Put Your Big Girl Panties On

Do you all remember my t-shirt slogans from months and months past… or is it years?  I’ve come up with another slogan: “Put your Big Girl Panties On.” Let me back track. A year ago, I started writing a series for the Where’s My Midwife? blog. My series was about potential slogans for t-shirts. I came up with “Don’t Hate Me Because I Had a Beautiful Birth” (one of our most popular blog entries ever—thanks readers!) When I wrote that blog, I was feeling positive and upbeat. Then personal tragedy hit.

My sister, Elena, had been diagnosed with a highly metastatic form of cancer only a month after our midwives were fired from a local practice. If my sister could (and was!) battling, and seemed to be kicking cancer’s ass, well, I would battle right along with her. While I would continue to fight against the injustices that I witnessed daily in my community, not only about access to midwives, but also to woman-centered care locally and nationwide, I would try to spend as much time with my sister as possible.

About a year after Elena’s diagnosis, she lost her battle, and she suddenly passed away.  I was with her as she took those last difficult breaths. There were moments that I thought as I slept next to her on the hard cot in her hospital room, and as I kept certain forces at bay (unwelcomed visitors, etc.) that this was actually the culmination of my work as a doula. I will always hold those moments with my sister close, as difficult and painful as they were.

This was the second year that we experienced the holidays without my sister. It was harder this year for me than last year. Last week I sat across from my friend and midwife, Suzanne, one of the two midwives who was dismissed from our local practice. As I wept, wailed, and screamed (unfortunately my grief has recently manifested as anger towards people who I dearly love), Suzanne gently suggested that I contact a therapist. She chose her words carefully, “Sylvia, I want you to consider if you might benefit from medication, therapy, or both.” It is one of the things that I appreciate about the way that midwives practice. They are at their core “with woman,” and they are trained to care for the total person. I appreciate that Suzanne recommended that I seek help not only as my friend, but also as a health care practitioner.

The last two years were for me the intersection of a personal fight (dealing with my sister’s illness and death) and of a more public battle (increasing access to midwives.) It’s been a tough couple of years. For me “put your big girl panties on” has meant that I got up every day and not only take care of myself and of my children, but it has also meant that I continued to work to make change in my community and beyond. As we become “big girls,”(i.e. women) we face major life changes and tragedies. “Putting my girl panties on” means that I need to prepare myself mentally and physically for this next stage in my life. I am facing life without my big sister, and I am also squarely in the middle of middle age. (Did you know, by the way, that midwives provide continuity of care throughout women’s lives?) I have made an appointment with a therapist to help me navigate these unchartered waters. Thank you, Suzanne, midwife and friend, for reminding me that it’s necessary to take care of this aspect of my health.

So, I leave you with this. When I say, “put your big girl panties on” I mean that we all have our personal and public battles to fight. For me it’s one of the mantras that have helped me through the past couple of years. Join me in putting ‘em on and in fighting your own fight: whatever this may be.

Happy New Year!

The New Year is a time to reflect back on the past and to step forward into the future with clear intentions. Here are some of our new year reflections:
In 2011 we test drove a sweet little idea called Pregnant Mayhem. This was an opportunity for mommies everywhere to hit the streets and demand better maternity care using theatre, public art, flash mobs, megaphones, protests, whatever it takes to get the word out about our broken system and the beautiful ways it could be better. The original idea was to have something simple and provocative every month. This something would take place all over the country.
Our initial action took place around Labor Day to coincide with the 5th anniversary of Karen Brody’s International movement –  “Birth” On Labor Day.  It consisted of four women in four different cities giving birth in public spaces, a conference, a street fair, a tourist destination and a parking lot. Of course we didn’t force any real babies to spend their first moments of life as a public spectacle. These women were all performing a scene from Karen Brody’s play “Birth”. In 2012 we want to further develop this idea of taking our birth activism to the streets. We want to reach more people in more places with bigger and more profound happenings. It is time for birth activists to stop talking amongst ourselves and to get the message out to where it can make the most impact.
Also in September of last year, Where’s My Midwife? planted roots in Canada with the birth of the Ontario chapter.  Maria Radonicich relocated from Wilmington with her family only to find that a local midwifery practice, in Orangeville, Ontario, needed help.  Maria told the locals about the success we had in Wilmington when mamas demanded change.
Soon, local families were painting car windows and marching for midwives, all in the hopes that the local hospital – Headwaters Health Care Centre – would see the community demand for midwifery care and grant privileges to the Midwives of Headwater Hills’ entire practice.
The new chapter saw one midwife granted privileges in November (bringing the practice total to 3 with privileges at HHCC) and are awaiting approval of a fourth midwife’s privileges. In the coming months we anticipate seeing the Midwives of Headwater Hills catching babies at Headwaters Health Care Centre again.  We will be working on establishing non-profit status in Ontario and researching what town to head to next.  We will continue reaching out to communities who have lost their midwives or seen their ability to practice be crippled by unfair laws and policies.  We are ready to stand with communities across the U.S. and Ontario and help them develop an individualized plan to set things straight. If you need more midwives in your community give us a call!
And, finally, one of our favorite projects in 2011 was a short film titled “Midwives’ Diner”.  This year look for more short films promoting midwives and the amazing care that they provide. We love making films and will continue to use them as our megaphone.
We are looking forward to a year full of positive, creative, engaging action. We hope your 2012 is full of all good things. Happy New Year!