Thursday, November 18, 2010

Simone Virk

Yesterday I went to a birth event in Vancouver! I went to an ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) guest speaker event. Simone Virk is a Dutch midwife and she did a presentation on midwifery in Holland that was incredibly interesting and informative. She also presented a book she helped translate into English which she's hoping will help change the medical approach to childbirth and radically improve outcomes for women and babies around the world. It was fascinating!
The presentation was at the home of a famous and controversial non registered midwife in Vancouver, Gloria Lemay. I was intimidated to meet her because she's so famous and so emphatic about LOTS of things, including the weaknesses in the concept of the registration of midwives/midwifery. She disdains lots of OTHER famous people in the birth world (big name doulas in our area, obstetricians in our area (including natural birth friendly ones), the Power to Push clinic supervisor, etc) so it's a bit intimidating. She's kind of angry. I mean, in a good way: she pushes for change, change, drastic change in our culture's approach to birth, but sometimes that kind of emotion can be isolating, especially if you want to change the entire culture, rather than the small group of already like minded people in your circles. There is a lot that is broken in our medical system's approach to pregnancy and birth, but most members of our society don't know that this is so. You can't expect to affect change by approaching culture with your fists swinging about an issue that culture isn't aware exists! And you can't really expect to change medical culture without consumer driven pressure on the system: changes come about because families ask for that change, and enough families ask often enough that medical culture starts to try and integrate it into the system. Canadian medicine is STILL affected by consumer pressure, even though we can't 'vote with our feet' the same way Americans can. Well, we could. But we don't.

Anyways, Gloria turned out to be nice, and welcoming, and VERY interesting to listen to: despite the anger she's still got a lot of logic and some really amazing stories to tell.

I also met the writer for Cesarean Parents Blog, and a follower of Mothers of Change, who heads up the ICAN group in Vancouver. She was hoping to have Mothers of Change come to do a presentation at one of her ICAN chapter meetings, so hopefully we can iron out some details and make that happen soon.

It was interesting to be in a room with so many birth junkies from vastly different spheres: lay midwives, non registered midwives, registered midwives, DONA certified doulas, non certified doulas (purposely rejecting certification, as opposed to not qualifying), and birth advocates like the ICAN chapter leader and some other women. I'm conservative. Like, really conservative. I want to go to UBC and become a registered midwife and work 'in the system,' so I'm VERY conservative. (Which is why coming into contact with these women is so valuable; it rounds out my systemetized approach with some valid dissonant voices). Never mind the fact that I'm a protestant Christian who goes to church every sunday and teaches her kids Bible stories and has only ever had sex with one man. I wonder if they'd even allow me to call myself a feminist?

In the church I'm a radical for being a feminist and endorsing gay marriage, and for being a (non Thomas Kincaid) artist, and often for challenging the medicalized birth trends in our culture. Definitely a radical for breastfeeding in church.

In Gloria's living room I'm a stuffy conservative prude.

Good thing I like who I am and prefer to be different from whatever group I'm in at the time, not fundamentally but as a variation! I need community, but I need to feel a bit distinct from each community I'm a part of, too. Which isn't WHY I believe what I do about feminism or the medicalization of birth!
Anyways, it was a good day!


tamie said...

Ha! I like this post! It made me smile.

Dude. You haaaaaaave to read this book I'm reading. I want to buy it for you! I think of you every other page. (It's called _Woman_ by Natalie Angier.) What reminded me of it in this context is that apparently having sex with one person decreases your risk of infection and disease. I mean, like, even if you had protected sex, and none of your partners had diseases, you'd still be more suseptible to disease and infection with multiple partners. Because, did you know, your vagina starts adjusting to the alkalinity of your partner and the pH doesn't get as off-balance after your body adjusts to that one particular person? How cool is that?


Yes, I too am both very conservative and very liberal at the same time. Quite a magical act isn't it?!

Asheya said...

I totally identify! And in terms of birth conservatism or liberalness, I'm not even sure where I fit. I feel a pull to the via media, the middle way, although I am entranced at the same time by those who are willing to step radically outside the system come hell or high water.

Sounds like a very interesting session you were at! And I'm glad you made contact with Mieke in person.

It would be great if you wanted to write a blog post for MCMC about what you learned.