplish that I will use my gifts for ________________ to accomplish these specific goals_______________. Later change the timeline to week, month, and year.

Today my purpose will be two fold:
1) to connect with my children and show them the value of caring for others
2) learn about how to structure my family economically so we can be Equal Shared Parenting and Radical Homemaking folks.

To accomplish that I will use my gifts for being involved in national organizations and reading to accomplish these specific goals:
1) I will walk with my children in the March of Dimes walk, teach them to sew and make things we can sell on Talents of Sisters.
2) start reading the book Equally Shared Parenting and discuss with my husband the possibilities that our interests lead us to.

Otherwise, I would say that my goals are year long, or at the very least, seasonal. This year I hope to create an online community for birth advocates that can become a hub for the thousands who care birth issues in our world. This season, we hope to grow some of our own food and make some of our own household products to develop our skills and save money.

Write It All Down: Once you have a purpose you can stick with, write it all down and it will remind your of who you are and what you want to be. I.e.My five core values are ____________. My five core talents are ______________. In the next ten years my purpose will be ______________. The key features of my personal mission statement are ______________.

My five core values are openness to truth/goodness, compassion, advocacy, social justice and idealism.

My five core talents are:
1) building community and cooperation around advocacy efforts
2) addressing root causes of social issues
3) looking at the big picture
4) being respectful and open to differing view points
5) embracing and valuing the good that is inherent in differing perspectives

In the next ten years my purpose will be to:
1) achieve equal partnership in my marriage
2) find paid part-time employment in advocacy work
3) support and contribute to organizations addressing global poverty
4) continue to develop current advocacy organizations
5) educate my children through experiential learning in living the gospel of the radical Jesus.

The key features of my personal mission statement are make a difference in the world, aspire to the ideal, encourage potential, and value balance and compassion to oneself and others.