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.

Advertisements

are spanish doulas really the walking dead?

its going off in spain – reminiscent of the burning of millions of women during the witch trials of the middle ages.  today sees a report about the strange goings on of the witches being released by one of the governing bodies of the spanish midwives – this report has been collated over the last three years and has been put together by a multi-disciplinary group of experts composed of nurses and legal specialists in health and criminal law (this is what google translate tells me anyway!).  the witches in question aren’t really witches of course but supportive women at the heart of the community encouraging families to make their own decisions around birth and loving them throughout those decisions regardless of what they are. doulas work – the evidence is clear – read more about it here.

fair enough i say to collate a report about a new body of women that are becoming prominent working amongst the new families of your country.  we like to take care of our mothers and babies surely – so we look into something so big and so powerful sweeping our nation.  however, the results of the report are astonishing to say the least!

the piece of journalism breaking the news is sensationalist media at its worst and clearly cherry-picking the most shocking findings of the report but they are included none the less and i want to address them because i am certain this isn’t how i go about being a doula and i’m pretty certain this can be said of most of the doulas in spain – i spent a heavenly week in a large circle of mainly spanish birthkeepers this last autumn whilst co-facilitating loving the mother (read more about these workshops here) and they were an incredible bunch of women working very hard to bring health and peace and joy to women birthing their babies and becoming new mothers in whatever way the mother herself sees fit.

the three main claims are extraordinary and i want to say a little about each one.

the report claims that doulas divide the family by shutting the father out of the process.  in twenty years almost every single family i have worked with has involved a close relationship with the father as well as the mother as we ALL work together to facilitate gentle birth and try our hardest to generate as much love as we possibly can.  doulas are reassuring for men and can support them through the process – at a birth women are often birthing incredibly well with no assistance or support and its common for them to ask to be protected and accompanied but left.  this can be a very unusual and some times impotent feeling for a man – the doula is there to support him through this and be a reassuring and often times practically useful presence. i once read a birth story written by a dad i worked with – it included a section about him bursting into tears when i offered to make him a cup of tea as i was the first person all day that had shown him any care during the very emotionally trying experience of supporting his wife birthing their first child.  not once have i come between a woman and her man – the only time a mother and father agreed that he wouldn’t be at the birth (previous birth trauma for them both meant they felt most comfortable with this arrangement and they had made this decision themselves before they met me) i took a gamble and asked her (as baby was imminent) if this still worked for them – she changed her mind and i popped my head out of the bedroom door to ask him the same question.  he came in to witness his second son born gently and powerfully by his gorgeous wife – the healing of this experience was incredible.  we love fathers and we encourage them to love and support their partners. read more about dads and doulas here.

the second claim is that we use the term “obstetric violence” to encourage families away from medical assistance when they birth their babies.  there’s no doubt that their are birthkeepers in all their forms that may have witnessed trauma at their own births or those women who’s births they’ve supported at. this trauma leads to an intimate understanding of the impact that this trauma has on the world. how the woman is impacted and begins her mothering as a survivor rather than a victorious woman.  what it does for a man to see his sexual partner and lover brutalised.  what impact does this have on the baby? their potential as a contributing adult to this world?  what this means is almost all the doulas i have met are pro-choice – proactively encouraging families to think through all their choices very carefully.  working through the options until they settle on the ones most likely to bring about the end goal they are after.  this may be a heavily medical birth or the other end of the spectrum at home alone in the dark but we all agree that women must choose as it is the woman who lives with the consequences of her choices for the rest of her life.  who loves this woman’s body and baby more than this family? who cares more about the outcomes? occasionally we are supporting someone’s choice to not take up medical or obstetric care – its their choice to make. don’t believe that birth can be traumatic or are affected by these issues – talk to these people here.

