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Thursday, 26 April 2012

Peaceful Birth, Peaceful People – Experience is Everything

A wonderful introduction to life
Kylie and baby Rebecca, only moments old
Born blissfully in her living room

I've blogged before about other people's choices feeling confronting for some. But this opinion piece, absolutely dripping with projected fear and grief, compelled it's very own response.
Alissa Warren wrote: "You don't need to be a mother, let alone a woman, to know that things can go horribly wrong during childbirth. And you're crazy to think otherwise."
Birth is a part of life. It's an incredibly common misconception to think that women who choose to birth at home believe that "nothing will go wrong" during their birth. On the contrary, women who choose to birth at home are doing so against spectacular cultural pressure: if anything, it could be assumed that homebirthing women are more aware of the potential complications that can arise during the broad spectrum of what is physiological birth. Although, as in life, there are no guarantees; for the most part, birth progresses just fine if it's left the hell alone. 

It's important to note that, in a spontaneous, unhindered labour, a women progresses according to what her body and her baby need. A midwife or other skilled birth attendant will quietly observe the woman; her movements, her noises, the positions she instinctively puts herself in. Anything that seems 'not quite right' is noted, and indeed, help sought if necessary. More often than not, major problems will present themselves with adequate warning – perhaps bleeding, perhaps unnatural pain, perhaps odd sensations or discomforts. It's about being connected to the labouring woman, and allowing HER to be connected to her instincts. And how many of the 'emergencies' that arise in a hospital birth are actually a result of an intervention in the first place? 

(And I'll thank the journalist to refrain from the use of the derogatory insult "crazy". Not only is it inaccurate, but it's degrading to those who genuinely suffer from mental illness.)
She wrote: "That's why there are professionals who specialise in obstetrics. I'm astounded that any mother would choose to have her baby at home - regardless of whether a midwife is present or not."
Midwifery is one of the oldest professions in human history. The word midwife literally translates to "with woman." With today's midwives holding a bachelors degree and a lot of experience (both academic and practical), a midwife is just as qualified (if not more, in my opinion) to care for a labouring and birthing woman as an obstetrician. (A word which, interestingly, translates to "stand in front of".) In fact, a midwife can – and will – do far more for a labouring woman than an obstetrician. The only thing I believe an obstetrician can do that a midwife can't is to perform a caesarean section. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
She wrote: "The death of a baby during childbirth would be unimaginably heartbreaking. And surely, any mother would go to any lengths to make sure this didn't happen.
So why do these homebirthers open their child - and their hearts - to the slightest chance of misfortune?"
Tragically, there are several stillbirths in Australia every single day. Yes – every single day, parents are launched into the heart-breaking grief of the death of their baby. These stillbirths are, for the most part, not splashed all over the news, nor are their parents publicly vilified and shamed by ignorant journalism.
However, one of the wonderful things about life is that health is a long, varied, complex and subjective spectrum between alive and dead. Life is not merely about maintaining a heartbeat. Life is full of tragedies and joys. While the death of a baby is, of course, unfathomably painful and should of course be avoided if we can so, we need to remember that death is part of life. And birth in hospital is certainly no guarantee that a baby will be born alive.
But, as Alissa points out, our cultural fear of birth is incredibly pervasive. 
She writes: "To have simply considered [homebirth] shows a level of confidence most of us don't have. Including me."
"There's no doubt I was frightened about having my baby. I remembered all those rom-com movie moments in the '90s, a la, Nine Months, Father Of The Bride 2. Yikes..."
"I don't trust my body enough to give birth without some sort of assistance at the ready"
We live in a culture that loves to paint birth with fear and trauma and lots of panic and screaming. For the vast majority of us, we've never seen birth to be anything but this, and we've never heard any positive birth stories. All we've heard is how awful, painful, undignified and down right excruciating it is. Women's bodies are doubted and shamed, blamed, and normal pregnancy and birth is pathologised and littered with iatrogenic diagnoses.
No one seems to doubt that the act of conception can (and should be) wonderful, blissful, empowering, joyful, intimate and private.  So why then, is it so hard to believe that the culmination of that conception – the birth – could be such a physiologically positive event, too?
She writes: "Having a baby is a big deal. If you're thinking about giving birth at home, it's time to blow out the candles and turn off Cafe del Mar. This is serious stuff. I understand that having a baby at home is about experience, empowerment and choice."
Experience. A great word. What does that mean? 

