March 31, 2008 § Leave a comment
changed the submission deadline for revolutionary motherhood publication: april 30th. so an extra month. my foot is falling asleep…
Call for submissions
Due by April 30th, 2008
We are creating a global multi-media publication called Revolutionary Motherhood inspired by the Incite! 2008 Southwest conference and the workshop entitled: Revolutionary Motherhood. The intention of this publication is to inspire, connect, and organize women and transfolk of color who perform motherhood and daughterhood to co-create life-affirming, mutually liberating communities.
Please send submissions to mai’a at email@example.com
Please check out revolutionofthelilies.wordpress.com, guerrillamamamedicine.wordpress.com and www.freewebs.com/revolutionofthelilies for more information.
We are asking for articles, essays, interviews, black and white visual art, photography, poetry, etc .
Exploring themes and questions such as:
What does it mean to be a mother? What does it mean to be a daughter?
What does it mean to give birth? How do we give birth as empowered women and transgendered folk? What is the transition into motherhood?
What is revolutionary motherhood? How does our experience and performance as women and transfolk of color intersect with our experience of mothering?
What are the daily acts of resistance in which we engage as mothers and daughters? How did motherhood change our vision of resistance, revolution, and radical action? What is our relationship to activism and the activism world through the experience of motherhood?
What is the experience of mothering those who are older than us such as parents, grandparents, etc.? What is the experience of mothering those who are not biological descendents such as students, godchildren, stepchildren, etc.?
In what ways did our mothers model ‘revolutionary motherhood’? What is revolutionary daughterhood? As a daughter, how do we relate and engage with the mothers and daughters in our community? Who and what inspires us as mothers and daughters?
What does it mean to be the revolutionary mother of a boy-child/a son? What is the experience of being a son? How do we respond to the demonization of mothers of color who care for boy-children/sons?
What are the specific ways that violence intersects with the experience of motherhood? In what ways does the anti-violence movement need to be more responsible to the experience of mothers of color? How do we respond to the violence in the medical establishment in terms of pregnancy, birth, child-rearing, elder-care, etc.?
What are specific ways that the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, nationality play with the acts of mothering and daughtering?
March 24, 2008 § 3 Comments
Ever since the first smallpox scab was pulverized and scratched into the skin of a healthy person, the process of inoculating someone with a disease in order to prevent that disease has seemed, to some portion of the public at least, inherently unsafe and unnatural. (Imagine, for a moment, offering your child up for such treatment–the dirty barn, the fever that followed, the white-knuckled wait until the symptoms subsided and immunity was conferred.) Vaccines have never been without risk; this fact is not disputed by anyone. Almost everyone has a story about somebody they know whose child reacted badly to a vaccine.
These days, articles on vaccines in most mainstream parenting magazines tend to read like bullet points off the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC websites–which is to say, unequivocally in favor of vaccination. Articles in “alternative” parenting magazines tend not to stray very far from the “vaccines are poison” dogma of the anti-vaccination camp.
That camp pitches a pretty wide tent. In the years since the childhood vaccination schedule expanded past just the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and polio vaccines, many, many groups have formed to question the safety of vaccines. Most were started by parents who believe their children were severely damaged by vaccines, such as Barbara Loe Fisher of NVIC; Sallie Bernard of SafeMinds (Sensible Action for Ending Mercury-Induced Neurological Disorders); and J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue. These people have poured their pain into a formidable purpose: raising awareness of vaccine risks, asking tough questions of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC, taking out full-page ads in national newspapers, contributing to government studies and funding their own.
Their questions, charges and countercharges, which are myriad, center on several key topics.
First we have the issue of the use and effect of ingredients other than the antigen (the active ingredient) in a vaccine. The most controversial of these is the mercury-based preservative thimerosal. Parents currently facing the vaccination question can rest a little easier because thimerosal has been removed from all pediatric vaccines in the United States (other than certain flu shots; be sure to ask), but the thimerosal debate shows no signs of cooling off (see “Thimerosal 101” in the magazine for more information).
