Othering

othering

ˈʌðə/

verb

gerund or present participle: othering

  1. view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself.
  2. “a critique of the ways in which the elderly are othered by society”

 

Like many I am so raw today. There is no doubt our work is of paramount importance in light of the tragedy unfolding before us in Manchester. Love is the only remedy for this. I believe bringing in the next generation with a greater capacity for love is our solution and it drives my work. Yet there is so much hatred. The agenda of terrorism is met. We are running around bumping heads – I had to block someone’s social media hatred already and it’s only midday. I’m yet to travel home on a plane as a Muslim – this is always interesting – today I have learnt to expect scrutiny.

 

I had already decided to write this post and it seems deeper and more tangible with the emotions of today.

 

In the last few years I have noticed a trend amongst the wider world but specifically amongst the birthkeeper’s of hating on each other. I see it in organisations. I see it in competitive practices. I see it in judgement of each other’s difference especially when it comes to a woman’s ability to earn a living. I see it in racism and othering. I see it in bitching.  I see it in separation all the time. Where does it come from? What on earth is happening? It is exhausting me!

 

Why shouldn’t we all do things differently and offer different services and pricing structures and flavours? Different accents, backgrounds, languages, skin, religions and ways of viewing the world. Often women want to look at their “mother” when they are birthing – why shouldn’t they have the opportunity to do this? Women are all individual – it would make sense that their birth servants were too.

 

Is this something we have inherited from our patriarchal systems? Women are pitted against women always with only one acceptable way at a time. Our mothers were all told in the 60’s and 70’s you must have a non-existent arse or you are hideous – our daughters are told you must have a huge one or you are a monster. Everyone over 35 should be induced at 40 weeks. Red hair is evil and on and on and on. There is never acceptance of difference in that culture. We must not join in.  There is no self-appointed queen of the doulas/yoga teachers/educators/midwives.  There is no right or wrong. We have to go to Rumi’s field and all hang out. I am forever struck by the irony of the love of Rumi these days whilst the othering of Muslims grows.

 

We must really listen and try to understand. Especially not undermining and judging. I love to see choice. I love diversity. I am a Londoner – we thrive on a Columbian breakfast, Trini lunch and Pakistani supper. It’s all we know. Trust me life is better with flavour.

 

Perhaps I live a blessed, sheltered life – maybe I’m a Pollyanna but I have come up in this world of birth and women and mothers being taught it is ALL about love and acceptance. That love is the only medicine. The only way. The way you power yourself through the sleepless nights of squeezing hips at birth, sore nipples, patriarchal medical models of care, traumatised women, low income and so on. We have so much to contend with already. I know personally many birthkeepers with Chronic Fatigue, ME, kidney problems, depression and so much more. Let’s shorten that list by loving each other more.

 

Let’s also stop taking away from the intelligence and decision making abilities of women. In this judgement are we assuming women are not smart enough to see, to read, to make choices – we need to stop mirroring the system we are trying to improve and begin mirroring the original system we still have access to in indigenous grassroots midwifery. Women supporting women with love. There is no other way.

 

As I finish my thoughts I challenge you to seek out at least one woman this week you have othered and wish her well. Send her love. Support her. Help her. Love is the only way.

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Postpartum and Healthy Boundaries

Some women are extremely lucky in having their own mom come for visits soon after the birth of the  baby and it’s awesome to have an extra set of hands around the house when you have this new bundle of joy in your arms. Except when it isn’t so awesome. Moms mean well. They usually do. But sometimes they forget why they are visiting and good intentions can turn into screaming matches and lots of tears over your baby’s cute little head.  Those of us who are so fortunate to have moms and mothers-in-laws coming to help during postpartum, even though they can sometimes drive us a little crazy, can benefit a great deal from the help and love of an older wise woman can offer. However, it is good to establish good boundaries so that yours and theirs high expectations mixed with your postpartum exhaustion and new mom insecurities do not turn into a disaster.
The more clarity you have about who you are, what you want, where you beliefs come from, the clearer and stronger your boundaries will be. So, we begin by asking ourselves some basic questions.  Do I have a clear idea of what I need after the baby arrives? Are these ideas mine, or are they influenced by what my culture, family and society at large have told me? Do I agree with this at a visceral level? How strong is my sense of self? How do I feel about asking for what I want and need?

