Our ICAN chapter has thrived and grown by leaps and bounds. Our local hospitals boast a climbing c-section rate getting dangerously close to 40%- which is sad and ridiculous. C-sections happening at that rate are doing way more harm than good and are unnecessarily risking moms and babies. It's obvious how much our community needs an ICAN chapter by how quickly our chapter is growing. We have new moms showing up at nearly every single meeting.
The moms that attend our meetings have found that (for a variety of reasons) birth matters to them. Having the best birth for themselves and their babies matters to them. Avoiding ridiculously unnecessary and risky surgery matters to them. Understanding what the best birth practices are according to the latest research is important to them. Knowing what care providers to avoid, what questions to ask, and what red flags to be aware of are important to these moms. Knowing all their options matters to them. "If you don't know your options, you don't have any." It is important to know. These moms truly understand that! It's a blessing and a privilege to see.
To these women, birth is more than just a way to get the baby out. It isn't a medical event. It's a very important LIFE event in both their lives and in the lives of their babies. A rite of passage. A hugely important part of the journey to motherhood. To these moms, the experience is also very important. They want to experience the birth of their baby in the most natural and healthy way possible. They want to be active and participate. They want to feel everything - good and bad, pleasure and pain, joy and fear - all the various intricate physical, emotional, mental, hormonal, and spiritual aspects of the birthing process. It all matters. Moms and babies matter. It is all important. It's important to the healthiest outcome for both the mom and the baby. These moms get it.
What being an ICAN leader means to me....
It means staying very current on all the latest research on birth. What is evidence based? What is fear based? What are current practices and why? What current standard practices are good and which ones need to go? What does the evidence support? What does the research say about special circumstances? VBAC after multiple c-sections? Advanced maternal age? VBAC with a special scar? Breech birth? Multiples birth? Low fluid? Big babies? And so much more. We ICAN leaders are researching all of this constantly. On a daily basis I'm doing at least a little birth-related research for ICAN or for whoever needs it - I'm always happy to help in any way possible! I find myself continually up to my elbows in medical research abstracts. My eyes begin to cross, but I keep digging deeper and searching harder. Because birth is my passion.
It means being available to help when it's wanted but holding back and staying silent when it's not wanted. The women at our meetings generally want the support, the research, the information, and the help; that is why they are there. But in my day-to-day life I have friends and acquaintances who may not. They know what I do. They know what my passion is. But some do not care about the birth experience. Some do not care about evidence-based-birth practices, finding a care provider who actually tries (or knows how!!!!) to avoid unnecessary surgery, the intricacies of the process, the research, the journey, etc in the same way or to the same extent. They don't care to have to fight for something that should just be the way things are. (It's not the way things are, which is why we must fight.) I understand not wanting the fight. But I will never ever understand the not caring enough to take on the fight and it endlessly perplexes and disturbs me. But I try to accept it and move on and just be available to those who DO care and who do want and need the help, support, and information that I can offer.
It means having some of the most fulfilling experiences of my life (aside from the births of my own babies!) helping those moms who DO need the research, the information the support etc and find it with ICAN. When they go on to have the birth of their dreams, you cannot imagine how beautiful it is to hear their stories. To feel their joy. To celebrate with them! These are the moments that I live for.
It means being the middle man between some birth professionals and moms who don't know how to find what they need. It means seeking out that doula that will attend a birth for free. It means connecting a mom with a midwife who is the right fit for the moms' needs. It means having access to one of the largest birth networks in the country and being able to go to the other leaders on occasion to ask the hardest questions.
It means getting to see moms all over this country fighting for their best birth against all odds. For some it is a huge battle. They have to want it very badly, truly understand what it is they are fighting for, and really care about evidence-based-practices to fight the way they do. A twin VBAC, a VBAC after 3-c-sections, a breech VBAC, a VBAC with a classical scar, just to name a few. It means supporting them and cheering them on. It means being inspired by incredible women every day. It means helping them fight the good fight. It means being there to listen. It means seeing what can happen when a woman believes she can do it and then finds out that SHE CAN!!! Women are incredible. We were created to do this. And we can do it.
It means supporting those that for whatever reason have a traumatic birth and are disappointed. It means meeting them where they are and being there to listen and understand. It means listening to those c-section moms who didn't want a c-section trying to process what happened to them. (Whether medically necessary or not.) It means understanding that a healthy baby is not ALL that matters. A healthy baby is a very important piece of the puzzle, yes. But the mom matters too. Her physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being matter tremendously. We are there to listen. To help her process. To let her tell her story as many times as she needs. And to provide everything we can to aid in the healing process.
It means shedding so many tears. Tears of sadness and pain. Tears of unbelievable triumph and joy. Tears for those who don't get it or who have to learn the hard way. Tears for those who do not care and for those moms who will never even realize what they are missing. Tears for all the many unnecessary c-sections. Tears for the necessary c-sections that are still traumatic or difficult. Tears for birth/maternity care in America and how incredibly messed up it is right now. Tears for the moms and babies who are being harmed in the meantime while we try to fix this mess. Tears for the moms who fight long and hard and ultimately triumph and hold their baby for the first time with a huge "I can't believe I DID IT!" grin on their faces. That right there makes all the tears and battle scars worth it. There's a very good reason I do this, and I will keep on doing it.