Thimerosal isn’t the only suspect ingredient. Aluminum, which is used to enhance the immune response to the vaccine, is also under scrutiny, along with formaldehyde, fetal calf serum, neomycin, polymyxin B, egg protein, and human serum albumin, to name a few. Most of these ingredients are present in such tiny amounts that they aren’t expected to cause any harm except for allergic reactions, and bovine products are required to be sourced from countries free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Aluminum, however, is a telling example of the gaps in our knowledge about vaccine ingredient safety. Here’s the deal: Aluminum is ubiquitous in the environment and thought to be harmless when ingested (many antacids contain it). Studies in animals, premature babies, and people with kidney problems, however, have shown that injected aluminum can accumulate in body tissues and cause bone disease and symptoms of central nervous system toxicity, such as developmental delays and encephalopathy.
In fact, the FDA limits the concentration of aluminum in IV feeding solutions to twenty-five micrograms per liter. Consider that an adult on an IV would receive about a liter per day; this means the maximum amount of aluminum that an adult should receive in a particular day is twenty-five micrograms.
Robert Sears, one of the Sears family clan of physicians, recently published The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child. He points out that a two-month-old baby receiving her first big round of shots will receive a total aluminum dose of 295 to 1875 micrograms, depending upon the brands and combinations of vaccines given. The same applies to the shots commonly given at four and six months of age. “No one has actually studied vaccine amounts of aluminum in healthy human infants to make sure it is safe,” he writes.
In other words, the disconnect between what we’re doing with children and vaccines, and what we know about the effects–not just of individual vaccines, but vaccines in combination–is jaw-droppingly large.
The second major topic of controversy focuses on the effects that vaccinations may have on the immune system. The rise in chronic immune problems such as asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disorders has caused some parents to question whether vaccinating actually weakens the immune system, either by overloading it, by causing it to mount a more inflammatory response to antigens (as in allergies) or to our own cells (as in autoimmune disease), or by depriving it of the opportunity to strengthen itself by fighting off childhood infections naturally.
The debate here centers on the difference in the way the immune system is presented with and responds to vaccines versus the way it fights natural illness. The concern is that vaccines actually shift the developing immune system to a more harmful, inflammatory response, which can give rise to atopy, the medical term for allergies, asthma, eczema, and the like.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a component of the National Academy of Sciences charged with providing (according to its website), “unbiased, evidence-based, and authoritative information and advice concerning health and science policy,” rejected a causal link between vaccines and type 1 diabetes (an autoimmune disease) in 2002 but could neither accept nor reject a relationship between vaccines and allergic disorders, particularly asthma. The scientific literature since then presents mixed conclusions on whether vaccination or childhood infections increase atopy later in life.
Next we come to the effects that vaccines may have on the nature of the diseases they target. Measles is one good example of this effect; another is chickenpox.
Before the vaccine against it was created, chickenpox was a normal, if uncomfortable, childhood rite of passage, and the virus was constantly circulating within the community, giving everyone’s immune system frequent natural “boosters” over the years and conferring lifelong immunity. Now the CDC recommends that children be vaccinated against chickenpox at around age one, with a booster shot around age five. Because this is a relatively new vaccine, we don’t know how universal vaccination will affect the possibility of adults catching chickenpox when their vaccine-derived immunity wanes. It’s also not yet known whether the lack of re-challenge from the naturally circulating virus will result in a rise in shingles, a painful resurgence of the chickenpox virus later in life.
A vaccine for shingles has recently been licensed, which could be good news for those now at increased risk. It’s also possible, on the other hand, that the chickenpox vaccine itself could provide protection from shingles. At this point, nobody knows for sure. In either case, it seems fair to wonder whether it would have been better to just have accepted chickenpox as a normal part of childhood and left well enough alone.
All of these issues tie into a more social side effect of vaccines: the rising mistrust of the government agencies charged with vaccine safety. This particular emotion is rampant among the anti-vaccination crowd, perhaps for good reasons.