Contrary to what popular media would have us believe, a homebirth is about far more than candles and Cafe del Mar (whatever that is. I don't actually know. I didn't have one at my homebirth though, so perhaps I was missing out on something?) 

Consider the following:

What happens when we feel comfortable and confident? We relax. The cervix is a sphincter. What has to happen to allow bodily sphincters to open? We have to be relaxed and comfortable. Think about it - do you close the door when you visit the loo?

What causes uterine contractions? Oxytocin. How does our uterus contract efficiently and rhythmically and powerfully? With lots of oxytocin. What releases oxytocin? Feeling good. What hinders oxytocin release? Fear and adrenaline. Feelings of discomfort. Feeling unsafe. Even subconsciously. How often do you hear of women saying that they "didn't dilate" or "weren't progressing" or "weren't contracting well/consistently/regularly/strongly?" How many women's labours are either induced by or augmented with an artificial oxytocic? (Syntocinon, Pitocin etc). How many people actually walk into hospital and associate it – on every psychological and physiological level (conscious and unconscious) as being a place of warmth, love, and safety?  Think about it. How do you feel when you step into a hospital? How does it smell? How does it sound? What sorts of feelings, thoughts, memories does a hospital conjure up for you?
'Experience,' in this respect, matters far more than just candles. In fact, it matters so much, that we have little trouble understanding that other mammals need peace and quiet to birth. Why do we have such trouble understanding that we need it too?
In order to avoid the potential complication of choking when I chew my dinner, would anyone argue that I'd be better off by slicing open my stomach and feeding it in through a tube? Absolutely not. So of course, it's worth taking that chance by chewing and swallowing. I figure, if I need medical assistance, I'll seek it. I'd much rather enjoy the 'experience' of tasting my food, sharing it with my loved ones, and curling up in my own bed afterward.

