On September 12 Memphis area moms, dads, and birth workers and others will join together and rally for Improving Birth. Along with these amazing Memphians, and the great folks at Healthy and Free Tennessee, I’ll be holding a hand painted sign like the ones in this picture.
A couple of days before the rally, on September 10, the Improving Birth Memphis team (Kathy Burrows and Whitney Moody) is planning an awesome event. It will be awesome because local moms will be telling stories of birth. It will be awesome because there will be birth themed cocktails and mocktails. Mostly, it will be awesome because I will be wearing a vagina costume. Yes, I am totally serious. I’m going to wear that vagina with pride and honor. Because let’s face it, vaginas are fantastic.
So why am I wearing a vagina costume for Improving Birth? Here’s why:
1. The Memphis Birth Community.
Memphis is a gritty town. It’s got a lot of problems. It also has a lot of soul. The birth community here is small, but we are mighty. For the most part we are supportive and collaborative. We show up at each other’s events. We Latch On. We Climb Out. We help each other because we know that the work to improve the outcome for our babies and mamas is hard and tiring. We have each other’s backs. So, when Kathy very shyly asked me, to don a vagina costume at the Spillit storytelling event, I enthusiastically said yes. I love Kathy. I love what she stands for and the work she does. I love her so much, I’ll wear a vagina costume for her.
2. My daughter
This is multi-faceted. One day, Olivia might have a baby. When one day happens, I want my precious girl to have an empowering, safe, and glorious experience. I want her to know she can trust the people who are sharing her space so SHE can birth her baby. I want her to feel the way about the that day how I feel about the day I gave birth to her. In a hospital, in West Virginia, under the care of two loving nurses, Sarah and Jennifer, and one amazingly supportive midwife, Jan, nearly 7 years ago, I gave birth in a shower. I gave birth on a birthing stool in the shower where I had been allowed to labor all day. My midwife asked ME where I wanted to give birth. Jan wedged herself between the toilet and the shower in a very small hospital bathroom and waited. She waited for me, patiently, calmly, and while completely drenched from the shower. Sarah, and Jennifer, attended me throughout my 18 hour labor and respected my choices the entire time. They encouraged me to move as I needed to and rest when I could. Sarah charted every ounce of water I took in, instead of insisting on an IV for fluids. The hospital cafeteria sent me trays of clear liquids. I sipped tea, and broth freely. I nibbled on applesauce. It never crossed my mind that I would be denied food, and I wasn’t. I was given the chance to birth. I was safe and loved and honored. This is what I want for Olivia. This and absolutely nothing less. I want this for Olivia so much, that I’ll wear a vagina costume for her.
3. My mamas. My clients. My friends.
Oh the stories I hear. Stories of birth that could easily be confused with stories of assault, rape, or terror. Through my work as a postpartum doula, and as a counselor that works with women who have suffered traumatic birth experiences I hear stories that would make your skin crawl. I hear them a lot. Did you know nearly 1/3 of women have negative thoughts about their births? Of that 1/3 nearly 10% would describe their births as traumatic. Can a woman really get PTSD from her birth experience? Really? Yes. She really can. When her body is violated without her permission, whether with a hand or a scalpel, she can be traumatized by her birth. When she is lying on a table, bleeding, losing consciousness, feeling as though she might die, she can be traumatized by her birth. When she feels that those attending her are more concerned about the clock than her comfort or well-being, she can be traumatized by her birth. When she’s starving, thirsty, exhausted and confined to a bed for hours because of “policy” she can be traumatized by her birth. My mamas, my clients, my friends deserve to remember their births without words like “broken” “terrified” “alone”. I want this for them. I want this so much, that I’ll wear a vagina costume for them.
I hope you’ll consider rallying for change in hospital, insurance, and healthcare policies with us this September. I promise, you won’t have to wear a vagina costume. Unless, of course, you really want to.