I suggest an inventory of your influences, your feelings and your sense of self to discover what needs to be strengthened, changed, harnessed and cherished. After will give you a short list of suggestions you can discuss ahead of time with a loving mom or mother-in-law visiting you in the postpartum period.

STEP ONE: INFLUENCES

Think of your family and/or community’s way of doing things; is that in conflict with your own beliefs and desires? Some people believe you should not pick up your baby as soon as she cries, some believe that babies need to be fed on a schedule. Some cultures believe babies should be dressed, no matter the temperature with hats, gloves, socks and heavy blankets, even indoors.  In some cultures mom is not allowed to go out of the house for 30 days, and the list goes on. Ask yourself if the community around you, whether your own family or your peer group, encouraged you to change your attitudes, values, or behavior in order to conform to what they refer to as the norm?  Has your mother or mother-in-law already spoken to you about where the baby should sleep, shared her feeding experience? Remember that many older women have been unsupported by a system lacking in breastfeeding skills, and have either being told they had not enough milk, or that formula was better. Remember that trying to tell them that what they did was wrong will only create malaise.

BOTTOM LINE

Peer pressure is a phenomenon we have all experienced in our lives at one point or another. Peers can be your community, friends or family, and even your partner. To please them and be accepted by the group, we might have done or do something that is not in line with our desires. How successfully you handle peer pressure depends a great deal on how you feel about yourself and your place in the world. Do you feel you have a right to speak up and stand for what you want? Are you afraid that if your opinion differs too much from those around you, you will be excluded and isolated?

The most useful approach to have your desires respected is not going on a tirade about how you are right and they are wrong. Conflict never works and never, ever changes the other person’s mind about any issue.  One of the most successful approaches I have seen has been to ask for their support instead of telling them why they are wrong. Having a difficult, yet clarifying conversation ahead of time can go a long way to a peaceful and supported postpartum experience.  Tell, whomever is coming to help you, that there will be ways you care for your child they might not agree with, but that you’d really appreciate their support and compassion in allowing you to learn on your own about your baby.  Yes, you might make mistakes, explain, but they will be your mistakes and you are so excited to trying out your ideas and follow your gut feelings.  You also want to make sure they feel appreciated, so do tell them how valuable their presence will be, especially in helping out with food and house tending. If anyone in your family cannot hear you or support you, then make sure to tell them that for the first few weeks you prefer to be alone with your baby, to build up your milk supply and recuperate from the birth. Be loving, express your acknowledgment of how difficult this might be for an eager grandmother, but appeal to her memories of her first few weeks with her child. The clearer you are with what you need help with, and what you prefer not to hear, the better.  Sometimes we assume people can read our mind and know our preferences, however most people are not that psychic.

STEP TWO: FEELINGS

Think of your childhood and try to remember those times and places where your feelings were either ignored or abused.

Example: a client came in to see me after planning a VBAC and I asked her about her feelings. She said, “No matter what happened in my life my mom always told me how to feel, I can still hear her say to me, ‘There is no reason to cry, stop getting upset at something so silly, why aren’t you happy, you should be grateful.’ It seemed I had no right to have my own feelings. So I learned to look at her to see how I was feeling about anything and everything. During labor I was not even aware I had chosen a strong female doctor. I kept looking at her to see how I should feel and behave during my labor. She ended up making all the decisions for me. She said my labor was taking too long, my baby was probably too big and I needed a cesarean. I know that did not feel right to me. I had been in labor for only ten hours and I thought I was doing great. But I just believed her when she said I was probably too tired to even push this baby out and I probably just wanted him out of me. So I agreed and had a cesarean, and my baby was a 7.6lb healthy boy. She looked at him and pronounced him lazy because he wanted to sleep and not breastfeed in recovery. I can’t say I have a good memory of my son’s first breath.”

BOTTOM LINE

Sometimes, people don’t realize that they’re crossing your boundaries when it comes to telling you how to feel or not feel. Most moms don’t even realize what they are doing, in fact many of us are either doing our best or we believe we do what we do for our daughter’s own good. It is up to you to realize you might be stuck in a familiar pattern of people telling you how you feel vs. figuring it out for yourself.

