A Letter to My Pro-life Friends Following the Women’s March

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My Crew at the Louisville Rally on 1.21.17

Yesterday, one day following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, I participated in one of the most powerful social justice actions I’ve been a part of to date—a march for women that spread around the U.S. And the entire world—nearly 3 million strong by some estimates I saw last night (and one of the largest peaceful demonstrations in U.S History). Incredible images flooded my newsfeed of people standing up in solidarity to protect the rights of women—including the right to safe, legal abortion care–and many other issues close to the lives of women. (You can read the full platform here.)

But as I wept, cheered and felt the groundswell of uprising against forces that would strip women of their power and autonomy, I also saw something else stirring among many of my friends who call themselves pro-life and I feel the need to speak to all of you now.

First of all, what I want to say is: I see you. I hear you. I see you all struggling with what this march means for you and your daughters. You, too, want equal rights for women when it comes to access to education, good jobs and income equality. You want them to be safe from violence and sexual assault. You may even feel strong support for those in the LGBTQ community and wish to stand up for racial and environmental justice. Yet you are struggling—you heard rumors and rumblings about how the march organizers received flack because New Wave Feminists, a pro-life/anti-choice group, were expected to attend and were not welcomed by all. So, you are wrestling with how you fit (and indeed whether you fit at all) with a movement that also takes at its core, a woman’s right to choose abortion. And because of that, you feel walled off from this moment. A fence stands between you and your kin.

I see you. I hear you. And I want you to know that we need you for this moment. We need everyone to stand together because there is so much at stake for all of us.

But as much as I wish it were, it’s not enough to have a kumbaya moment because we can all stand together peacefully with our dissenting opinions on abortion because the picture is far more complicated than you simply wish people just wouldn’t have abortions and I think it’s okay if they do. Where it gets complicated is because so many people who call themselves “pro-life” are working tooth and nail to ensure that no woman can ever have access to a safe, legal abortion at all. So, if that’s your version of pro-life, then I am sorry to say that that fence might be too tall for us to come together… However, if your pro-life has some room to breathe, we might have more in common than you think.

You see, at one time I was one of you. As a young girl and adolescent, growing up in a white, Christian middle-class household, there was a time I felt unsure about abortion. I believed (and still do) that human lives are sacred gifts. I felt grief when I thought of a baby’s life cut short before it could truly begin. Surely people could just choose adoption instead, right? Over time, however, I came to understand that women’s reproductive choices are incredibly complex and the way we navigate it must possess the nuance to meet those complexities. And the best navigators of that complexity are women themselves, not largely men in barred chambers legislating those choices away.

Women rarely choose abortion for the simple reason that they just don’t feel like having a baby. (Though, if they do, I support their choice too.) Most people who seek abortion do so because they are living in the cross-section of competing issues: the prospect of single-parenthood, economic uncertainty, threat of job loss, poor access to maternity care, the feeling of inability to care for or financially support another child (60% of abortion seekers are already mothers), the decision not to be a mother at all, someones disability, experiences of rape or incest, substance abuse or mental health disorders, medical conditions that place a mother’s health and life at risk, medical conditions in the fetus that are incompatible with life, racial inequities, unsafe housing or neighborhoods, loss of public schools–there are many many reasons not to continue a pregnancy especially when these issues overlap in a tight lattice work of lived realities that lead people to the only choice they feel is right for them in the situation.

And no, more adoption is not always the answer. I say this as someone who knows amazing foster and adoptive parents, whose love and selflessness knows no bounds and would open their hearts to as many children as they could. I say this as someone who has worked professionally with people who have grown up in foster care and with parents who have lost custody of their children. I also say this as a mother, a doula, and a reproductive health care advocate.

Adoption is not the antithesis of abortion—they are not equal, either/or options. Pregnancy, itself, is a dramatic undertaking for a person’s life and body whether they plan to parent that child or not. It comes with economic peril because of our lack of workplace protections for people who are pregnant, which means they often experience job loss or employment discrimination. It also comes with significant health risks especially for women of color or others with chronic health conditions who are at higher risk for pre-term birth, maternal and/or fetal death, and other complications. Pregnant women are also at far higher risk for death from intimate partner violence. I believe with all of these (and other) risk factors in play the only person who should get to make decisions about the risks to their own body and life is the person who owns that life.

