Friday, November 18, 2011

More Business of Being Born: Bridging the Divide in the Montreal Birthing Community

It is with great excitement Betsy Thomas (of Bummis fame, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for many years) and I (founder and director of MotherWit Doula Care) are joining forces to bring the first screening of Ricki Lake's and Abby Epstein's More Business of Being Born to Montreal.

There are a variety of reasons we wanted to do this. One is that it is always fun to inform parents-to-be or those considering parenthood about their options for birthing. The film we have chosen to show is one of a series of four, and it is entitled Doulas, Birth Centres, and C-Sections. It is an exploration of the options families have to choose from when making decisions about their birth experiences. Now granted, this film is American, so it will be important for us to put the options into Quebecois context. For example, many women have no idea that giving birth in a Birthing Centre or at home with a midwife is an option that is covered by Medicare here. And others may know this, but may not be aware that by the time their nausea has passed and they begin to think about their birth options, it will be way too late for them to acquire the services of a midwife as the demand for midwifery care FAR outweighs the supply here in Montreal. The vast majority of women who want the option of an out of hospital birth experience with a midwife will not have it. In and of it itself, this is a huge issue we as a community need to address and strive to remedy.

Another reason Betsy and I were excited about screening More Business of Being Born was that a gathering of "birthies" is always a lively, passionate affair. Bringing together the community of parents-to-be, new parents, birth activists, and birth attendants always creates the opportunity for rich discussion. It is through gatherings such as these that positive change can be made towards improving birth experiences for all families, no matter what they choose. It is for this reason I have organized a panel of birth attendants together for an after-screening discussion. I am so pleased to have on board my own beloved midwife for my fourth kid and author of Naissance Heureuse, Isabelle Brabant. Representing the crucial role of obstetric nurses in maternity care is Luisa Ciofani. Luisa has been practicing as a nurse for many many years at the Royal Victoria Hospital and is also a teacher of women's reproductive health as well as a certified lactation consultant. When a woman gives birth in a hospital, it is the nurse from whom she receives the most attention and care. We are also pleased to have Dre. Stephanie Morel from St. Mary's Hospital who is a family doctor specializing in maternal and newborn care. For women wanting a hospital birth but one that is typically lower in interventions and more open to maternal comfort (support for natural birth, support for birthing in mother chosen positions, support for delayed cord cutting and immediate skin to skin contact with Baby), the care of a family doctor is a wonderful option. The obstetrician on the panel is still to be confirmed. This is an important voice to have in a discussion among various birth attendants and consumers of medical care. Many couples feel most comfortable with the presence of a highly skilled surgeon at their births for "just in case" scenarios, and many must have the presence of an obstetrician at their births because of the high risk nature of their pregnancies. It is also important to remember that what contributes to the safety of our midwife and family doctor attended births is the available safety net of excellent back up obstetric care.

I will be representing the role of the doula in maternity care on the panel. I feel very fortunate in my work as a doula, which spans nearly two decades, in that I walk among the different "worlds". I may rush from a water birth with a midwife at Maison de Naissance to an elective Cesarean for a breech baby with an obstetrician. I may be at an induced labour of twins with the presence of a family doctor, an obstetrician, and two feisty nurses and then the next day witness a home birth in which the midwife skillfully catches a fast baby over the toilet. I may transfer with a labouring mom from Maison de Naissance to the hospital for a minor concern, and then continue supporting her while the family doctor eventually catches her baby (a VBAC) while she is on her hands and knees and the nurse turns off the light to facilitate a gentle bonding time for Parents and Baby. In all of these scenarios, my mandate is this: to support a family in having the best possible birth experience within whatever setting and with whatever caregivers are present. In my work as a doula, I have come to deeply value each and every role of the key players in birth attending, and it is with great honour I get to sit with some of them on a panel. Unlike everyone else on the panel, my role is entirely supportive, and entirely NON clinnical. My two cents has mostly to do with my having a deep understanding, given the closeness, hours of contact, and rapport I build with the families in my care, how they feel about their birth experiences; how it was impacted for the better or for the worse by the environment they birthed within.

The theme of this gathering, as well as to watch a highly anticipated new birth movie, is about bridging the divides in the birth community. Many members active in the birth community, from birth attendants to passionate birth activists, have criticisms about other members: their approaches, their choices, their methods, and their beliefs. This is the nature of having strong beliefs and opinions. However, I have personally witnessed midwives bash obstetricians, obstetricians bash midwives, nurses bash family doctors, doulas bash nurses, natural birthers bash those who loved their epidurals, pro Cesarean advocates bash those who want natural birth, breastfeeders bash bottle feeders, formula feeders bash intactivists, and so on and so on and so on. Personally, I'm tired of the bashing. There doesn't seem to be healing in that. What I want to see is a truthful but respectful discussion about what women want for their births, what collectively they have found to be most wonderful or hurtful to their experiences, what safe really means and what a family's responsibility is in making safe choices, and how everyone can work towards making the experience of childbearing as good, as joyful, and as pleasurable as possible NO MATTER where and with whom a baby ends up being born. It is important for people to know where birth practitioners are coming from, what motivates their decisions, what changes can be made to support what families want (and what perhaps cannot), and ultimately how to serve birthing families not only clinically, but supportively as well.

Our evening will be MCed by the lovely Shari Okeke, a reporter who has been with CBC Montreal for over 10 years. She will mediate the panel discussion and keep our evening running smoothly. Essentially, she will be our "event doula"!

Another important intent behind the screening of More Business of Being Born is to raise funds for Maison Bleue, and organization staffed by a midwife (Isabelle Brabant), family doctors, a social worker, nurse, and special educator (www.maisonbleue.info ). These dedicated members work together to create a safe, nurturing, and empowering environment for families living under precarious conditions to birth and parent their babies within, thus preventing many of the associated risks. All profits from this screening will go to Maison Bleue. Representatives from Maison Bleue will be present at our event to take donations as well.

In order to create an opportunity for even more fundraising, small community businesses who serve the Montreal community will donate some of their products/services for a silent auction to be held in the theatre.

The Bummis and MotherWit teams really hope to see you there! A great night for a great cause!


Time
30 November · 19:00 - 22:00
Doors will open at 18:30

Location
La Maison Theatre
245 Rue Ontario Est
Montreal, QC

Please note that space for this one of a kind event is very limited!
Tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance at:http://www.boutiquebummis.com/fr/billet-more-business-of-being-born.php?adr=1or in person at Boutique Bummis:
4302, Boulevard St- Laurent
Montreal, QC H2W 1Z3
(514) 289-9415
*tickets will not be shipped but have to be picked-up at the door on the day of the screening*