In 2000, the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated conflicts of interest in the FDA and CDC scientific advisory committees on vaccines. The investigators found numerous instances in which committee members with financial ties to vaccine makers were given waivers to participate in the decision-making process. In fact, all members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) were granted annual conflict-of-interest waivers as a matter of course. The conclusions of the House Committee’s Majority Report stated: “The FDA standards defining conflicts of interest are ridiculously broad. . . . That is why a committee member receiving $250,000 a year from the maker of the Rotavirus vaccine, Wyeth Lederle, was granted a waiver and voted in the [FDA advisory committee] deliberations. The CDC has virtually no standards because all ACIP members automatically receive annual waivers.”
Another big problem: The CDC is charged both with promoting vaccination and ensuring vaccine safety, two objectives that can often be at odds.
In early 2004, scientists in the vaccine safety branch of the CDC complained to an aide from CDC Director Julie Gerberding’s office that “conflict of interest was complicating their work” and that “higher-ups scrutinized their findings excessively when they showed harm from a vaccine,” reports Arthur Allen in his 2007 book Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver.
That summer, Neal Halsey, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a strong advocate for the removal of thimerosal from childhood vaccines, co-authored a paper in the American Journal of Public Health calling for vaccine safety oversight to be removed from the CDC and given to an independent government agency modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board.
The CDC’s response? It chose not to create a separate agency, but to move the safety branch into the director’s office in 2005–a change in reporting lines, but not the sort of sweeping change that could ameliorate the agency’s credibility problems, at least in the eyes of vaccine skeptics.
So, that was some homework assignment. Given the depth and breadth of anti-vaccine concerns, why would any parent who’s done a similar amount of research opt to have his or her child vaccinated?
Simple, say vaccine proponents. You’re keeping your baby safe from the ravages of contagious disease that are still killing children every day in the developing world or, perhaps worse, from the effects of diseases in the U.S. for which we already have vaccines.
Dr. Gregory Poland, head of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, outlines his own reasons on his website. “As I went through medical school and residency,” he writes, “I knew right then and there that the warrior I was meant to be was the warrior taking on infectious diseases, to prevent them–because I just have a really hard time with death. Unwarranted death, the unexpected death.”
Thankfully, most of us live in an insular world in which the death of a child from an infectious disease is a horrific, unnatural phenomenon rather than an everyday occurrence. This great privilege can be attributed to clean water, good nutrition, and medical care–and, yes, at least in part to vaccines. And every day, untold numbers of children are vaccinated (cue ominous music) . . . with no ill effects whatsoever. It’s just that their parents aren’t writing blogs about it.
Most of us raising kids today have no firsthand knowledge of the illnesses our kids are vaccinated against. We don’t know what it is to watch a tiny infant convulsing and gasping for breath as her airways close up with the thick mucus of pertussis, nor have we ever seen a polio ward full of children in iron lungs. So it may be that our perception of risk from the vaccine looms greater than our understanding of the risks associated with catching the actual disease.
While some vaccine critics argue that allowing children’s bodies to experience the actual disease helps boost their immune systems, others like Jessica Snyder Sachs, former editor of Science Digest and author of the 2007 book Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World, disagree:
Scientists now understand [that] the immune system is brought up to full strength by the harmless bacteria that normally colonize the human body. In other words, getting sick isn’t a necessary part of the equation. Harmless bacteria bring the immune system into a state of readiness without triggering harmful inflammation.
Studies also show that the more infections a child has in early life, the greater his or her risk of inflammatory disorders, heart disease, cancer and premature death in later life. . . . It’s important to realize that there’s nothing ‘natural’ about a childhood full of infections, at least if by ‘natural’ you mean what’s been normal over the bulk of human evolution. Only with the advent of civilization, the last 5,000 years, has contagious disease taken such a central part in our lives.
In other words, Sachs argues that while letting your kid get chickenpox and measles might be the “natural” thing to do, it may be less healthy for them in the long run than helping them avoid those diseases altogether.
