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Ceremony: fierce love and infinite honor

After 5 miscarriages – 3 officially logged by medical professionals and 2 gone before I could even get in the door – I’ve just been trained to believe that longing and isolation are the expected norm. It’s What We Do. We buck up. We soldier on.

We deserve so much more. We are due so much more. I know that now.

Samantha and I talked for almost two hours, huddled up on my couch on a hot afternoon. Mostly we talked about how utterly the medical system fails women whose pregnancies do not result in full-term births and healthy babies. She asked me how I thought that system should serve women, and I’m a social justice activist and a community mental health organizer so I had tons of political shit to say. But she knew and I knew that my rage and passion for change was, while legitimately describing a massively fucked-up deficit, really an explosive cover for my own hunger and sorrow. When I finally simmered it down to the truth, I wanted this: To feel like my babies and my pregnancies mattered, to feel as valid a woman as any other, and to have my body treated with the fierce love and infinite honor that I have been unable to show it. Read more →

Pain vs. Suffering: Full Spectrum Doula Skills To Address Pain & Prevent Suffering

 

Pain vs. Suffering

Most people experience some pain with the physiologic process of pregnancy release. This pain does not have to result in suffering. Suffering is a result of our beliefs, perception, and how we choose to respond to pain.

Whether it be physical, emotional, or psychological, pain is always a valuable form of communication.

“Do not think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all your attention”

~ Ina May Gaskin

Pain exists biologically to send signals from our nervous system to our consciousness that something is wrong or something needs to change. The message being communicated by the pain will inform the person experiencing it exactly what needs to change and how they need to move in order to best find balance and reestablish the flow of vitality.

Multiple clinical studies have found that Read more →

Reproductive Justice

April 11th through 17th is the first ever Black Maternal Health Week, organized by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance. This organization and week of awareness seeks to bring attention to the grave disparities between white and black maternal health care and mortality rates, such as the fact that black mothers are 3x more likely to die in childbirth than white ones in our country. 

The disparity is due to “an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism (that) can create a kind of toxic physiological stress,” as New York Times journalist

The following piece was graciously written for the Miscarriage and Abortion Support curriculum by my dear friend, mentor, and colleague Molly Dutton Kenny. Reproductive Justice, gender inclusivity, & the importance of trauma informed care are all topics covered in the “Cultivating Social Consciousness” module of my Miscarriage and Abortion Support curriculum.  This module is the 2nd of the course, directly after the introduction, in order to set a context and philosophical framework for all further learning.

Reproductive Justice

by Molly Dutton Kenny

Reproductive justice has been defined in many ways, including:

“Reproductive Justice is the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”  ~ SisterSong www.sistersong.net

“…the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights. We believe Reproductive Justice exists when all people have the social, political and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about our gender, bodies, sexuality and families for our selves and our communities” ~ Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice

The hard work of intersectional, supportive care around a spectrum of reproduction has existed across communities, cultures and time. The term “Reproductive Justice” , or “RJ”, was specifically birthed by a group of Black women in the United States formed after the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994. This group called themselves the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice and laid the groundwork for a framework merging reproductive rights and social justice in the context of the United Nations Universal Human Rights Declaration. The term and work that went along with it was later popularized by SisterSong, a national multi-ethnic, women-of-color organization formed to promote and support Reproductive Justice.

Read more →

Pregnancy Loss & Termination Are More Common Than You Might Think

I had support from a medical textbook editor finding the most accurate & current statistics possible for my Miscarriage & Abortion Support curriculum. Many of my students have been quite shocked to learn how common these experiences are.

Miscarriage & Abortion are normal & common.

People simply don’t talk about them openly or as often as they occur due to the shame & stigma they carry in our culture.

Take a look at the stats:

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A Call to Action for Fertility & Birth Professionals

The same people who offer professional care for culturally celebrated reproductive processes like trying to conceive, healthy pregnancy & birth have a responsibility to learn about miscarriage & abortion. I want to see miscarriage & abortion care added to the curriculum of certification & licensing programs of every modality of care provider who supports fertility & pregnancy.

These experiences are extremely common:

70% of conceptions die prior to live birth (1)

59.5% of people in the US who had abortions in 2014 were already parents. (2)

Even if birth doulas, midwives, OBs, fertility specialists & health coaches do not want to specialize in miscarriage & abortion care, they can better serve their patients & clients with a clear understanding of all types of pregnancy experiences, including loss & termination

This is because, as my midwifery teacher Elizabeth Davis frequently said,

“Every time you touch a woman, you touch everything that has happened to her there.”

Read more →

All Miscarriages Are Abortions

While colloquially speaking the term “abortion” is almost exclusively used to describe a pregnancy that is intentionally ended, the technical and medical meaning of this terminology is “removal of an embryo or fetus from the womb prior to its full development.” The technical term “abortion” does not define the mental or emotional process of the pregnant person in relationship to the contents of the womb, it simply means that the pregnancy has been released. Read more →

Miscarriage & Abortion Support Curriculum

Ending or losing a pregnancy deserves respect, community, support, and dialogue. Suffering and trauma are not inherent to these experiences: they are situational, subjective, and largely culturally inflicted. With holistic education and soulful support we can help alleviate undue suffering and nourish vital force through these transformational experiences.

