Post Partum

*sigh* - it's 2 days after "Birth" and I am feeling a surge of emotions, exhaustion, and elation. I SWEAR I am postpartum!

It was amazing! Here is the letter I wrote to the cast as well as some personal thoughts:

It was amazing. I cannot quite put into words how wonderful it was. From the hardships to the blessings, it was such a labor of love, a work of the heart.

Let's walk back in time to last year - after having run into numerous brick walls throughout my attempt to bring "Birth" and BOLD to Nashville, I finally gave up. 9 months ago, in January 2008, my close friend and wonderful husband both asked if I was going to give it another try. At first, I said no - but after some very gentle kicks in the pants, I felt I had to do this - "I needed this" experience.

Finding our venue proved to be one of the hardest obstacles - as my location tends to be VERY political and hostile when in regards to anything 'birth' oriented. Finally, we found a small studio theater that was run by a man who was over 50, single, no children. I had no hope that this man would want to support our vision. I didn't pull any punches after having so many experiences with hard-sells that were later reneged on when 'certain key individuals' in our community
encouraged them NOT to host this play. I told him the play was controversial, he would most likely be encouraged NOT to help us, and that I needed a yes that would remain a yes, or a no - but nothing in between. He jumped at the opportunity to help.

Consequentially, two weeks before opening night, he was able to be at the birth of his niece, a homebirth - his first birth ever. He 'now got it' what we were trying to accomplish.

1 month from production, he let me know that the owner of the building (not him) had said he HAD to have SOME upfront financing for our use of this venue. He named a price. It was not in our upfront budget. Miraculously, within 24 hours, a sponsor came forward for EXACTLY that

Then, we had one role which we continuously could not keep filled. Actresses kept quitting from JUST this role. Finally, 2weeks before production, a gal contacted me that she wanted to help in some way. It ends up that she had been born on the Farm after her parents were wed on the Farm... and now she was an actress who traveled the world. We found our Natalie 2 weeks before production!

Opening night and every production afterward was amazingly nerve-racking, humbly empowering, and awe-inspiring. I had the privilege of looking out over the audience every night and watching women with beautifully ripe bellies; their chins would quiver with passionate emotion, their eyes would grow in anxious expectation, and their hands would roam, independent of thought, their bountiful wombs. Mothers comforted their babes at their breasts and nodded in understanding and compassion at the triumphs, trials, and journeys of the women on the stage.

The woman who played the role of Beth for us was a pastor at a local church, 8 months pregnant with her 3rd baby, and a home birther. The woman cast for the role of Amanda was a single mom of a 4 year old boy, born by cesarean after complications with her epidural. Vanessa's role was filled by a mother of 3 who had her first at the hospital naturally, and then went on to have her others at home naturally. Jillian was played by a real-life mom of 6 and doula. A woman who had had her first by 'emergency' cesarean after a planned medicated birth, went on to have a deeply fulfilling unmedicated VBAC in the hospital 18 months later, and is now 14 weeks with another and planning a birth at the Farm fulfilled the role of Sandy.

Beautiful irony, amazingly healing journeys, and poignantly painful sifting through "birth baggage" marked every heart and mind of the cast and crew of "Birth". Women from completely different walks of life and beliefs - who would never have been friends otherwise, found themselves becoming friends and confidants. And the walls just kept falling down.

Miracles occurred before families even stepped through our doors and back into the world - powerful.

After the final performance and talk-back, we went to a local restaurant, had snacks and drinks, and debriefed on our transformation from conception to "Birth"... I went home and pondered this journey. Rising this morning from bed, I wrote a letter to our supportive group of BOLD individuals.
Wow. What a journey, what a ride. I am standing, stunned, at what happened in middle Tennessee these last few weeks!

I cannot begin to tell you all what an amazing, transforming, and motivating work you all were a part of! From the time that you all donated, to the talent that you all added, to the sacrifice from home, family, and life that you all gave so willingly and selflessly - this has been a true labor of love - a work of the heart!

