Raquel Penzo

25 May

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I never wanted to be a mother. Being responsible for others wasn’t appealing to me, still isn’t! But when I became pregnant and decided to follow through with the pregnancy, I took it seriously. I told myself that I wouldn’t half-ass it, because the mothers in my life didn’t half-ass it with me. That baby was going to get what I got and whatever more I could give it, including a sibling. As soon as I had one I knew in five years I’d have another. It was the ultimate gift I could give my daughters (besides life): a very best friend, each other. Same as my mom gave me.

 

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Passivity and Blame: Understanding Women in Labor and Childbirth

21 May

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to connect with a fellow birthworker to process our feelings about birth. We spoke about why we do what we do, voluntarily going on the front lines in the hospitals to both hold space and at times advocate for the women who are at risk of medical abuse. Something came up that encompassed a silent frustration I’ve felt over the last 5 years of my work as a doula and now midwife.

I have been blamed before for an outcome of pregnancy. I’ve had to work out incredible feelings of guilt and shame, doubting myself and my abilities to be an asset to women. I can still remember that day. The anger in her eyes and the questions as to why I didn’t do something differently shook me to the core. I went home that night and felt so angry – both for what happened to her and because I was being blamed for things out of everyone’s control.  I’ve been chastised for not being impeccable and perfect support. I’ve been given the complete silent treatment, leaving me to wonder if I had done something wrong or didn’t do enough. My work has been undervalued and underpaid, questioned for its validity, and seen as minimal. Often, I’ve wondered why even keep trying to make a change with the pushback that birthworkers have gotten not just from the medical establishment but also the very mothers we seek to aid.

Now, in me writing this piece, I am aware of the heighten sense of emotions in pregnancy and childbirth. I do not condemn women who I’ve described above for how they’ve reacted.  They had reactions fostered by their lives and emotions. It is my duty as a birthworker to learn how not to take anything personal, as difficult as that may be. What I am saying is that we live in a culture of blaming and lawsuits. We have been conditioned to simply react and not process our feelings in ways that lead to breakthroughs. Furthermore, doulas and midwives feel a brunt of displaced feelings that come from women who have been programmed to do the following: to hand over their power to the current medical system, to be passive as women in relation to the power over our bodies, and encouraged to blame someone when things out of everyone’s control happen. Our society perpetuates the myth that women are the eternal mother figures. We are expected to give comfort and hold everyone’s emotions at the expense of being hated, unappreciated and dismissed. This problematic view of women is further expounded by race and class. When this view is combined with the belief that medical professionals are supposed to guarantee outcomes that everyone is happy with, it can be a setup for disappointment.

I mention race and class, as it is something very present in my mind these days with the current social unrest. As a Black Latina, I am harmed by the Strong Black/Latina narrative. I am expected to be a strong pillar of strength that must be infallible and perpetually present. This is compounded by my role as a midwife. I have felt sometimes that I am supposed to save women from birth. I feel that my own feelings of rejection and guilt have been tempered by my ability to know her reaction actually has nothing to do with me.  Childbirth is an intense moment. Because it is focused on the genitals, it is important for me to remember that not only am I holding space for trauma that may be triggered by the pain, but also all other preconceptions about her body, motherhood, sexuality, and anything else that comes up.  It is a common reaction to trauma for a person to leave mentally and spiritually, thus seeming passive or absent. Sometimes women regress to being little girls in childbirth, needing their mothers, which is normal when one is experiencing intense pain that we want to on some level be saved from. It is not my wish to control all of these very really reactions in childbirth. In fact, childbirth can be one of the only times a woman can lose complete control, or on the extreme side, where her need to be in control can be exacerbated.

Yet, there is something to be said about women in general and in childbirth going from being a passive passenger to an active participant in their transformation. We as women have been conditioned to feel powerless and weak. The use of epidurals is symbolic of having been slowly brainwashed that we are not strong enough to withstand the pain of childbirth. I believe in the compassionate use of pain relief but not in the way it is overused. Together we, both birthing women and birthworkers, need to speak about empowerment as it relates to birthing and our bodies. Though I understand not wanting to speak on trauma to others, it is a part of doing the work to not simply “get over it” but rather work through it, in an effort to no longer be controlled by our pasts. These sentiments remind me of the quote, “Stand and Deliver”, which implies a much more powerful stance than being forced on our backs to birth our children. It is time for all of us to empower women to re-imagine the messages they have received not only about themselves but also birth. As far as blame, let us be more conscious of who we place the blame on and why. We must begin to take responsibility of our births.

