A couple of weeks ago, while I was using social media to spread the word about my new coming workshop, The Art of Coaching for Childbirth, I shared on Facebook a beautiful video of an Indonesian woman giving birth in nature. My goal was to raise awareness about the importance of prenatal coaching for the modern and western woman. It has been close to two years now since I wrote my blog post called The misleading Concept of Natural Childbirth with the same goal – raising awareness about our typical birth client, who is a modern and Western woman, for which natural childbirth does not feel natural at all. There is nothing in our client’s life style that feels or behaves like childbirth. The modern woman is required to perform in a life event that is much different than her everyday life circumstances, and in some aspects is also in conflict with her belief system around birth and pain in general. Back to the video of the Indonesian woman’s birth, I shared it on Facebook with a question: Is this your typical client? Two days after the share I received a message from a mindful and caring midwife who wrote: “I am very uncomfortable with your exploitation of the New Guinea mother’s birth video to promote your workshop…Showing this video within a classroom exercise exploring natural birth and cultural traditions, while explaining that this woman probably was not even asked permission to film her is borderline “acceptable” only because it is common practice “.
WOW! So true! I feel embarrassed to have missed it. I did not ask for that woman’s permission. This video went viral on Facebook and YouTube, and being part of our social media culture, I made the mistake of exploiting this woman to make a statement. I thought I was using this video to teach and raise awareness, but –I did also advertise my workshop at the bottom of the post, and hence the context of the post had changed.
Such moments of mindfulness are important to share with my community, in order to spread awareness. As I write these lines I am still confused with the moral dilemmas that this post sharing has evoked in me:
The first dilemma has to do with exploiting videos of women giving birth in an unassisted and natural childbirth without their permission. These videos of unassisted childbirth are uploaded on YouTube and Facebook on a daily basis. Sometimes they present women that are birth advocates, who decided to expose themselves and share their experience from a stewardship position, but other times they expose natives who do not share our cultural inhibitions, and probably did not give their permission to-be-looked-at. The moral dilemma is that if we do not use these videos in order to inspire the modern-western woman, and to make her see that this type of birth is indeed possible, it won’t be a possibility for her at all. Doulas, midwives, and birth workers of all kinds are trying to lead the modern woman to have faith in the natural unfolding of childbirth, as well as in her body, and to experience a normal and vaginal childbirth with minimal interventions, or none. We know that interns, studying to become Obstetric Gynecologist, just like nursing students, almost never take part in an unassisted birth, and hence all they know is to manage birth. They are trained to manage childbirth, and with no context around natural and unassisted childbirth, they do not know how to allow this experience. The modern woman is part of these circumstances, and she as well is not exposed to unassisted childbirth, or even stories about unassisted childbirth.
Birth workers, and activists like myself, would love to expose women in our culture to the possibility of a healthy and normal birth, but at the same time, the Indonesian woman did not give her permission for that.
The second dilemma involved here is that Indonesian natives are not our typical prospective clients, and hence they do not represent an option or an alternative for the modern woman. Or even worse – the videos might alienate the whole concept of normal and physiological childbirth because the viewers are absolutely aware of that native woman’s life style, and how different her life circumstances are from theirs. The question is – Are we really serving anyone by posting these videos if their viewers are modern women that have access to the internet and to social media, but at the same time have very little access, if any, to normal and unassisted childbirth.
In my efforts to resolve these dilemmas I was reminded how important is the context. Just like in painting, when we are taught that the background is defining the foreground, in every discourse the meaning of a saying, or a statement, or a video share, is defined by the context. If it wasn’t for my invitation to join my workshop at the bottom of the share, maybe the message had been perceived in a better way, and would have been accepted as more legitimate. We can all be more mindful about the context in which we use and share birth videos while trying to resolve these dilemmas. Our perception is dictated by the context. This reinforces the importance of the context that our society has around childbirth. As a coach I believe that it is all about the context. I teach my doula students to give a fair amount of attention to the context, or the belief system, of their client around childbirth. The same goes for their context around western medicine, or being in pain, and other components of childbirth. I tell them that leading a conceptual and behavioral change in the field of childbirth begins with exploring women’s belief system around childbirth; distinguishing truths from myths and fears from reality. For most of our clients, the concept of childbirth consists of the dichotomy between components that bear negative connotation like fear, pain, fear of pain, fear of death, medical emergency or care, losing control over our body, and the unknown, and between thrilling connotations like babies, motherhood, love, growth and a new beginning. Be mindful of your client’s context around childbirth as this is your client’s reality.
In order to serve my doula students and allow them to explore the context of our society around childbirth, I have created lesson number 10 in my program: Pain, Fear, and the Medicalization of Birth. It is a one hour video presentation that all my students watch, presenting you with the origins of our cultural context around childbirth all the way from the bible, Greek mythology and art. You may consider watching it to become more mindful about the context of childbirth.