I got all dressed up last night and went down to Tribeca to try and get some answers about about how to have to good birth.
My destination: the Choices In Childbirth Concert For Healthy Birth where Every Mother Counts director Christy Turlington-Burns and pioneering Ob/Gyn Christiane Northrup, M.D. would be honored for their work raising awareness about maternity care in America and around the world. I snagged a press pass and squirreled my way up to the red carpet line next to a rookie reporter from US Weekly. (The Business Of Being Born producer and the night’s host Ricki Lake was very politely answering all his questions about her favorite products and American Idol contestants.) When it was my turn, I asked these women (and then a few more childbirth gurus I bumped into inside the party) the following question:
It can be confusing when you’re pregnant for the first time, to understand your choices in childbirth. There’s a lot of information out there. If you could give a pregnant woman one piece of advice to help get started, what would it be?
Here’s what they said:
“Connect with your self and where you are with pregnancy and childbirth–once you’re really clear on that, then make every decision after that based on what your core beliefs are. These will inform who you choose as a provider, what environment you decide to birth in…it’s really about recognizing that birth is a sacred thing that’s going to stay with you forever, you need to be really mindful about that and about the choices that you make. There is no right way to give birth, there is only the right way for you. ” – Elan McAllister, founder of Choices In Childbirth
“This is your birth. This is your pregnancy. When you’re pregnant people come up to you and touch you and tell you what to do. They did it to me and I was a board-certified ob/gyn! This is because people around you care about this new person coming into the world. But when you’re pregnant, your insides are on the outside. You need to have protection, and you need to protect your baby and your space. That’s THE MOST important thing. And from that center, you’ll know what to do.” – Dr. Christiane Northrup, obstetrician, best-selling author and all around guru when it comes to women’s health at all stages of life. I must add that Dr. Northrup is so radiant and gorgeous in person, she seemed to actually give off the color yellow. And when she answered my question she leaned right up to me, looked me in the eye and put her hand on my arm. If I had been sick, I’m pretty sure that touch would have instantly healed me.
“Giving birth–no matter how you do it–is a transformative experience. A new life enters the world and YOU become a mother. Try to surround yourself with people and who have respect for you, your body, and your important role in this process. Having people around you who believe in you will help you believe in yourself and trust yourself even when pregnancy and birth are new and scary. – Rachel Zucker poet, doula and co-author of the recently published “Home/Birth.”
“Besides renting our movie? (Laughter) No, it’s about doing your work.”
“It’s about getting your team… It’s all about the team. And knowing where you have choices and where you might not think you have choices. And if you’re not happy with your care providers, change. And change early!” – Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein makers of the documentary The Business Of Being Born and birth activists.
“Read my book!” Erica Lyon, author of The Big Book of Birth, and childbirth educator at Tribeca Parenting. (I think she was sort of joking, but I’m putting here because she’s absolutely right. It’s a brilliant book that quite literally walks women through the various choices and circumstances that come up in birth.)
A theme emerges: Do your home work, make your choices and surround yourself by people who genuinely support them. Sounds about right to me.
Elan McAllister, the charismatic co-founder of Choices In Childbirth, told the packed ballroom later in the evening that seven years ago she and like-minded doulas, midwives and educators started the organization when they became “tired of seeing birth choices narrow… and outraged that women were told over and over they can’t do it. That they’re bodies were failing them.” Now CIC is a full-fledged organization that helps women navigate the road to a healthy and positive birth experience. I’ve long been a fan of it’s approach which emphasizes, as the name suggests, choices.
But there was another theme to the night: sex and pleasure. When Dr. Northrup received her award she urged us to continue stitching back together the long-separated notions of pleasure and childbirth. And reminded us that just because “some woman named Eve” ate an apple, doesn’t mean every woman has to ” bring forth her child in suffering.” Hoots and hollers! The concert finale was performed by a woman I did not know existed and will not soon forget. She goes by the name of Storm Large. Her hit song, “My Vagina Is 8 Miles Wide,” is so catchy it’s caused me several awkward moments today. Mommy, what are you singing?!
On the way home I discovered a cute little vibrator in my goody bag. It seems that childbirth activists are not totally anti-technology, after all.
Photo by Ceridwen Morris. From left to right: Elan McAllister, Christy Turnlington-Burns, Funmilayo Brown