Bridge-Building Activism – Is That a Thing?

Arch

Sometimes I wonder where my place is in the world of birth. There are so many people who have come before and paved the way for where we are today. Some would argue we have so much farther to go, and they’re right.

There are a lot of people who work in my field who are activists – writing and speaking and fighting for change. I am grateful for them, their words and their actions. But sometimes I struggle with not having that particular fire in my belly. When I started seriously working on my book, one of my lovely mentors, Heidi, asked me straight up if I considered myself an activist – and I could almost feel myself physically recoil from that word. An activist? Me?! No, no no…

While it’s true that I don’t shy away from conflict (as my Mom told me once – what does t mean?), what I really love is conflict resolution. That moment when two people sitting across from one another with an ocean of division between them inch ever slowly toward one another, noticing just how similar “the other” actually is to themselves. When these two can cross that chasm because of a bridge that I have helped to build, that’s a straight shot to my dopamine reward center.

When Heidi suggested that I was an activist, the word didn’t seem to jibe with the picture I had of myself. Until, she suggested that I was an activist for my families. Not the whole world of birth, but the people that I work with directly within that world of birth. Yes! This, I could agree to wholeheartedly.

I am an activist for my families.

But my way of activism is to encourage dialogue, to create bridges, to seek out similarities, and downplay differences – to create community so that we can all work toward the same goal: birth that is family-centered and recognizes the powerful transformation that is possible when this is held at the core of the birth experience.

It makes me think of the moment of birth that I’ve been lucky to witness before, in my own births, in births that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend, and in the retelling of  transformative birth stories – when everyone in the room was acutely aware something extraordinary had just happened. 

Because it does happen in every single birth – but how often is this recognized?

It’s challenging for that awareness to occur if bridges of understanding and trust haven’t been built. Bridges between the couple, and then with other birth support members, their L&D nurses and their provider must be in place for that moment to happen. I’d like to think that the work I do in my classes and through my writing is not to actually build those bridges, but maybe to act more like the arch of those bridges. I’d like to think that I’m providing my families with the support that they need in order to build their own bridges. So that when that moment of transformation happens they can experience it fully. And anyone else lucky enough to act as witness can be transformed, too.

If this makes me an activist, then I guess that’s what I am. In my own way.

Do you consider yourself an activist for birth? In what way? Can bridge-building and activism go together? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment.

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