It was such a privilege to be interviewed by Maryn for an episode of the IndieBirth Podcast! I was terribly nervous, and I rambled on, getting worked up as I always do whenever I talk about birth or birth politics, but I loved the chance to speak with a woman who, through the miracle of the internet, I have connected with from the other side of the world, as a kindred sister. Although Maryn could barely get a word in edgewise (no worries, she has promised to come on the Bauhauswife Podcast soon, and to bowl me over in return!) several of Maryn’s comments struck me, and I’ve been thinking about our talk ever since.
At one point in our conversation, Maryn pointed out that it seems to her that our current culture is very much oriented towards outsourcing responsibility for our bodies, our health, and our births to the “professionals”, and that there has been a marked shift in recent years away from taking responsibility ourselves, as individual women, for our birth experiences, and everything else. This is absolutely true, and is a phenomenon that I’ve considered for many years.
The question of responsibility is complex, and fraught. I am very conscious of the way that women are so often victimized and then subsequently blamed for that victimization when it comes to so many areas of our experience, especially birth. But I also see many women who, for so many legitimate and understandable reasons, make choices out of fear; choices that diminish our power, and that lead directly to outcomes that may not be optimal. I often find myself flailing and failing when I try to find a language that can access and describe with compassion those elusive spaces between victimhood, freedom and responsibility. Words like “empowerment” have come to be used as ways to simply re-frame oppression with flowers, so that everyone feels better, without any shifts in consciousness necessary. We sell ourselves short with that kind of extreme denial-as-subjectivity. And yet, I am also very aware that the way I see the world has been shaped by my privileges, upbringing and socialization, as well as simply personality. Systemic oppression is real, and invisible, and very difficult to navigate, as individuals.
My focus and my super-power as a birth-worker, birth-attendant, birth-keeper, birth-witness, is working with women to establish both the inner and outer environment and conditions that will lead to spontaneous, physiological home birth. And all of this can be learned! This work is inspired by my deep love for mothers, babies and birth. But in the past 15 years, I have come to realize that re-wilding birth cannot happen without a commitment to being deeply honest with oneself. I meet many women who say they would love to have a natural birth or a home birth, or a freebirth, but whose actions and choices belie those words.
One of the deepest and most important questions for mothers, and anyone embarking on an important journey of any sort is, What do you want? And then, “No seriously, what do you *really* want?” Because there are distinct and painful drawbacks to taking full responsibility for your birth. There are drawbacks to owning and analyzing all of the choices and actions that you take from this point on, and to checking in with yourself as to where those choices and actions are leading you, and on what path.
What will you lose, if you single-mindedly pursue the birth you really want, with open eyes, as the sole decider, as the only source of power? You will lose the option to be a victim. You will lose the option to blame someone else if things don’t go exactly as planned. You may lose the option to tell a particular story that might feel familiar and even comforting to you. You might lose your excuses. You may even lose, and need to mourn, a particular identity.
Perhaps paradoxically, I have found that personal responsibility is best and most potently cultivated in the context of community. I see so many women for whom an article, or a friend’s story or testimony has sparked a desire to have a non-medicalized home birth, but who don’t actually realize that giving birth at home in their sovereign power is a possibility in reality, until they find themselves sitting in a circle of other women who have done it themselves. Authentic love and support among women is transformative.
In this day and age of ones and zeros, the internet has done a great job of granting us untold access to information, but real community is harder to come by. Maryn, Margo, and the IndieBirth group has done a phenomenal job of using technology that can sometimes be more alienating than connecting, to create what comes as close to an online “community” as I’ve ever seen, and to bridge the virtual with the voice (through the IB podcasts and web conferences) with incredible in-person events.
I hope to meet you all in Sedona, sometime soon.
Yolande Clark is a writer and independent birth-witness based on the east coast of Canada. She works in person and through Skype, with smart, independent women who are sick of feeling disempowered by the myth that childbirth is a medical event from which we need to be delivered, helping mothers navigate the process of planning and manifesting their freebirth without fear. Her website is www.bauhauswife.com, and The Bauhauswife Podcast can be found on iTunes.