Being the Change I Wish to See in the World
My midwife and friend Gloria Lemay is facing prison for being a "midwife" in a province where the word "midwife" is owned by agents of the government of British Columbia. The case has been brought against her by the College of Midwives of BC (the aforementioned government agents); in two days time she will go to the sentencing hearing.
It has been a series of nasty confrontations for Gloria with the College of Midwives; and with the College of Midwives of BC, "nasty" often turns into "before the courts of British Columbia". (As their legal expenses are funded by the provincial government, it only stands to reason, I suppose, that litigation is so easy for them.) For years they've been trying to "dig up dirt" on Gloria; even resorting to sending private detectives to a birth and to workshops she presents, then "coloring" the reality of what they uncover. Things have gotten so intense with them that I have personally thrown my hands up in despair and said to Gloria- "after all this is over, why don't you just go somewhere else? To another province? Move to a place where you'll be left alone."
Her answer did not surprise me, though it did exasperate me. She said that by making a difference in BC, birth would be better everywhere else: by being in a place that is so broken, so troubled about birth, yet surviving in it- coming out of it intact and with still more to teach, say and do- it would be far more powerful than to run away to where they "like you". She said that Martin Luther King did not make a difference for people of color by crusading in New York, where people lived in relative harmony... he stayed in Alabama, where things were so terrible; and by making a difference in Alabama he made a difference everywhere else too.
I didn't understand, and thought to myself- "If it were me, I'd move to Manitoba and be done with it."
But then things happened in my life that taught me what she meant. A few days ago I decided to post last week's column on a mainstream debate board; you know- the column that attempted to break apart fantasy bonds with truth as sharp as a crack of a whip: it showed how dangerous, senseless and proven-to-be unsafe many routine obstetrical and gynecological medical interventions really are. It then challenged women to let go of their subservient reverence to the false god of modern medical authority and wake up, grow up, and finally stay healthy and safe in birth, and later in life as well.
Well... the responses were predictable, if not palatable. Words like "torn> into" and "thrown about violently" come to mind, but I was only dealing with> words after all- no red, lashing marks appear on my person; just as in a few days, Gloria will only be dealing with the words of the judge and the College of Midwives, and will not be "eaten alive by a pack of hyenas". They deal only in words, after all- and while words hurt, they need not penetrate skin, body, soul- intent...
Intent. What was my intent when I ventured into the mainstream board, when it would have been much easier to stay on my own boards and just "hang out"? Oh, it would have felt so much better to have people say "we love you Leilah" than "shut up PC freak- get the hell out of here, your kind is not welcome here," so on, so forth, angry hateful vehemence ad infinitum. But it occurred to me: yes it would be easier to stay "safe" (though of course I am always safe when venturing out on the Internet, as I am sitting right here) than expose my mind to those inclined to attack; but by staying safe I will have not made a difference to anyone at all... and things will continue to only get worse as those who are wise avoid confrontation.
By running away Gloria would be "safe"- but what would that mean? The> College of Midwives would have succeeded in what they have always wanted, and that's to have gotten rid of Gloria Lemay from their provincial midst. What legacy is left behind for young women when the wizened ones flee from persecution? What voice of freedom is heard when a fleeing back is all that's seen of the wise ones?
Ina Mae Gaskin once said that all the brave women were burned in the witch-hunts, and that the women alive today of European descent are the products of the ones who finked on their neighbors; the ones who didn't speak up when women were tortured until they "confessed" to Witchcraft. We come from the ones who kept silent against monstrosity; the ones who turned their backs then turned their friends in to the Inquisitors (agents of the "government" of the times, the Catholic Church). The College is certainly doing a magnificent job in living up to ancestral expectations...
The most natural impulse is to run away before "one is tied to the stake" (though only words after all- Gloria will emerge from all of this as intact and alive as ever). But Gloria is not running away... she is standing firmly in her ground- and strongly facing the College of Midwives. She is recreating the kind of women that girls will be proud to be descended from: she is recreating the role of strong women; not the milquetoast brand who lie and spy on their neighbors, or encourage us to "play by the rules"- "don't make waves"- "mind your manners". She is reclaiming the role of the original wild, wise woman, the one who is the true midwife... the true
daughter of time.
The ones who spy, while fulfilling their duties as descendants of the cowardly survivors, leave naught but a legacy of poisonous whispers, and getting patriarchal authorities to dispose of the ones in their midst who affront their sensibilities. Just like the ones who turned "witches" (midwives, healers, older women, misfits) into the Church for punishment, the College of Midwives now ask the patriarchal BC government to dispose of the "witch" in their midst for them. What shameful legacy is this they leave for young women?
