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Birth in Today’s Media: Finding Help Without the Hype

“The Media” as a term encompasses all channels of content prepared for the express purpose of being sold to consumers, to encourage them to consume the information or entertainment. This includes everything from traditional news outlets of TV and newspaper (which sell commercials) to movies and television shows to sponsored content on social media sites such as Google and Facebook. This Media takes its sustenance from marketing the sensational. By its own design, these outlets never highlight the normal or the ordinary. Sensation Sells.

When this media mindset intersects with birth, the result is an inflated, dramatic rendering of the pregnancy, labor, birth, and mothering process. We should expect nothing else from the large channels, which highlight only “the exciting.” Visual media (like television and movies), along with print media (like newspapers), do not have the time, patience, or finished-product space to show the true nature of labor and birth – which at times can be slow, uneventful, and little appears to be happening on the surface. Instead, the frantic, dramatic birth scenes prevail. Even in the series Call the Midwife (produced by BBC), some normal births are highlighted, while many more of the scenes focus on the extra-ordinary. In Newspaper articles, almost never will one see a headline of  “Baby Born at Home in Peaceful Setting.” Instead, the babies born in cars on the side of the road or in hospital parking lots are disproportionately highlighted compared to those born in “normal” settings of hospital or home.

Whether or not the scene itself is portrayed as dramatic and frantic, the visual cues included are very likely to promote a medical model of pregnancy and birth. The picture of the ultrasound as a birth announcement. The scene of the parents during the ultrasound focusing on the screen. The birthing woman ready to begin pushing (when the doctor says so, of course), with feet up in stirrups and seemingly in the least comfortable position possible. All these scenes take power away from the birthing woman’s intuition and connection with her body and her baby. The impact on society and on women who give birth is one of disassociation with her own body and her own power.

Social media is – maybe surprisingly – providing quite a potent antidote to the otherwise pervasive cultural representation of passive and/or dramatic labor and birth. Through personal channels such as Instagram and YouTube, women are able to share more thorough representations of their experience with birth. Many times, these are personally inspiring and empowering. A powerful shift has happened with the art of birth photographers/videographers and midwives being widely shared across these social media networks. While still running a business, yes, with the intent to sell their services to clients, these women are first and foremost creating art to be shared with the world. Pictures and videos of birth experiences in various settings and levels of medical intervention are expressed as empowering and normal. I see this source of content as a powerful tool for woman as they grow into childbearing age and as they preparing to welcome a child. Great instagram accounts include @monetnicolebirths, @birthwithoutfear, @cradledcreations, and @lindseymeehleis.

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ACED Workshop NJ

Our birthright as women is the feminine creative energy present in the peak of our fertility and wellness: conception, pregnancy, childbearing, and nurturing. Power and intuition are inherent in each woman’s body. I love that all of BirthWorks’ lessons, experiences, and interactions honor this creative energy, and acknowledge pregnancy and childbearing as a healthy and natural process. Watching videos such as Birth in the Squatting Position and Birth Day at the workshop inspired me to imagine the powerful, peaceful time of connection that birth can offer. How different might our world be if more and more families had this time of intense connection, challenge, and joy? How different might our homes and schools and workplaces be if filled with individuals who had this opportunity for love and embrace in their first moments? Those are the ideals that inspire me in my life and in birth work.

Making the trip from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Medford, New Jersey for the workshop and beginning the investment in the certification program are steps towards fulfilling my vocation of supporting new families. Attending the workshop was a big step. As an introvert, it takes a lot of mental and emotional preparation for me to be ready to enter an unfamiliar social space. The set- up of the workshop – keeping the attendance to a small group – allowed relationships to form, emotions and experiences to be expressed, and equal talking and listening time.

As I’m a rather bookish type and a birth junkie on my own, the workshop really allowed me to experience positive and stretching exercises in a group setting. I especially appreciated the time of guided meditation/visualizations, as these were new to me. I left the workshop feeling very empowered to begin this journey to help expectant parents get in touch with their own power and intuition.

After experiencing the workshop, my initial feelings of BirthWorks as a positive force in our world were confirmed. The organization exists to see expectant parents embrace their own power and intuition, and this is desperately needed. We - the birth and postpartum doulas, the childbirth educators - are simply facilitators in that process of greater self-confidence and trust. As I look forward to beginning doula services and teaching courses, I am both bursting with potentially life-changing information for families, and slightly overwhelmed at the amount of positive information and stories to share in a limited amount of time. I trust that as I move forward, I will begin to know how to prepare for classes, and also to continue listening to my intuition in the moment to know what topics to address and how to act in the moment.