To break away first, you must tune in to, embrace, and understand you own feelings. It seems simple, but if you have relied on someone else to tell you what you think and feel this will take some work. Something as simple as saying “ouch” when someone has said something that has hurt you is a start to expressing your feelings in a non aggressive way.  In postpartum your feelings will be all over the map, thanks to the hormonal readjustment you will feel blue more often, vulnerable, exhausted and at times scared and anxious.  Learning some specific tools before the baby comes that can help you express what you feel in a non-confrontational manner will go a long way in being able to ask for your needs to be met. Sometimes a simple “I am tired now, and feel like a cuddle with my new baby, can we talk about this later?” can shut a busy mouth.  I have written an article called   Baby Blues or Opening the Heart, about the feelings that surface during the postpartum period, it is important to understand this very delicate psychological phenomenon that touches all women once the baby has arrived.

STEP THREE: SELF

Think about how you feel about yourself. Many people think that they don’t deserve to set boundaries in the first place. Their low self-esteem makes them unable to have an opinion or make a decision. They often hide behind phrases like, “Anything you want is fine with me. If the doctor is comfortable this way then I guess we should just do that,” and “Don’t worry about me all I care about is a healthy baby.” A fun way to gauge where your self-esteem is at, is doing the following quiz truthfully. Answer the following questions with true or false:

  1. Other people are not better off or more fortunate than me
  2. I accept myself as I am and am happy with myself
  3. I enjoy socializing
  4. I deserve love and respect
  5. I feel valued and needed
  6. I don’t need others to tell me I have done a good job
  7. Being myself is important
  8. I make friends easily
  9. I can accept criticism without feeling put down
  10. I admit my mistakes openly
  11. I never hide my true feelings
  12. I always speak up for myself and put my views across
  13. I am a happy, carefree person
  14. I don’t worry what others think of my views
  15. I don’t need others’ approval to feel good
  16. I don’t feel guilty about doing or saying what I want
  17. Test score at the bottom

BOTTOM LINE

To build your self-esteem and your right to want what you deserve and desire, start small. Remember all your accomplishments and make a collage with mementos that remind you of what you have already accomplished in the past, and all the things you are proud of. Use photographs of a recital from when you were young, a trophy you won at a little league competition, a business card from a job you really loved, or a paper from school you are particularly fond of. Just don’t say you can’t remember anything. I know there is something, even the smallest thing is important. Make sure it is something YOU accomplished on your own.

Make a list of your most recent accomplishments; even the ones you think are insignificant. Each completed task, regardless of how small, is a building blocks towards a more confident you. Create an image of yourself as the confident and self-assured person you aspire to become. Do something that scares you, even if it is starting a conversation with strangers while in line at the groceries. You’ll learn to talk to the most difficult people this way. Do something you are good at. Set small goals. If your goal today is to do the laundry and take a walk and you accomplish it, put a mark on your list of accomplishments, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself. Beware not to try to overachieve and set yourself up for failure. START SMALL.

Help others feel good about themselves. When you help other people feel better about themselves and like themselves more, it will make you feel good about yourself. Write positive affirmations about yourself and repeat them. Recite them in front of a mirror. This is hard but very effective. Last but not least: stop comparing yourself to other people. Low-self esteem stems from the feeling of being inferior.

These are only three small steps to stronger boundaries and a stronger self-esteem. Learning to set boundaries is a vital part of learning to communicate in a direct and honest manner. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who has no boundaries, with someone who cannot communicate directly, and honestly; especially if that somebody is you. Learning how to set boundaries is a necessary step in learning to be a friend to yourselves. It is your responsibility to take care of yourselves – to protect yourselves when it is necessary. It is impossible to learn to love yourselves without owning your rights and responsibilities as co-creators of your life. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us, but we can only do it if we have compassion for where we come from, consideration for our own feelings and self-esteem. After all we teach our children how to have healthy boundaries by example, so you are not just doing this to help yourself you are doing this for your baby.