This is easier said than done but necessary, as we cannot expect to be satisfied by something we don’t completely own. Now, this is also not to say that power and responsibility only looks a certain way. I am suggesting that women and all person who give birth give their birthing process much deeper thought. And you know what? Maybe this space to examine the ways we show up in medical settings isn’t as available. I’ve learned over the years that we are all doing the best we can. The knowledge that used to be inherently ours as women and people is now more and more being remembered. As always, a sense of compassion must go along with holding ourselves accountable, not for the outcomes of our birth (which are mostly unpredictable), but for who we are through it all.  I am speaking about taking responsibility for our prenatal nutrition and lifestyle with the understanding that it doesn’t only affect the growing fetus but the woman’s overall health.  Practicing outside of a hospital, I have a much different point of view on the woman I serve.  I am not a savior nor am I delivering anyone or anything from anywhere. I am a witness and medical professional responsible for the woman and fetus’ well-being, but ultimately the woman is responsible for her health. She is my client, not patient. I also speak from the place of a woman who has not given birth and has attended quite a few births, so I cannot say I know exactly how a pregnant woman feels yet I understand the process of rebirth well enough to know the ownership that comes with it. Even furthermore, for us to birth powerfully, we must begin to challenge and ask of our communities and eventually society to create a much more compassionate, fruitful and healthy space for birthing women. As it is, there is no true conversation around mental health as it relates to pregnancy.  There can be guilt in talking about things that keep us quiet and passive, from years of being silenced.

It is my hope that not just in birth but in our lives, women continue to foster their power and become active participants in their lives. Myself included. These are all things we don’t know all about yet. Many of us are waking up to our bodies and what we want for our families as we break cycles of the same thing from the last couple of centuries. We are collectively learning how to navigate our personal power and accountability; more and more we can let go of passivity, reserve blaming and be active participants in our births and lives.

Frankela Albury – Living As Daughters

18 May

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Living As Daughters

Swimming, tossing and turning in my comfort zone of love

Being pressured to enter a world ready for me

That I wasn’t ready for

So I came out

Screaming, yelling, crying and kicking

Watching and waiting for…

Knowledge

Know-how

Listening to the sounds of laughter mixed with tears

Chatters of OOOOh’s and AAAAh’s

While my soul re-entered the earth

In the Summer of ‘75

Thirteen I was

When elders spoke of protection and rites of passage

‘Cause my titties began to sprout

My ass poked out attaching to my long thick legs

and my hips widened three extra inches

My rites of passage became Beauty to the Vision

Which I learned to flaunt

But was unable to share

‘Til I was eighteen

Yet no one said why…

Or how…

I should receive it

Or how…

I should love it or me

I became pregnant

In an unknown world of circumstantial evidence I received by watching others live not cautiously enough by made up rules of moral codes of conduct

I passed my rights and wrongs

Through pity and sorrow and mistakes

I earned my first badge in June of ‘94

It was a girl

Which opened the door to a load of things I’d only heard of in whispers told to the winds by my ancestors and elders while they stood over my shoulders peering at me

I fumbled through the secrets of living

With my five senses

Banishing the sixth for a later date with EXPERIENCE THE TEACHER

‘Foolishly in Love’

Fell on my relaxed hair and tampered with my brain

On May ‘98

By November ’99

I received my second Badge of Rites

Two blue stars and bright red cheeks

Another girl

Now it was my turn

To explain the unlearned

To a couple of older women recreated

Reincarnated into new bodies

Whose spirits long to revive the old traditions

Of Strength and Nurture and Culture and Truth

Showing me that

I don’t always have to represent

STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMANHOOD

I just have to be Happy.

The spirits never stopped protecting me

Instead they came to join me on my journey through

Motherhood and Womanhood and Livelihood

From Ancestral Orishas Ifa and Yemaja

By living as My Daughters

Niambi and Jhanya

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Frankela Albury obtained her BA in Communications & Media Arts specializing in Journalism in 2000.  She worked for the past several years at various Media companies, the final one being Conde Nast Media Group as a Business Manager, while raising two daughters on her own.  Writing has always been Frankela’s passion, although she doesn’t pursue as a career goal, she does maintain a spiritual blog that details some of the issues we all deal with as individuals trying to navigate through life, love and peace.

As her daughters began to get older and more independent she decided to pursue another dream of becoming a Doula.  Her passion for motherhood, lead her there.  She grew up in a home full of natural birthing options, her mother was a Doula, Child Birth Educator and Lactation Consultant.  Being a teen mother also lead her to mentor over the course of years to other teen mothers on how to pursue goals and still parent.   As of July 2015 she will be a certified Doula, with experience in writing, potty training and advocating for young women with low incomes in our birthing medical world.

