Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Childbirth Education; Oops, I Mean Empowerment

Welcome to Childbirth Today's 2012 Blog Carnival - honoring the busy month of May and all of the celebrations of midwives, nurses, doulas and childbirth educators...AND mothers!  Today's blog carnival entry features a post by Karen Brody of the BOLD Movement and Fear-to-Freedom Birth Facilitator's Program as she shares about childbirth education - oops, I mean.....  (please scroll all the way down to see her video also!)

Twenty years ago I was sitting on the floor of a thatched-roof house talking with a woman named Ohenya in a Mayan village near the border of Guatemala. She was pregnant, and at the time I was twenty-two years old and knew nothing about pregnancy, birth, and babies. Instead was a budding community organizer, full of empowerment tools, wondering how my toolbox could help a pregnant woman at 37 weeks pregnant.

The general rule community organizers believe is that power ultimately rests in the people. But most people are stuck like cement glue in one belief and cannot find their way out unless they have an “ah-ha” moment.

So when I’d speak with Ohenya sitting on her mud floor as she made tortillas at four in the morning, I looked for the opportunity to plant the seeds for her to find her “ah-ha” moment.

Most days she would tell me about her aches and pains as her tummy got larger and she juggled her three other children.  I did not understand her reality, but as we got to know each other I began to feel more confident asking her questions.

One day she told me: “I don’t want to go to the water to give birth.”

All women in her village gave birth beside a beautiful gushing stream with their mother-in-law and other women elders to assist.

“I almost died the last time I gave birth.”

My community organizer hat positioned itself steadily.

“What’s your vision for your birth?” I asked.

“There’s a local midwife,” she whispered. “She has medical supplies. And a truck.”

“To transport you?”

“If necessary.”

Within minutes Ohenya and I were drawing up a plan.

But first she taught me something. She put her hand on her heart.

“My heart always knows.”

At twenty-two I did not understand this approach to self-empowerment.

Was there a heard voice too? I had only been taught to make change with your head.

Facts were golden.

Could there be a deeper “ah ha” moment?

BOLD Muskoka, in Canada 2011
Following her heart that day Ohenya and I drew up a plan using our collective understanding of empowerment. First, we created a vision for her birth based on her heart. Then, I taught her how to lead from her head too – to look at the obstacles she faced to getting a midwife. And then, for the first time in my life, we made a strategy and came up with tactics to implement the plan based on heart and head.

This approach changed my life.

I think it’s the missing ingredient in childbirth education today.

Birth workers must embrace their inner change agent and offer a balance of head and heart empowerment tools to lead pregnant mothers back to their power.

So change in childbirth can trickle UP.

The moment I entered the birth world – seeing the urgency of change needed across the globe - I envision a world where every birth worker is a birth visionary, planting the seeds of empowerment inside pregnant mothers.

What’s the way to give pregnant mothers that “ah ha” moment?

Ohenya taught me it: a balanced heart and head voice.

Once we help pregnant mothers enter their hearts, touch their true nature, that’s when more traditional head-based community organizing tools are like firecrackers to an empowered birth.

The next time you are with a pregnant mother and she is talking from her head stop her. Invite her to take a deep breath. And ask her to tell the same story she just told you from her heart. Or just ask her for a word from her heart at that moment.

She will shift, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

I believe a revolution in the way we work with pregnant mothers is coming and that heart-based empowerment tools – for pregnant moms and also for birth workers – will be the game-changers in childbirth education.

Oops, I mean childbirth empowerment.

About the author:
Karen Brody's  life’s work is to create multi-sensory cutting edge tools (a play, the BOLD movement, a birth worker training program) that help the culture of birth shift to a new story - one where pregnant mothers birth with their internal power switches on and birth workers are rockstar change agents in childbirth, planting the seeds of empowerment everywhere they go. Through her school for birth visionaries, the FEAR to FREEDOM Birth Facilitator Training Program, Karen provides empowerment tools to marry birthworkers with their inner change agent so they can be out in the world changing the culture of birth.  For more info on Karen visit: and

No comments: