Mother Outlaws

Last night we had our first Mother Outlaws meeting. In case you are not familiar with Mother Outlaws it is a group based out of Toronto, connected with the Association for Research on Mothering where mothers who are feminists come together to discuss how their motherhood and feminism intersect. I have started a group in London with like-minded women and we kicked off our first meeting with 13 mamas in attendance and many more interested in attending in the future.  It was an energizing first meeting where we each discussed our own path to feminism and thoughts on how it corresponded to our mothering. The conversation flowed from there and we touched on feminism as it relates to attachment parenting, young mothers, gender roles and raising children, queer parenting; working; & the constraints of the ‘good mother’ role.  Many of these themes will become topics for future meetings. The group will be meeting on the 3rd Monday of each month at a different members home. It is open to any woman who is interested in feminism and mothering and I am sure the group will evolve based on who we reach out to.

I absolutely loved having this group of women in my living room – especially when my young daughters returned home with my partner after an evening out. Having  strong,  passionate women sending that energy out into our home felt right, real & radicalizing. I want my daughters to be surrounded by strong women who advocate for change and for that energy to surround and influence them. They already have this just by nature of our community, but bringing a group of women dedicated to that and speaking that into their space made if feel more tangible.

Since becoming a mother, I have felt distanced from my feminism as mothering sort of took over my life. Feminism has always been an integral part of who I am but until recently, I hadn’t been thinking as conciously about it.  Fortunately through mothering I have been able to connect with a community of women who emulate feminism in their lives. Therefore,  bringing a group of women together to discuss feminism and motherhood was a very organic process. I feel blessed to have this group of women to discuss, share and grow with and I am intrigued to see where this group will lead. Eventually I would like to see us more from reflection to action but am comitted to letting the group unfold as it will.:

Some future topics of discussion:

  • Nuclear family – challenges/alternatives
  • Attachment parenting
  • Working and motherhood
  • “Good mothering”
  • Mothering: global perspectives
  • Women’s empowerment of their own bodies
  • Gender roles – gender polarity
  • Young mothers
  • Raising boys
  • Isolation, depression, mental health of mother
  • Reproductive rights

Feminist – Are you or Aren’t you?

I haven’t been blogging much -not into the groove I guess. But recently I asked the question “Do you consider yourself a feminist” on both my local mama board and on twitter. I wasn’t surprised by the answers but definitely intrigued by some interesting conversations that developed. For the record, I consider myself a feminist. Since I was a teenager I have identified as part of the F. world and it has shaped a lot of who I am. My version of feminism is pretty fluid and open – I believe in equity, equality and a voice for all. It translates into my relationships, my work,  my mothering and pretty much everything I do. I don’t know how to piece it out and define it.  Although I identify more with some aspects of feminism than others, I accept the diversity of the movement as positive reflection on its openness and am not attached to one particular view or another.

So what were some of the responses I got from other people? Some felt that we were past the need for feminism  – that women have made it and that feminism is no longer relevant. I don’t accept this view for a variety of reasons.  1 in 3 women experience violence at the hands of someone they know (usually a male), women in Canada and the US only make 77cents for every dollar a man makes, women make up the vast majority of the poor in Canada and around the world, rape is used as a weapon of war and gender based violence is growing not decreasing. Despite these reasons and others,  I do understand why some women might believe we are post-feminist. In their view, these particular women have not been hampered by their gender and they believe they are equal to men. To me this speaks more to a particular woman’s privilege than it does to the state of gender equality in the world. I could easily look at my life and think that gender doesn’t matter – I have reaped the benefits of being a white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied woman in the west. But even with this privilege I see inequities – I see it subtly in my own life and I see it in the women that I work with, love, know and read about. Even if I could concede that feminism is irrelevant in North America, a look beyond these borders to the marginalization of women around  the world would cause me to put that big F right back on my chest. There is so much more to be done.

