Birth community and a little update

A while back I posted about wanting to generate a birth network here in the Cowichan Valley.  But the crazy few months that followed meant that that wish never got too much further than a blog post and a couple of discussions with friends.  So I was super excited when I was invited to join a circle of women at the new Matraea Centre in Duncan, called together by Sarah Juliusson of Island Mother, Dancing Star Birth, Birth Your Business, and other cool projects. Sarah took the initiative to bring a group of people whose work supports pregnant and birthing families for a Birthing from Within training for professionals and discussion about our local birth community. 

I was tired and rushed last night, and had had one of those days where it’s lucky I work mostly from home because other humans would not have appreciated my mood.  But I made it to Matraea nonetheless, and am so glad I did.  I already knew some of the women there including the midwives, and a postpartum doula (aka goddess) who founded the New Mom Centre, and I met some others whose services include pre and postnatal yoga, and prenatal dance and art.  It was amazing to be sitting in a room full of so much excitement–excitement about Matraea, excitement about building connections in this community, excitement about sharing a common enthusiasm for supporting women and families. 

It was exciting and also educational.  Sarah took us through an exercise designed to help us examine the way we listen and respond to women when they talk about pregnancy and birth.  We worked in pairs to practice not only reflective listening but also body language that shows our clients that we are ready to ‘meet them where they are.’  I took away the message that we need to really hear what women are saying, recognize the validity of their position, and work with them so that the choice they make is truly theirs and not an empty reflection of our values.  This process focuses not on the outcome–not on what a woman ultimately chooses to do–but on how she gets there.  Does she feel supported?  Does she feel confident?  Does she believe that she is the most important person in the equation?  Does she own her own pregnancy, birth, and body? 

Tomorrow I’m going to start going to one of Sarah’s Mama Renew groups.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to do the whole session; I may have a scheduling conflict, but I won’t know for a while.  So, in the meantime, I’m going and I’m really curious about what it’s going to be like.  I have pretty much no idea what to expect!  But I hear it’s an awesome group of women (8 or 10, I think), so I figure it can only be good. 

Tonight is the first ICAN meeting here at my house for the Cowichan Valley chapter.  I’m nervous, which is funny because there’s really nothing to be nervous about.  I’ve wanted to do this for such a long time, as I think a group like this can really make a huge difference in a woman’s life, if it’s there for her at the right moment.  So, even if no one comes, just spreading the word and waiting so that ICAN is available for any person who may need it at any point in the future is good enough.

Birth Networks

It has been a while since my last post. A 2-week road trip in early August ended with me coming back to piles–literally!–of work.  That’s what happens when someone who is primarily self-employed takes a holiday…  On the bright side, however, all this time away has given me lots of opportunities to think about things to explore here.  Today’s post is relatively short because I’m still swamped with taking care of the backlog, but there will be more coming shortly!  In the meantime, a short musing on sharing, collaboration, and building a collective.

I’ve been thinking this week about birth networks, and in particular, about working with other people to start a local network here in the Cowichan Valley.  (Although the link is to the Lamaze site, the network I have in mind would be independent of any philosophy, open to as much diversity as possible.) I’ve been working this summer on spreading the word about my Fit 4 Two classes, and trying to build relationships with birth and postpartum professionals already working in the area.  And this process has made me dream of helping to form a collaborative group that would enable all the awesome childbirth educators, health care providers, pre and postnatal yoga and fitness instructors, and others who care for women during and after pregnancy to pool and share our collective wisdom–not only with each other, but with the community at large.  I can see the group providing mutual support, particularly for the smaller-scale businesses such as individual doulas and educators, but also organizing events that would be open to the community (hopefully free!) and informative.  I would love to do some free seminars on health and fitness, for instance.  I would love to work with other providers to demonstrate to people how all of these services complement one another, and hopefully offer opportunities for people who can’t afford to take private classes or hire private professionals to engage with us in another environment, and find alternative ways to access the resources we can provide.

Of course, organizing a network and events takes time and effort, and the trick will be to get enough folks on board that the burden is not too onerous for any one individual.  I have already had fantastic discussions with a couple of people, and hope to have more.  This is slightly uncharted territory for me, but I’m optimistic.  I think there are others out there who share my commitment to collaboration and collective engagement, and I think strength in numbers could go a long way in terms of building a stronger base for birth professionals in my area.  We’ll see what happens next…

Do you have experience with starting a network like this, either to do with birth or another topic? If so, please share your experience!

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