Health services in remote and rural areas is a Big Issue. With services being 'consolidated' under the guise of better efficiency or 'safety', some very basic and essential services have been lost in these areas. For pregnant women, this means travelling to maternity services over an hour away in order to get continuity of care, speciality care or even minimal care. In some areas, pregnant women are expected to relocate to the regional centre to 'sit down', awaiting the birth of their baby away from their family, other children, support networks and normal life.
'Birthing on Country' is the other side of this big issue. This podcast explains the issue and an awesome Alice Springs program addressing it. Many women feel the need to personalise the space they are birthing in, to be supported by their own people, who help them feel safe and supported. Being understood and SEEN, being respected, being heard, and being autonomous are crucial to the mental health of new families.
The 'logic' behind this big issue is safety and control, an illusionary approach that might make it easier for the health service, but not necessarily the best option for the women and their families.
Aussie Midwives by Fionna McArthur is a collection of stories about the experiences of becoming and being midwife in Australia, including remote area midwifery. One story stood out for me, not because of the remote element, but because the protagonist (a midwife) grew from a fear driven, overly medical and paranoid place into an empowered, trusting and informed one. This element of 'fear driven' medicalisation and policy making underlies the Big Issue. This 'fear' places medical intervention as a way of controlling and managing the risk. This has led to 'insurance-centred' maternity care, where a woman's choices will be impacted by the system-determined risk status, usually based on a single measurement or number rather than a holistic approach. Our fear and anxiety is a starting point, trying to control this does not make us safer. Acknowledgement and relaxation, knowledge and experience, support and kindness are far more powerful than the machine that goes ping. This theme was repeated in several other of the stories.
Belief and fear often go together.
How can we address this as parents-to-be?
August 8th was Dying to Know Day.
The questions I opened my newsletter with : who, where and why? Can be applied in the same way to dying. The Advanced Care Directive that many people write, just in case, is very much like The Birth Map. It is about being informed of your options, communicating your choices, and putting in place the elements needed to support those choices. Birthing on Country is about being close to family, surrounded by love and honouring the important event that is taking place. It is about creating a safe and supportive environment, being able to provide the physical and emotional care that is needed. Our fears and beliefs around death, if left unchallenged, can lead to unsatisfactory experiences not just for the dying but also the loved ones left to grieve. Just as with birthing, preparations are made for beyond the death. The obvious preparation is funeral planning. Death is a big industry, and it can be a financial burden if options are not known in advance. When we are in the depths of the event, making decisions is difficult. The funeral director is to death, as the obstetrician is to birth. Some will give you a wealth of support and information. Others will focus on there own wealth, with the 'best' package they have to offer...and one might assume the more you spend the better it is. Yes, funeral directors are industry experts. But experts in what?
If you are seeking a more natural experience, you are unlikely to find it within industry 'standards'.
Dying to Know Day is about 'death literacy'. Just as Birth Cartography is about knowing your options and making advanced decisions, and doing everything you can to support your primary pathway, Death Literacy means taking time NOW, in your wellness, in your not-facing-death-yet days to talk about it.
In 2015 I had the privilege of attending 'Death Walker' training where I met an incredible young woman. Amy Sagar, is the Funeral Director at Tender Funerals. This woman is wise beyond her years, and shared her insights of the funeral industry and the awesome possibilities you can access if you know where to look. Choosing the right 'care provider' is just as important in your dying as it is in your birthing.
The second edition of The Birth Map: Boldly going where no birth plan has gone before will be released in September. I will be launching it when I present at the Doula Network Conference (September 8th). Pre-order now, at the special price of $25.95. Please spread the word.
You can share my poetic promo, or the direct page. You'll notice in my poetic promo that I am torn between two cover options...I can offer both post launch, but which one do you want for the pre-order?
The pre-order deadline, August 19th, is the day I determine the size of the print run, and which cover wins! So: tell me: which cover do you like best?
On Sunday 19th August, in Glebe Park, Civic (Canberra) from 1:30 pm.
