This is the speech given at The Book Launch.
I am Catherine Bell. The Birth Cartographer.
Quietly, over the last 8 years, The Birth Map has been evolving in my care. I am still pinching myself that I have been chosen to be the custodian of this powerful tool. The Birth Map is the solution to the maternity problem, which stems from the medicalisation of pregnancy and birth.
The Birth Map is the result of Informed Birth Preparation. It is a powerful document that works like a 'choose your own adventure', where the birthing woman is the author. It is the advance care directive of birth. It benefits woman, their partners AND THE CARE PROVIDER.
Women are asked to provide informed consent during pregnancy and in birth for various medical interventions. The problem with this, is that not enough time or information is given to fulfill the informed component. Usually a 'need to know (NOW)' approach is taken. This is stressful and not conducive to making decisions, let alone informed ones. Coercion is a problem, as insurance-driven policies put pressure on care providers to direct birth towards medically 'controlled' options.
It is not just the mother and her birth partner that benefit from Informed Birth Preparation (IBP). Care Providers benefit too. An informed, supported and confident client is more likely to have a calm, straight forward birth. The Birth Map created through the Informed Birth Preparation process provides the framework from which to work, giving the care provider confidence that the client has been truly informed. The Care Provider is an active participant in the process, encouraging questions and answering them as best they can. The final document is a summary of the discussions had, and a record of informed decisions. This has legal weight.
Case by case care, rather than 'standard' care is more respectful and evidenced-based. Studies support this approach, showing better outcomes for mothers and babies
More Relaxed Birth
IBP means all the 'thinking' has been done in advance. The Birth Map contains the clients Informed Decisions for various options. Feeling safe, supported and understood, reduces fear and anxiety, helping to facilitate the hormones for a relaxed birth
With the client at the centre, uninterrupted, you will work with her birth team to provide the care she needs. You will know that her team is well prepared and able to care for the non-medical elements of the birth, knowing that your role is understood and incorporated. By working together, especially in a busy hospital, this improves the experience for everyone.
Truly Informed Clients
IBP means that the client has covered a full range of possibilities, drawing on several resources and applying the information to personal circumstances. This means you can be sure the client has provided truly informed consent or refusal.
No Stressful on-the-spot Decisions
The Birth Map provides Informed Decisions for various pathways. Should the client need to divert to a contingency plan, this will be done smoothly and without the stress and confusion of an 'on-the-spot' decision with limited time and information.
The first, rudimentary, versions of The Birth Map began to appear in 2011. More and more questions were added to the birth plan template, more details included and more alternatives explored. With each birth I attended, and each of my own pregnancies and births, with input from my doula and mothering networks, the process adapted. No longer a 'birth plan template', I saw before me the Birth Map. There were no 'tick boxes', and no one way.
What became really obvious was it was The Questions that mattered. Knowing what to ask, and being able to ask well in advance, means freedom to explore the options. Understanding the various pathways and how they intertwine, means the power to make Informed Decisions. I could no longer manage with a self-print and bind making of the guide. I was limited to Australian audiences, and there was demand from overseas. So I made an ebook version and sort a self-publishing option. This was a great step. I learned a lot. Over the last two years the book started to take the form you see today.
The book has been designed to be written in, make notes, add affirmations, decorate it. Journal in it. There are pages dedicated for Your Birth Story. The first section gives The Insights, the foundations for understanding the maternity system and your options within it. Section Two: The Questions, takes you through each pathway (fast birth, expected and contingency). This is where the personal Birth Map is developed. The advanced care directive approach creates an 'if this, then that' series of decisions to be used by your birth team and care providers during your labour. It is your birth, your way, no matter what. The third section takes you beyond the birth, giving a reality check and helping to set up a support network for the early days of parenting. It covers preparing for siblings, 'what is normal' and breastfeeding. An appendix gives you a glossary of medical terms, a list of recommended reading, and resources for special circumstances. More than 'just another birthing book', The Birth Map is linked to the free Member Area on bellabirth.org: a portal of resources and a hub of support.
There two covers to choose from:
The Awesome Pregnant Woman, is particularly dear to me. It is a life drawing sketch by one of my oldest friends, Emma Lewin. When I was first seeking my cover artwork, I wanted something different. It was very important to me that any images depicting women included a head. So many pregnancy images focus on the belly, and hands, often with the head cut off. I also did not want a photograph, because my book is for all women – not just the woman depicted. When I asked Emma if she might be able to sketch a pregnant woman for me, she sent me what she felt were scraps of paper with scribbles on them. This image was among them, and as soon as I saw her I knew I had found my cover. She is magnificent. She is bold. She is confident. So much so that I was banned, repeatedly, from Facebook (you won't find me there anymore). Was it that I was showing women as something other than for the male gaze?
So I created the (also awesome) 'censored' word map cover – this is the cover you can read in public. And safely share on social media (please do!).
The printed contents of each book are exactly the same. But just as each birth is as unique as the awesome woman preparing for it, once you start using the book – adding your notes, your own art – the book becomes unique. It becomes a record of your journey. Your child will delight in this.
I’d like to close with a poem, from the book.
The Awesome Pregnant Woman or the 'censored' word map cover
Which would you choose?
During September 2018, $300 from book sales was donated to Birth Time. In addition, $90 from book launch sales supported the The Braidwood Dance Studio)
THE BIRTH MAP (second edition) posted within Australia
$32.45 plus postage
The Word Map cover
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worldwide purchases via blurb:
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Not in Australia? You can order from any where in the world direct from the publisher.