Thursday, March 11, 2010

Slacktivist? Not me!

Sometimes I feel like a big fat hypocrite. I rail against the status quo of modern obstetric care, and yet all I really do to "change" things is sit here behind my keyboard and wait for women to find me on BabyCenter's VBAC board so I can encourage them to take charge of their births and make informed decisions. Am I really helping? Or am I just another slacktivist, wanting to feel like I'm involved but in actuality staying far removed from promoting actual change?

Over and over I have told women that we need to keep talking about our births and if we reach just one woman we are making a difference. Every time someone reads our posts, every time we talk to someone about our VBACs, every time we tell someone she has options, we are making a difference. I do believe this kind of ground-level advocacy is important. There is no question that individual women need support in making non-mainstream birth decisions! And yet I long for something more, something that sparks change in the system so that women are actually served by it instead of failed by it. This feeling has been so strong lately that I've been considering taking a break from all of it, turning over group ownership of the BabyCenter board to someone else, just letting all of it go. I don't have the time or motivation to be as involved as I think I should be, and this small part... oh, I just don't know.

But two things happened this week. First, Kristen from reminded me how critical mother-to-mother support was in her own VBAC journey. And then this morning I decided not to stay quiet when I overheard a young mother talking about how her OB told her she had to have a repeat cesarean, and that she would have to limit herself to three children because it wasn't safe to have more than three cesareans. It has never been in my comfort zone to sepak up in situations like that, but listening to this young woman talk about how her reproductive life was going to be defined by her first cesarean... it made me so angry! Exactly who does her OB think he is, to tell her how many children she can have and how she has to deliver them? She said she wants to try to deliver vaginally, but was flat-out told she can't.

When I spoke up this morning and told the entire group that my first baby was born by c-section but my other three were born vaginally, and offered to share resources and information, I made a difference no matter how small. Sure, I felt like I was being pushy and intrusive and I totally blew the pretense that I wasn't eavesdropping-- but maybe I opened a door to allow this young woman to regain control of her reproductive future. I will probably never be the kind of activist Kristen has become (and I can't say enough about how much I admire her), but maybe being a ground-level advocate really is the thing I'm supposed to be doing. I'm pretty good at it, I think. And today I might just have reached one woman.