Tragically, more new mothers die by their own hand than by any other means. Women are actually suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the births of their babies. PTSD is a diagnosis that was discovered after soldiers returned home from the atrocities of war. Would you argue that this wasn't based on 'experience'?
She writes: "It's very easy to panic about the entire childbirth process. Let's be honest, it's no picnic. But fear of childbirth and fear of hospitals are two totally separate things.
Of course they are separate things. I am assuming by this statement the author means to imply that women chose to birth at home based purely on a fear of birthing in hospital. Although this is a fairly hefty generalisation, even if it is the case – why is that a problem? If a woman feels safer birthing at home, and and research shows that homebirth is safe, why is this a problem? 
For she also writes: "But there was one choice I did make. There was one choice I was absolutely hell bent on. I was having our baby in a hospital."
How wonderful that she was afforded the ease of this choice. How wonderful for her and her family that this choice was so respected and honoured for her, and that her experience was a positive one. 
"She writes: "Many homebirthers believe if mothers let go of the fear, it would be easier to say "yes" to a homebirth."
Actually, I think the majority of homebirthers believe that if mothers can let go of the fear and shame that culture instills in a woman's body, it would be easier to say "yes" to birth – full stop. Where the mother feels the safest to birth is up to her - and no one else - to decide.
She writes: "...I couldn't think of a better place to recover than in a hospital. After my daughter was born, my beautiful midwife made me a cuppa and I didn't have to tell her where the tea bags were. I didn't have to worry about doing a load of washing (eek). And the midwives were there to help me through the first night so I could have a couple of hours rest. My husband would visit with our gorgeous but adventurous toddler and I'd bid them goodbye with a sandwich in one hand and a Scotch Finger in the other."
After my son was born, my beautiful doula made me a cuppa and I didn't have to tell her where the tea bags where. She also made me toast. And gave me a massage. I didn't have to worry about doing any washing - my doula and husband took care of that. In fact, I didn't do any washing for, oh, a few months. And my midwife and doula stayed until I was safe, rested, and feeling confident that they could go. And they came back the next day. And the next. And the next...
She writes: "In fact, when my doctor came to make sure I was OK to go home, I told him I wanted to have another baby just so I could come back to hospital. His response? "You're not the first to say that." Bloody hell. Stiff way to get a holiday, huh?"
Well here's a point we actually agree on. Women shouldn't have to be in hospital to feel they can relax and be cared for. They should be able to relax and be nurtured and waited on at home, by their family. It's a pretty sad culture we live in when women cannot escape confines of hateful domestic drudgery in their own home, when they've just given birth. Women in western culture are lumped with unbelievable, unrealistic pressure to just spring back to normal after they've given birth. Sad, huh?
She writes: "No matter what, a mother makes choices from the moment she knows she's pregnant: Will I keep this baby? Will I make healthier eating choices? Will I do yoga? Will I book them into childcare? And that's the beautiful thing about motherhood - choice. 
Yes, choice is a beautiful thing indeed. If only it were as simple as this. If only we weren't bombarded from all angles on the do's and don'ts of pregnancy: what not to eat, what exercise not to do, what to wear, what supplements to take. What tests to do. What monitoring to have...
She writes: "But it's a no-brainer when it comes to safety during childbirth. And that's something that shouldn't be up for debate. The health of a mother and her baby should be the No.1 priority during childbirth."
So, according to Alissa, we can have a choice on whether or not to do yoga - but not where out child is born? Why should our right to bodily autonomy go out the window when we are to give birth – one of the most momentous rights of passage in a woman's life?

Choice. We should be so lucky, huh?
She writes: "Regardless of any homebirthing or freebirthing success stories, no one will convince me otherwise."
Advocates for homebirth aren't doing so to try and "convince" women who otherwise want to birth in hospital, to birth at home. Homebirth advocacy is actually about fighting for a woman's basic, bodily right to chose her own place of birth, and her own caregiver for pregnancy and birth. Why is that so hard to understand?
She writes: "Because having a baby isn't just about a mother in labour."
That's right. Birth is about the mother-baby dyad. It's about family. It's about culture. It's about continuum and species evolution. It's about feminism. It's about women's rights. It's about human rights. It's about the future of humanity. Absolutely - having a baby is about far more than a mother in labour. That's why it's so important that birth is a positive experience for the birthing woman, and subsequently, for her baby. 

Because our babies are our future. Our babies grow into tomorrow's adults. And just imagine – what if those adults were introduced into the world with as much peace and respect as possible? Imagine...

Monday, 16 April 2012

Mothers Make People - Not War

To say that discussions about parenting can get emotive, is about as obvious a statement as the observation that gravity holds stuff down. Mention the word 'breastfeeding' in an opinion piece and it will get more Facebook shares than a photo of a cat stuck in a can. (Unless of course there's a photograph of a woman breastfeeding in the article, and then it might get deleted from Facebook. But that's another blog post.) Bang a few random words together including the word 'birth' and call it journalism and hey presto – oodles of comments on your site! And even better, people getting feisty!

There are countless blogs posts, news articles, opinion pieces and forum threads everywhere about the 'Mummy Wars'. This rather demeaning term describes the passion often exchanged between parents – and sometimes, even people who aren't parents – whenever a particular subject regarding the care of human offspring is broached.

But is is really fair to blame the mothers for this so-called debate? Are mothers really a bunch of warmongers, invoking controversy and upheaval because, maybe, their children don't keep them busy enough? 

