There’s a brilliant line in Bruce Cockburn’s song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” that goes:
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight…
Sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to bring about change, especially for the things that are the most important in our lives.
I spent last Thursday pacing back and forth at the Newark International Airport, cursing the weather delays and hoping to catch a standby flight so I could get back home to my family and so I could spend Friday afternoon at the Canadian Association of Midwives national conference in Halifax. I’m happy to say that I not only made it home, but I made some new friends along the way. (A kind woman from Ohio going home to Halifax to visit her mother and a gracious nurse travelling with her sweet shitzu pup both lent me their cell phones. Thank you!)
The CAM conference was a wonderful event. The ballroom at the Lord Nelson Hotel was set with tables, fine linens, and the friendly faces of midwives from across Canada and beyond. It was my first time reading from a real book. (Thank goodness I put my galley in my carry on rather than in the bag that the airlines ‘lost’!) I can’t say why, but there’s an important and momentous difference that comes when you can finally thumb through a bound copy of your work rather than shuffling through the marked up pages of a manuscript. It’s a fine, satisfying feeling, indeed.
The AV team hooked my laptop up to a data projector so I could show images on the enormous screen behind the stage. There were audible ooohs and ahhhs when I brought up the cover. (To my knowledge, The Birth House may very well be the first work of Canadian fiction to be graced with a pregnant belly.) The audience laughed, they cried, they cheered. I thanked them for their generosity and their inspiration. I even had the great fortune to welcome two midwives from Ontario into my home on Saturday. We had tea, groaning cake and took a walk along the shores of Scots Bay. It was delightful. I hope to meet many of these wonderful women again when I’m on the road for my tour.
I’m sure that these midwives left the conference feeling that their work had just begun. Canada is one of the last industrialized nations to regulate and support midwifery. Many provinces, including Nova Scotia have nothing in place to assist women who wish to choose a midwife assisted birth. While the current provincial health care system is struggling under the weight of overworked obstetricians, GP’s who no longer participate in maternal care, and rural hospitals closing their doors (for various reasons) to expectant mothers, legislation in support of midwifery is still two years away at best. (There are currently no plans to support midwifery in New Brunswick and PEI.)
One comment I heard made on a radio program yesterday was that “women aren’t making their voices heard in the matter.” The speaker’s words made me stop and think about women’s voices in general. Have we gotten complacent? Do many of us even understand the implications of our silence? If these strains on the system continue, it means that more and more women may be directed to emergency rooms when they go into labour. It may very well mean an increase in medical interventions…induced births, c-sections, etc. These things were never meant to be, (nor should they be) the ‘norm’ in maternal care…especially not when midwives are there, waiting and willing to take their rightful place in our health care system.
Women and Children First…
There’s an outstanding bookstore in Chicago’s Andersonville neighbourhood called Women and Children First. I spent many happy hours there with my son when he was a toddler, during story times as well as just browsing. (He was a squirmy, curious lad at best, but I never received anything but assistance and kindness from the staff.) You can imagine the shock I felt in reading that the NYT had run an article stating that WandCF was a child-unfriendly store! Cheers to the oweners and staff for getting a retraction run and for setting the record straight. Read the Women and Children First Blog for details. (and if you’re ever in Chicago, you should visit the store!)
I’m pleased to announce that an excerpt from The Birth House will be featured in the March issue of Chatelaine! What a glorious long history they have as a women’s magazine. I’m proud that I’ll soon be a part of it!