One of the goals of Birth Philosophy is to seek out and highlight young voices who are taking the initiative to learn and share about birth related issues. Many have always been interested or fascinated by birth. Others are questioning some of our systems and cultural beliefs and hope to be social change agents. Not surprisingly, some end up planning careers that will allow them to continue this work into the future. Today I would like to introduce you to one of those people. Enjoy the following guest post from Randi McCallian (and read her bio at the end of the post).
I will have my babies at home. I have known this for many years. I have had ample time, experience, and education to know what my birth choices are – and where and with whom I feel the most comfortable giving birth. I learned about birth far in advance of embarking on such a monumental journey… giving birth and becoming a mother. I believe every woman needs to know more about birth BEFORE she becomes pregnant!
I first began researching my birth options when I overheard a close relative discussing her elective cesarean delivery. In her first pregnancy her doctor had determined that her pelvis was too small to deliver vaginally…then he said, ‘once a cesarean, always a cesarean’; and she eventually had 3 scheduled cesareans. Being a petite woman myself, and knowing very strongly that I wanted to be a mother one day, I was terrified about having to deliver my babies surgically. I was determined to understand the physiology of birth and how to have my future babies vaginally.
We all need to take responsibility for our reproductive health and our reproductive rights, and the perfect time to begin is a lot earlier than most might think. We need to support young women and men learning about their body, hormones, desires, pleasures, sexual organs, and the process of reproduction. We need to have access to family planning methods and the knowledge of how to use them. It is unrealistic to expect a girl to become a woman if she is not given the capability to make decisions about her reproductive health, and for that woman to become a responsible mother if she is not trusted with the ability to make informed decisions about her body, baby, and delivery.
Culturally, our current expectation of women is that they learn about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and infant care in the few short months between discovering the pregnancy and delivering the baby. This is unrealistic and it has led to a great majority of women (and men!) who don’t know what to expect from birth and new motherhood and then they are completely lost and disappointed by their birth and postpartum experience. This puts mothers and babies at a disadvantage. We can change this.
We should encourage women to become familiar with pregnancy and birth physiology; the various choices in childbirth location, provider, and labor management techniques; hospital and provider practices in their area and how to advocate for their best birth… and much of this can and should be considered well BEFORE a woman is pregnant. If a woman enters pregnancy and new motherhood with ample information and knowledge in her ‘toolbox’, then she enters this new journey with the confidence to make decisions for herself and her new family. She becomes an empowered mother.
As a sister, daughter, friend, peer, community member, and MCH professional, I strive to inform those around me about the current state of the maternity care system and what this may mean for their birth, or chosen birth environment. I encourage everyone to research and ask questions about the practices that interest them the most and to follow their gut when something doesn’t feel right, even if it means changing providers! I encourage all women to understand the common delivery practices of their hospital and provider; and I always recommend a doula.
We need to support the process of women becoming mothers, and long before they are pregnant. We can do this by fostering a culture of open-communication and shared ideas around motherhood and birth. Ideally a young woman will take responsibility for her family, long before she intends to have one; a young woman who is educated about her body, family planning, and the resources that are available in order to make the best choices for her situation.
As an emerging public health professional I have been charged with the mission to prevent. Whatever the circumstance, when it comes to health, prevention is key to a healthier and happier society. Right now there are large numbers of uninformed women who are unjustly more vulnerable to a disempowering birth and postpartum experience. I would like to prevent that. All women deserve the knowledge, opportunities, and resources necessary to make empowered decisions and to advocate for herself and her family. Young women who are supported and empowered very early on to be responsible for their reproductive health will become responsible mothers who own their body, their birth, and their family!
Randi McCallian has been an advocate for mothers, babies, and families for almost 10 years and is completing her Master’s degree in public health, with a concentration in maternal and child health at the University of South Florida. Her background includes in-home therapy with children on the Autism Spectrum, in-home parent education for low-income families, certification as a labor doula and lactation counselor, and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with a minor in Biology, from Drake University. Randi currently works for the Florida Perinatal Quality Collaborative as a research assistant on a project to eliminate non-medically indicated deliveries before 39 weeks of gestation in the State of Florida, as well as being an intern with the Hillsborough County REACHUP where she leads community support groups and improves maternal and infant health in her community through action and advocacy. She has been awarded the Maternal and Child Health Leadership Trainee Scholarship at USF and is a former President elect of the Maternal and Child Health Student Organization. Check out Randi’s blog at Wisdom and Birth.