Consider this recent headline: "Who Knows Best in the Battle of the Breast?" But before you open the link - what do you think the article is about? You could be forgiven for thinking it's about 'the breastfeeding debate' - right? A particular favourite with the media as an overwhelmingly emotive and important part of parenting. Well, actually, it's not. It's about one doctor's suggestion that introducing solids a little earlier than the World Health Organization's recommendation of 6 months might be beneficial to some infants, based on how a baby's gut develops. That's it. Just one doctor's idea. There's no mention of the fact that only about 14% of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed at 6 months anyway (which could mean that 86% of babies are receiving artificial infant formula and/or solids by 6 months of age - that's almost 9 out of 10) so the validity of using his research paper about the development of food intolerances in the context of a headline about Breast Battles is rather flimsy at best. But it is, however, a stellar example of a deliberately provocative headline, vindictively worded to raise the hackles of parents across the country. 

Here is another recent headline"Breastfeed Until School Book Sparks Debate and Divides Mums". Questionable grammar aside, again, what do you think this article is about? Would you believe that it is actually about the parenting journey of a woman with a PhD in neuroscience (who also happens to be a TV celebrity) who has published a book about the science behind attachment theory? Additionally, the book's author, Mayim Bialik, discusses her own experience with attachment parenting: baby wearing, co-sleeping, term breastfeeding and gentle discipline, amongst other things. Now, I haven't read the book, but based on the author's website I'm not seeing a lot of dogma about breastfeeding a child until they're at school (if that is indeed what the article is supposed to imply), and additionally, where are these "divided mums?" Did I miss the rally of screaming mothers, shaking the book aloft and cursing each other for their diametric differences?

Babies – or, more accurately, their parents – are a highly lucrative, and equally vulnerable market. Flooded with advertising, opinion, instruction and information from all angles, they are encouraged to buy this, buy that. Do this, do that. Feed this, feed that. Play this, encourage that, measure this, record that, weigh this, discipline that, ignore this, praise that ... and usually, this is all thrust at mothers before her baby has barely even taken their first breath outside the womb. New mothers can feel like they've been flung upside down and inside out, chewed up and spat out, and completely blindsided by the raw, fierce and profoundly humbling emotions that tsunami over their world in the early days of their baby's life. It can be a time of highly-strung anxiety, confusion, overwhelming love, intense sleep deprivation, and poo stains on everything. 

On one hand, we have a culture that shrieks at parents in an incredibly patronising and specific manner – eliciting instruction in all forms on every little detail of child-rearing: pregnancy, childbirth, feeding, sleep, play, schooling; and on the other hand, our parents are almost abandoned. Mothers are alone in their houses for the vast majority of the time, spending hours at a time with only an infant for company. Mothers are expected to keep house; be content and joyful, get back to normal, regain a pre-baby body within minutes of birth, smile and preen – our lives should resemble a nappy commercial. In a lot of cases, the first baby we've spent any real amount of time with is our own, which can leave us desperately clueless and feeling quite inadequate when we're alone with this helpless dependant for the majority of the time. Maternity leave is pitiful at best – a reflection of the little value society places on motherhood. Fill out any form and one of the first questions is 'occupation' - where is the box for 'continuer of humanity' or 'species evolutionist'? Why don't mothers matter?

Is it any wonder then, that when parents actually make decisions amongst this cacophony of often contradictory and emotionally-slanted information, that they feel the very valid need to defend those choices? To exercise their adulthood by voicing their opinion?

Raising a child is the ultimate act of humanity: it is the continuation of life. Mothering (and fathering) embodies biology, emotionality, physiology, spirituality and, in the early weeks at least, a heck of a lot of unrequited giving. We (hopefully) aim to raise our children with the morals and values that we live by as adults. For most parents, decisions made regarding how they feed their child, or where their child sleeps, or whether or not to vaccinate, or what boundaries are important, are huge and life-altering. These are choices that have been agonised over, researched and discussed and sometimes made in spite of negative pressure from everyone around them. Sometimes, there can be feelings of intense grief, regret or sadness about these decisions as knowledge evolves and hindsight beckons. Other times, parents can sit by with happiness and watch their child bloom into the unique and compassionate and confident little person that she is, knowing they perhaps have done something right.