Here is the list we promised at the beginning of the article. You can add to and share with anyone coming to help you after the baby is born:

  • You will need food, 3 meals and 2 snacks each day. Enlist as many friends and relatives for this.  People will ask if there is anything they can do…SAY YES. Consider setting up a page for your family on a great website called com where people can go and schedule themselves to bring you food and they can also see what you have been eating.  Sometimes asking for people to bring food might mean having 5 pounds of lasagna brought to you with great intentions.  Be specific about likes and dislikes, allergies etc.  People need directions and welcome them, especially if they know you have loved their meals.
  • Laundry, it is amazing how much laundry a little one can generate. Be sure to post a list of detergents you buy regularly and tape it to the washing machine.  We all have different preferences and a message written is a lot better than an explanation as to why you choose a more expensive but environmentally friendly soap.
  • If you have pets they need walking. Pets in particular are in need of extra attention once the little ones come, so enlist someone or a few people to come and walk and cuddle your pets.
  • Do you have plants that need attending? There are a lot of people who live in apartments who would love to hang out in your garden and feel the dirt under their fingers, you will make them happy and your weeds and veggies will be happy for it.
  • House cleaning, if you already have someone to help around the house see if you can afford to double her/his time for the first few weeks. If you have always cleaned yourself, than ask mom or someone else to come and help. A clean house makes a postpartum experience feel like a vacation in a hotel…with room service
  • Many grandmas love to hold the baby a lot. I have seen loving, good intentions grandmas come over hog the baby while the new mom ends up catering to them. DO NOT ALLOW THIS. Baby needs skin to skin so you can produce milk and you want to enjoy your baby. However, once a day why not ask mom to hold baby so you can go take a shower or even a short walk. Compromises always work for everyone involved.
  • If you can hire a postpartum doula, she can help you with more than house chores and food, she can reassure you of your own choices, offer breastfeeding support and a caring and compassionate hear.

Add to this list what is important to you.  If you do this before the baby comes you can really feel prepared, loved and pampered by the most important person in this equation YOU.

______________________________________________________________________________

TEST SCORE: Total number of TRUE answers you gave, EACH ONE POINT:
15-16 Points – You have a high level of self esteem!
12-14 Points – Not bad, but there is room for you to improve
8-11 Points – Low self esteem is holding you back
Below 8 Points – Your esteem is drastically low!

Giuditta Tornetta is a birth and postpartum doula, mother of two, author of the best-seller Painless Childbirth: An Empowering Journey Through Pregnancy and Birth, and Conversations With The Womb.  Together with Robin Lim and Nicola Goodall she facilitates a postpartum certification program in Bali each year called Loving the Mother.  While Giuditta is best known as a writer, workshop leader and a doula, she is also a passionate voice for women. She founded the Joy In Birthing Foundation  a non-profit organization of committed, community oriented professional doulas, dedicated to helping families through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. The foundation serves women in the foster care system, homeless shelters and juvenile detention center.

this post was  written by the gorgeous Giuditta Tornetta – read more about her here

this blog is part of the #postnatalrevolution in honour of sheila kitzinger passing on to the light.

wysewomen workshops hold a very popular motherwarming workshop at different locations all around the country – themotherwarming workshop looks at different ways to keep mum, baby and family healthy in the immediate postnatal period –  find local dates near you here

wysewomen are also involved in loving the mother – a week long journey for women to develop love for the mother.

having a postnatal doula can support you during your babymoon – find out more here and here

#Postnatal

Luxurious lie ins without guilt, idly watching the sun creep down the neighbours root. Soft breaths in and out, mirrored by the gentle sighs of my newborn baby. Warm smiles of love from my husband as he brings me nourishing bowls of muesli porridge for breakfast. In bed. Every day for one month.

This was my baby moon and how I started every day.  I enjoyed the noises of the busy household from my bedroom sanctuary.  I laughed in tune with the shrieking of my elder son rough and tumbling his way through breakfast with his dad. I relaxed into the peaceful silence as they departed for nursery school. I got up leisurely in my own time and wandered outside to the garden.

I gave myself permission to do as little as possible for one month and I asked for help and support to make it possible.

My mum came for two or three days a week. She cooked, cleaned and attended to the little things that only my mum could do so well. Another mother, a woman, a sister, she understood and she was indispensible to me.

I felt happy and pampered.