March 24, 2008 § Leave a comment
check out mother verse. gorgeous magazine. i am trying to convince myself to subscribe for a year…
has a good mix of nonfiction poetry art fiction about motherhood globally. clear creative writing multifaceted and did i mention that the photo on the front page of the website is gorgeous? yeah probably.
peace and love
March 23, 2008 § Leave a comment
so national advocates for pregnant women are hiring! so if you are looking for work check it out!
even if you are not looking for employment check out the organization: they xmplify some of the best work on the frontlines of birthing rights.
March 22, 2008 § Leave a comment
9 most racist disney characters…wow…disney is evil on so many levels…
March 11, 2008 § Leave a comment
so over at mothersmovement.org there is a great article called the new future of motherhood: http://www.mothersmovement.org/features/mhoodpapers/new_future/0505_2.htm
(ugh..the links icon still is down…so cut and paste babies)
and i have been thinking about it alot in light of two quick phone conversations i have had since aza has been born.
the first: a friend calls. her kid is 2 yrs old now. her kid could make you think that cute is a new religion. and she says how something like how ridiculous it is that women wear those sling wraps just to take their kid to the kitchen and get some food. just let the kid cry for a couple of minutes. and that she isnt into attachment parenting. she does independent parenting. so that she can teach her kid to be independent. me, i kinda feel silly, cause i do carry my kid in the sling to go to the kitchen sometimes. and when i had been taking care of her kid i had mentioned how much easier it would be for me if we had a sling so that i had another hand free…
the second: a friend calls. her kid is 2 months old now. and she says that she doesnt mind changing her whole life for her kid. and she doesnt mind holding her baby. and barely wants to let anyone else hold her. and i say well, its good that you dont mind changing your whole life for your kid, cause you are going to have to. awkward pause. a couple of minutes later she says how much she likes my blog. so i guess she knows my opinion about maternal sacrifice. and felt the need to defend herself.
i think about both these quick phone calls for a long time and why they both grate against me. and then realize that i occupy a happy medium. in between the ‘independents’ and the ‘attachments’. and i am taking that middle path. kinda like buddha or jesus. or plato. but a woman. with a kid. and shoes.
I’ve been accused of alienating potential supporters of the mothers’ movement by suggesting that motherhood is not, in fact, “the most important job in the world.” And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it is. I don’t think motherhood is a “job”— or a profession, or career— at all, although there’s no denying that mothering entails a prodigious amount of mental work and physical labor. And when I criticize the valorization of motherhood and magical thinking about women’s power to change the world through conscious acts of responsible mothering, some readers may find me unsympathetic and pity my poor children for having such a hard-hearted mom.
To tell the truth, I have very deep and passionate feelings about the meaning of motherhood in my own life and the lives of other women who mother. That’s why I’m doing this work. It’s also why I’m so forthright in my rejection of pre-packaged narratives of motherhood that— based on both my personal experience and the view from my critical eye— are contrived to conceal, rather than reveal, the social and emotional value of motherhood and mothering.
My therapist (may a thousand blessings rain down upon her head) has always insisted that motherhood is not a job— it’s a relationship. And in my mind, thinking and talking about motherhood as a relationship— rather than a system of social reproduction, or a duty, or a vocation— is one way we might start to compose a rich new script for motherhood, a script that honors the possibility of complexity and variation in mothers’ inner lives, individual outlooks and aspirations.
