Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Birth Centres Come to Ontario

I woke up at 5am this morning.  Not unusual for a mama of a newborn; ironically, baby C was sound asleep.  This actually worked to my advantage as I dragged myself out of bed, and proceeded to try to make myself relatively presentable for the public.  I have a love-hate relationship with having my photo taken.  I pretty much hate it unless I can “art direct” it or delete it.  Oh, and I prefer if you only take my photo from the boobs up, preferably after I’ve been to the salon and spa.  But with a mere twelve hours notice, “the public” was going to be lucky if I didn’t have spit-up in my hair.  Not that I want to further promote that stereotypical image of a new mama, just that my baby is quite fond of projectile spit ups whether I burp her or not.  It’s just a fact.  

So up at 5am, makeup on, a slapped together outfit that was not photo—worthy (But the only thing I can manage given the weather and the four piles of laundry still to be done as my resident laundry-doer aka partner extraordinaire Mark, has been in bed horribly ill since Friday night and I’ve been the sole source of entertainment, rule-enforcement, household duties, and nourishment of both body and soul)  my three girls dressed in matching black outfits, baby nursed, promises of takeout breakfast made, school lunch and bag packed for R, and out the door we headed.  

We arrived on campus just before 8am and thankfully snagged a parking spot right in front of the building.  I was warmly welcomed by our first midwife who caught R and L(barely, but that’s another birth story), at St.Mike’s and at home respectively. The director of our program and several members of the AOM greeted us enthusiastically as well.  It was odd being told that my trek to the event was heroic.  I had figured, I was going to be up anyway! And really, if you are going to talk-the-talk, then walk-the-walk.  Or in my case, drive through rush hour traffic with three girls under the age of six, and to show your support for other mamas and their midwives, and love every minute of it!

I was one of three from my cohort of midwifery students, though there are many others there, and one of maybe eight or ten mamas with baby-in-arms.  Our photo was taken repeatedly and all I can think about that now is not "wow, I should google us and see if we made it onto any major media outlet" but rather "holy crap, I was sweating so profusely under the press lights, my pants were falling down, my shirt was riding up, and my hair was inflating – what a picture that is going to make."  Oh, and if we did end up on TV, that’s me just to Mr.McGuinty’s right, nursing my baby while she’s in a sling.  So, that would officially make it so that not just everyone I know will have seen my breasts, but possibly hundreds I don't know.

One of the things I noticed while there was that various people kept ushering us closer to the front because “make a good picture.”  I’m sure it’s meant as flattering, and I really don’t mind, but I wonder what that means.  Is it because my girls have bright smiles, and are matching outfits with their baby sister in untraditional black?  Is it because I’m both midwifery student and midwifery client?  Or is it because I’m brown?  And frankly, I suspect it’s a combination of all three with an emphasis on the latter.  Midwifery clients in Ontario tend to fall into one of two categories:  upper middle class and white or non-white and so new to the province they don’t have a health card yet but can still receive free care from a midwife.  I am neither, my girls are varying shades of butterscotch, and yes, we look pretty damn cute.  And so if our "look" unintentionally broadened the image of a midwifery client, than I'm okay with that too.
I gave two interviews supporting birth centres – a long and hard fought victory for women in Ontario. If I'd had time to clear my foggy brain a bit, I probably would have been able to speak to how the road to achieving a commitment to fund birth centres was very similar to my mini-adventure getting from the 905 to downtown TO at rush hour with three girls:  an alarm going off, stumbling through the darkness, waking up fully, thankful for the prep and planning the night before, working hard to maintain a sunny disposition despite obstacles including but not limited to a lack of support and limited vision, illuminating my path with headlights, and then ultimately a warm welcome into a room of familiar faces and unfamiliar ones all smiling at me and my babies. But, I'm not that articulate on the spot. And instead said something along the lines of this : While I myself, don’t need one, I think of women who live in extended family situations or tiny apartments with no space for a birthing tub, or who simply need the security of a more official space that is not medicalized, perfunctionary and oozing illness the way a hospital does.  I’m hoping to be one of the privileged midwives to work at one in a few years.  

I’m not sure if we’ll end up on any of the news reports of press clippings, it’s been my experience that the media tends to choose one family to focus on and the baby that Premier McGuinty was holding up in the air, or the family of six kids probably “trumped” us but I’m not a media hound and so I don’t particularly care either way.  I went to show my solidarity and support for midwives, birth centres, and the women, babies, and families that will benefit from this great step.    

And yes, it was also pretty cool to write “press conference with the Premier and the Health Minister Deb Matthews” on my five-year old’s late slip under “reason”. 

Here's baby C, looking exhausted after all that time maintaining her image in front of the media, as a reminder of why it is so important to support midwives and mothers: healthy babies

What do you think of birth centres coming to Ontario?  Would you have used one/would you use one? 

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