Sunday, February 10, 2008

Trust Birth Conference

One of my clients decided recently to attend the Trust Birth Conference in March. From her perspective, there was a struggle with going. Was this conference just for those involved in birth work - childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, doctors, nurses? Or could she, a mother pregnant with her third, gain something from attending?

Never have I been presented with a conference that offers so much value to our entire culture. To say that it's a conference for those involved in birthwork is limiting the focus. This conference is different in that the goal is to shift the awareness and thinking about how we all approach birth. It's not a black/white look at birth - instead, it is an opportunity to reflect and check in with our own biases, fears and approach to birth.

Some carry a misconception about this conference. That somehow it is about people who are blindly naive about risks in birth. That when we say we TRUST BIRTH, somehow it just defines thinking that every woman can give birth without any complications. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

This, to me, is what it means to TRUST BIRTH:

As a woman and a mother I am born with a deep level of intuition. Sometimes fear arises in this place of intuition - and it is not my job to figure out what is just fear or what is a strong intuition. As a woman and mother, they are both the same. They both direct me and guide me. When another person invalidates my fear/intuition, I begin to doubt myself and my intuition. When I am challenged about my beliefs, I grow. I learn more and this will likely shift my awareness about how I process my intuition. In essence, my sense of intuition becomes a larger, stronger part of my life.

As a midwife, I have my own sense of intuition. I also have my own set of fears. At birth, I struggle with what I know to be true about how we are made and also what my experience has been. The role of anecdotal experience does not make things true for all women in my practice. I'm shown this repeatedly by the universe/God. Just because I've experienced something that was relatively scary a couple times doesn't mean I should expect it at every birth - or that I should routinely intervene at every labor/birth to ease my concerns that it doesn't happen again. It does mean that when signs show up, I am on alert and processing the things that are THEN occurring. When there is a matter of necessitating assistance, or even communicating with the parents what I feel, I move to do so. Routine intervention always has a trade off - usually a negative one.

Trusting Birth in the truest sense means knowing that birth does work beautifully. What we're up against isn't defects in the birth process (though there are variations that require assistance, interventions and different outcomes than what we originally expected), but a cultural brainwashing about the process of birth. It's about challenging yourself to look at what we're taught, what we believe and what we know to be true medically, physiologically and emotionally.

TRUSTING BIRTH. We're not there yet. I'm not there yet. I am not sure that I ever will be in the way that I expect from myself - I am living in this culture, bombarded by the same doubts, the same selfish desires and struggles as anyone else. It's taken me years to get to this place where I am right now - and while it's a far cry from where I stood ten years ago, I'm still aware of how much more I have to travel.

The process of being involved with birth has changed one major thing in my life: my perception of who I am. My ability to be humble to the fact that many times birth has nothing to do with me as a midwife. I can offer assistance, support and love for my clients but their journey is their own. I sincerely hope that I'm self-reflective enough to withstand disappointment that someone may have with my role, and smart enough to use that to move forward and make adjustments in my views/communication.

In essence, birthwork has empowered me. When I started this path I was focused on empowering women. There was no focus on what this path had in mind for ME. It was about caring for women, assisting them, doing for them. Every cesarean or transport was a failure on my part. I was still in this place of feeling like birth outcomes were about ME.

Letting go of those expectations, realizing that I'm a partner in a woman's care and actually being witness to unhindered, gentle birth has empowered me as a PERSON. It has given me hope for humankind, hope for children and a sense of faith that I never would have learned otherwise.

I am going to the Trust Birth Conference not because I have been asked to speak. I am going because there is still so much I have to learn - when I'm uncomfortable, facing those issues head on will only help me grow even if my views don't necessarily change. It's about being around people who are on the same path, seeking the same personal truth, the same challenges.

Trusting Birth is about working on deprogramming ourselves. Whether you're a midwife, mother or doctor, we all have elements of birth fear that has been deeply ingrained on a cellular level. Sadly, it is generations old. Talk to our grandmothers, our great-grandmothers - these are beliefs that are still being taught to our children. When we talk about BIRTH TRUST we begin to shift those cells - and in essence, shift the dominant paradigm.

I trust that birth works. I trust that labors and births that are not routinely directed, managed or interfered with work the best. I know that babies have incredible adaptability (a thought brought up by my apprentice/assistant) when not faced with drugs or routine intervention. I trust that mothers and attendants have a same mutual goal: a healthy baby and a healthy mom.

I also trust that our ideas and thoughts are leading us to a place where, when really needed, we have technology and specialized assistance available. I trust that women are the experts in their care and have more at stake than their providers to see a healthy outcome of themselves and their baby. I trust that we have gotten to this level of humankind because of a perfect, awe-inspiring design.

I am not naive by trusting birth. I am merely open to the idea that birth was created, as Karen Strange repeatedly says in her Neonatal Resuscitation classes, "to work even if a woman is alone." I trust birth because trillions do it. Every second of every day. Despite the odds that women and babies constantly face, the vast majority survive, whether it's birthing solo or birthing by cesarean. Our bodies - and our babies - are built for survival.

I trust birth because I trust God. I believe that every human being has the fundamental right to a healthy, gentle start in life. I believe that birth is more than the emergence of a healthy fetus from a healthy woman's womb. I believe that birth is a life-changing event that affects how we view ourselves as women and how children are treated in our world.

We are up against a culture that distrusts birth. That distrusts women. That expects catastrophe. That looks at legal ramifications rather than personalized care. That puts providers on a pedestal.

If you're a parent and are interested in being challenged, sharing your truth and offering your story, please join us at the Trust Birth Conference. The organizers have created a path in the conference that is geared towards parents at a lower cost. Though I must tell you that the whole conference will change your life.

Trusting Birth is not about being blind. It's about having your eyes wide open, moving forward, hearing what is being said, processing it and making your own decisions. If we're afraid to do those things, how can we ever trust ourselves as parents?