No quick fix

The hurdles women face trying to navigate various maternity systems are sourced by complex and deeply rooted imbalances. I surely wish there were easy answers but the truth is there’s no quick fix to this one.

Recently, while listening to Wendell Berry speak in an interview with Bill Moyers about farming and sustainable living on our earth, one comment stood out to me that I thought applied nicely to childbirth advocacy and activism:

“We have to ask what’s the right thing to do and go ahead and do it.  And take no thought for the morrow.” –Wendell Berry

This brings me back to the ground. Perhaps it’s not up to us to say when any of these changes will be seen (or even if it will be in our lifetime) but that fact shouldn’t stop us from trying–because it’s the right thing to do. In my years (a mere six) of contemplating birthing issues, I offer my own list of some key things that need changing (feel free to add yours in the comments):

  • Recognition of a woman’s right to birth as she chooses
  • Legislation needs to reflect those rights
  • An independent reporting system when violations of those rights occur
  • Accountability for violations of human rights in childbirth
  • And last but not least, education of our youth of birth as a normal, physiological process

To accomplish most of these maybe we need to vote differently (not just at the polls but with our feet!) and leave behind fear based decisions. We need to continue to raise awareness when our institutions disregard women’s rights. We need to question what it is we are teaching our children about the normal, physiological process that childbirth is. Raising our children so they feel empowered to ask questions and follow their own paths is vital to this kind of cultural change.

Of course there is hope. Women are taking back their births and there are legal shifts (such as the Ternovsky case in Hungary) which hold much promise. Perhaps with changes activated both from the bottom and the top–grassroots advocacy combined with acknowledgment of human rights–the potential exists to motivate change by meeting somewhere in the middle.

Out of all the doubts, wrong turns and false starts–at the bottom of the box there is always hope. The way I see it we each just need to go forward with the best we have at any given time.

The thing we all need to remember–the non-negotiable part–is that women own their births. As I see it, that and nothing else must be the base of our work.

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