Some of the other responses from women  were that although they agreed with equality,  they weren’t man-haters or concerned with political correctness and therefore weren’t feminists. I am not sure how man-hating became equated with feminism other than by a concerted backlash attempt by those who fear feminism to paint it as a radical, anti-male agenda. But I know a lot of feminists and not one of them hates men – in fact most of them would be less likely to stereotype or degrade the male gender than most people I know. And since feminism really is about equality for all, I assured these women that if they wanted the label of feminism they already held the ideals.

Lastly, there were the women who did say that they were feminists and the reasons were as varied as those who didn’t. Some came to it through motherhood and expressed desire to uphold the feminine values and the unique bond and relationship of the mother baby dyad. Others spoke of  coming to feminism recently, as they began to understand their place and privilege in the world  Some experienced great oppression in their lives through violence or other forms of marginalizations. And others were similar to me in that  they couldn’t quite recall what brought them here as it just seems like they always were a feminist.

It has been an intersesting discusssion. One I hope to continue so if you stumble upon my blog and have some thoughts please feel free to comment. I am open to people disagreeing with me, I just ask that you remain respectful. My feminism is about love, peace and change – not anger, resistance or fear. Regardless of your take on my words,  I offer you that.

Thoughts from a Canadian to an American on the Election

I read your blog about Obama’s win and thought I would share some thoughts on how it looked from my corner of the world in Ontario Canada. Many of my friends, family and neighbours were actively engaged in this election. For a long time we have admittedly looked to our Southern friends and family and shaken our heads in disbelief at the administration of your Country. When George Bush was elected 4 years ago we were very saddened that the American people voted once again  for a man who spoke so often of hate, terror and fear. That individualism and power seemed more important than community and peace.

But all that changed with this election. I loved watching the excitement and energy of the American People in the lead up to the election. There was so much passion, energy and hope. Last night we spoke to our children at the dinner table about the election and explained how millions were going to vote that day just as we had over a month ago in our own Country. We told them that we hoped that the people would vote for a man named Obama because he believes in people and cares about the world (my children are 5 and 3 so we were keeping it simple). My daughter Ainsley beamed at me and said that she too hoped they voted for Obama because he seemed like a good man. Later my partner and I  sat down and watched the coverage and were ecstatic when Obama was awarded  victory. It was a proud day for Americans and we were and are so happy that the US voted for change. This seemed to be an election for the people and I think it demonstrated how good democracy can work when citizens are inspired to be engaged. It serves as an example for all of our Countries to expect more from our leaders and contenders for office. That we shouldn’t have to vote for the lesser evil or against someone but instead for someone and for values we believe in.

Everywhere I go today people in my city are talking about the election and the hope that has come with it. What it means for our own Country policy wise is less important to me right now than what it means for us as people who can believe in change. We elected a minority Conservative government here about a month ago who is reminiscent of George Bush and the Republicans. Many of us fear that our Country is headed in the wrong direction and that so many of the values we as Canadians hold dear will be undermined by our leaders. The election in the US reminds me that it is the people of a country who truly make a difference and that when we come together and put our energy into something we can accomplish great things. I carry this with me as I look forward to what our country needs and how I as a citizen can influence that change.

Thoughts on prenatal classes

This weekend I will be teaching a lamaze childbirth education series to 5 couples. Lately I have been thinking about the value that prental classes play in the preparation of women and couples on their journey to being parents. I believe in education and information as empowering tools to help us learn and prepare for life’s events. I have spent the better part of my working life faciliating and developing workshops for adults. But still I am left with the question of whether prenatal classes do what they are intended to do?

Research is mixed as to whether cbe classes help parents be better prepard for birth and parenting. Many couples who take standard cbe classes will tell you that it is a waste of time. Yet, I know the couples that take our classes find value in them. Not only do their inital evaluations reflect that but so do their thoughts when we speak to them after they have had their babies. What is the difference and what is the value? What are we actually providing of value?

