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Workshop Review: "Three Days of Love"

by Brittany Sharpe McCollum

One woman’s first hand account of her beautiful experience attending a Childbirth Educator Workshop held in Cherry Hill, NJ

My South Philly backyard has become Monterrosso and this cheap glass of Chianti is now straight from the hills of Tuscany. It’s amazing what three days of love can do.

I have always been intrigued by our behavior when we walk into a room of strangers, all seated neatly in a circle. We smile, say hello, then look in our bags as if there is something important in there that we are so relieved to pull out. ‘Ah, yes, chap stick is just what I needed’ or ‘Oh, yes, just checking, uh huh, it’s still in there, no need to bring it out.'(That is my personal favorite) And to think, this was us, when three days later we were spilling tears and sharing stories as we hugged each other goodbye.

It seems impossible to give this time the credit it deserves. It was a space so different from the everyday life of work and even home. I have never before been in a group setting where I felt love from everyone. Not just existence or presence but radiated love.

It’s hard to say whether that feeling is due to the serendipity that led us each to Cherry Hill for those three hot July days or if it is that way for each group in Birth Works workshop. I am sure it stems from both the fate that brings people together and the sound philosophies of BirthWorks that led us all there.

My nature does not position me as the class clown, the center of attention, or the nerd (although sometimes I find myself leaning in that direction). By choice, I am somewhat in between these three. When I was urged to rebirth through the turtleneck exercise by a lovely woman with a longing for the mountains, I said “no,no.” Then I found myself saying “okay”. She later whispered, “I knew it was for you”.

I wriggled. I squirmed. I worked through that tight, dark, warm space like it was my life. And, in a way, it was my life. I pressed myself haphazardly against the rug. Soon I fell into rhythm, a dance. The birthing dance, perhaps, that good old pelvic rocking with which we are all so familiar. And I worked that collar down, down, down, over my hair, over my forehead, over my eyes. And I kept my eyes closed. There was no alternative. I was birthing and that is intense and focused energy. My eyes remained shut until that last piece of sweet-smelling cloth worked its way under my chin. And I could breathe. And nothing felt better than the hug I received, that initial human contact, as my eyes opened upon the room.

It just happened that that day was my birthday. Really, it was. And it just happened that I had been born by cesarean. And it just happened that that exercise occurred to the minute of my birth years earlier. I believe my re birthing has now set free generations and generations of my daughters to come. Yes, lovely woman, that was mine.

We all may not have had that sort of healing during our time together but I do believe that we all breathed a little deeper, felt a little stronger, and smiled a little truer. Imagine if 12 women from around the country, strangers days before, can pour love upon each other, enough to flush the cheeks and raise one’s head, what we can do as a world of sisters pouring love upon one another… That is birthing. That is growth. That is beauty and wisdom. Only good things can come.

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In May of 1981, forty women from the United States and Canada met in Boston for a conference with Nancy Wainer to discuss cesarean prevention and Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC). Their energy, enthusiasm, and dissatisfaction with the current medical obstetrical management of birth were profound. Under the direction of Esther Booth Zorn, this group of individuals joined with others to bring about the International Cesarean Awareness Network (originally known as CPM–the Cesarean Prevention Movement). The organization was officially established in June 1982 with the publication of its first newspaper, The Clarion. It soon became apparent that there was a need for a comprehensive, inspiring, and activating childbirth education program. Cathy Daub, PT, had designed and taught the first BirthWorks classes in 1981 in her home in New Jersey. She agreed to bring the BirthWorks program to ICAN and chaired the ICAN Education Committee, which developed BirthWorks into a national childbirth certification program. The BirthWorks manual was written and edited by the change makers in childbirth including Nancy Wainer, Doris Haire, Diony Young, Lynn Baptisti-Richards, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, Gayle Peterson, Claudia Panuthos, Elizabeth Noble, Anne Frye, Cathy Daub, and others. A pilot program was run from 1985 – 1987. BirthWorks became a full certification program for childbirth education in 1988. In 1995 BirthWorks became an independent non-profit organization with a full Board of Directors. In 1998 BirthWorks developed a certification program for doulas. Today, the BWI Leadership Board, faculty, professional staff, and regional ambassadors are working together to ensure that all women have the opportunity to give birth with faith and dignity. BWI remains committed to VBAC support and education.

Current BWI Advisory Board:
Dr. Michel Odent
Susan Ludington, PhD,CNM
Kirsten Uvnas-Moberg MD, PhD
Mary Zwart
Heloisa Lessa, CNM
Jan Tritten
Henci Goer
Ina May Gaskin
Bethany Hayes, MD
Barbara Harper, RN
Marshal Klaus, MD
Lewis Mehl Madrona, MD
Jean Sutton
Suzanne Arms
Nancy Wainer
Ray DeVries
Phyllis Klaus, MFT, LCSW
Doris Haire
Elizabeth Davis