[Friday Wrap Up]: 27

Doula care in low-income communities, an awesome new children’s book on where babies come from, a pair of articles exploring infertility, a rocking birth story, thoughts from a 20-something who’s tired of being asked when she’ll start having kids, and a gorgeous photo essay of Muxas, or ‘third’ gender folks in Oaxaca. Another beautiful week of vacation reading that left me inspired, provoked, intrigued and more.

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The Amazing People Who are Changing How Low-Income Moms Give Birth

A great article exploring the rise of doulas in low-income communities and the ways in which doulas can improve birth outcomes in these communities.

You should really pair this with Miriam Perez’s great blog post earlier this spring about the future of the doula movement. I appreciate the hard questions she asks about the intersections of doula care, sustainability, finances, etc. The real question is…as we move more towards seeing Medicaid reimbursement for doula care, what does that mean for the way in which the doula role might shift?

What is the end goal of the doula movement? What are we working toward? Many doulas would likely say—and I would have been among them just a few years ago—that the end goal is to have a doula at every birth. But I no longer believe that’s the right goal.

I think doula work is valuable and important, and I also don’t believe the essence of doula work—non-judgmental and unconditional support for pregnant and parenting people—needs to be locked away in a system that says only a certain amount of training, certificates, or other paperwork bestows upon someone the right to provide this support. We run the risk of replicating the model we’re trying to revolutionize. And I don’t think that is where real social change happens.

What Makes a Baby

An awesome new book by Corey Silverberg. In his words:

What Makes a Baby is a children’s picture book about where babies come from that is written and illustrated to include all kinds of kids, adults, and families. 

Geared to readers from pre-school to about 8 years old, it teaches curious kids about conception, gestation, and birth in a way that works regardless of whether or not the kid in question was adopted, conceived using reproductive technologies at home or in a clinic, through surrogacy, or the old fashioned way (you know, with two people and some sexual intercourse), and regardless of how many people were involved, their orientation, gender and other identity, or family composition.

Just as important, the story doesn’t gender people or body parts, so most parents and families will find that it leaves room for them to educate their child without having to erase their own experience.

Fertility Diary (a new Motherlode blog feature by Amy Klein)

This I.V.F. stuff is hard. It is my first time in the trenches, but I already feel as if I need some sort of medical degree to do this — or at least a medical technician degree to give myself daily shots. Some women I know hire nurses to come to their homes to do it. Other women have to take two shots a day.

and related to this, an editorial called Selling the Fantasy of Fertility:

As former fertility patients who endured failed treatments, we understand how seductive that idea is. Americans love an uphill battle. “Don’t give up the fight” is our mantra. But the refusal to accept physical limitations, when applied to infertility, can have disturbing consequences.

It’s no wonder that, fueled by magical thinking, the glorification of parenthood and a cultural narrative that relentlessly endorses assisted reproductive technology, those of us going through treatments often turn into “fertility junkies.” Even among the patient-led infertility community, the prevailing belief is that those who walk away from treatments without a baby are simply not strong enough to run the gantlet of artificial conception. Those who quit are, in a word, weak.

I LOVED this birth story, from Mutha MagazineS. LYNN ALDERMAN’S Ugliest, Beautiful Moment (Or, Fuck Ina May): 

But inside my head, I could not believe what was happening. How painful it was. How terrifying. I felt helpless. And degraded and humiliated by there being witnesses. And at the same time, I felt so, so alone.  I remember at one point saying, completely out of my mind, “I don’t understand why no one is doing anything to help me! Please help me!” Della reminded me that what I was feeling was the baby coming. That I was doing just what I was supposed to, having the baby, right then.

26, Unmarried, and Childless

This post comes from a Christian-focused blog. I found the perspective quite intriguing. I grew up in a Catholic family, in which having children was seen as a way of manifesting God’s love and fulfilling our God-given role as men and women. Reading this article brought up a lot of memories of arguments with family members about this argument can lead to hurt feelings for those who experience infertility…or simply don’t want to have children or be parents.

Instead of relishing in the freedom, blessings and limitless possibilities that this stage of life offers me, I am left frozen, feeling like I’m not enough. Like what I’ve done doesn’t really matter or that I’ve accomplished nothing. I’m an outcast. I’m defective. I’m panicked. When you comment on my life stage as if there was something I could do to change it, it makes me feel inadequate. Most days I truly do love where I’m at right now, but when people question my marital status, I think I’m messing up my chances to do anything worthwhile with my life.

Striking Portraits of Muxes, Mexico’s ‘Third’ Gender

Before Spanish colonization blanketed Mexico with Catholicism, there were cross-dressing Aztec priests and hermaphrodite Mayan gods; gender flexibility was inherent in the culture. In much of the country now, machismo prevails and attitudes toward sex remain relatively narrow. But things are different in the southern state of Oaxaca where more pliant thinking remains. In the Zapotec communities around the town of Juchitán, men who consider themselves women—called “muxes”—are not only accepted, but celebrated as symbols of good luck.