In my husband’s culture looking after a new mother is the norm.   When you give birth you are meant to stay in your house for one week. Your mother, mother in law, or other designated female member in lieu if that is not possible, will come and live with you for two or three months and take care of many household tasks.  Generally you do not lift a finger for a month.  This level of support is taken almost for granted. I am not sure that the women would describe this as a luxury as I did.   His culture understands and honours mothers. I am lucky and blessed to have a husband who not only understands and values the role of mother but is willing to take on many of the tasks that would normally be accomplished by women in his culture.

Hence the daily breakfast in bed.

At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve the level of support I had envisioned listening to his descriptions of the village life he grew up in. My mum at first thought that a two day one night initial visit would be enough. That we would want to be left alone to bond.  I cried. I explained I needed more help and support, not just my husband, amazing though he is. I needed another woman and so did he.

Although initially surprised my mum heard the deep emotion in my plea, cancelled her diary and stayed for a week. We went to stay at my parents for the second week.  Two delightful luxurious weeks which brought us all closer together as a family.   Two weeks of extra support that turned into two months or more as I asked for the continued help I needed and gave myself permission to accept it. I gave myself permission not to be the one to do everything, or initially anything at all.

Now, nearly two years on, I look again upon the photographs of me and my family during this sacred baby moon time. I recall those sweet timeless mornings in bed, resting with my baby. An  inner acknowledgment of my value as a woman and mother rises up and salutes me.  I smile at the new mother smiling at me my heart is full and I am glad.

blogmama

this post was  written by the gorgeous charlotte kanyi – read more about her here

this blog is part of the #postnatalrevolution in honour of sheila kitzinger passing on to the light.

wysewomen workshops hold a very popular motherwarming workshop at different locations all around the country – themotherwarming workshop looks at different ways to keep mum, baby and family healthy in the immediate postnatal period –  find local dates near you here

wysewomen are also involved in loving the mother – a week long journey for women to develop love for the mother.

having a postnatal doula can support you during your babymoon – find out more here and here

cats and doulas

I have always been a fan of Michel Odent. Primal birth was one of my first reads as a budding new doula and Birth and Breastfeeding was an inspiration when pregnant with my last and unassisted birth. There is such confidence that he exudes from his books with regards to the case for undisturbed labour resulting in pleasurable birth with excellent conditions for bonding. I had been consumed with jealousy in my second pregnancy that cats have so much more freedom than women to take themselves off on their own in the dark to birth their babies in safety.  This is a far cry from the place that most women find themselves in at the end of pregnancy and I have heard so many women saying they wished they could just go build a nest and give birth on their own. The notion that they can seems only a distant dream when well meaning midwives want to check  in on women and consultants want to monitor women’s pregnancies. Then there are the wonderful caring family members and friends consumed with excitement, so they call every 5 minutes to ask if anything is actually happening.  No wonder pregnancies get longer as women are less safe with their physiological need for privacy not being met with the constant observers.

When I found out my cat was pregnant in the summer 2014, I was a very happy surrogate grandma. I could be a doula for my cat and mother her through pregnancy and observe, albeit from a distance, how she would raise her young kittens. She was only a kitten herself at 10 months of age and we expected she would have 2 kittens from what the vets had said. I had gentle curiousity at the thought of observing a mammal from afar give birth without all the restrictions that have been put over humans since birth moved into busy hospitals. I also wondered whether her unhindered births may put me off my love for the doula, thinking that she would birth alone and need nothing being the independent mammal that she is.

On the 31st August, I went to a beautiful homebirth of a second baby. The baby was born in the water and the mama was absolutely blissed out and the Dad and husband truly in awe of his partner. I got back to a quiet house, kids in bed and a clean house. I had bought a dog cage and put it where my cat used to sit. I had covered it inside and out with fabrics so it was cave like. Much to my surprise at 2am, my cat came to sit on me in bed next to my sleeping toddler. I gave her a little pat and settled back to sleep but she started mewing like she wanted more attention. I kept stroking her and realized I could feel her contracting under my touch. She was dribbling and purring with pleasure. I knew pretty quick that she was in labour in my pitch black room on top of me in my bed. After about an hour she jumped off me next to my sleeping son and yelped. I then heard lots of licking before a shrill mewing. I had always known never to disturb a cat in labour but I didn’t want another kitten being born on my son! I moved him over and sadly aroused him enough to want milk without sleeping properly so we left her with her 3 babies by then in the dark on his cot attached to the side of the bed. At 7am there were 5 scrawny looking kittens suckling their mama as she laid out proud on my bed. She was treated every few hours with cooked fish and chicken and dried food. They nursed pretty continuously for a week so she could not really get up much and she appreciated the food and water under her chin every so often. She would only be happy with me near her nest so I protected her from my ever curious kids.