I think what we provide is the space to explore fears, while reinforcing the message of having trust and confidence in a woman’s body and herself. We live in a culture of fear around birth and a culture that sets up women’s bodies as deficient. Our classes and other good cbe classes provide a different lens to see birth and women through. We normalize birth as a natural event that women are fully capable of handling. We don’t set up natural birth as the only option but we do use it as a starting point, while recognizing that each woman needs to come to her birth with different things that will work for her. Each of us has different life experiences that will influence how we want to give birth. For some that will mean being at home in water and for others it could mean being in the hospital and having an epidural. Each of these are valid choices.

We approach women’s choices from a place of trust in them and their ability to make the best choices for their lives. Options in birth are there if women want them but they are meant to be done ‘for’ women, not ‘to’ women and they should be offered with full disclosure of the benefits and risks of each one.

Other messages around birth instill fear and distrust in women. They send the message that we really aren’t capable, that our bodies are deficient and in need of intervention. Interventions are necessary and any woman who denies herself these interventions is either trying to be a hero, putting her baby’s life in danger or she is someone who cares more about her birth experience than her child. Usually the message being sent to women is all of the above. These are powerful messages, dificult to counteract.

So what we provide in our cbe classes beyond the basic information of birth is a clear and confident message that women are capable, strong and wise. That birth is a normal, natural, event in a woman’s life. That the birth experience and baby are the responsibility of the parents – not the system. The system is there to work for them. That all birth options are valid and it is important to know the benefits and risks of all your options. But mostly what we provide is a place for women and couples to come and explore these topics with others who are about to embark on the same transformative event as themselves.

A child’s wish list for who will lead the Government

Today is election day in Canada. I asked my 5 and 3 year old girls today what qualities they would look for in people who would lead their country. Here are their answers:

* someone who picks up garbage and takes care of the earth

* someone who helps other people

* a person who will leave bugs alone when they are hiding under a leaf

* somebody silly

* a person who respects other people’s wishes

* someone who listens

I found that the qualities that they listed get to the essence of the same things I am looking for in a leader and my local candidate. I want someone who sees taking care of people as an important part of their job, someone who has a plan for our environment and respects the earth, a person who I can relate to and trust and someone who listens to the citizens of this country.

My girls are wise. When I take them with me to vote today,  I will be letting them know that I am voting for the things that are important to them because it is children who are our future. We need to be thinking generations ahead to what kind of country and world we want our children living in. My kids obviously want a caring, cohesive and healthy world – same as I do.

Election 2008 and International Maternal Mortality

So I thought I would be blogging about birth, breastfeeding or some other mothering type issue. Thoughts on these issues is usally what occupies the majority of my brain space. Lately I have been preoccupied thinking about the Canadian election that is taking place tomorrow and the direction our country will be heading in. Of course it is related to women, birth and breastfeeding because everything is intertwined – particularly when talking about politics.  Harper’s record on women’s rights is not comforting and given that it looks like the conservatives will likely form a minority government I wonder how much worse things will get?

Ahhh…but life has a way of bringing us perspective. I just received s story from the Washington Post about a mother who died in childbirth in Sierra Leone and that states that the maternal mortality rate in Sierra Leone is 1 in 8! 1 in 8?  How does that happen? Fatmata’s story is heartbreaking and unbelievable in that it happens to other women over and over again.  Here is the link to the article

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/11/AR2008101102165.html

It is astonishing the maternal mortality rate in the developing world. The fact that giving birth can be a death sentance to so many women in this day and age just doesn’t seem right. Lack of sanitation, medical facilities, training and lack of international attention are all to blame. An important campaign that I have supported for some time is the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.  It is a coalition to raise awarenss of the need for safe motherhood for all women, particularly in developing nations where death and birth are too often related events. Here is the link

http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org/about.cfm

I urge you to support the White Ribbon Alliance and to feel outraged that mothers are dying all over the world. It shouldn’t be happening and it doesn’t need to happen. What happens to these children when their mother’s die? Where do they go and what do they do? What does it mean for a nation like Sierra Leone to have so many of their children growing up without a mother?  And for the girl children who some day face the same risks that their mother’s face if they give birth?

