I would love to confidently state that I'm truly individual thinker, but sadly, I'm not, I'm more of an aggregator of ideas. I'm always delighted when I find the thread of a notion or theory running through different disciplines & media. And so it was yesterday morning.
Over on Facebook, I shared a post from the really rather wonderful Tellmeagoodbirthstory. I've been following her work since just after Thing#1 was born, when I had the realisation that a 'good birth' is entirely attainable and not in any way related to place/method/drugs. Tellmeagoodbirthstory had posted a carefully considered piece about appropriate birth environments, and I shared it late in the evening, after a glass of wine. In the morning I looked again at the piece, and worried about the image. Just before leaving on the school run, brushing away toast crumbs and marmite, I hastily posted my concerns about the image. Tellmeagoodbirthstory - being marvellous - responded, and we had a little digital-conversation about the images of birth that women are exposed to. Brilliantly, Tellmeagoodbirthstory is baffled by negative depictions of birth thrown up by a Google search for 'labour' & 'birth' - and while it's terrible to see the fearful images of helpless & scared labouring women, it does at least expose our cultural bias towards birth-as-suffering.
Fast-forward 24 hours, and I was in London, having a terribly exciting, highly secret squirrel conversation with a rather international & glorious woman about the future of work. We were talking about models of employment, and how it is that businesses are limited in their potential to adapt the standard "employee time + employer money = work" equation for the better, because they do not have exposure to any effective, improved models. Without a working model, the risk of changing their existing employment dynamic is too high.
And there it is. The connection. Link it back to my last post, where I talked about Mary Beard's book Women & Power (and if you haven't already read Professor Beards book, you should, pronto), and how it was that when she typed 'cartoon professor' into Google UK she found only 1 illustrator of a women in that illustrious position. She says;
"If we close our eyes and try to conjure up the image of a president or...a professor, what most of us see is not a woman. And that is just as true even if you are a woman professor: the cultural stereotype is so strong that, at the level of those close-your-eyes fantasies, it is still hard for me to imagine me, or someone like me, in my role"
Apply that notion to birth, and there we have an overwhelming problem, that affects every, single, pregnant woman. The cultural stereotype of birth as suffering, as undignified and unfeminine and problematic, is so pervasive that many women do not even accept there is a realistic choice to make. Added to this is the attitude towards the alternative to the cultural norm - that it's a bit left-field & out of the mainstream (and I think as many birth prep coaches are complicit in this as obstetricians) - and it becomes even harder for women to create a vision of what a 'good birth' might be in sensible, pragmatic, realistic terms.
This makes telling women they have 'informed choice' a bit laughable, really. If 80% of the choices are unpalatable, and the remaining 20% just doesn't resonate with you, how are you to choose?
So what to do? I have a mission to bring real informed choice to women who want it. I don't shy away from the messy, intense realities of birth. I do not make any judgement about where, how or with what support (emotional, pharmaceutical, medical, surgical, spiritual or otherwise) you birth. But I do emphatically believe that women should be freed to anticipate they can be augmented by the challenges, triumphs, contradictions & changes that pregnancy, labour, birth & motherhood bring - not limited, restricted or controlled by an out-dated cultural orthodoxy.
I'm starting by telling you something you don't hear very often. A 'good birth' is as much about mindset as it is about your body. And pretty much everything you've learnt in your life up to now can be drawn on to help you achieve a 'good birth' experience. Want to see the evidence that you're already perfectly primed for birth? Here we go;
You are quite capable of critically analysing information If you've ever booked a holiday, bought a car, held down a responsible job or chosen what to have for lunch, you have made a critical analysis of the options available to you, and applied your findings to the unique, individual which is you. You may be swayed to some degree by what other people think, but, dammit, if you don't want to eat an egg salad sandwich, or go sky diving in Croatia, you won't do it, regardless of how many other people around you are. Applying these sorts of thought processes to the decisions you make around your birth means you can create an environment you feel comfortable and secure in. It's important. Do it.
You are resilient Close your eyes now, and think of three things you've started and not finished. It may have been a food you tried and didn't like. It may have been a job you started and just didn't get on with. Possibly a hobby you were talked into trying and didn't take to (a girlfriend of mine was once persuaded to go on a skiing holiday she knew she'd hate, and she did hate it, and after 3 days spent her days rallying between the spa & the bar). Got those three things? Right. So you'll know that even though you didn't complete these things, or they didn't go the way you had hoped, or you decided not to do it again, they have had a positive effect on you. They have made you who you are today. You were able to try them, discover your attitude towards them, adapt your behaviour accordingly and, well, here you are today. So it is with birth. Be wary of anyone who tells you how it 'will' be. Trust that you are capable of turning whatever it is to your advantage.
You are determined Once, there was a time when you didn't know how to drive a car; when it was your first day in your career, and you knew nothing; the first time you cooked an omelette. You had to have the drive & commitment to push through from novice to expert, and so it is with birth & motherhood. You're on a new path now, right? You can trust that although you don't have the answers straightaway, you have got the character & determination to seek them out.
You are adept at learning new skills These first three points are factors in this one. With your winning combination of critical analysis, resilience & determination, you already know you can do this - whether the skills relate to your work, your hobbies or your personal life, I bet you can think of at least 5 new skills you've learnt in the last 5 years, and really, that's all you're doing now. It may feel uncomfortable - moving out of your comfort zone often does - but you know as well as anyone that it's temporary, and that before long you'll be doing this mothering lark with your eyes closed.
You are prepared to learn new skills now...this is a biggie. There are all the practical skills you need to have, like how to get a baby with shit all the way up to it's hairline out of a babygrow - these are the obvious ones. The hard ones are things like stillness, responsiveness, asking for help. These are the tricksy ones to learn because they're the ones we've been overcoming in our sharp, smart, capable 'normal' lives for years. They're the very opposite of learning how to do something - it's more learning how to not do things. To simply be present. To spend hours wearing a groove in the sofa while you feed your babe. To quietly trust that while hysteria followed calm by mere seconds, all will be resolved and return to calm again in a similar frame of time.
You can do this. Have faith.
The Good Birth Practice debuts a new course on Monday 19th February 2018, called 'FOCUS, CONFIDENCE, EASE'. For more information - and to take advantage of the 20% early bird discount - email Charlie now at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call on 07905 986810