If we locate motherhood and mothering in the context of relationship, we can still talk about love, work, desire and obligation, but we might be able to talk about these things in a more authentic way— or at least without feeling as though there is only one right answer to the question of what it means to be a mother. After all, interpersonal relationships do give rise to the impulse and obligation to care, although the strength of the impulse and the intensity of the obligation usually depend on the tenderness of the attachment, and the nature of the needs of the person we’re attached to. Because caring for others is not always easy or spontaneous, caring relationships put us in touch with the intricacies of our own emotional clockwork— and in this way, they can alter us. They can lead to new awareness of ourselves and others around us; they push us to grow. And this is just as true for the care-giver as it is for the cared-for.
and this has been for me part of the profound experience of being a mother. it does for me what prayer and meditation. puts me in touch with the ups and downs of my emotional life. and i love being a care-giver in many ways. and i love the times that my daughter cares for me, by crawling up to me and humming on my shoulder. and my life has changed through this love. or better said that my view of life has changed as i have become more aware of myself and others.
thank you judith. motherhood is a relationship. and in this i believe that healthy relationships are relationships of equality in which both persons are valued equally, and the relationship is central, rather than either person in the relationship being central. that is how i feel about my little baby. that our relationship is central. and we both have to invest and grow in this always changing fluctuating sometimes difficult sometimes sweet and easy relationship.
So if we accept that motherhood is a relationship and not a job, it’s becomes clear there is no sliding scale to being a mother— our motherliness isn’t based on the number of hours we put into mothering.
amen. sister. amen.
And if that’s not bad enough, we’re still stuck with the myth of the omnipotent mother— the absurd (but tenacious) notion that children are perfectible, and mothers are the only ones who can perfect them. It’s comforting— not to mention politically expedient— to cling to the belief that the optimal development of children depends solely on their exposure to a specific quality and quantity of maternal devotion, as if families’ access to resources and general social conditions had no real bearing on children’s prospects. Regrettably, both conservative and liberal thinkers have gotten away with advancing the preposterous theory that if the nation’s errant mothers would simply buckle down and do the job of motherhood the way it was meant to be done— meaning a married, child-centered, resource intensive, selfless sort of way— the country could substantially rid itself of a host of pesky social problems, such as poverty, crime, substance abuse, obesity and moral decay.
and frankly, if you are a mom of color (especially black or latino or aboriginal) you can probably remember walking down the street pregnant or with your kid and getting that feeling that the people who were looking at you werent seeing the blessed beautiful life-affirming relationship you were experiencing. they were seeing the cause of overpopulation: brown mothers. welfare queen: brown mothers. crack babies: brown mothers. easy sexual targets: brown mothers. (it has only been with mothers of color that i could relate my intense experiences of the increasing harrassment once we became pregnant. the majority of white women i have talked to have had the opposite experience that their pregnancies elevated them in the eyes of men and society and everyone treated them with so much more respect. well, that is because imho that is because white motherhood is held in a much different place in this world than brown and black motherhood.) lets keep in mind that 98 percent of children in foster care are black and brown. do we think that this is because brown and black mothers are statistically worse parents? do we think that insisting that children be the center of our universe in terms of time money energy etc, means that children suffer if they dont have everything that yuppie attachment moms give to their children? if you talk about giving your kid the best, and make your lifestyle the standard for what motherhood is, what does that say about my mom? or about me and my brother and how we were raised? or about me? or about my daughter? and what does that say about you?
The idealization of conscientious mothering as a kind of universal salve for what’s gone wrong with society has tremendous appeal— both to those who benefit from the social and economic subordination of women, and to mothers themselves. It’s immensely gratifying to think the more mundane aspects of caregiving— the cooking, the cleaning, the endless rounds of delivering and retrieving our children from their assorted educational and recreational activities— add up to something more than a sum of their parts, and it’s reassuring to imagine that we have more control over the events and encounters that shape our children’s lives than we probably do. It’s uplifting to believe that all the work we put into keeping our children safe and sound helps us cultivate specialized skills and sensitivities we can use to change their world for the better— either through our own direct actions or through the positive contributions of our mindfully-reared children. It’s wonderfully affirming to hear that mothers are irreplaceable, that motherhood is “the most important job in the world,” that diligent mothers acquire a deep and abiding wisdom about the essential nature and needs of children— not just their own children, but all children, everywhere— that those lacking maternal experience can never hope to match.