Even if a person chooses to continue a pregnancy, adoption itself is not always the beautiful solution that many pro-life folks wish is was. Open adoptions do not always stay open. People who are adopted, even into wonderful loving homes may suffer from emotional (and even physical) scars from their previous life, or experience grief about the loss of their first/biological parents. These aren’t necessarily reasons to say that people shouldn’t adopt–it should be one of multiple options available, but simply that adoption also comes with complicated risks to that child. And as a person with economic privilege, or skin privilege, or gender privilege, it often feels easy to say you could offer a child a chance at a really wonderful life through adoption without also taking responsibility for the complex issues that led a person to choose adoption in the first place.

And that’s assuming there is still a choice. Right now, we are inching ever closer to banning abortion in this country. Are you prepared to accept what that will mean? First of all, people will still have abortions whether they are legal or not, but it will mean they are not safe. Pregnant people AND their babies will die, or if the parent survives they will likely go to prison. Moreover, according the the Guttmacher Institute currently close to one million abortions are performed in the U.S each year. Do you think that our adoption system can handle that annual increase considering that there are already approximately 400,000 children in foster care waiting for their forever families or hoping to be reunited with their family? How many children are you willing to adopt every year? But there’s still a problem. Forcing people to experience a pregnancy only to give up their children for adoption because abortion is banned is not an ethical choice.

So back to the Women’s March. To my self-identified “feminist” pro-life friends who want to be part of this moment, there is so much work we must do together to tear down the fence that stands between us in order to improve the lives of women and children.

If you believe that abortion should be safe and legal (even if it is rare and even if you are still struggling with what that means for you), then join us.

If you believe women should be in charge of their reproductive health decisions including choices for and access to contraception as well as when (or if) they will choose motherhood, then join us.

If you are ready to tackle the economic injustices that women face that impact reproductive choices, then join us.

If you will stand up with your LGBTQ neighbors to support their families and call out transmisogyny when you see it, then join us.

If you recognize the harms of white supremacy (and your role in it, even unintended) and racial injustice that impacts reproductive choices and you are ready to do everything you can make sure that all people of every creed and color have equal access to health care, quality education, safe housing, affordable child care and a living wage to support their wanted children, then join us.

You see, this moment is not an arrival point for women, it’s a departure for an arduous long-term battle. We cannot let others make these decisions for us. We must stand together to fight for for a social contract that truly values life at all levels of society and centers the concerns of women and families. To me, there’s nothing more pro-life than that and I hope that I can count you as my sister along the way.

Birthing Well: How To Expect The Unexpected

New Childbirth Preparation Classes:

This has been over a year in the making and I am thrilled to finally birth THIS baby!  Learn more and register here.

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Your Postpartum BabyMoon

00685Most families spend a vast number of hours planning and preparing for the arrival of their new baby and think far less about what life will look like on the other side of birth.  As a doula, when I talk to families about preparing for the postpartum period, I ask them how they plan to spend their “Babymoon”–those first precious days and weeks following the birth of their child.

Some families talk about family coming into town to visit and “help”.  Others talk about little trips they have planned before or after baby is born and others talk about woefully short maternity leaves and feeling unsure about how they will care for baby and get back to life.

Your Postpartum BabyMoon

In reality, the first weeks and months of caring for a new baby fly by and come with a steep learning curve for both mom and dad.  It can be simultaneously blissful and terrifying as you get to know this new member of your family while also processing the events of the birth and your shifting identities as parents.  Here are a few ways you can give yourself a gentle beginning for your new family:

Stay in bed the first several days.  Labor and birth require serious physical exertion and the first days following birth may be accompanied by sore muscles, recovery from perineal tearing and also the general exhaustion of learning to breastfeed and caring for a newborn. Give yourself at least a week in bed.

Start small.  The pressures in our culture to pick up and get on with life following the birth of a baby can be difficult to overcome.  (If my experience is any example:  one week after my first child was born, I found myself miserably walking around Rocky Mountain National Park.  It made for a beautiful photo op with my newborn, but it made me one unhappy mama.) If you are feeling the itch to get out, start small–a walk around the block.  You can work up to things like the farmers market, the bank or library. After a few weeks, you can schedule just a couple outings a week with baby where the only goal is to get comfortable juggling a regular task with baby in tow–a short grocery trip, for example.

Organize your Help.  Families are fond of flying in following the birth of a baby to offer their “help”, but too often this turns into new, sleep deprived parents hosting family members who just want to hold a sweet, warm, new baby (and who wouldn’t?!).  I suggest to families that they should make a list of all of the tasks that need to be done from day to day and actually assign tasks to friends and families who have offered.  The same goes for meals.  Have a close friend or family member organize meals for you in advance and schedule who will bring food and when.

