Friday, May 28, 2010

Preconception Educators

“People can feel especially fragile about giving birth because they hate to think they ‘did it wrong.’ We may defend one way of doing it because it is too threatening to think that there might have been a better alternative to the way we gave birth…go gently, and avoid the impulse to polarize or convert. Encourage each person to speak of her own experience in ‘I’ statements…” --Sacred Circles

I shared this quote in another blog post some time ago. It reminds me that perhaps the best avenue for birth advocacy is to back up and start talking to young women in high school or college, and not in trying to “preach” to other adult women who in all likelihood have very complicated reasons for making the choices they are making (and not being “enlightened” as to the “empowering way!” is usually not one of those reasons). If birth advocates are actually going to make meaningful changes (instead of enemies, or at least making women feel “unheard,” unacknowledged, dismissed, or misunderstood) they/we probably need to reach women before they are in that “fragile” or defensive state with regard to their own experiences.

Then, I received a notice about the federal Preconception Peer Educators Program (A Healthy Baby Begins with You), which trains college students as peer educators. A training is being held in Chicago in September to coincide with Infant Mortality Awareness Month and the program is seeking: 500 students/advisors from 20 states and the breakdown is as follows:
  • 20 states
  • 5 universities per state
  • 4 students and 1 advisor per university
They are also encouraging each school to send at least one male student, which I think is good.

The emphasis of the training and program seems to be on reducing infant mortality, which of course is an important goal, but also one that is inextricably linked to optimal care of the mother (i.e. the kind of care offered by the Midwives Model of Care). So, I would hope to see more content within the program about maternity care, midwifery care, and birth rights in general, but I think it sounds like a very interesting, important, and useful program!

CfM Blogger


Anonymous said...

I think starting to talk to women earlier is a great idea. We live too far from emergency care for me to feel comfortable with a home birth at this point, but I am definitely going for as natural a birth as possible. I was an adult when I was first introduced to the idea of midwifery, but I was exposed to it long before I was considering it myself. That led to me being very careful about my choices for regular healthy woman care, also before pregnancy was on the table. I think it would have been much more difficult to convince myself (and my husband) to make the choices that are viewed with concern by the medical community once I was already pregnant. It's harder to block the scare tactics if you're not well-educated before there's a real child to consider.

Ray the Poet said...

I totally agree. I'm very thankful that I began researching pregnancy and birth my myself as I finished up college- I was perfectly prepared for my first pregnancy, which followed soon after. I'm convinced that giving young women the time and resources to decide for themselves what they think about birth in our culture long before they even consider pregnancy will always be far more effective than convincing women who are already mothers. My mother, grandmother & aunts have a very hard time remaining open-minded to new ideas in the birth community, favoring common sense and their own experiences instead, whereas I have remained blessed with a fairly unbiased view from all sides of the debate. Being prepared to make your own informed decisions about your births from a young age is one of the great blessings that can be given to young women in America! Challenging them to reconsider the messages they've been inundated with since childhood about it is very likely to produce happy, confident minds and hearts BEFORE they're in the emotionally vulnerable place of becoming pregnant.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the most encouraging and ground breaking aspects of this program is that it's focusing in on infant mortality amongst Black babies. From the Preconception Peer Educators site: "Let's face it! Infant mortality rates among African American babies are twice as high as those of the general population."

It's definitely one of the things I want to hone in on when I become a midwifery - but you can only do so much to combat infant mortality once a person is already pregnant. There's a whole host of things to address before pregnancy, not to mention a lifetime of experiencing racism takes its toll on your body.