finally and my particular favourite is the suggestion that doulas belong to a cannibal sect.  now i’m a big fan of walking dead but i’ve not taken that any further! its incredible that this is included in a serious manner in what ought to be a very serious report.  sure i’ve met a few doulas that have eaten their placentas but i’ve met many more mothers who had no doula who’ve chosen to do this for many reasons. read all about your placenta and possibly consuming it here.  i’ve met even more mammals who’ve done it.  truth be told among the families i’ve supported this is quite rare.  i don’t encourage or discourage – my job is to ensure women know their options and exercise their choice.  many will bury their placentas which is the most common human behaviour around the world.  most common is to leave the health services to dispose of it.  sadly and i’m sure disappointing more than a few folk who read this report we do not meet at the full moon around a fire on top of a hill and eat human flesh.  that makes for a great story though doesn’t it?

after initially being so amazed, then angry and now just dumbfounded i leave you with the wise words of ibu robin lim placenta lover extraordinaire (read more about her here) lets all deal with this with love – it is the Mothers way and the only way.

“I am holding a Loving space for ALL BirthKeepers to work together with Care, Love and Respect… that is the Mother’s way.”

things you can do to make a change here

you can sign a petition against this report here

you can purchase an awesome book all about doulas – who they are, what their history is and what they do – you can buy it here

you can share this article so that the world will know doulas are full of love and not placentas 🙂 

 
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.

welcoming back the light as a birthkeeper – setting your intentions

light

i sat down at my table last night as the dark came upon us in scotland in the mid-afternoon during the shortest day of the year – i closed my curtains and lit some candles and put pen to paper.  the candles shone brightly and warmed my heart with the love that was contained in the ones that were gifted from birthkeepers i helped along their path this year and the ones that were for lighting at birth and the baby came before the candle burnt out.  this is witchcraft 😉

i sank back into the restful, womb-full darkness and welcomed back the light into my world and my heart. verily out of the darkness comes light!

every so often at an auspicious time i set my intentions and assess what needs to be discarded.  this year i’ve been drawn to the camino de santiago and i’ve been fascinated with the pilgrims shedding their physical load as they let go of their spiritual baggage along the path. this is an essential blood letting and pruning to let new growth flourish, walk forward and let the magic come in.  my intentions were set for my whole life picture but i got to thinking about my work here as a birthkeeper.  its central to all that goes on in my world and needed extra thought and love and most of all tuning in.  its served me well to go through this process over the years and i wanted to share so it may be useful to those coming after me.

wysewomen are running a red tent in london in a couple of weeks at the start of the year and we made the intention it should have the theme of clarity as this is what we realise is crucial to sewing the seeds for the next year.  we are all great list writers and planners but we will often write generic titles such as “get fit” on these lists with no real step to be taken – clarity brings intention to fruition.

so what do you need to be clear about this year? i like to break it down into doable chunks.  what are your long-term goals? where are you going on your path as a birthkeeper? where do you see yourself in ten years? most importantly once you set these how do you get there? this year i’ve been blessed to come across the japanese term kaizen (read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen) loosely i’ve understood it to mean constant improvements in small steps to achieve greatness. i’ve been encouraging those i’m around in my workshops to identify what great things they want to achieve (healing the earth with gentle birth anyone?) and see what that first small step is towards that goal.

be clear about your intentions for this coming year. this year are you focusing on serving your local community? the women of the world? do you want to teach and grow the next generation? are you tired? do you need to be restful this year? would you like to improve health outcomes amongst your people? build the family? how much money would you like to make this year? do you want to stay broke like many birthkeepers? does this keep you holy? would you like to be able to meet your rent this year without struggle? would you like to earn so much that you finally put that deposit down on your own home? would you like to be fully abundant? where are your yearly markers? what do you really want?

i believe to really find the answers to those questions you need to think about what you need to let go of  what is serving you? what is growing you? what is nourishing you? what is serving the greater good and growing love in your community, nourishing the world.  how do all these things impact you and your family? to grow and blossom we need balance alongside adventure and a good intention.  if something is no longer serving you but you feel its a service to others you want to provide to the world/women/God you may choose to keep it.  if its damaging you you may need to think twice.  birthkeepers are renowned for running themselves into the ground – all of my heroines in this world keep black circles under the eyes and a generally worn down look which is entirely overshadowed by the beauty of the Godly service they do for the world. none the less it is there.

so what are you saying yes to this year? what are you saying no to? write it down, draw it, sing it out, shout it to the world and bring it to you. let me here about your plans 🙂

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.