We need outrageous women if change is to be expected to be seen in the world. We need women who make a stand for what they believe in- and don't back down when those who object to boisterous women remind them of their "manners" and of "etiquette" or "Netiquette". Well screw etiquette I say, when bellies are being cut open in a quarter of all women as a perverse method of "giving birth"- when women aren't given informed consent regarding destructive medical procedures- when women are held perversely down, flat on their backs with their legs in the air, as they are taught their places of meek medical subservience. Screw being polite, kind and nice- "acceptable" when truly, often the only thing keeping women from getting their bellies or vaginas cut open in birth is a few loud words bouncing around in their consciousness from people who cared enough about them to tell them the truth- instead of just telling them what they might want to hear.
Women don't want to be woken up, they want to stay in societally safe comfort zones- they don't want to realign comfortable, accepted ways of thinking, even if the ways of the masses are truly destructive. But an immediate shock to one's comfortable world is what will make a genuine difference in how she chooses to live her life.
Take breastfeeding: Gloria and I were talking earlier about some of our initial exposures to breastfeeding. She said the first time she saw someone nursing a six month old baby, she nearly got sick. So I told her about the time when I was pregnant with my first child: I got on the bus and saw a young woman nursing her baby with her breast fully exposed. I was appalled, as were all the other gawkers around me. "If I decide to breastfeed, I'LL stay covered up!", I thought. That young woman just sat there in the front seat, looking uncomfortable and a little sad, but resolutely nursed all the same. Well I went on to fully breastfeed seven children (I'm on my eighth)- and quite often with my breast unconcernedly exposed in public. In doing this I show younger women that breastfeeding is normal- just like that young mother showed me, whether I wanted to see or not, whether I liked it or not. The strongest impacts into our comfort zones are what we remember- and these are the things we are the most grateful for as we go on to do just what it was that we abhorred. (Incidentally, Gloria went on to breastfeed her two< daughters for several years each, and encourages other mothers to breastfeed extensively as well.)
I will make a new habit of being loud and annoying on mainstream boards about the most important thing I can think of- safe, gentle childbirth- and know that somehow, somewhere, I am planting seeds of sentience that will grow in those who are fertile. I will try to be a calm, powerful voice in a din of reactive hysteria. I will challenge the idolization of false gods, and call women to truth and reason... and expect to be called many things because of it. No, I am not "thick skinned"- it hurts like hell to be "torn apart" on mainstream boards.
But then again... maybe it doesn't, because I am sitting here, all in one piece, not torn apart at all but feeling all that much stronger for being that change I wish to see in the world: for being that outrageous, awesome, joyfully powerful woman whom I really see making a difference in how the women of the world give birth. The women may hate me like anything now... but I will lurk somewhere in their minds, perhaps for years- and when they're ready to give gentle births, they will know it has been done before them, and only grow stronger because of it.
Gloria is not running away- she is being the change she wishes to see in the province she was born in, and has chosen to make her home. And by being that "black spot" in the minds of the College of my government's perception of birth attendants, she is being very visible indeed- and must be dealt with and acknowledged, whether they like it or not. By her boldness of color others will see that one can be "torn apart" yet still remain standing; indeed, come out even more powerful... "that which does not destroy me only makes me stronger". Well words certainly don't destroy me- so watch out world, here I come...
A Brief History of the Attack on Gloria Lemay
<http://www.birthlove.com/gloria/new.html> Gloria has been found guilty of
civil and criminal contempt of court, resulting from an ongoing witch-hunt
by the College of Midwives of BC. Read about the case, and follow relevant
Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Biographical Sketch
<http://www.lib.lsu.edu/hum/mlk/srs218.html> Dr. King was arrested no less
than 30 times for his anti-racist activism in the 1950's and 1960's, and now
his ideas are accepted as normal instead of feared and loathed. One day such
will be the case with childbirth activists as well.
Read the column "Overcoming the Gods of Modern Medicine", and then the
responses on the mainstream board here-
Ironically the more intelligent and researched a response was, the more
viciously it was attacked.
The Witch Hunts- The End of Magic and Miracles
book chapter includes a description of the trials that midwives endured.
New at BirthLove- Herbs for the Childbearing Years with Demetria Clark.
Learn about the course, and the site, here: <http://www.birthlove.com>
Joy, & Raspberry Leaves
Go HERE for more information on the waterbirth video!
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