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.


  1. I have to tell you that this post has re-encouraged me to speak up in my own area of influence. I have, like you, lately felt that I am not really making a difference and that I have no platform on which to make myself heard. Frustration seems to parylize me. you, I realize there are families right under my nose who need what I have to offer. I must be willing to OFFER to ANYone and EVERYone God places in my path!

    I can not say THANK YOU loud enough!! I needed to read this today. I am always amazed what and how God speaks to me.

  2. pam, im so proud of you, its so hard to stay quiet but even harder to speak up. btw i am starting a new blog you will like i am doing a lot of "natural" education on how to keep the family sane.

  3. I think I can safely say that I, along with a great number of "BBC mamas" have been really encouraged and empowered by your presence on the VBAC board there. Thank you for all the time you have committed there, and IRL, to helping women see and follow their right to choose!

    ~Rebekers (since I can't ever figure out how to make this thing work right)

  4. Pam, I can't even begin to express how much of a difference you made in my own VBAC journey. I *know* that you've made a *ton* of difference in other women's lives. Seriously, I could devote an entire blog post to it. And perhaps I will...:-)

  5. Malinda (min's gem)March 13, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    Don't ever doubt that you make a difference. I found the VBAC board on babycenter and the information you and the other knowledgeable women provided make all the difference to me. I became educated about birth and what it should be when not dictated by an OB. Because of Kristen I found the wonderful Dr N. and had the women centered care I didn't believe existed. I am now on the path to become a doula all because of what I have learned. I need to let other women know they have a choice. Thank you for all you do. You may not realize it, especially since you don't know me, but you were an important part of my journey to a VBAC.

  6. I too, like the young woman in your post, was told that I HAVE to deliver by c-section with my next children and that I am only allowed to have two more.

    At first, I was devestated. Today, right now I am angry. I fully know that my daughter's birth was an emergant life saving (her life) surgery and that I very well wouldn't have her today if she hadn't been delivered the way she was 4 weeks early, however, to tell me that all my other children who could very well be healthy and thriving MUST come out that same way, and then to LIMIT the amount of children I am "allowed" to have has made me more angry than I can state.

    Since my husband and I have agreed on a time line for trying to conceive baby number two, I have been researching and educating myself as much as I can on VBACs.

    My cesarean was traumatic and to this day I do not get any delightful feelings when I think about the birth of my child. I do not feel as if I have given birth to my daughter, but rather that she was "born from me". I cannot accept it laying down that this is how I must feel about all my children's births, and that I am only "allowed" to have two more.

  7. @fuschia, you're welcome- I'm glad you're feeling inspired too!!

    @Kristen- I said it before, but you really *are* my hero. I can't say enough about how much I admire you. Knowing I had a part in your VBAC journey makes me smile, but you were amazing!!

    @Erin- (((hugs))) I am so sorry you're facing the same challenge as the young woman in my son's preschool class. I think it is a travesty that women's reproductive options are being so limited by the preferences of their OBs. It is WRONG and you are justifiably angry. I hope you are able to find the support you need to VBAC with your next child. I, and everyone on the VBAC board, will do everything we can to help you find resources. Make sure you check into your local ICAN chapter!

    The response to this post has been incredible both here and on FB... while I'm still not 100% certain what direction I am going to take, I know I need to stay involved and keep trying to make a difference even if I never make it further than BabyCenter. Thank you all for your support and encouragement- it means the world!

  8. NO, you are not 'slacking'! I was a brief lurker at BabyCenter and it was YOUR encouragement to others that I read that directed me to check out ICAN and question the status-quo. Fast-forward two years and a vbac later: I'm an ICAN leader and a CBE, making a difference one woman at a time in my community. It is NO EXAGGERATION that your influence put me on this path. "Keyboard activism" doesn't feel like much, but it makes a world of difference.

  9. I love your blog, Its very enpowering

  10. You are the one who single-handedly changed my mind from "I guess I should just have a RCS." to "Heck no! I'm VBACing!" by being the thoughtful, well-spoken, amazing advocate that you are. Your posts are never pushy, just informative, and that was exactly what I felt was lacking from every other site I came across. I so, so hope to join you amazing women this July with my own VBAC story, and I know you've made me an advocate for life.

    (Seepy87 from BBC)