So then, is it unrealistic to be surprised to see heated debate sometimes emerge on the internet, or in mother's groups, or on parenting forums, whenever some parenting topics are raised? When one parent perhaps makes a contradictory statement to another, I think expecting them to just smile and nod is a little patronising. Conversely, expecting them not to passionately discuss why they parent the way they do, when it is something so important to them, is equally hurtful and dismissive.

I'm not saying that arguments, or insults, or hurtful comments are warranted. I have read and seen plenty of arguments from parents whose premise I agree with, but whose tone elicits a shudder. (And yes, I have also been that shudder-worthy poster from time to time.) But effectively, what I am saying is this: first we make these, and then punish them. (Thanks, Thomas More). From conception, mothers are stripped of their bodily power in pregnancy and birth, then burdened with unrealistic expectations, infinite advice and explicit instruction, pitted against each other by inflammatory headlines such as this; and then we are left, culturally, out in the cold as little-valued members of society.

I think tolerance holds the key to true peace. I think that empathy and respect are something with which we should all treat each other, without question. But does that mean we should always agree? Or even get along? Indeed, I believe it is unrealistic to expect everyone to be friends just because they hold one mutual similarity – the production of offspring. However, I also believe it is possible to disagree, and to do it politely. Even arguments, regardless of how heated, can still be respectful. Women, mothers – parents – need to value each other and respect what we all do, we need to hold each other in high esteem – but we don't necessarily have to agree to be able do that.

So, I say choose to veto the Mummy Wars and stand proudly by your choices and your truth. Choose to breeze past the media controversy by ignoring the fallacious and misleading headlines, and reading the facts (if you can find them) between the lines. Then make up your own mind – and be prepared, in a few weeks or months or years, to make it all over again. Be honest when you are wrong, and be kindly assertive when you feel you are right. Be open-minded. 

Mothers don't make war; they make people. And it's the hardest job on the planet – so it's bound to get emotional at times. And that's nothing to be afraid of.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Breastfeeding Advocacy: Not A Genocidal Regime

You've all heard it. Out comes an article about something breastfeeding related, and out come the accusations – 'Breastfeeding Nazis', 'Nipple Nazis' or 'Breastapo'. Not only are these terms derogatory, insulting and inaccurate - they are devastatingly offensive. Not just to breastfeeding advocates, but even more so to those millions of victims of the Nazi regime. 

On a smaller scale, breastfeeding advocates often receive criticism for being pushy, formula-haters or just generally finger-shaking and mean-spirited.

This could not be further from the truth.

Allow me to do a little deconstruction.

In 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany undertook the systematic, state-sponsored murder of somewhere between 11-17 million innocent people. This horrific spate of genocide included the murder of millions of women, children and infants. Millions upon millions of people were either worked to death as slaves in concentration camps, executed in mass-shootings or crammed into gas chambers and poisoned to death. Along with these mass murders, millions were subjected to the brutality of concentration camps including forced slavery, or subjected to torturous and unthinkably brutal medical experiments. Truly, a tragic and terrifying period of human existence.

So, where is the comparison then, between Nazi Germany and breastfeeding advocacy? Are the similarities drawn through the concept of ideology? If so, how does one make the leap from a totalitarian government undertaking genocide in the name of ideology, to a group of volunteers passionate about the health and wellbeing of babies and mothers?

Why do breastfeeding advocates care about breastfeeding? Shouldn't the issue of infant feeding be an 'each to their own' type of situation? In order to better understand the passion of some breastfeeding advocates, it may help to firstly understand how breastfeeding advocacy has even needed to come about.

In the early 1900's, progress in the milk-production industry saw an increase in cows milk surplus. Naturally, those businesses did what all successful businesses do - found a way to sell that surplus, to make more money. Thus heralded the discovery of the ability to make milk powder: a product with a much longer shelf life than regular cows milk. Suddenly, there was a viable way to provide nutrition for orphans and foundlings who may have otherwise starved. Throw in the advent of women being forced into the work force with the industrial revolution, and thusly separated from their babies, and voila, a market opens. Although arguably life-saving in some cases, infant formula has exploded beyond what should be a rare and last-case scenario. (WHO Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding; page 10, paragraphs 18-19.)