Gabi Lazaro – Un Reflejo De Maternidad

14 May

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Venimos caminando juntas desde una vida pasada. Yo lo se porque ella me dijo. Un día, elle estaba jugando sola, y de repente me miro y me dijo; “Mama! Ahora me  acuerdoooo. Fuimos amigas, mejores amigas!! Ayyyyyyy!”

Yo la tuve joven y quizás no estaba preparada en ese momento, pero a la misma vez tengo la certeza que una mama nunca se siente 100% preparada. Pero nos toca cuando nos toca. Yo se que ella me eligió. Así tal como fui y como soy… ella me quería como su madre. Los hijos nos dan amor incondicional. Ellos nos enseñan a abrir nuestros corazones, a ser mas pacientes, a ser mas humildes, a caminar mas firmes. Ellos nos dan la dosis de amor que necesitamos para seguir caminando con fuerza. Un hijo es la mejor medicina que uno puede tener en la vida.

Somos madres para todos. Para toda la humanidad. Pachamama- Madre Tierra. Tenemos un trabajo parecido a la pachamama. Ella nos cría, nos alimenta, y nos mantiene sanos. Hacemos lo mismo para nuestras “guagüitas.”

Un hijo es un regalo para el mundo. Un hijo no es propiedad de una sola persona. Ese niño nace para luego caminar como un ser humano. Así vamos construyendo un mundo mejor, así vamos dejando nuestras semillas. Es una manera sagrada de reconocer nuestros antepasados y también de crear nuevos caminos, para las generaciones que vienen. Deberíamos reconocer nuestros hijos como seres libres. Y darle las alas para seguir volando.

Stream of Consciousness on Existing While Black & Latina –

14 May

Returning to NYC has been bittersweet. Not that it wasn’t always a little bit of both my whole life but moreso this time looking at my hometown with eyes that have seen so many born in such a short amount of time. My lens through which I perceive my South Bronx reality as a woman of color has been drastically changed both by my own personal journey and experiencing life outside of the borough. The shift has been to one of a deeper understanding of people around me, and the conditions that create their reality. I felt this shift most during a healing circle last year around the time the marches in NYC were going on when we were decompressing from all that transpired after no cop was indicted in the murder of Eric Garner. It was one of the first times I was able to be honest about how I felt. I choked up trying to convey how my very existence as a woman of color has been hazardous to my health.

One of the prevailing falsehoods about people who live in systemically impoverished communities is that we created these conditions. Not only is that the narrative that mainstream society believes and perpetuates but one that someone like me has internalized. It is what leads us to blame ourselves for the lack of resources available to us and also shame each other for what we do and do not have. During that healing circle, I spoke about how being a woman of color has dictated a lot of my life experiences, both past and present. The arduous task of staying alive and afloat as a Black Latina woman is no joke. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know the depth of how deeply social injustice affects me and my community. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by the sheer absurdity of the reality I am forced to fight against lest it kills me in the many ways it attempts to.

I think of this most in relation to my mental health and wellness. Anxiety as produced by trauma has been a major struggle for me my whole life and felt most acutely in the years post college.  I feel anxiety flare ups when it comes to my financial situation, sexuality and relationships as well as a general preoccupation with survival and the future. Blaming myself and being hard on myself has not helped the situation, as I’ve come to understand in my current stint in therapy, but rather an understanding that being as mentally ill as I was did not allow for the clarity I am finding now that I’m more healthy than I’ve ever been. But my therapy sessions fall short because they individualized the issues and don’t always have the room to incorporate the macrocosm.  I think this is an important point for Black and Latino communities who already have a stigma against the topic of mental health. As a people, we have had our experiences and traumas shrouded in silence for centuries, beginning with the enslavement as a point of entry into the wound we have that keeps bleeding.  The stigma then is the silence of generations that have never spoken about the countless traumas coupled with a collective misunderstanding that we should be somehow strong enough to hold it all together under the stress.  Our very existence in the United States is a stressful condition. I would bet that every marginalized person in this country has some degree of mental health struggle. It is not weakness; what we must eventually understand is that mental illness, along with the host of illnesses experienced by racially and economically oppressed people, are reactions to a systemic method of death.

I suppose there is never a good time to read “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Frerie.  Especially being 7 months out of midwifery school recovering from the traumas of that experience while celebrating the knowledge gained, this book is causing a trip down the rabbit hole of examining my state of oppression in the midst of my fight to liberate myself.  I think the reason sometimes people don’t know how to react to some of my emotions is because there is a hopelessness I am in touch with that makes it hard some days to keep going. I won’t say that I am defeated by these deep feelings of despair and exasperation but they are there.  They are a response to the oppression I fight daily.  They are a response to the days I feel like I am not even making a dent in the world. Those feelings that threaten to engulf my quest to help others liberate themselves are real, and have intentionally been placed within my psyche to hinder my progress.  Don’t get me wrong. I completely believe and live my life with as much positivity and optimism as possible, constantly growing and evolving. But I do believe it would be quite erroneous to pretend like there aren’t circumstances that make life difficult despite my view on life. This is a hard delicate balance that has not left me without its marks or traces of psychosis.

