• Mon, Sep 3 2012

Apparently Labor Day Is The Time To Demonstrate For VBAC On Street Corners

improving birthApparently, we at Mommyish aren’t the only ones who associate Labor Day with a different type of labor. While driving to a family get-together in Fort Wayne today, I stumbled upon a small group of women and children protesting about the importance of vaginal birth. There on a busy street corner, about ten people held signs supporting VBAC and “Respectful Maternity Care.” The overall theme of the demonstration seemed to be “Natural Birth Matters.”

Obviously, I couldn’t just drive by this unexpected demonstration without looking in to it. What type of writer would I be? Who wouldn’t be interested in people supporting vaginal birth after Cesarean on a street corner in the middle of the day?

That’s when I stumbled upon what is apparently a national day of demonstration for “Improving Birth.” The rally is focused around what they call “evidence-based maternal care.” The organization is centered around reducing the levels of c-sections, informing mothers about VBAC and promoting natural, unassisted birth as much as possible. According to their website,

“The National Rally for Change is to encourage and insist that all maternal healthcare providers practice evidence-based care. On average it takes 20 years for proven research to become practice. For the sake of mothers and babies everywhere, we can’t wait 20 years. The long-term effects of unnecessary inductions and cesareans are just starting to be realized. This matters for all people. Despite the dire situation, this is not a protest, but a public outreach event located where the vast majority of the population gives birth.”

In my home town, apparently the group decided that most people give birth in front of the Planned Parenthood office. Even though we have multiple birthing centers here in Fort Wayne, the rally took place right in front of PP. I had a hard time believing that the location was random, but I was confused as to why you would demonstrate about birthing conditions in front of a clinic that does not perform childbirth.

Of course, we here at Mommyish are in support of women sharing their birth stories. In fact, we encourage it. But I have to admit that a demonstration on a street corner about really personal medical decisions such as VBAC felt uncomfortable to me. It felt a little like the bullying that these organizations claim doctors and gynecologists participate in. Every childbirth decision should be an informed choice by an individual and it feels counter-productive to claim that some choices are better than others. Improving birth has some very concrete decisions about why type of birth is better.

Improving Birth is straight-forward about not buying in to the old adage, “As long as there’s a happy baby…” every choice is acceptable. Personally, I think focusing on the means loses sight of the goal. And it creates even more guilt in a process that often puts a lot of pressure on women to begin with.

The conversation around inductions and c-sections is a valuable one to have. I’m just not sure that much information is really being shared by holding up signs on a street corner. (Although I did have to describe VBAC to my husband. So someone learned something.) I don’t know how effective it is to make a sign promoting a deeply personal decision as if there’s only one “right way.” I’m all for talking about labor on Labor Day, but let’s do a little more than holding a sign on a street corner. It’s a bigger issue than that.

(Photo: Midwife Monologues)

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  • Jen K

    I cannot stand these kinds of people. “SUPPORT BIRTH CHOICES — just so long as they’re the ones we’ve decided you’re allowed to have.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/lyndsey.gillespie Lyndsey Gillespie

      This is not the case with the Improving Birth rally. We are advocating for evidence-based care in America. That is something we can all benefit from! Unfortunately, the standard of maternity care in most hospitals in the USA today is not based on reliable research. We want moms to be informed so that they can weigh the risks and benefits and make the choice that is best for them. We are certainly not saying there is only one right way to birth. Please visit http://www.improvingbirth.org to learn more about our mission and to see that we are fighting not against women, but for women!

  • http://twitter.com/carriemurph Carrie Murphy

    i think it’s cool that these women are out making themselves visible. as you say, someone learned something…so i think that the goal was accomplished. it’s sad to see the “VBAC’s” with an apostrophe in it, though. dear birth protestors: maybe people would like your ideas more if they were grammatically correct :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/lyndsey.gillespie Lyndsey Gillespie

      Thankfully, this photo is not from the Fort Wayne Improving Birth rally. :-)

  • Jenny K

    As someone who has been reading about the rally, but was unfortunately not in an area where one was taking place, it saddens me that this is what you have taken away from it. I am curious if you talked to any of the coordinators for the rally? I believe that the message here was for women to be informed and empowered about their pregnancies and births. A cesarean isn’t always medically necessary and having had both a c/s and a vaginal birth, I can say with all sincerity that I, personally, would prefer the latter. Also, a busy street corner is apparently the perfect place for such a demonstration; You didn’t know about the rally, but stumbled upon it. On top of that, changes cannot be made to a suffering maternal care system if we rally for it behind closed doors to people who already understand and support it.

