It’s been no secret that my mission in life is to destroy the patriarchy!
My own nearly 5-year old daughter came into this world as my fiery little feminist, doing things on her own time in her own way and she hasn’t apologized for ANY of it! Whether it’s telling the friends of her older brother to “fuck off, you fuckholes” at the age of 3 when they tried to tease her and wouldn’t give back her doll, stealing my Gloria Steinem book “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” from my bookshelf multiple times even though she can’t actually read yet, or when she’s taking my phone and saying “destroy the patriarchy” in an ominous tone while videoing herself, she’s been an example that the rest of us only dare to follow some of the time, but longingly wish to unleash whenever we’re being screwed over!
Of course, I’ve taught her well, and I’m damn proud of the young woman she’s going to become one day.
But one thing that she has not yet learned is the downside to being an outspoken woman who doesn’t care to blend in and follow ALL the rules, and that quite often we get in trouble. I wrote a blog post about the time I ruffled the feathers of the patriarchy and unintentionally got a midwife friend into hot water, but aside from stern warnings I hadn’t really been punished in a way that limited my ability to reach other moms and deliver the messages that many birth workers count on me to deliver for them, because their own hands are tied and their words are being watched.
I did rather well for 6 years, having discovered a HUGE community of parents from all over Canada who were getting rather shitty advice from other parents who didn’t know that our maternity care system sucks and that informed consent isn’t just a form you sign that allows your care provider to do whatever they think is best. In that time, I helped moms. I reached out and dropped links to websites, told them to talk to other moms I knew who would encourage them, helped them find doulas, midwives, and even switch care providers. I was part of the journeys to empowerment for so many women. I made friends, I changed lives.
I remember vividly the conversation I had with a mom who had found my comments on Parent Life Network to be uplifting, exactly what she needed to hear, and she reached out to me. She asked me if I could help her plan a vaginal birth after 2 prior cesareans, and I gave her all the information she needed. She thanked me, and I didn’t hear from her for months. Then, one day she sent me a message. She had done it! She had just had her VBA2C and it was amazing, and she said that she wouldn’t have known she had that option if it wasn’t for meeting me. I changed her life simply by commenting that my friend had a vaginal birth after 3 cesareans, and that VBA2C was not “impossible”. I told her that she had rights, options, and dropped links to important resources of information that she could consume and learn all she needed to learn. The power was in her all along, and I merely showed her the way and believed in her. But looking back, I realize how POWERFUL that was! How many comments do you see in mainstream parenting forums that EMPOWER moms to make their own choices? Unless you’re in a forum full of doulas and midwives…not many. Believe me, I’ve been in the parent communities long enough that it started to depress me.
Now, here’s the thing. I HATED Parent Life Network! It was a headache trying to deliver information moms needed and also deal with the criticism, the nasty comments, and even the admins who just wanted the maintain the status quo. They banned any posts that invited mothers to consider choosing their care provider like a consumer (my first infraction, called “shaming” even though I wasn’t blaming moms for not knowing what they didn’t know) and over the past year, as I grew bolder in my invitations to other mothers and dropped the link to my page and my Facebook Group, they started banning me from commenting for 24, then 48 hours. They lock posts where moms were asking if they could refuse an intervention they didn’t want to have, such as an induction or a certain test, and they absolutely hate ANYTHING that spoke of the “controversy” of circumcision. Put simply, that place is full of negativity, misinformation, bias, and there’s enough mommy-shaming in there that I didn’t need to add to it and I was sometimes one of the few voices in the posts trying to lift up the moms who were being attacked for daring to question the all-knowing patriarchal systems in maternity care and into postpartum and parenting.
I’m both relieved to be done with that group, but also greatly saddened because I have lost access to the moms who most need me to be speaking out. Sometimes it’s that ONE voice in the crowd who makes the difference. Just ONE person telling you that you matter, that your feelings are valid, that you have a RIGHT to feel as you do, and that YOU CAN SAY NO. That you are able to Take Charge! I didn’t have that voice in the crowd when I was in the parent forums, pregnant with my first child. I was desperately reaching out for someone to tell me it was okay to have a homebirth regardless of the “rules” and I didn’t get it. Instead I got “it’s not so bad, you’ll be okay”. I got a lot of that, and guess what? It wasn’t okay. The ONLY good thing about that birth experience was that it led me here, doing this work! That birth is what taught me the harsh lessons I needed to learn so that I could help other moms. It was what got me “good and mad” enough to DO something BIG with my life. To use my talent for writing and connecting with people in a way that would impact generations of mothers. Prior to the birth of my son, I had no idea that this would be my future.