The other night I commented to a sister friend how daunting it is to be a Black Latina woman. That it is a choice between self-destructing and self-reconstructing, every day.  I found a safe space to just be able to say, “It’s hard out here for a Black woman,” without the litany of being told ‘it gets better’ or ‘keep your head up, ma.’  Our heads are up. Our mouths smile and crack jokes, tell stories and speak of love. The sisters I surround myself with love hard and go hard for their personal and collective revolutionaries. But the difficulty of our lives does not escape us. Too often I have felt like I must pretend like the struggle isn’t hard. And damnit, I am very clear on what I’m here to do and there is a joy I have fought to discover within myself that I’m not keen on letting anyone take from me, but I is tired. We is tired. Tired of being executed on every level just because of this vendetta that a white supremacist, patriarchal and capitalist system has on the Black soul.  Sometimes the healing process feels pointless, mostly because while I heal from the past, it continues to repeat itself – maybe not in my life but constantly around me through racially-induced disparities, societal ills and the like. I remember the quote, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti, and immediately remember that though I have achieved consciousness in certain respects, I will still be unable to adjust to the conditions forced on me violently.

Anoa Jean-Paul: Waters of Life

12 May

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Waters of Life, Watercolor, 2014

 

It came to me that women are water carriers. During gestation we carry our young in a buoyant pool of water. There the water protects and is also a source of nourishment. When birthed, our young are then sustained by mother’s milk developed in the breast and rich in nutrients and protective cells received from the blood circulating through our bodies. We are water carriers, we are mothers, we are sustainers of life. We carry water on our heads from distant, often dangerous areas to cook, clean and to further nurture our families. We often make enormous sacrifices and take immeasurable risks to bring forth life and to then nurture those lives. Our relationship to water is a spiritual one. Returning to the water heals us and reconnects us to the Source of which we are an integral part.

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Anoa Jean-Paul is a holistic health practitioner, artist and registered nurse with over ten years experience in maternal child care. She became interested in lactation when she first began working with mothers and babies and realized that they were being discharged home and still unable to breastfeed. Anoa worked at Harlem Hospital Center for eight years, during which time the facility became the first Baby Friendly hospital in New York City and the second in the state. She has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant since 2008. She acknowledges her work as an important part of the continuum of midwifery care and considers it vital to community healing.

Arelis Rodriguez – Letter To Her Sons

8 May

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A letter to my sons,

I want to tell you what it means to be your mother because I felt blessed the day I gave birth to you. Being your mom means I get to see you live, experience exciting and at times scary moments, first. I want to let you know I am always here when you want me to listen, give you advise, and to support you. I am amazed at your courage as you conquer each new first. Being your mom means I encourage you to work hard every day to achieve success. I am so lucky to be able to watch you persevere, I get to see you repeat this cycle of hard work, failure, and achievement. Being your mom means I treasure all our special times together, When we read, play, cry, cook, eat and pray together, you bring a love of life with you. Being your mom means I will always care.

Love you with all my heart,
Mom

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Gabriela Monge

6 May

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“My journey into motherhood was unconventional. I came into my marriage, the mother of a 3yr old, traumatized by her biological mother’s negligence. My pregnancy journey brought me in tuned to everything it meant to be a mother. To be selfless, and to constantly be thinking about the life and well-being of somebody other that yourself, a tiny defenseless human. As my love grew for the tiny human inside me, my passion for motherhood and my love for my husband and daughter overflowed. We were all growing, not just the baby inside of me.”

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“It’s not about getting through each contraction, it’s about knowing that each contraction brings you closer and closer to meeting your child.”

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“I chose a Bradley birthing method of child birth, essentially, without pain relieving drugs, and with my husband as my birth coach. Most said I was nuts, but I was convinced that my mind and body were capable. At the end of it all, I was able to walk her myself down to my room, and she was extremely alert. Eager to see, eager to nurse. She was very calm and alert for hours after birth, and finally took naked skin to skin naps on my chest and on daddy’s chest. It was the most intense and rewarding thing I have ever been through in my life.”