And so began the rise of infant formula. And what happens when a market opens up? Competition. And what is the only competition to infant formula? 

You guessed it. Breastfeeding. 

The aim of any marketing is to create a sense of need within the consumer. And that doesn't only apply to obvious advertising on TV or in the press. Infant formula companies are incredibly clever when it comes to insidious advertising. Let's face it – formula is everywhere. And thusly, it seems so... well, normal. Isn't that what you have heard over and over? Breast is best, but formula is fine.

Well, breast isn't best - it's normal. And formula certainly isn't fine – it's a health risk.

So, what's the deal? Why do I care about breastfeeding?  Well, let me say that I don't really care about breastfeeding – I am concerned about inadequate breastfeeding. 

Just as I don't particularly care that much about breathing – but, as any human who cares for the health and wellbeing of other humans, I would be concerned about inadequate breathing. 

When I gave birth to my first child, I figured that I would try and breastfeed, but since everyone around me said how hard it was, I wouldn't loose any sleep if it inevitably didn't work out. And so of course, when my baby girl reached 2 weeks old and began to cry – a lot – and I was given the well-meaning advice of "you don't have enough milk – just put her on the bottle," you'd think I'd just shrug and give up, right?

Wrong. While my husband, as confused and disheartened as I was, headed off to the supermarket at 10pm to buy a tin of formula for my crying baby, I began to cry. And cry. And cry some more. And after she had two bottles of formula through that night that changed my life, something clicked for me. I realised that I wanted to breastfeed. Not only did I want to, but I needed to. I needed to breastfeed her like I needed air. I was going to be her mother, I needed to breastfeed her because she was a part of me. And for some unfathomable reason, it wasn't working. I was convinced that my body, that had so easily fallen pregnant, so easily gestated for 39 weeks, nourishing and growing her from my own cells, and had spent 20 hours in labour bringing her into the world, was now failing me.

Somehow, I stumbled across a phone number that said "breastfeeding helpline". Calling the number, I spoke to a woman who was currently breastfeeding her fifth child; she empathised, listened warmly, and made me laugh. And she reassured me that my baby was completely normal, and that what she was doing – breastfeeding a lot  – was normal newborn behaviour. She pointed me in the direction of more information, and more support if I so desired it. Although I told her that my baby had had formula the night before, not once did she criticise, or cringe, or complain, or berate. 

And I never looked back. 

I have seen some pretty frightening images, and read a lot of depressing information regarding the rise of the infant formula giants. At this point, it's quite hard to surprise me anymore. But recently, I came across probably the most disturbing image yet. (Before you open the link I should warn you – it's quite shocking, and contains an image of an infant being starved to death. Additionally, you need to know that the two babies in the photograph are twins.) You can read more at the link.

Unfortunately, although breastfeeding is far more robust than our culture gives credit, it can be easily undermined by some persuasive social baby-care practices. Any manner of routine or scheduled feeding, timed feeding, sleep training, dummy (pacifier) use and use of bottles can contribute to potential problems in a breastfeeding relationship. But all too often, mothers experiencing breastfeeding issues blame themselves and their breasts as faulty, when time and time again, it's not their breasts that are the problem – it's the misleading advice they have been given. And sadly, not all of this misleading advice comes from a well-meaning but ill-informed mother-in-law – it comes from all manner of 'experts.'

As a qualified volunteer breastfeeding counsellor, I am trained in a Rogerian method of peer counselling that uses a client-centred approach via three central pillars of empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence. Put simply, that means my job is to listen with an open mind and and open heart, and walk their journey with them; free of judgement and opinion. It also means I have to be completely transparent and genuine.

