Birth and Beyond 2014

I was honoured to be asked to speak, for the second year in a row, at the Birth and Beyond Conference in London Ontario.  

There is something so wonderful about the energy at Birth and Beyond.  Having had a taste of it last year, it had left me simply wanting more. Not of the stage, that is in fact, my least favourite part but rather the conversation and the opportunity to facilitate a discussion about loss and grief in a completely different way.  With my good friend Carol by my side as a co presenter we decided to use last years discussion as our stepping off point for this year’s as we delved straight into the phonetics of grief.
Yes.  Phonetics.  As a loss Mama one of the most often asked questions of me is, how do I support you or a friend that has lost a child?  And that is exactly what we chose to discuss.  How to hold space, how to respond accordingly and what things do families need you to know as a birth worker to support them during the worst moment of their lives.  It is not a conversation for the faint of heart and I greatly appreciate all those that are willing to come, listen and participate.  It is gritty, honest and without ego as neither Carol nor I are willing to sugar coat the truth of living with the loss of a child. 
You never know how a talk is perceived until after the reviews flow in.  I find there is a self deprecating, loathing that occurs the day before I do a talk.  A version of the day before jitters hopped up on steroids that are filled with thoughts of inadequacy and fear.  And then I get up and I do it.  I do it without being able to feel my feet and even though I am fairly certain I am about to fall on my face or vomit right in front of a massive crowd of people. I just do it.   And the second I open my mouth to speak, I feel her there.  A new calm prevails and the truth stands.    It is as if by speaking of what happened to her and I welcomes her into the room like a warm breeze and I feel the earth stand still for a while.  
Being part of the “birth community” is not something I have been easily been able to wrap my head around.  I truly felt abandoned by both the medical and natural birth community when Ava died.  Adding to that I am an introvert by nature, I constantly feel like I am on the edge of most social circles, never in with in crowd and always on the outside observing. It has always been that way for me.  It would appear as though Birth and Beyond 2014  had a new lesson for me to learn and that was just how much I am part of this community and the value that is being seen in my work. 
And it was humbling.  
I found myself taking a big deep breathe and watching Ava’s story move further than I thought it would.  
As far as standing on stage with the likes of Jack Newman, Ina May Gaskin, Gena Kirby, Carol Peat and many…many more.  As far as making new connections, making new friends, bringing new opportunities to share what I learned from Ava and to further the discussion of supporting grieving families.  
I have spent a significant portion of my life in my comfort zone, I think many of us live there in many respects.  Ava thrust me so far out of it and I cannot say I have ever gone back.   Living out of my comfort zone, saying YES as many times as I can to new chances and opportunities and pushing myself further until it almost hurts.  I know Ava would have made me a better if she had lived, far better than the one I am now.  I am simply grateful that I feel as if she is still changing me for better.  Somehow, she is reaching across the great divide between us and teaching me still.    
And that is the most humbling part of all.  

Author: Melissa

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