Consider hiring a postpartum doula.  The last thing a new mother needs is to feel that she has to coordinate and administrate her life.  She should be freed up to focus on bonding, breastfeeding and recovering physically and emotionally from her birth.  A postpartum doula is a trained professional who can help facilitate this process.  The job of a postpartum doula is to care for the new mother so that  she can focus on baby.  Your doula can help with light housework, help you process either the “perfect” birth or the one that didn’t go according to plan.  She can be a shoulder to cry on or help allay the fears of new parents as they learn to care for their newborn.

Give yourself the gift of space and time with your newborn as you enter your postpartum babymoon.  I promise, everything else can wait.

Bringing Baby Home: New Class in June

Dropbox   Bringing Baby Home Flyer PDF 6.2013.pdf

New Birth Planning Toolkit: Downloadable Birth Plans and More

It’s here!  It’s here!

This is the project I’ve wanted to do for months and I’ve finally got it done!  And it’s all for you:  parents-to-be, doulas, child birth educators, and care providers.

Check out the Birth Planning Toolkit on Birth Walk for links to the forms.

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You will find forms for:

  • Pregnancy Wellness and Goals
  • Birth Plans (including for Cesareans and inductions)
  • Newborn Care
  • Postpartum Care

Please share these far and wide.  I’ve already had great feedback from clients and hospital providers that these are really user-friendly forms.

Thanks, Friends!

New Class With The Birth Walk Doula: Bringing Baby Home

I’m excited to announce a new class beginning in March, 2013!

Bringing Baby Home: Creating Your Postpartum Care Plan will give expectant parents a chance to explore what life might look like after baby arrives.  It will help parents answer questions like: how will I plan my meals, take care of older siblings, breastfeed and return to work? How do I “get back to normal” when so much has changed, including my own sense of identity?

This is the class I wish I’d had before having children.  We tend to be so focused on preparing for birth that what comes after becomes an after-thought. Talking about it before baby arrives will help families set reasonable expectations for themselves as well as give them resources and tools for life with baby.

Here’s a printable PDF Flyer!

Check out the buzz on the Facebook Event page too!

Multitasking Mama: Breastfeed While You RSS Feed

Stay abreast with Birth Walk

Stay abreast with Birth Walk

I get a lot of reading done while I breastfeed.  I especially like to catch up on current news and trends in the birth, breastfeeding and parenting world.

Here are a few of my favorite blogs:

Science and Sensibility–This research blog from Lamaze International is a go-to for me as I help parents navigate through the world of birth.

Evidence Based Birth–I don’t know what birth professionals or parents did before this one came along.  This blog by Rebecca Dekker,PhD, RN, APRN, does an excellent job dissecting the research available about different pregnancy and child birth practices to determine best practice and it does it in a way that breaks it down for those of us who are not researchers.  I also love the printable practice bulletins that she puts together that parents and professionals can share with care providers.

Improving Birth–This is a great site for maternal health advocacy.  This is another one that puts together really accessible summaries of evidence based birth.

Best For Babes–These ladies know how to help women succeed with their breastfeeding goals!  Their Booby Trap series does an amazing job breaking down the barriers that many women face while trying to breastfeed in today’s medical and social culture.

The Leaky Boob–Advice on breastfeeding as well as a very active community of peer support, especially on their Facebook page.

PhD in Parenting–Articles ranging from birth and breastfeeding to every day parenting. Decidedly “attachment parent” in its philosophy.

Peaceful Parenting–As the name implies, gentle parenting with a mission.  This blog is a great resource for all things parenting, but is an especially wonderful resource for research and articles about circumcision.

Literary Mama–This is my new favorite to satisfy my more cerebral and literary leanings.  It has been a huge inspiration for my new blog, Mama on The Margins.

Remember to add Birth Walk to your RSS feed and never miss a post!

What’s in your feed?

Extending Hands: 2013 Is Going To Be A Big Year

Boy, oh, Boy!  What a year this has been!

I recently wrote a little about getting Birth Walk launched this year and some new directions I am going to take and while so much has happened already, I feel like I am just scratching the service of everything that is to come.  You should see my wall–covered in lists and diagrams trying to keep straight all of the pieces I am trying to put together, trying to extend my hands to reach more women who are becoming mothers.

Oh, Wait,  Here you go:2013 Lists

At the heart of my vision for the next year is my belief in the power of community to nurture, mentor and support. There are two pieces to this, really:

First, right now most women who have a doula present for their birth are blessed with some degree of affluence.  They are mostly educated, professional-types with the means to hire additional support.  Yet, many of the women who would benefit the most from a doula wouldn’t know a doula from a dingbat.  These are women who are at risk for having unplanned or disappointing outcomes because they don’t even realize they have choices or the impacts of those choices on their future wellbeing.  I want to expand doula access and education to as many women as I can (and I can’t do it it alone)!