Birth should not be a death sentance. Health care is a human right for everyone.

Please add your name to the letter to ask global leaders to make women’s health during pregnancy and childbirth a political issues. Sign the letter here:

http://www.whiteribbonalliance.org/TakeAction/

Tomorrow in my own country I hope that Canadians vote for community, the environment, and a fairer more just Canada.

Harper’s record on women’s rights

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has released a book about Harper’s Record.  The Canadian Women’s Health Network listserv distributed this information from CCPA. I think it is very englightening in regards to Harper’s record  on women’s issues and his overall stance of issues related to equality. The information speaks for itself.

————

CCPA’s national office recently released the book:  The Harper Record.  This book is a
comprehensive analysis of the Conservative minority government to date.  You can
download this book as a PDF file off the CCPA website.

CCPA-Manitoba is releasing a series of Federal Election Fast Facts called:  Five
Things You Need to Know About Harper and……..(various topics).  The Fast Facts are
quick summaries of some of the topics covered in the book such as crime, childcare,
civil rights, women, the environment and energy, water, governance and privatization.

Today’s Election Fast Facts deals with Stephen Harper’s record on women’s rights.

ONE:
In its first Budget, in 2006, the Harper government made deep cuts to the
Women’s Program of Status of Women Canada. Its budget was reduced by
43% and 12 of its 16 regional offices were closed. Funding for women’s
equality research and advocacy was eliminated, and the word “equality” was
removed from the program’s mandate. Funding for the Court Challenges
program, which had supported many women’s equality legal challenges, was
also terminated.

TWO:
Widespread public disapproval of these cuts resulted in some of the funding
later being reinstated. The Women’s Program budget was partially restored
and the word “advocacy” put back in its mandate. But the offices that were
closed in 2006 remain closed, and the Women’s Program still does not fund
women’s equality advocacy work. Funding for the Court Challenges Program
was not restored.

THREE:
The Harper government’s still-effective 2006 Budget cuts have caused
women’s equality organizations to reduce their activities and even forced
some of them to close down. The National Association of Women and the
Law and the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women,
among others, have had to scale back their operations because their
research or advocacy work is no longer funded. This has had a damaging
trickle-down effect on other organizations across the country which had
relied on these national agencies to provide the research and information
they require for their own work.

FOUR:
Although pay equity is a human right guaranteed by the Canadian Human
Rights Act, women in Canada working full-time and full-year still are paid an
average of only 70.5 cents for every dollar earned by men. A Task Force on
Pay Equity set up by the previous Liberal government recommended that a
pro-active pay equity law be enacted that would compel employers to
address gender-based wage discrimination and eliminate pay inequities
among their employees. It also recommended that a new Canadian Pay
Equity Commission be established to administer and enforce the new pay
equity law. These recommendations have been completely ignored by the
Harper government during its 32 months in office.

FIVE:
Women’s incomes typically fall in the lowest tax brackets (less than $38,000),
but tax policies that directly be

My BOLD 2008 Experience

Performance Night

Performance Night

For a long time I felt the call to do more in the birth world. To pick up my activist shoes and go out there and make a difference beyond the one birth at a time work of being a doula and childbirth educator. I have been a doula for over 4.5 years and I love it. I love the couples I work with and the amazing births that they invite me into. What I struggle with is the pain and trauma I see women experience in childbirth due to their choices being limited or just not respected. I decided that I needed to do something more about it. I needed to make a difference in my own community beyond the support I provide to individual women and couples. That is where BOLD came in http://www.boldaction.org. BOLD is an internationa arts-inspired movement to create childbirth choices that work for women. Starting in January of 2008 I and 4 other passionate birthy women set aobut bringing BOLD to London Ontario by producing the play Birth, by Karen Brody and hosting a Red Tent Event for Mothers. Below is the email I wrote to the interntational group of BOLD women after our play. Instead of trying to recreate the words and emotions of that time, I will just copy what I wrote. What I would write today would be different, but this captures the essence of my experience so much better than I could do justice to right now.