  • Lisa Midwife

    Why is “Improving Birth” even being challenged? All people want is to have options and have safe care at the same time (and yes that IS possible). If someone wants a section, by all means have a section. In the mean time you have to understand that there are others out there who want to be treated with respect and only have interventions when they are necessary…and yes a section is sometimes necessary. I don’t just don’t get why there is any controversy here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lyndsey.gillespie Lyndsey Gillespie

    Hello! I am Lyndsey, and I’m the coordinator for the Improving Birth National Rally for Change in Fort Wayne. Thank you for bringing attention to our rally!
    First, I want to address the issue of the location. We were standing at the corner of a busy intersection in Fort Wayne that was located next to a shopping plaza that, at one end, has a Planned Parenthood. We were not, however, standing in FRONT of Planned Parenthood. Our planning team talked about our options of where to stand, and decided that being on city property at a busy location was best. We had considered rallying in front of one of the major hospitals, but felt this would give us more attention. It is also just down the road from the news stations. And from the three news reporters that stopped and did interviews with me, as well as your blog post, I would say that our location proved to be quite effective.
    I would also like to clarify that we are not promoting unassisted birth. This is a term used to describe birthing without a doctor, midwife, or other professional there to assist the mother. We are not promoting that. We are pushing for an improvement in maternity care in America, which to be honest, is in crisis. We spend more money than any other nation on our maternity care system and yet more than 40 other nations are ranked higher than the US in terms of maternal and infant mortality. We can do better.
    You stated that, “Personally, I think focusing on the means loses sight of the goal. And it creates even more guilt in a process that often puts a lot of pressure on women to begin with.” I think everyone can agree that we always want a healthy mom and healthy baby. But looking at the facts shows us that in America, there is room for improvement so that we can have that. We need to look at how the process of birthing in America is impacting the end result: healthy mom and healthy baby. In no way are we trying to make moms feel guilty about their birth choices. Quite the opposite!
    This rally is about so much more than VBACs. However, the research shows that a majority of the time, a VBAC is a safe choice for mothers. Unfortunately, in Fort Wayne it is not easy to achieve this type of birth in the hospital. We are not saying that a mother has to choose a vaginal birth after cesarean. We are simply advocating for this to be a choice for mothers who desire to do so.
    I absolutely agree that this is a big issue. It’s huge! That’s why we aren’t stopping at this one Labor Day rally. Throughout the next 12 months we will be doing other efforts to push for evidence-based care. And next Labor Day, we will be out rallying again. If you see us, please stop by and talk to us so that we can give you some of the information we had available today that showed people what all we stand for and what resources are available in Fort Wayne to make it a better place to birth in. We would love to see you!

    • Kati

      This is an awesome reply to a typically holey and predictable mommyish article.
      I really can’t stand how mommyish says that this group doesn’t just flow with the old adage about healthy babies being the end result blah blah. Seriously mommyish cannot comprehend that the group is wanting healthy babies ?! Honestly y’all have no common sense and insist on making everything about guilt and sexism and judging. Any chance you will ever be a little more self critical, and examine your article and thesis before publishing ?

  • Lauren H

    I participated in the Fort Wayne Rally, and will do it again next year. In response to the comment Jen K. made about birth choices – what about the mother who desires vbac but is denied the option because of non-medical factors beyond their control? My second birth ended in repeat cesarean – a very unnecessary cesarean at that. I would have welcomed surgical birth to save my or my child’s life, but this was not the case. I spent the next year dealing with depression. At the absolute minimum, women deserve to be respected and treated with dignity, and given truly informed consent.