Second, a year in to my doula journey, I have learned a lot and have pushed myself hard to learn things as quickly as possible. One thing that would have helped me and will hopefully help other emerging doulas is a kick-ass mentor program.  Mentoring works.  It can help someone truly find their gifts through a nurturing professional relationship and can give a newbie a real boost when it comes to creating lasting connections in a professional community.  We can learn so much from one another if we’re willing to share what we know.

So, without further ado, here’s a sneak preview of some of the projects and collaborations I am working on for 2013!

Goals:

  • Complete doula certification and start certification process as a Childbirth Educator
  • More Clients!  (Maternity leave is OVER!)
  • Add Postpartum Care
  • More blogging, including guest posts and a very important series coming up–about choices for birth.
  • Creating a community for women to share their journeys
  • And the one I’m super excited about:  a Birth Planning Took Kit on birthwalk.com

Projects & Partnerships:

Do you think I can manage to do all of this in one year???  I can’t wait to find out!

Walking, Birth, and Rite of Passage

Fall 2012 059“Being pregnant and giving birth are like crossing a narrow bridge. People can accompany you to the bridge. They can greet you on the other side. But you walk that bridge alone.” (African proverb)

There’s a reason I picked the name Birth Walk for my business and blog.  Walking.  It’s the great milestone of the first year of life and is the basic form of our movement and mobility for the rest of our lives.  It’s something that most of us probably take for granted, but walking both literally and figuratively plays a vital role in birth.

From a very practical perspective, staying upright and walking during labor  can help dilation, and bring baby into the best position for birth.  Walking can speed up labor, or can help start a stalled labor–all benefits that are lost when women are forced to labor in bed or on their back, as tends to happen in most hospital settings!

During both of my pregnancies, I tried to walk as much as possible, not only to prepare my body for the hard work of labor, but, just as importantly, to prepare my mind for the mental work that takes place when giving birth. There are several cultural mythologies around women giving birth in indigenous communities throughout the world that involve walking.  In some of these stories, pregnant women walk long distances in search of a place give birth when it is time.  From a biological perspective, this could be tied to how animals of other species of animals will seek out a location or den to birth–out of a need to secure safety for their vulnerable babies. For humans today, whose physical safety may not be threatened, there is still a need to create a “protected space” in the mind when it comes time for birth.

As the African proverb above suggests, when women birth they must walk through a vulnerable place within themselves in order to bring a new life to this side of earth and simultaneously give birth to a new identity as a mother–a process that continues to unfold long after the initial birth of a child.  When I was 39 weeks pregnant with my son, I urgently felt the need to hike up my favorite mountain by our house.  In fact, though I’d been moving pretty slowly for a while, when I started that particular hike, I felt a lightness and a deep need to practically run up the mountain.  I HAD to reach the overlook at the top because I knew that when I arrived there I would make peace with any fears I had about giving birth.

When we reached the top, I sat in meditative quiet and felt my son stirring within me and knew that I would hold him in my arms soon and that no matter what, I was going to birth this baby. I was ready.

Walking continues to be my outlet–my opportunity to be in my body and mind.  It is the space where I learn more about the mother that I am and the woman that is emerging during this rite of passage.

So, for birth and for life:  Keep walking.  Don’t stop.

Birth Walk Doula to Add Postpartum Services

Big News!  In 2013, I will begin taking postpartum doula clients!

Baby Simon

Why hire a postpartum doula?

Once upon a time, women were surrounded by family and friends to support them in the days and weeks following giving birth.  In some cultures, women are EXPECTED to observe a 40 day “babymoon”, where the mother is excused from housework and care of other children; so that she can recover from the birth and get to know her newborn.  Today families are scattered and it’s common for new families to lack support for the major transition of bringing a new baby into their life.

Moreover, the postpartum period can be very difficult emotionally as new mothers process their birth experience and emerging identity as a mother.  Having someone present to nurture the new mother can make a huge difference for her wellness as she undergoes this transition. A postpartum doula can help fill these roles.

What do postpartum doulas do?

  • breastfeeding support
  • light housework
  • help with newborn care and logistics
  • provide information, referrals and advocacy
  • take care of a mother’s needs

What training do postpartum doulas have?

Most postpartum doulas have read extensively, attended some kind of comprehensive training workshop (similar to training for labor support) that prepares the doula to work with the specific needs of a postpartum mother, and have experience in caring for  babies and/or families.

Click here to learn more about my postpartum services.

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