The Miscarriage and Abortion Support curriculum I have created is for doulas, midwives, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, social service providers, and community advocates. This course was created to educate and  empower those who wish to nurture people through pregnancy loss and termination experiences with respect for the process of healing an integrated and whole person: mind, body, and spirit.

The content includes accessible anatomy and  physiology education, insight into a multitude of both spontaneous and deliberate pregnancy release processes, including first and second trimester losses, terminations by a variety of methods at all gestations, missed abortions, miscarriages, and others. The course is designed to help participants expand skills and knowledge by exploring a robust variety of options for holistic healing. Read more →

#metoo

I am so glad we’re talking about rape culture on this grand of a social media scale y’all.

In addition to the (valid! important!) individual experiences of physical assault, rape, or trauma ~ ALL of us who grew up in any semblance of “normal” American culture have been sexually assaulted & abused. Our psychological, spiritual, & emotional health has been perverted & violated by the way the dominant paradigm treats sexuality : pathologizing, demonizing, dominance, control, commodification, mis & disinformation, mutilation (circumcision) repression, etc

We ALL suffer from rape culture / capitalism / patriarchy, not just “women” identified people who have experienced unwelcome physical manifestations of this deep disconnect to source / self.

The most atrocious violation is that of the entire culture’s minds, hearts, spirits that has made tolerable & actionable the violation of mother earth.
Our bodies are the earth.

While i see the value of this #metoo conversation, I invite you to dig radically deeper than a hashtag, deeper than the burden shared by those socialized in a certain gender-identity.

Dig deeper to examine the roots of sexual violence & rape culture. Find the ways these roots are tangled inextricably to the forces of oppression that turn
resources into commodities
relationships into services.
Resist.

Reclaim.

Repair.

Return.

 

I feel blessed to have identified a path of devotion for myself
cultivating & honoring my connection to source.

Specifically :
the ways divine creative energy/nature moves inherently through my body in breath,
in
fertility & sexuality.
I am daily
doing my best to educate & empower others on their own unique paths to embracing their power & feeling their connection.

Read more →

Pro Contraception, Pro Abortion, Pro baby

Here’s me at the Museum of Contraception & Abortion in Vienna, Austria.  Pictured behind me & to my side are a variety of antique douche devices & methods that were used historically to wash sperm out of the vagina post-coitus in hopes of avoiding pregnancy.

Douching is not an effective method of contraception,

& while I would love to say that the notion is as antiquated as the devices at the museum, unfortunately I have had several women ask me about douching after sex to avoid pregnancy in recent years. These women were college educated & in their late 20s or 30s! Their confusion speaks to the fact that we have a long way to go on the road to universal access to comprehensive sexual education!The Museum of Contraception & Abortion in Vienna exists to further the mission of access to education. I spent over 3 hours in dialogue with the administrators at the museum sharing ideas, resources, & anecdotes. At one point in history abortion was punishable by death in Austria, & though it is now decriminalized it is not well protected legally; existing in a grey area. Contraception & abortion are not provided by the nation’s otherwise awesome socialized healthcare system, likely due to risidual religious conservatism from centuries of a Catholic ruling class. I was told that secrecy, stigma, & shame were the norm around contraception & abortion even in modern Austrian culture.  If you’re interested in learning more about the history of abortion in Austria, check out the documentary “The Long Arm of The Empress”.

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Planned Parenthood: One Eyed King

  • Our bodies are sacred, capable, & beautiful

 

  • The mind, body, & spirit connection deserves reverence & respect

 

  • We can experience embodied joy & personal power through sexual health & fertility

 

  • We have a right to informed consent through understanding the risks & benefits of a myriad of choices

 

  • No thing & no one should ever enter the vagina or womb without complete informed consent

 

>> “consent”:  from the Latin “con” meaning “with” & “sentire” meaning “feeling”.  To me this validates the notion that consent is at its roots an emotional agreement & resonance, not an intellectual understanding or passive permission given.

Image by Miss Led

These statements are the core of my philosophy & the care that I provide.

In my pursuit of living these ideals, I worked with Planned Parenthood for several years.  I volunteered as a youth lobbyist, peer mediator, fund-raiser, & pre-teen sex ed teaching assistant in my home town of Boise, Idaho. I did an administrative internship & was employed as a campus organizer in my late teens & early 20s in Eugene, Oregon. In my early years living in Portland, Oregon I served as a patient advocate at the Southeast clinic, providing basic abortion doula support during surgical procedures.

Over the years as I developed my philosophy & awareness, I came to understand that the institution & political machine of Planned Parenthood did not share or uphold my philosophy. I don’t know if institutions of its size can, but I dream of a world where they do.

Read more →