My job is entirely voluntary – I make no money in the work that I do – and I spend hundreds of hours a year helping, encouraging, listening, supporting, validating, empathising and empowering. Debunking myth. Explaining how breasts work. Explaining how our baby works. Reassuring mothers to trust their instincts. Waiting patiently while they cry down the phone (them, and their babies). Holding a mother's hand. Holding her baby while she drinks a cup of tea. Laughing and crying with her. Ultimately – I walk her journey with her. I provide the information she desires, the encouragement she asks for - and I hand the reins over to her.

So I ask again, where is the comparison between genocidal regimes and breastfeeding advocacy? I don't see it – do you?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I'll Take a Homebirth, with a Side of Open-Mindedness, Please

Sometimes, it can feel confronting to hear of people doing things differently. Even more so, when their reasons for doing that thing differently highlight something you may not have thought about, or didn't know a lot about, or perhaps don't believe in.

We humans are social bunch. We're herd animals. We fear isolation, and draw comfort and safety from fitting in. It's an innate biological impulse: stay with the crowd, or be potentially picked off by a lion, like an unwisely straying gazelle. There is safety in numbers. Therefore, our motivation to conform with our group is incredibly powerful. 

Sometimes, our desire to avoid being ostracised means obeying authority we don't really agree with, or undertaking behaviours that don't even make us feel comfortable – a type of cognitive dissonance; such is the strength of our compulsion to belong.

Have you ever stopped to wonder then, why someone might have done that thing differently?

It takes courage to step sideways from the herd. It takes a lot of strength to go against the social grain. It takes the assimilation of information that means so much to you, that you are willing to step in front of the lion.

For the purposes of this post, I'm going to use homebirth as an example. But really, one could draw parallels to any number of human activities throughout our life.

Currently, a woman's right to bodily autonomy is under public attack. One woman is being targeted simply because she exercised her right to choose her own environment of birth. Archaic human rights attacks like these make me truly wonder what century we are living in. 

I can understand today's fear surrounding childbirth. I really can. Especially with a culture that reveres drama. But that fear should not hinder the bodily rights of others who have worked –and/or chosen to – release it. Just as a woman has a right to an elective caesarean section if that is what makes her feel safe - so should a woman have a right to birth her baby wherever – and with whomever – makes her feel safe.

Presently in Australia, less than 1% of women choose to give birth at home. Why do you think that is? When homebirth has been proven to be just as safe – if not safer – than hospital birth in the vast majority of cases; and when other countries freely support homebirth as a choice for women, why are so many Australian women cramming themselves into overcrowded hospitals, or overcrowded obstetrician's schedules, to bring their babies into the world?

Genuinely, truly, informed consent? Hopefully. Complete feelings of safety? Yes, again, hopefully. Cognitive dissonance? In some cases, sadly, I'm sure that is another yes.

Although we are herd animals, we are also all completely unique. Individual. No two humans ever born will be alike in every single way. We are a myriad of personalities, characteristics and introversion/extraversion levels. No one 'way' is going to suit everyone. So, sometimes, it's going to hurt when we desire something different. Or, if someone we love desires something different.

What can help ease this hurt? If you will, I've coined an acronym: TOE. Oh yes, isn't it marvellous? So marvellous, I'll say it again: TOE = Tolerance, Open-Mindedness and Empathy. Of course, there is a marked difference between TOE and blind acceptance, but I'll let you ponder that.

It is important to perpetuate truths. By all means contribute to debate and discussion with your opinions and information, but allow open-mindedness and empathy to play a part in forming those opinions. And before you pass something on, consider - is it truthful? Is it tolerant? Have you analysed it critically and without bias? And then, go forth and share!

I know this is something I need to work on. A lot. Sometimes I find it all too easy to just let fly with out-of-control passion like a windmill in a cyclone. But I've come to learn that if we don't share with each other, we just sit still. And if we don't allow and share our own truths – not only with each other, but with ourselves – we go backwards.

Someone said: What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right. I think it's worth remembering, don't you?

Peace and love to you. xo