One of my favorite birth activists is the author Suzanne Arms (“Immaculate Deception”). She has always had a lot of information to offer about birth itself, but her work right now is expanding into how birth affects our larger culture. She hypothesizes that when babies are born in non-gentle and sometimes even violent ways, that this has a lasting impact on the baby, the mother, the father, the hospital staff who are present, and all present at the birth. These people go on to affect, well, EVERYTHING in our larger culture. In other words, the more gentle and more loving our birth practices, the more gentle and loving our whole society is likely to be.
I am inspired this week as I reflect on the violence in Boston to share a number of suggestions from Suzanne Arms’s website (http://birthingthefuture.org). This is an excerpt from a list of 52 suggestions that I’ve edited and added to. (You can see her website for the original list. This is MY take on her list! I have quoted her extensively here but added some of my own words.)
Have fun browsing. I will give you five suggestions today. More to come! I think that if you commit to doing ONE of them, you are helping to make the world a better place for all of us. Some of these are really fun! What if everyone who reads this blog wrote a letter a week for a year to elected politicians about birth? They would see that we care!!!!
I’m going to start with my favorite suggestion from Suzanne Arms:
- Assume everyone you know is as interested in birth as you are, and act surprised if they aren’t. Assume they don’t know much but would like to, such as how they were born. After all, we were all born, and the experiences we had from our conception through birth and how our mother’s and others cared for us in the first hours, weeks and months have had a lot to do with shaping our lives. Our health, our attitude, our relationships. All of it.
- Bring men into the subject of birth. We were all born. Birth is not a woman’s issue alone. And how men think and feel about birth matters. Have men tell you what they know and feel about three very important subjects: circumcision, breastfeeding, and vaccinations.
- Buy and donate GOOD birth books and videos (like “Natural Hospital Birth”, Suzanne Arms’s books, Ina Mae Gaskin’s books, “My Best Birth,” etc. ) to your local public library. If you can afford it also donate copies to your local health clinic that cares for pregnant teens and low-income women. Either way, be sure to ask them to carry these books and let them know they give much more accurate information than do “What to Expect…” or“GirlFriends Guide”.
- Write letters about your concerns regarding birth and some changes you wish to see and send it to your local/national paper, as a letter to the editor, or to local/national TV shows. Also request they do an investigative story on birth in your area or that they interview and follow a local midwife, a birth center, or a woman who’s had a home birth. Notice how natural birth, home birth, breastfeeding and bonding are often portrayed negatively in the media, including popular morning TV shows like Good Morning America and Today. Suggestion: Once a month, write a letter or get on the internet and give your thoughtful comments and recommendations to such shows.
- Suggest teachers you know (in elementary, junior high, and high school) learn about natural, normal birth and midwives, birth centers, home birth, waterbirth, breastfeeding and bonding (attachment). Suggest to college instructors and professor that they include issues such as the physiology, psychology, politics, economics and ecology of birth in their curriculum. (Note from Cynthia: cross-cultural birth comparisons are very interesting to students. My students at Eastern Michigan University love those lectures!) Reach out to anyone you know who teaches family life education or sex ed in high school, or human biology, women’s studies or child development and other relevant courses in junior college, community colleges, colleges and universities to get GOOD books on birth! We need to educate women early—and men too— about the biology of birth, and breastfeeding and baby care. The decisions women make about how they want to birth and whether or not they will breastfeeding, circumcise their boy baby, question standard vaccination protocol, etc, have their roots in childhood.