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“At 8.5 months, we’re still going strong. When I look into those playful, alert, loving, beady eyes, it is confirmation that all the restless, exhausting sacrifice was worth it. It *IS* worth it. The simple fact that out of my own body I’m able to nourish my baby to her specific needs, an ever-changing supply of Leila-Milk adapting to her body, is miraculous. It is a miracle every time I can nurse her to sleep, for hunger, for comfort, for boredom, for snacks, for thirst, for energy, and for whatever other little reasons she has to want and need mama. It is the most amazing feeling in the world.”

Vivian Tatiana Camacho Hinojosa – Quechua Midwife

4 May

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Vivian Tatiana Camacho Hinojosa vive en la ciudad de Cochabamba. Ella es médica cirujana, especialista en interculturalidad y salud, pero actualmente se dedica a ser partera tradicional de la cultura Quechua. Su visión es muy interesante porque ella nos habla desde los dos mundos opuestos que ella conoce bastante bien. Ella tamben tiene su maestria en agroecologica, cultura y desarrollo endogeno sotenible en Latinoamerica, y terapeuta de medicina energetica y terapias corporales (tapping, craneo-sacral y Reiki master).

Vivian es integrante de Radio Alter-Nativa Lachiwana desde año 2009 hasta el día de hoy, con el programa semanal Salud Integral y Alimentación Saludable, transmitido en quechua y español, donde se informa, propone y cuestiona el modelo hegemónico de salud y la estructura económica que lo sustenta, proponiendo ante este la medicina tradicional andina y el respeto a las diferentes formas de hacer salud en distintos lugares del mundo. (www.radiolachiwana.org)

Ella es activista por el Movimiento Mundial por la Salud de los Pueblos, participó como estudiante y posteriormente facilitadora en dos eventos de la Universidad Inteternacional Por La Salud de Los Pueblos. Actualmente promoviendo el Derecho a la Salud y las declaraciones de Bangladesh y de Cuenca. (www.phmovement.org). Tambine es promotora  del parto natural por medio de charlas grupales y  reuniones informativas sobre los resultados observados de las cesáreas y los intervencionismos protocolizados que causan efectos destructivos en la conducta humana. Basados en los estudios de medicina basada en evidencia del Dr Michel Odent y Dr Frederick Leboyer con el Movimiento Nacer Sonriendo.

Parir en Libertad:

 

Incluso, Vivian ha hecho un documental sobre la recuperacion del espacio sagrado del parto. Son testimonios de mujeres en apoyo a un parto digno amoroso y respetado en Cochabamba Bolivia, volver al parto en casa, con parteras, parteras empiricas ancestrales, con medicina natural, en armonia con nuestra vida, recuperando nuestro espacio sagrado del parto como una manera de apoyar al nacimiento de otro mundo posible con amor y respeto por la vida desde el inicio.

Parte 1:

Parte 2:

 

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Vivian Tatiana Camacho Hinojosa lives in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia. She is a medical doctor, specialist in interculturality and health, but today is dedicated to being a Quechua midwife. Her  vision speaks to us from the two opposite worlds that she knows quite well. She also has a master’s degree in Agroecology, and is also an energy worker (tapping, Cranio-sacral and Reiki master). Vivian has been a member of Alter-native Radio Lachiwana since 2009 , with a weekly program on integrated health and healthy eating, transmitted in Quechua and Spanish. She reports, proposes and questions the hegemonic model of health, proposing the Andean traditional medicine and respect for the different ways to promote health in different parts of the world (www.radiolachiwana.org).

Vivian has made a documentary about the recovery of the sacred space of childbirth. It is testimonies of women in support of a loving and respectful birth in Cochabamba Bolivia. These women choosing to birth at home with midwives, recovering their sacred space of childbirth as a way of supporting the birth of another world with love and respect for life from the beginning.

Divine Izearth

2 May

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“His birth came on the 24 of December.  This pregnancy was my third and my most physically and emotionally draining.  And that is motherhood– times of being drained, tired, even in pain, all that to see a jewel at the end of your striving.  I think many times if I have never done anything right in my life on this Earth, I’ve done three things right–give birth to my children.  I think difficult pregnancies can give you a little taste of the difficulties in parenting.  Not everything is smiles and giggles, there are rough times.  But right here, in the mist of holding my new baby, I forgot about my pregnancy.  Holding him, I understood what it means to be the mother of God.”

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Devin (pronouced “divine”) Bailey – Nicholas is a trained ICTC Full Circle Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Prenatal Health Coach, Midwifery Student at Mercy in Action Distance Academy and Traditional Herbalist. As a mother of three children, Devin has a sincere dedication to assist women and families create the pregnancy and postpartum period they want and desire.

 Check out her work at: http://divinebirthwisdom.weebly.com/