Working to bring awareness to our broken maternity care system can feel quite lonely. When we produced the play “Birth” by Karen Brody back in 2007, we had a strong group of doulas helping, and a close-knit home birth community to fill the seats. Ultimately, aside from the professionals who agreed to participate in the talk back panel discussion after the play, it felt a bit like preaching to the choir. But we plugged along, undeterred because we so passionately believed that nothing would improve if we weren’t talking about it. So, we held a screening of “Business of Being Born,” we hosted Jennifer Block to discuss her book Pushed, we hosted a screening of “Pregnant in America”and we created Women In Labor Daze, a week long celebration of motherhood which culminated in another weekend of the play “Birth.” But all along, we wondered if our message was being received by the folks who most needed to hear it – the providers and the women who were afraid of birth.
When a large midwifery practice in our community was abruptly shut down we organized a daily protest at the hospital. After we had been protesting outside the hospital for a couple of weeks, I arrived first one day and pulled my poster board sign out of the van and stood on the sidewalk waiting for others to show up. A guy in a red pick-up truck drove by and shouted, “GET A JOB, BITCH!!!” out his window. Wow. At the time, I thought, “It’s true, I don’t have a job. I just stay home with my kids. I’m just a mom. . .but I want this to be my job!” How was anything going to change unless women made it our job to change the current culture around childbirth? So we decided that we would! We recognized that after most women have their first baby, they are so overwhelmed with the transition to motherhood, they don’t necessarily have time to reflect on their birth experience much less set out to try to change the system. But we knew there were others like us out there – there were communities all over the world producing the play, “Birth,” the film “Business of Being Born” was being screened everywhere. What if we could somehow coordinate our efforts? Form a national campaign to raise awareness? Start networking with other activists and find out about where other folks have affected change in their communities so that we can replicate those things in our own communities.
And that’s where you come in, birth activist! We need you. We want to know what you have been up to. If you are available June 22 – 24, join us at the Farm for our Birth Activist Retreat. If you have already been accepted to the retreat, look for an invitation this week to join our private facebook group where we will begin brainstorming ways to actively engage the public about pregnancy and birth. And if you cannot make it in June, but want to be a part of the discussion, sign up to be on our mailing list and we will invite you to join the discussion on facebook.
It may feel lonely being the one lady holding up a sign, talking about transforming maternity care. But you are not alone – there’s safety in numbers. Join us.