see i believe that motherhood gives you amazing insights into yourself and the world. so does being a human rights worker. or a lover. or a fighter. and one of the insights i have learned from all of these relationships is to do what keeps you sane. and so if never putting your kid down keeps you sane. great. and if letting your kid cry for a couple of minutes keeps you sane. great. and if you hold your kid for an hour and then let your kid cry for a couple of minutes so that you can enjoy that coffee in peace. great. but if you sacrifice your sanity for your child, because you really want to be the perfect mother purported by society (married, child-centered, resource intensive, selfless) cause you think that if you are that kind of mom or any kind of mother-ideal that your kid is going to end up a better product, then i am going to say imho that you are fooling yourself and wasting yourself and investing more into the false idea of the product of motherhood (a good kid) than the relationship of motherhood. cause as a friend of mine said a couple of months ago: i guess there are no formulas for raising a kid. no sweetheart, there are no formulas. and we really dont have a lot of control over who our children become. but if we model sanity, caring, a fullfilled life, art, music, ethics, and strength, everyone around us, including our kids, will probably have a better time around us.
and honestly, i believe (and i have no proof except for my own childhood) that whatever control we have over ‘the product’ (our kids) is what we model for them, not solely what we give to them.
oh and just because you are raising kids or have raised kids does not give you some unique insight on what children need. or on what people need. relationships are unique creature. and there is no essential qualities of kids or human beings that you learn about because you are a mother. if that was true, then with 82 percent of women in us being mothers by the age of 44, the us would be a much wiser place. mothers are lucky enough when they figure out what their kids need. and to understand what other people need, you have to build a relationship with them.
March 11, 2008 § Leave a comment
websites i love right now: (unfortunately my hyperlinks icon on wordpress is not working so yall will have to cut and past…but you will deal with it…)
love martyred moms website. never saw the film. but her blog was a breath of fresh air when i was preggers. we even had a mutual admiration fest on revolution of the lilies. basically she says that we have to value our own subjectivity as much as our childrens… and that our children will be stronger more beautiful people because we did not sacrifice our subjectivity or our lives for them.
mothers movement online
yes! smart incisive writing about motherhood society and activism. and i am going to post an article from mmo soon. this motherhood journalism advocacy the way it needs to be done.
moms rising is basically an online grassroots mobilization campaign. i had never heard of ‘maternal profiling’ before them. nor had i known that a mother is 79 percent less likely to be hired than an equally qualified non-mother woman.
March 11, 2008 § 1 Comment
ya know–there is something really messed up with our society when it comes to the way that we approach each others bodies. i mean fucked up. please excuse me for not cursing. basically if you look anorexic, but are just naturally anorexic-looking that is considered to be the health ideal. i remember telling someone during my pregnancy that i wanted a belly after my pregnancy, that i thought bellies were cute, and she actually patted me on the shoulder and pursed up her lips and i thought she was going to spit. but instead spent the rest of my pregnancy acting sorry for me because i looked pregnant. at another point telling me, when i was 8 months preggers, that: you cant hide your pregnancy. lord have mercy.
and then i was at a family wedding 3 months after giving birth. dancing having a good time. and some person, in that condescendingly sweet passive aggressive way that people have at weddings (which is why i dont like going to them) i hope that you do lose all your pregnancy weight. my daughter did when she had her child…
at the same wedding i was told by someone that they really liked my dress because it made my chest look smaller.
and then there was the parting shot: when someone took me aside to tell me how so and so was afraid that she was going to gain too much weight in her pregnancy and she was disappointed because she wouldnt be a cute pregnant lady. implication: she would look like me when she was pregnant and that aint cute.
you want to be cute? you want to be healthy? you want to know whether you should breastfeed your kid or use a bottle? you want the answer to most of those questions. be happy. seriously. the thing i should have done (and this is my one regret about my pregnancy, my birth, and my early mamahood…in case anyone asks) is that i should have lived where i was happy and warm. surrounded myself by people who made me happy and warm. and refused to deal with anyone who insisted upon pushing their body issues onto my body. i tried to do these things, but i was just told that i was being ‘selfish’ and ‘difficult’ and ‘i didnt really mean that’ and ‘be practical’…fuck.
