Friday Oct. 24, 7 – 9 p.m., at Holistic Care Approach, 3368 Beltline Ct. NE., Grand Rapids. $10 suggested donation. Sponsored by The Bloom Collective.
Birth, as the body intended, empowers women and starts infants on the adventure of life as balanced, healthy human beings. During the ’70s and ’80s, a sea of women activists worked to reclaim birth, which in the US usually takes place in the hospital setting. The medical industrial complex viewed this movement as a challenge to their power, practices and profits. Today, the few babies born without medical intervention in the hospital setting are those impatient brats born in the parking lot.
Electronic monitoring, induced labors, epidurals and cesarean section are now the norm. As one intervention leads to the need for another, profits rise –and maternal and infant outcomes plummet. According to the New York Times (Oct. 15, 2008), the US infant mortality rate “remains well above that of most other industrialized countries and is one of many indicators suggesting that Americans pay more but get less from their health care system… In 1960, the United States ranked 12th lowest in the world, but by 2004, the latest year for which comparisons were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that ranking had dropped to 29th.”
A birth activist since the ’70s, Suzanne Arms has written books on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and adoption; created films and photographs; and presented hundreds of talks at conferences worldwide. Her book, Immaculate Deception, was a 1975 New York Times Best Book of the Year. Arms advocates holistic, sustainable health policies and practices and conscious parenting that is based on ancient and cross-cultural wisdom. Her 1977 documentary, Five Women, Five Births, remains a staple among natural childbirth educators. Arms weaves modern science: cellular biology, neurobiology, psycho-immunology and attachment theory with ecology, feminism and spirituality. Arms writes:
“My purpose is to help shift the paradigm that drives the loneliness, anxiety, addiction, greed, and aggression so prominent in post-modern societies to one that promotes joy, wellbeing and peace. I work at the beginning of life, where the patterns are set. We must transform how we bring human beings into the world and care for each childbearing woman and mother-baby pair from conception to the first birthday, when they are one biological system and the baby’s developing brain and nervous system are laying down patterns for a lifetime.”
“For too long, our approach to childbearing and caring for mothers and babies has been fear-based, its hallmarks isolation, intervention in natural processes, hyper-stimulation and maternal deprivation. Women’s experiences and their feelings about themselves, their babies and motherhood, translate directly into thoughts and biochemistry that lay down patterns in their baby’s developing nervous system and brain. These patterns shape not only how we see ourselves as children, but the relationships we form as adults and how we care for others and our world. The mother-baby relationship is crucial. Thus, how we treat the women who bring children into this world – with honor and tenderness or neglect and abuse – profoundly influences the direction of our society. Love and fear, and peace and violence, begin in the womb.”
Arms is a founding and active member of the Alliance for Transforming the Lives of Children. At the pioneering Holistic Childbirth Institute in San Francisco, in 1977, Suzanne created and taught the first course on the evolution of childbirth practices and how we got the practices we have today. A year later she co-founded The Birth Place, the country’s first resource center for pregnancy, birth and new parenting and one of the first independent birthing centers in the U.S. Suzanne was a founding and active board member of Planetree, the international organization working to transform hospitals and clinics into true healing centers. Suzanne lives near Durango in SW Colorado.