On Friday August 24th, in Moruya from 2 pm. Let me know if you can be there.
See the events here
STORYTIME: Old Pig
Old Pig is a story I first heart read on Play School, by Andrew who choked up as he read. This is a beautifully illustrated story about preparing for death, fully and openly. This process helps those saying goodbye to find acceptance, to manage the affairs post death and adjust to life without their loved one.
Once a Story has been sent via the newsletter it is placed into the Member Area/storytime.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Birthing on Country a podcast exploring the needs and importance of supporting and the barriers involved in Birthing on Country. There is so much more to birth than the biology.
The Birth Time Documentary has completed the Birthing on Country component. I am very excited about this documentary and the inclusion of this very important issue.
Caroline Hastie posted about Freebirthing on ThinkBirth. With maternity services being centralised, and rural women having to travel, freebirthing becomes an important consideration. This is different to 'birth before arrival', as it involves preparation and acknowledgement. Are women choosing to bypass midwifery care, or is the system bypassing some women?
Summer from Lead Mama Lead has a 'Letting go of guilt' free five day email challenge starting next week. Read here for details and the sign up link. Summer is a gentle soul, and very insightful. This challenge is aimed at women combining work with Motherhood. It is linked to a facebook group, with video and discussion/support. This is a great opportunity.
This month I am focused on my preparations for the Australian Doula Network conference, and the second Edition launch. It is very exciting seeing the book blossom and be so well received. I was greatly privileged last month to see the Birth Map in action, and the power it gives. The word 'map' seems to be integral to this power. It keeps hearts and minds open, conversations are had and respect becomes the default. As it should be.
I have in my hands 'Motherhood' by Anne Manne. I am not quite half way through yet, and am fired up! What a great book. You can expect more on this next month.
This piece from SMH looks at trauma experienced by fathers. The last story touches on how good planning help ease fears. This one caught my eye, perhaps, because I have been thinking of the fear-belief aspect of birth preparation, compared to the trust-informed approach. It also shows us how birth experience impacts beyond birth, for fathers as well as mothers. It is so import to acknowledge the significance of this life event, it deserves good preparation. Unfortunately, the system does not address this significance well, if at all. This all sounds dire: but it does not have to be. Those who know better, can help those who follow: talk about Birth Mapping, doulas and private childbirth education. All these things go a long way towards replacing fear and belief with trust and knowledge. The more conversations we have, the more we will shift the discourse. For men there is 'beer and bubs', a childbirth education class aimed at being an awesome birth partner (informed, prepared, confident). Birth Mapping helps give the 'if this, then that' knowledge, giving them understanding and bring them into the space. Indeed these conversations open up the possibility of having a doula or friend as the birth support, without this being a negative. It can be very powerful for couple to acknowledge and communicate that the labour and birth is perhaps not where he needs to be.
A cultural shift is occurring, which I will expand on next newsletter, bringing together 'Motherhood' and the 'father factor'. It is a fascinating deep dive into biology and psychology, cultural impacts and differing philosophies. So many thoughts swimming in my head!
Death Doulas and the doctors who think it has become to hard to die
MY BLOGGING (new and relevant posts):
From Belief and Fear to Informed and Confident Too many women tell me their (well meaning but seriously misguided) husband won't let them home birth because he believes it is safer in the hospital. This is a red flag that needs to be addressed.
A reminder about the nocebo effect:
The Nocebo Effect
Forget the birth plan - you need a birth map!
On my wordpress:
in promo mode:
More than just another birth book
Discover Birth Cartography
in other news:
opt-in or opt-out: what's hubris got to do with it?
Human 2.0: The dawning of Homo Mutante
Do you need assistance or support?
When death is not an option
Facing Birth Facing Death
there is more, if you wish to explore.
Stay Up to Date: SIGN UP to receive notifications of the newsletter each month.
Below are some share options, and an opportunity to leave a comment.
SIGN UP HERE to have the newsletter sent to your inbox. The email will contain additional, subscriber only content, along with a link to the newsletter. Here you will find the archived versions of all The Newsletters, covering the topics below.