Archives for the day of: May 20, 2011

Demedicalized Childbirth: Supporting Women as they Embrace Nature
In 1997, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for the demedicalization of childbirth due to the increase in unnecessary interference with the natural process of birth related to the advance of modern medicine.

Statistics show that medical interventions at birth tend to snowball, leading to further interventions. This makes it difficult for a woman to have the natural birth she planned, while increasing the chances for complications with nursing and general healing that frequently come with drugs usually employed in the hospital birthing process. While we can be truly grateful for lifesaving medical technology when it is applied appropriately, natural childbirth is clearly safer and therefore preferable for most normal births. In a culture where natural childbirth is less common and homebirth can seem extreme, how can we support women to embrace nature?

Birth–and death, for that matter–used to be a common and visible part of daily life right in our homes. Simply by proximity, we as a culture used to know what to expect with birth and the postnatal period. Mamas and sisters and aunties and nieces were there and ready to help out with the familiar territory of birth. Men knew their roles and provided a supportive and respectful space for women. This is in sharp contrast to today’s cultural landscape, where we often don’t see the full range of life anymore. The birthing and dying and eschewed away to the doctor’s domain and labor and birth is depicted as an emergency situation on TV ranging from the Cosby Show all the way to ER. It has bred a kind of pervasive, cultural fear where it seems only the “experts” have the answers about grounded, real-life womens issues–not just at birth, but also in the healing period afterward.

Even outside of the doctor’s office, new moms today are often expected to adjust to their new role as Mommy largely on their own; this compounds the problem. Cut off from a living women’s tradition of community support and with the office demanding Daddy and possibly even Mommy back at work ASAP, the modern world refuses to make space. To make matters worse, women often feel that their experience is unique and therefore irrelevant to other women–from the medical particulars of their birth to the individual family situation and beyond–and therefore moms might not readily talk about their experiences with other women, especially those who are not moms themselves. It all adds up to making having a baby in today’s culture often isolating and strange, even in liberal enclaves where lip service is given to community support but where people actually live quite separately from one another. What’s worse, it also robs women of their inherent power.

This is why it is critical that we offer women safe, natural, life-affirming birthing environments whenever possible, rather than fear-driven ones. After that, it is essential to provide a loving and supportive postpartum environment in which she may recover and integrate her birth experience, whether she was able to have her child naturally or not. Expectant women can help themselves by creating thoughtful birth plans for Labor Day and informing those they are close to of their wishes. For the postpartum period, they can teach their friends and family to stock their kitchen with nutritious foods-as-medicines like bone broths and teas to promote healing and a good, basic home herbal pharmacy with simple, safe herbs for lactation support and to combat baby blues. A postpartum choice growing in popularity is to take a retreat and media fast for mom, dad, new baby and siblings only, with only the very closest best friend, caregiving family member or postpartum doula entering the home to help with meal preparation and cleaning.

What Does This Mean?
If a woman trusts that she can birth naturally, a woman trusts that she can meet any challenge in raising that baby–and in fact, many women report after birth that they believe that they can do anything. When a woman is allowed to stand in the power of her birth, she can stand in the power of her life. The cultural implications of that statement are staggering.

When a woman is empowered by the full, natural birth process, she is biochemically, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually better equipped to make the bond with her child that can lead to a deeper bond with humanity. In birthing a child, it is possible recognize the tear between this world and that: from Dao to one, one to two and so on. When she can intimately connect with this new child which only a few minutes, days or weeks ago was the stuff of her own body, her own being, and now is literally ‘other,’ she has the opportunity to dissolve the very sense of separation that we feel with all others–the family, the community, and beyond.

Properly framed, birth is a spiritual act. Not a medical one.

‘I Don’t Trust Women’: Don’t Believe the Hype
By Bene | February 1, 2011

At work you’ve formed a cordial relationship with one of the other women, and you start eating lunch with her regularly. Both of you share some of the same interests, the two of you are always laughing together and seem to get along well. Eventually, the break room chats turn into hanging out occasionally after work. In a random conversation over cocktails and appetizers you tell the story about the time you and your besties went to Miami, partied and relaxed on the beach for a much needed vacation. Something in her eyes indicates she can’t relate, and her statement later confirms it.

“I don’t hang with females. And I don’t have any female friends because women can’t be trusted,” she says.

Although you can understand where she’s coming from, your immediate response is a blank stare. In our lifetime, majority of women have heard at least one woman mumble something similar to the above sentiments. Distrust of women, especially women of color, is at an all time high. Too many Black women have adopted a mentality of automatically having a negative perception of other black women. We have got to stop this.

I know the pain of being hurt by women who I’ve considered dear friends. There have been women who have smiled in my face, who I thought were friends, but then talked about me behind my back. I’m not oblivious to the gut-wrenching pain of losing girlfriends you’ve had for years. But I also know this has only been a small percentage of my experience with women.

A life without girlfriends, presumably, would be a life of misery. It is your girlfriends who nurse you back to health after an unexpected surgery. Girlfriends allow you to cry on their shoulders when a guy breaks your heart. It is your female friends who won’t judge you when you do something stupid, but has the courage to tell you the truth. A bond of sisterhood is invaluable to your life as a woman.

I’ve never rolled with a clique. I think the friendships portrayed in TV shows like “Girlfriends” and “Sex and the City,” where a group of women are all friends, is rare. However, I do have women I’ve met in my lifetime who will always be like sisters. Most of them don’t know each other, and we all have moved to different states. Yet, my friends are my biggest cheerleaders and vice versa.

Due to patriarchy, Black women are conditioned to be hostile toward one another. There are times we will mug each other for no reason, or have unnecessary attitudes toward women we don’t even know. Just the other day, my friend and I were talking about how some black women are suspicious when we throw an unexpected compliment their way. Some give a disapproving look like, “Why are you even approaching me? I don’t know you.” Only to find out you just want to tell her how fierce her shoes are.

Then there are the women who proudly proclaim, “I have all male friends. I’m like one of the guys.” They wear their “one of the guys” title like a badge of honor. And a lot of times it is in the presence of men, almost as if they are trying to impress the men by acknowledging their distrust of women. I’ve heard it all from men are easier to get along with to men don’t gossip like women. Let me be the first to debunk that myth right now. Men do gossip; sometimes, just as much as some women.

Not trusting all women says more about you than it does about the women you don’t trust. There is no reason we as women should believe this notion that women are untrustworthy. Enough of that nonsense is coming out of men’s mouths. Let’s not buy the hype.

A network of women can truly move mountains. Look at Oprah. Her success has largely been in part because of the women who have supported her over the years. DJ Beverly Bond, creator of “Black Girls Rock,” was able to promote her message because of women.

Frankly, I’m leery of anyone who says she doesn’t trust women or doesn’t have any girlfriends. We definitely have to be more conscientious about the ideas we put out and believe about one another. I love my male friends dearly, but I couldn’t imagine my life without my girls. And I hope every woman feels this way about at least one woman in her life.

Women united are a mighty force.