So my expectation of cat birth could not have been further from what my cat chose. She had places to be alone but she chose to be next to me and a toddler crazy as it was.

I had read a book in 2012 called ‘The Power of Pleasureable Childbirth” by Laurie Morgan. It really challenged me on why I would want a doula at a planned unassisted birth. A doula being seen as something outside of the normal family unit, so an intervention. Ever since I read this I have reflected on whether the intervention of me being at a birth has affected that natural flow of the births I have been too. I think for most of the families that I have been a doula for having the intervention of a doula was a better insurance than meeting the interventions of birth within a medicalised system. I chose to have a doula because she was someone I knew well and had been to her birth a few months earlier. Having her come with her baby was like an extension of my family really. I also wanted the emotional support of a woman as I had never received this in my relationship with my children’s father. The birth of my cat’s kittens really did highlight that there is a role for doulas to play when this is what a mother wishes. Not all women receive the nurturing from a partner that they need for giving birth. Not all male or female partners trust the mechanics of birth. Not all partners want to talk about life events after the occasion so I guess a doula fits this gap. My cat I believe picked up the scent of oxytocin from the birth I was at that very day. She came to my magical family bed, which is full of oxytocin with a breastfed toddler and she wanted me to lovingly touch her. Something that I don’t like in labour but plenty of women do like touch. Given that cats are much more intuitive than many of us humans have evolved to be, I believe my cat found it was safe being next to someone who trusted birth and mothering.

I feel very honoured to have witnessed my cat birth her babies and very honoured to have doulaed for so many families. It is wonderful to see how it all unfolds when left alone and in the case of my cat see how much pleasure is gained from acknowledging the need to be loved!

hannah robertson

hannah can be found at http://calmyorkshirebirth.co.uk/blog/

and running doula uk preparation courses in york at http://redtentdoulas.co.uk/

“I couldn’t have done it without you!”

“I couldn’t have done it without you!” 

I’ve heard this phrase many, many times over the years of supporting new families.

“Oh no! Stop right there! YOU performed all the magic!” My standard reply.

I want absolutely no credit for someone’s birth. I don’t want to be known as someone you “need” around  to birth your baby. I don’t want to be known as a “deliverer” of babies or women! I don’t want any of the glory the new family should be basking in.  I don’t want to feel like I birthed the baby or made it possible for the baby to come or not come as planned however it may pan out.  I make no decisions and I give no advice.

I’ll take the love I receive from parents and gladly.  Who doesn’t love love right? I’ll take a small fee for my time and my efforts and my love but that is never a barrier for me not to provide love and care and safe space around birth.  I’ll drink in the magic of a powerful birthing woman, a dad who is so in love and so in awe he restores all my faith in men or a midwife or doctor who is gentle and loving delicately undoing any hurt previously done.

I also want to acknowledge a woman’s power.  Her ability to cope, manage, roar, succeed, problem-solve, laugh, crack open and let go, love and kill her ego like never before.  I want her to own that – to really own her birth as her achievement, as her doing, as her reality or communion with God or her nightmare – whatever it means to HER.

I’m a space holder, a prayer, a napper and a knitter, a believer in a woman and baby’s ability to work together to choreograph this perfect dance of birth if you just leave them the fuck alone.  Of course I’ll clean a sick bucket, love a woman, press on her back for hours or days at a time, feed her coconut water through a straw and tell her she’s stunning and listen to the darkness and light as it pours forth.  We gather the stories, the hearts desires and disappointments, the hopes and the fears and we do a great job.

Women own your holy births. Birthkeepers own your dedicated holy service. But please don’t get to the two twisted together.

nicola mahdiyyah goodall is a revert muslim who grew up with hip hop based in edinburgh, scotland and london, england. she works with women trying and mainly succeeding to build circles of knowledge and community primarily with birth. she is also the director of wysewomen publishing and facilitates wysewomen workshops and red tent doula courses.