[Friday Wrap up]: 25

Some highlights from this week:

Providing Culturally Sensitive Care to LGBTQ Families in the Childbearing Cycle

Oh, my beating heart! Someday, I’ll get to one of Kristin Kali’s trainings. In the meantime, I’m going to be breathlessly awaiting a report from my friend K, who will be attending.

Midwifery Benefits? Improved Outcomes For Moms Who See Midwives, Review Finds

You know, just in case you were wondering…

The reviewers looked at 13 trials of more than 16,000 women who saw a small team of midwives throughout their pregnancy, or one primary midwife. Eight of the trials included women who were at low-risk for complications during pregnancy and birth, while five included higher-risk women. All of the midwives were licensed in their respective countries, and none of the trials looked at home births.

On the whole, women who saw midwives throughout their pregnancy were less likely to have an epidural painkiller, an episiotomy (an incision made from the vagina to anus during delivery), or a delivery using instruments, such as a vacuum or forceps. There were no differences in Cesarean birth rates.

‘Mixed Race Kids Are Always So Beautiful’

As a trans-racial/trans-national adoptee, this piece struck home for me. I don’t have kids, but many of my fellow adult adoptee friends do, and this is a common topic of conversation. I’m so, so glad to see it in the NYTimes (despite the awful comments. I make it a point to never read the comments, especially on Motherlode. It’s bad for my blood pressure.)

Still, it never fails to throw me when anyone demands to know my daughters’ precise ethnic makeup, praises them by singling out their light hair or large eyes, or asks whether such white-looking children really do belong to me. Such comments often bring back memories of my own white-by-default upbringing with my adoptive parents and the many unwanted conversations we were drawn into as a multiracial family in a very white town.

Fertility Diary: Childless as Opposed to Child-free

Amy Klein’s guest post on Motherlode is a counterpoint to Time Magazine’s recent The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children.

The concept of the maternal instinct is as ingrained in our culture as the falling-in-love myth, i.e. immediately “just knowing he’s the one,” like in the movies. But is the maternal instinct necessary to being a good parent? Is it necessary at all?

I didn’t “just know” I wanted to have children. I didn’t just know I didn’t either. I did a lot of soul-searching to figure it out.

Despite my uncertainty, without that innate maternal instinct of “just knowing,” I decided to take the plunge anyway. And later, when I felt the baby growing inside of me and saw its heartbeat, I knew I had made the right choice for me, even though that pregnancy did not work out.

I appreciate the distinction Klein makes between childless and child-free…they are very different experiences…yet she grounds her piece in a desire to avoid dichotomies between the two. This isn’t about having and not having, it’s about the spectrum of feelings, desires, and the ambiguities of whatever choices we make.

Why The Pro-Choice Movement Needs to Talk About Children

Yet in large part, the mainstream pro-choice movement seems to have moved away from this focus on the family in favor of concentrating on the arenas of courtrooms and state houses. While the urgency of fighting increasingly severe challenges to abortion care is hard to understate, this shift in attention, messaging, and resources means that the anti-choice movement has been able to make the idea of family, specifically unborn children, central to its emotional power and success. As a result, the pro-choice movement has been left open to charges that it is anti-child and anti-family.

As a future midwife, I think about this a lot, because I know that I am going to face a lot of opposition among other midwives who feel strongly that midwifery is about bringing babies into the world. I see my role quite differently: it’s about support an individual’s needs and desires for their health and wellness. In my mind, this includes if, when, and how to grow their families. I so appreciate this perspective, though, because I think one of the challenges within the pro-choice movement has been acknowledging that a decision to terminate a pregnancy is not always about choice, or the legal freedom to make that choice.

Sarah sums it up well:

Talking about family planning also places abortion care firmly on a larger continuum, along with contraception, access to good prenatal care, and the right of any woman to have a child. This also allows abortion to be correctly discussed as one part of the larger issue of reproductive rights and justice, rather than as an exotic medical procedure deserving of judgment and stigma.

“No Thank You”: A Guide to Informed Decision-Making

This might be one of the most helpful clarifications of coercion, implied consent, and disregard of consent that I’ve seen in a while.

The involuntary sterilisation of children with disabilities should be challenged

When I was four years old, a doctor advised my parents that I should undergo a “routine” hysterectomy. It was recommended, the doctor said, to prevent the future inconvenience of menstruation. My parents, thankfully, were horrified and high-tailed it out of there, taking me and my four year old uterus with them.

I learnt of this story as a teenager, after meeting another woman with the same genetic condition as me who had undergone a hysterectomy at the recommendation of a doctor and the consent of her parents. She experienced ongoing physical and mental health issues throughout her adult life as a result of the procedure.

New Jewish Rituals Offer Comfort to Women Who Have Had Abortions

I love this…we don’t see enough in the media about religious communities that offer space for healing within their traditions.

Not being able to process it [abortion] religiously makes it a very hard experience,” Marx said. “We thought it’s important to give it a voice.”

Germany to become first European state to allow ‘third gender’ birth certificates

Um, yeah. That headline just made my week.

…and finally, for my readers who are map-lovers as much as I am (yeah, geography majors!)

A Strangely Beautiful Map of Race in America

image by Dustin Cable