But then a few days ago I noticed that Parent Life Network was no longer in my news feed after weeks of me ignoring those posts and leaving it to my new friends in my Facebook Group who were dropping my links for me. I couldn’t see the group, it didn’t even come up in my search engine. They finally decided to kick me out and block me. For what, I don’t know. Maybe offering help to other moms was what got me kicked out. Maybe they were just tired of me telling moms they had other options. Maybe they didn’t like that I was diverting the attention of their audience to other, better groups like the Coalition for Breech Birth, International Cesarean Awareness Network, BeBaby Family, and even my own group Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, & Beyond. Maybe they saw my “beware the mainstream mommy groups” post on my pages and got offended that I would dare call them out, even if not by name?
Whatever the reason, I’m banned from the cesspool of a group that once caused me so many headaches and led me to wonder if I was even getting through to people at all.
But what I leave behind are many moms who were helped by me, who know the value I bring, who echo my important messages. I also leave behind moms who desperately need to hear those messages from someone, anyone, and that is what makes this bittersweet. I was not ready to leave THEM. If I had my book out in stores, that would have been one thing. I could have touched lives each and every day on a much greater scale and not cared one bit about Parent Life Network because my celebrity status would be no match for them. But I don’t have 2 years to wait for that time to come and neither do the moms still consuming the garbage advice in that group. THEY are the ones who are going to be most hurt from Parent Life Network’s decision to kick me off.
So what do we do? Do we let them win?
To loosely quote Game of Thrones, the patriarchy is like the God of Death, and what do we say both to the Patriarchy and the God of Death? NOT TODAY!
The women who came before us fought for our rights to not be property, to vote, to have our own bank accounts, to keep our children with us even if the marriage fell apart or there was no marriage, to not be raped by our husbands, to not have to marry our rapists, and to simply have JOBS and to be educated! We fought for control of our bodies, and we continue to fight for that today, but what was ignored was BIRTH! Birth is where I have chosen to fight because it ties into EVERYTHING!
When a mother is truly empowered in her birth, when she experiences that high afterward, when she goes into that zone where it’s like she’s between worlds, when she triumphs and does the “impossible”, it changes her on such a level that she will never, ever, ever go back into that box she might have been in before. The box that the patriarchy tries to shove us all into is much too confining, too limiting, and we have realized that we are SO POWERFUL because we birthed our children. It’s no wonder men tried to disempower us in our births for decades; mothers in their full power are UNSTOPPABLE! We see the patriarchy for what it really is, and we teach our children to dismantle it, bit by bit. Generation by generation, we work to bring it down. We have the #MeToo movement because our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and so forth all paved the way. They dropped their little hints, their whispered words saying “you actually have more power than you know.” And some of us listened and quietly rebelled in ways that didn’t draw attention, and then there were the few who just couldn’t be quiet and we created the ripples that became the waves.
Some of us stood up, said “this is bullshit!” and we did something about it! We shouted our messages! Not everyone who heard them stood up too, but they were listening. We are ALWAYS listening for the magical words that free us from the box.
So now, what do we do?
We gather in our groups and we then take our messages out and drop them in the mainstream groups.
I may not be able to reach the mothers in Parent Life Network, but YOU can. YOU can show them where to go to find the light that was always inside of them, that they need to see in themselves. YOU can invite them to join my Facebook Group for Empowered Moms, and YOU can be that voice in the crowd that says “yes you CAN” to a mother when everyone else tells her that she can’t or shouldn’t want what she wants.
The era of the Mommy Martyr ends with ME! It ends with YOU! It ends with ALL OF US!
We have generations of women not yet born that count on us to keep the chain going. We WILL make the world better for them and not be limited by the boundaries of the patriarchy! We WILL Transform Birth! We will do it together.
Go out there, ask yourself “If I don’t tell this mom that she has options, who will? What will THEY say? Will it be enough?”
Will you get criticized? Probably. The internet isn’t kind to women who have strong opinions on things. But is the criticism you receive worth it if someone, maybe not the mom you’re responding to in the comments, but SOMEONE is changed by your words? Is it worth being slapped on the wrist for “making trouble” if that trouble leads to MORE mothers knowing their rights, options, and how to advocate for themselves?
Is it worth making a few enemies if you make several more friends? Is it worth being called “crazy” if your words lead to a mother reaching out and thanking you for being supportive and truly helping her?
I’ve gotten used to people not liking me, because the right people, MY people DO like me. I’m quite comfortable being a “difficult woman” because a wise birth educator and mentor told me that to do this work WELL means that one must get in trouble at least once a month. The older I get, the more I aspire to be that Wise Woman that other women look up to and admire while others under the thumb of the patriarchy say I’m “too brash, too bold, too loud, too troublesome”. I embrace fully that I am not to sit quietly and do as I’m told, and instead lead generations of women to “bad behaviour” that will dismantle the system further.
When women gather, magic happens. It’s just what we do. And when we stop fighting each other and turn our sights instead to the very system that wants us to keep fighting with each other, magic will indeed happen.
So go out, share this message. Tell other moms about this blog, the page, the facebook group, the videos inside it, and give them the keys to freedom from “The Box”.
Dare to be difficult with all the stubborn tenacity of a 4 year old! Entire generations of women depend on it!