man, are people hateful spiteful passive aggressive cowards when you are looking fabulous.
and do not be nice to people who smile in your face and tell you how good you look and then turn behind your back and tell everyone how sorry they feel for you…fuck that.
so there is some pregnant woman out there who needs to sit down and make a list about what would make her happy and then she needs to move mountains to make sure that she gets all of that happiness and more. i really wish that for her tonight. and she should dance and feel fabulous. because it is good for the heart and the brain and yes, even the baby.
so dont let anyone feel sorry for you. just walk away. even if you suspect that they feel sorry for you. or fight them. or both. dont let them feel sorry for you. not for your size or your shape or your color. cause lookism is ridiculous and basically people are just trying to put you down because you are too happy for them to handle. so get happier. and surround yourself with happy people or happy silence, but dont let someone else define how you feel about yourself.
cause especially if you belong, like me, to those segments of society which are least likely to be treated like a real person, then you need to learn now how to move mountains now. and ask yourself what would make you the most happy. and then just do it. even jesus said you could. yeah, even that nike commercial. yeah, even your ancestresses know that you can. and that is revolutionary motherhood.
March 11, 2008 § Leave a comment
It is important for women to reclaim birth as a natural and powerful process. For too long in our modern times, fear, uncertainty and unconsciousness have surrounded birth. Our bodies, from the beginning, have given birth. Much wisdom, both herbal and physical, has been lost since the systemization of medicine. It is a struggle to relearn these things, but it is an important struggle and one that will lead to great healing for many people.
The connection between belly dancing and birth is not a new one. Work has been done, noticed and unnoticed to bring the dance to the attention of birth educators. The link was forged as early as 1965 by Carolina Varga-Dinicu known as Morocco. She compared childbirth education taught at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and major books like Natural Childbirth by Dr. Frederick W. Goodrich to her dance movements as she performed them.
In 1976, Gigi Groth Devitt, a member of Birth Day in Boston, collaborated with the dancer Barbara Brandt and demonstrated among other things, that Lamaze and this dance are based on the same method of muscle isolation. Around that same time, Edith Maxwell stressed the importance of movement during labor and showed how the movements of this dance help in “moving the baby down” the birth canal.
In 1983, Wendy Buonaventura published a book, Belly Dancing, where she outlined the role of the dance throughout history in many cultures. She showed that the dance has always been a part of the birth process. The most exact comparative work was done by Morgana, in 1981. She compared specific movements of the dance to the phases of birth and the motion of the emergence of the baby. She has shown that the dance movements exercise all the birth muscles and the rhythms, in fact, match the birth process. Her work leaves the impression that the dance could be none other than a birth dance.
The circle is a Sacred Shape and is the very foundation of the dance. Moving the heart in a circle strengthens and flexes the upper abdominals. Moving the hips in a circle massages the internal organs, including the pelvic floor, and also conditions the lower abdominals. Tension is released by moving the wrists, shoulders and ankles in circles, and by rotating the spine in small circles.
Accents introduce a faster rhythm and they are the power of the dance because they provide an outlet for inner impulses. Hip thrusting teaches control and builds concentration for focusing on one body part while the rest relaxes.
Shimmies, all the different varieties, are the endurance of the dance. They require intense concentration and control of deep inner muscles. They loosen the back and hips and allow the focus to shift from pain to movement.
Body undulations are the flexibility of the dance. The movements mirror how a woman’s body stretches to allow a baby to grow, and at the same time prepares the birth muscles for the task. Undulations also require concentration and focus, mainly because the muscles that need to be activated are unfamiliar to most people.
All of these qualities – relaxation, focus, endurance, and flexibility are needed in the birth process. Belly dance can be done standing, kneeling, lying down or walking. Lastly, belly dancing while giving birth means movement in general is encouraged while trying to give birth. It gives the power back to the process and allows women to find their way through the pain and fear of giving birth.