it is a strange place a find myself in.  a mama, a birthworker, a cultural worker, and yes a theorist/philosopher.  on the one hand this provides me with an immense practical knowledge about pregnancy birth and mamahood.  on the other hand i have a tendency toward abstraction–and not just in birth issues.  for instance, if you look over my writings about motherhood (something i am so deeply immersed in, three year old toddler running around naked refusing to put on panties until her papa walks only on the white tiles and not on the brown ones…) many of them are quite philosophical/abstracty–i think this is what lex means when she says that i provide ‘framing’ for the work i do.

so one of my main frameworks is ‘mamacentric’ work.  which means that i focus on what is best for the mama.  and hold that the mama herself is able to determine this, not an outside authority.  which also means that if there is some ‘conflict’ between the needs of the mother and the needs of the babe, i privilege the mama.  i am saying this baldly and bluntly.  and while it is not an absolute statement, it is an assumed framework from whence i speak and write. it should also be said that i assume that most of the time, what is good for the mama is good for the baby.  if mama ain’t happy….

this mamacentric framework puts me at odds with the majority of birthworkers, midwives, doulas, etc that i know/have read.  many of whom hold the mamatoto dyad to be important ideally, and when it gets down to it, if the two are in conflict, baby comes first.  i have a huge amount of problems with this child centric framing:

i wanted to write a post about the solution to infant and maternal mortality (and i have huge issues that the crisis in the crib video focused on infants mortality, but didnt mention the mamas dying at huge rates next to their babies–ahh…our babecentric culture and the shaming especially of african american mamas)

babecentric culture leads to mother shaming. since the baby can’t really speak for themself, science and experts speak for the baby, thus the conflict really becomes between science/medical expertise vs. mama.  which just reifies the disempowerment of mamas in our culture.  in patriarchy, the child, esp. the son, has been seen as more valuable than the mama. this emphasis takes away choice  from the mother and denies her full agency.  and supports a view of the ideal mama as martyr and sacrificer for the ‘common good’.

cause now, in a babecentric world,  if the mother wants an elective cesarean, but science shows that elective cesareans are more dangerous for the babe, than vaginal birth, the mother is refused an elective cesarean.   science may show that, in general, vaginal births are safer for the child,  but once we deny a woman’s right to decide what happens to her own body, we have disempowered her, opened her to the possibility of traumatization through that disempowerment, and thus jeopardized the baby’s chances for survival and bonding as well, since the mama is suffering from ptsd in her first days.  this is not a world i want to live in.

i probably described all of that abstractly, but i know this too be the living truth of too many mamas.

i am also thinking of this when i wrote earlier about vitamin d.  i really did stop after that discussion in the comments and think about what bothered me so much about vitamin d as a recommendation to affecting infant mortality rates.  and i realized that it was personal for me.  that as abstract as my arguments may be, ive spent enough of my time talking to healthcare workers about me choosing to take this pill, supplement, food, etc. and why or why not.  and that so many healthworkers cling to these little pills as a way to feel like they can have some control over outcomes, when in reality these outcomes are due much more to huge societal forces outside of their control.  but, lets get real,  no one comes into health work because they want to feel out of control.  we are human, we are afraid of disease and dying, and a good amount of our energy is spent convincing ourselves that we have some control over these inevitabilities of demise.  we want to see concrete progress.  we want to feel like we are making a difference.

anyways, i have spent enough time on the other side of this curtain, as the one who is being recommended this supplement or that diet, and when the outcomes turned negative, almost everytime i was told: well, you must have taken enough of xyz.  because not only do these little pills allow us to feel like we are making concrete contributions to another person’s health, they, on the flip side, allow for us not to deal with inevitable disappointment when the outcomes are not what we want to see.  suddenly, it is that the mama did not take enough, or made some other choices that adversely affected her health.  i started to realize that, as a mama,  when i swallowed the supplement, i was swallowing the blame as well.  no wonder those multi vitamin pills made me nauseous.

also, i struggle with the need for practical concrete answers to issues like structural racism and infant mortality.  part of me wants to say: yeah, it really sucks, this whole colonialism/oppression thing.  there are no quick answers, not even quick partial answers.  but anyone who told you that there were, was selling you lies.  i have done a lot of pro palestine solidarity work, in and out of the west bank, i know, it gets frustrating day after day to be faced with questions that have no easy answers.  to have to find your way through a thicket of issues, just wanting to do something, anything useful and constantly coming at dead ends.  i dont know what to say, except, palestinians dont get a day off from genocide and neither do black women and working in solidarity means you dont either.  and you dont get to feel concretely useful that often, cause we dont get to.  and what you do get is that you discover and live the same thing we do: there is beauty in the trenches.  there is a blues song on the other side of the wailing.

i probably come across as a bitch by this point.  a bit too negative and uninspiring for birthworkers of america, we are so quick to reach for optimism, for myths of progress, for a salve to make us feel better because there is so much ugliness in the world.

honestly, there are no ten steps to cultural survival for our people.  sorry.

there is only motherhood, love by any means necessary.

there is only building radical community, one breath at a time.

there is only our children, whose survival is only possible because of the mamas who survive.

there is only us.

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