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by Stephanie Lynn Tanner

It’s been several weeks since the beginning of the BirthWorks CBE training I went to in Iowa City, and life has had to move on. I wish I could say that I’ve done more processing and debriefing since, but unlike those three days in the comfort of a safe environment, I’ve had to travel 500 miles, apply for school, continue to gestate, and do a whole lot of things other than sit in a space where I’m free to explore the depths of my being. That’s life, really. How many safe spaces are we afforded to work through all of our “stuff”, particularly surrounded by the support for others? I’ll venture to guess that it isn’t enough.

As a doula, I’ve always had a level of difficulty assisting mothers to go to those deep places inside of themselves before their births in order to help them prepare for those deep places in labor. I’ve often asked myself, “How do I convey to mothers what they’re missing out on by choosing to medicate themselves?” On an intuitive level, I knew that it all has something to do with a fear of “going there”. But that fear extended into my inability to approach such a far-reaching subject with the families I worked with. I knew I needed more tools, and that perhaps addressing these things in a class-like atmosphere could be more effective. But I don’t think I was totally braced for this workshop. I was expecting to swallow a big horse pill of information over the course of three days, gain more skills on how to facilitate a group, and walk out ready to disseminate birth wisdom to the masses. What I didn’t expect was an intensive space to lead me through the process a person must go through while they’re pregnant. I was forced to confront how the fear of “going there” affected me, the things it holds me back from doing as a birth worker, as well as a mother, and consider how that transfers into the work I do.

It’s not difficult to spout out the wealth of resources I have access to, and it’s not difficult for people to gain access to those resources themselves in and of itself. But there are a lot of barriers that exist for people that prohibit them from doing the independent investigation necessary for informed decisions. The one big oversight of the workshop was that some of these barriers are so basic- access to nutrition or secure housing are examples. Those are issues that deeply affect the communities I am called to work with and who, in my assessment, are in the most need of this type of resource. However, the barriers do not stop there, and I appreciate what BirthWorks does to address the universality of the higher and deeper barriers that all birthing mothers face. It’s the first approach I’ve come across that I feel satisfies my deep need to take mothers “there”.

My left brain is excited to start work on the certification process. My right brain is full. Looking back, my left brain was sort of disappointed that it didn’t get more attention during the workshop, but it makes sense. Birth is not that kind of process, so why should birth preparation be? The BirthWorks approach to childbirth education is intuitive in that it frames something impossible to explain in the best possible way for somebody to prepare for it. I’m excited to put it into action.