Hi,

*Phew*…..I feel like I was just at a very long and satisfying birth. We had our one and only performance of birth last night and it was more than I ever hoped for. When our online ticket sales closed last night we were at 92 tickets and I was incredibly pleased. My goal was to reach an audience of about 100 people which is really out there for a city like London. Well… we ended up selling over 50 more tickets at the door for a grand total of 146 people in attendance. Our show was in the performance hall of our Central Library and our signs attracted a lot of walk in audience members. People who were just walking by, became intrigued and then bought a ticket. We also had a BOLD Statement table set up for donations where people could give a donation of their choice in exchange for a BOLD statement card to hang our our BOLD wall of support. We raised an extra  $56 through that and next year I think we can do even better with more signage.
Along with that good news we had a few blips this week. We had to let go of one of our actors this week. It was heartbreaking for all of us and a decision that we were reluctant to do.  We were so grateful for her contribution and she did come out to the performance. So that meant as of Monday we were down an actress for Vanessa’s role. Our talented Director stepped in, learned the lines and rocked the house last night with her performance. She was amazing!!! I cannot believe she pulled it off with everything else she had to do and I will be eternally grateful to her for her true BOLD comittment.
We also lost our videographer this week. We had struggled with finding someone all along and last week I though the BOLD fairies had visited because a journalism student contacted me to ask me if she could film the performance for one of her classes. Yes!!! But no….she called me a couple of days ago to back out. *sigh* So, we went to plan D and asked a friend of one of our organizers. She graciously stepped up. Unfortunately we had a lot of technical difficulties with the camera during the performance and I am reluctant to look at the footage as I know there are gaps and I just hope the performance came across ok.
But…..those were the challenges and the show itself more than made up for it. The actresses rocked the house and they had the audience laughing, chanting, crying and it ended with a standing ovation. Their performance in front of an audience was dynamic and the audience’s response back just fed the energy. It was one of those sizzling theatre moments and there was so much buzz at intermssion and after the show. I got to see how well your play Karen sets up that dynamic between the audience and the actors. It was an exchange of power and energy…just like Birth.
Our talkback was good but short because of time. We were just gaining momentum when it was time to close. It was a good beginning though and I feel it has built some bridges between the doula community and the care providers. We now have a basis for dialogue which is what I was hoping for.
It is now the morning after and I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of just writing all that. I am exhausted but satisfied. I am looking forward to refocusing back on my kids and letting some of the BOLD magic circulate out there before we pick up the momentum and keep going.
Thank you Karen for your beautiful play and support, thank you Randie for being our BOLD doula and all that you have given  and a ton of gratitude to all the other BOLD organizers – you are the wise women I felt with me throughout this BOLD path.

Trying out the blogging world

I have a wonderful partner who is very connected to the online world and has spent many an evening listening to my musings on birth, parenting and being a woman in the world. He has consistently encouraged me to start a blog and write it all down so here I am – in the beginnning, again.

I am a birth and postpartum doula, postpartum doula trainer and lamaze certified childbirth educator in London Ontario. I work with three other amazing doulas at Babeeze in Arms Doula Centre where we offer doula support along with a range of workshops for the childbearing years as well as for birth professionals. I am also the mother of 2 young daughters who have recently led me on a home schooling journey and who inspire much of what I do.

This blog was created to keep track of the evolution of my path as a doula and the other mutliple identities of my life. I have no idea where this blog will go but I am open to experiencing it.

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