Birth and Beyond 2013: A Summary

Birth and Beyond 2013 has left me speechless.

Wordless.

I find myself staring at the blank blogger screen attempting to find the words.  I met with a dear friend who attended with me this morning, hoping to find the words with her…and yet I sit here, wordless.

When Ava died in 2011 I felt evicted and rejected by the Birth community.  I had read every book possible intending to have a natural and safe birth of my beloved first child.  I became very educated on birth, labor, delivery and aligned myself with a community to help me in this transition into motherhood.  I was to be attending a birth class the night she died.  I had made new friends there and after she died I felt I had lost them as well as her.

And I mourned the loss of their friendship, the loss of my place within the “normal” birth community and my own innocence thinking that a Cesarean section could be the worst outcome of a delivery.

Except I was wrong.  I was very wrong.  I may have lost my place and I will never regain the innocence stripped from my soul but I did not lose my friends.  In fact, I was about to gain three of the greatest friends I would have through grief.  Two of which hosted Birth and Beyond and asked me to speak and the third of which stood up beside me as I did it.

Birth and Beyond is attended by the birth community.  Midwives, Doula’s, Nurses, Birth Workers and advocates.  Some of the biggest names and most esteemed teachers present in break out sessions over three days, imagine my knee knocking excitement and fear to see my name alongside them.  Every topic is discussed from circumcision to working with mother’s that fear birth.  It is raw.  It is honest.  The attendees are brave and open, telling their stories and the stories of their clients attempting to better patient care, examine their own shortcomings and heal their own vicarious trauma.

Carol and I spoke at great length about what we wanted for the “Infant Loss” seminar.  More than anything we felt very strongly that these workers needed concrete, tangible and useful information to help them guide the newly bereaved. We made a list of things not to say, as well as things that are helpful to say and used my story as a jumping off point for the conversation. We wanted the environment to feel intimate and respectful, we wanted to encourage discussion as you would over coffee with friends.

Getting to tell her story was the easiest part of all.  I have told Ava and I’s story a thousand times. I was nervous as I began, looking out and seeing so many familiar faces but then suddenly the quiet in the room put me at ease.  I was able to look out and see my midwives in the eyes of each person there.  I could see their love and compassion.  The room was palpable, the air thick with love and with each deep breath I took it filled me up.

We had expected around 20 people to attend initially and slowly watched the numbers climb as the date approached.  By the time I began to speak it was standing (or sitting on the floor) room only at over 50 people in attendance (according to Matt’s headcount.) And those 50 people responded with an earnest desire to understand.  They immediately began asking questions of us and themselves.  The one that stuck a cord in me was one woman asking “What if I have said only the wrong things? What do I say to someone I have hurt saying only the wrong things to?” That question alone shows the amount of love, compassion and self effacing kindness that was brought to this tender and difficult topic.

Sharing Ava’s story and my story of surviving HELLP and living with grief has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.  It wasn’t easy.  I have found myself foggy headed and drained but the emails that are pouring in and the feedback tells me it was worth every single moment.

It all comes down to me wanting to make her proud.  I hope she was there, listening.  I hope that thick in the room was her and that the gumption I felt in the pit of my belly was her encouraging me on.  I hope she saw and that she is a smidgen as proud of her Mama as I am of her.