Two defining moments changed the course of my life.
The first was when my sister-in-law introduced me to the concept of using a midwife as a pregnancy care provider. She was my first relative in my generation to have a baby. She chose a midwife for her care, and made it seem the most natural choice when she said, “I’m not sick – why should I see a doctor?” When I became pregnant I sought a midwife to care for me, based on her example. It was a good choice for me, and while my first birth was not free of intervention (I had narcotic pain relief and an epidural), it was challenging and intense, but a positive experience. I went on to have two other children, both with midwives and both unmedicated births, and I realized that the experiences I was having with the births of my children were very different from the births my friends were experiencing with their doctors. Many of my friends and acquaintances were having epidurals early in labor, and many of those births ended in cesareans.
My heart broke each time I heard a story of a woman pushed to have an intervention that might have been avoided which led to her having a negative experience about the birth of her child. So many women I spoke to were like “walking wounded” after their births, and then were struggling to begin parenting their new babies with so little faith in themselves.
I began to immerse myself in issues relating to birth and learned that medical intervention, epidurals and cesareans can save lives, but only if they are used appropriately. I learned that many of the practices my friends were experiencing in their care were overused or misused and were not based in scientific evidence, and that is what was leading to their less-than-satisfying, disempowering, sometimes even traumatic births.
The second defining moment happened a few weeks after the birth of my third child. I saw an article in my local newspaper about a new study which showed that women could get their epidurals at two centimeters instead of four centimeters without raising their chance of cesarean, which remained around 18 percent. All the women in the study received drugs at one point or another. The concept of alternatives to drugs was not addressed. Nowhere did it mention that women giving birth with midwives have a cesarean rate around 6 percent. In that moment I understood why so many women I knew were having such poor birth experiences. I realized that women are not getting the whole story about the choices they have available to them about their care. In my postpartum hormonal haze, with fist raised and indignation in my voice, I declared, “I have got to do something about this!”
These are the steps I took to change the situation: I organized a community education class with a midwife and a doula to get the word out to women about the choices they have about birth. That led to my being asked to sit on a board at a local hospital, which led to producing the play “Birth” in my community.
I found out that I was not the only one who believed that women need more information about pregnancy, birth, and maternity care. I met other amazing women who were working to provide information to women in their communities so they could have better births. They led to me open a chapter of BirthNetwork National, and inspired me to become a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. I was asked to join the Board of Directors of BirthNetwork National, and eventually was elected President. I had found my tribe.
I have since made a commitment to dedicate the rest of my professional life to helping women have safer, healthier births and achieving their full potential in life by connecting to their power through their birth and mothering experiences. I am inspired to teach women so they will be well-informed and be able to birth within a culture that provides evidence-based, competent, compassionate care that supports them physically and emotionally and values them as mothers. This will lead to healthier moms, babies, and families. I love working with women on an issue that is so integral to our lives. I believe women have incredible strength and power. I had wonderful, positive birth experiences that transformed my vision of myself, my body, and my purpose on this planet (pretty powerful stuff)! I want other women to have the opportunity to do the same, based on their individual needs, values, and health. I’ll know I am getting close to reaching my goal when the women who share their birth stories with me are full of joy, satisfaction, and feelings of pride and strength.