As I said before, I almost didn't try to be BOLD this year. What a mistake that would have been! I would never have met all of you, I would never have learned a deeper level of woman to woman wisdom, and I would never have seen the transforming nature of this movement etched on the 200+ faces of the women and men in the crowds, night after night.

Our Red Tents brought women into awareness of how profoundly their birth experiences mold and shape their perception of their bodies, their health care, and their relationship with their family members. Many have remarked to me how, simply 'showing up' to a meeting of women has opened a deep wellspring in their hearts - awakening a long-dormant instinctual knowledge that has lead women throughout the generations to make wise choices, strong choices - for the health and future of themselves and their families.

And Birth - what a powerful message. Watching the (very) pregnant women in the crowd - covering their mouths with their hands, their eyes growing larger by the moment. Seeing beautiful mamas with their little ones slung to their breasts, openly weeping, or slowly nodding in understanding - really connecting and understanding the power of these stories. And the men in the audience - so many rent hearts and opened eyes. You would not believe the responses I have gotten from this project. In fact, let me share some of them with you:

"I always felt guilty that I secretly felt RAPED by my episiotomy. I asked my doctor not to do one, but she did it anyway. And I didn't even know until after my baby girl was born. Only afterward, when she started stitching me up, laughing about a 'honeymoon stitch' she would put in for my partners benefit, and refusing me local pain medication because I 'couldn't feel it because [you] had an epidural."

"I never knew that epidurals could make a babies heart rate fall. You know, I'm 3 months pregnant and no one knows. I didn't want to tell anyone because I am not ready to resign myself to another cesarean. I didn't know I COULD have a vaginal birth if I wanted. I was told my pelvis is too small to accommodate ANY sized baby. My doctor told me that any baby who I tried to push out myself would be squeezed to death... I never was willing to consider the 'coincidence' that his heart beat was fine until I got my epidural. And my doctor made me feel like I was the one who was broken - my body - not their medicines and policies"

"You can have homebirths in Tennessee? I didn't know that! Can I have some names? I would LOVE to have a waterbirth. I want what Jillian got [big smile]".

"You have no idea what it means to me that I have been given PERMISSION to be angry about my cesarean. I felt like a bad mom for feeling like a 'healthy baby was not enough'."

The impact that this project has made seems small when we take a look at our overall population in Nashville, Tennessee. But, we have to remember that we change hearts and minds one birth, one woman, one womb, at a time.

If one woman takes away a profound, safe, and fulfilling birth experience from what she learned this last week, we have not only influenced HER, but her PARTNER (who will go out and talk to other spouses/partners), her CHILD (who will grow up and have a solid and positive birthing ancestry), and all of those who she comes in contact as a result. One woman's birth can change a community!

I cannot tell you how hard, overwhelming, frightening, frustrating, stressful.... BEAUTIFUL, REWARDING, HUMBLING, AWE-INSPIRING, SWEET,and CHERISHING this process has been.

I cannot wait to do it all again, I look forward to it in the way that all things of worth are looked forward to - with a healthy perspective on the hard work that accompanies a rewarding process that demands your heart, mind, and body.... and the personal fulfillment we all experience when we complete the task! We did it!

I like the sound of that... WE did it... We DID it!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!!
Oh - and we are not done yet, we still get to perform one last time - October 2nd, at The Farm for the Tennessee Midwives Association.


DoulaMomma said...

How very wonderful. Amazing job - obviously destined to be. Just what Nashville (my original hometown) needs.
Enjoy your performance at The Farm, a place so dear to my heart.


Rebekah Costello said...

What an absolutely thrilling experience that must have been! What a wonderful work for your community! I'd love to see it...I've heard tell of it twice now but have no real idea what it is. I'm so excited about the concept, though. Congratulations!

Deidre C. said...

Congratulations!! I know it must feel like you've given birth to this production. Know that all those in attendance have been touched and hopefully changed and open to what can be!

rachaelcunningham said...

You all did such a great job. When I watched the play, I just kept thinking how important this was. It was very much needed. I congratulate you on a job well done. You've inspired many people! Great, Great, Great job!


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