WomanSpace ~ Making the Vision a Reality

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For several years, there has been a shared vision of a space for women to come together. Over the years, it has evolved and at one point it was thisclose to becoming a reality.  At that time, my friend-colleague-fellow visionary, Molly of TalkBirth, wrote this about WomanSpace (click here to read her full piece):

I visualize a center. A place where women can come together to learn, to talk, to develop, to grow. A safe place. A nurturing place. A supportive place. Hostess to LLL meetings, book clubs, birth circle, birth info nights, prenatal yoga classes, birth classes, birth art workshops, pregnancy retreats, journaling workshops, craft classes, crafty mamas meetings, a miscarriage support group, postpartum mamas support group, birth counseling/consultation sessions, dancing for birth, prenatal bellydance, drop-in support chats, blessingways, red tent events, meet the doulas night, Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal groups, women’s spirituality circles, playgroups, baby massage classes, baby/tot yoga, girls’ coming of age classes, an ICAN chapter, Friends of Missouri Midwives meetings. A gathering place. A woman’s place.

It will have a large, open meeting room, access to a bathroom and another, smaller room that could be an office, consult room, or playroom. We will have counter space to plug in some minimal cooking implements (like a microwave). There will be comfy couches, chairs, toys, a lending library of books and films as well as perhaps toys/games/puzzles. There will be big pillows on the floor and beautiful art all over the walls. Other women wishing to have groups/classes for women, could also use the space for their groups/events.

For me, the time has come. I feel strongly that this is my community (not “my” as in ownership, but as in responsible to), one in which I am most intimately involved. I love my community and I want it to grow, to thrive and to be all the things I know it can be…one facet of which is a women’s center.  In addition to all those items listed in the above vision, I also see a need for women-owned and women-supportive businesses to have a physical space to showcase their wares.

Here’s what I see in my vision:

I walk in the door and see beautifully painted walls adorned with art from local women artists. A room off to the side holds information and products from the many women who are trying to earn some income for their families with fun products, like Jamberry Nails, Passion Parties, Lilla Rose, Scentsy, Mary Kay and so on. Down the hall on Tuesdays, baby sounds can be heard from the postpartum group. Wednesdays would be a different group of women and Thursdays would be yet another group of women. In the kitchen, delightful goodies from a woman-owned catering business are on display. There’s a freezer stocked with frozen meals to deliver when a woman has a time of need. Outside, a lovely garden is maintained by some women who love to grow things. On another side of the yard, a woman is giving an art class to a mixture of young and old. I turn around to see this beautiful space and take a deep breath. There is something for every woman here. It changes, as the community changes, filling the needs where possible…maybe a doula foundation someday to provide doulas to ALL mamas, maybe a women’s clinic with women care providers providing woman-centered care. The possibilities are truly endless. The specifics may change, but the vision of shared community, sacred WomanSpace will endure.

 

Yesterday, I attended the Rainbow Group‘s “Day of Hope” Prayer Flag Project. It is a very moving celebration/remembrance event for families who have experienced pregnancy/infant loss. The coordinator of the event had written some thoughtful words on prayer flags for us to decorate, if we so chose, and I decided that “courage” needed to be my flag. I brought along the flag I made for my own baby-start last year, so I chose to have this flag represent what is happening in my life journey *right now*.

"Courage" prayer flag

“Courage” prayer flag

My “artistic” rendering (toddler scribbling?) of the fire represents the burning to bring forth this vision and the house represents the literal house I see. If you click on the image to make it bigger, you’ll see the house is composed of many bricks. This was a genius suggestion made by my daughter when I was laughing about how awful my drawing skills are. “Just put bricks in it”, she said. I sort of grumbled and then realized the beautiful poetry of bricks. Yes! Bricks indeed! The women of this community are the bricks that will hold the house together. We may not build the actual house with our hands, but we will lay the foundation for WomanSpace with our blood, sweat, tears and continue pouring ourselves into it. This will be our space.  WomanSpace

 

Why My Service-Oriented Business is Failing (and what I’m going to do about it)

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Last week, my family was dealt a serious financial blow. In the wake of that blow, it seemed like the only/best option for us was to have me re-enter the workforce of “normal” jobs full-time. After talking to a dear friend, I had the realization that this is a load of crap! WHY should I have to put aside the work I do, which I am really good at, to go do something else to support my family? WHY NOT just remember that I am a business too and that if I EVER want to succeed, I must be able to make a living doing this work.

castle-birth

I think part of the problem is that I’ve allowed myself to get hung up on the service aspect. I very much consider myself a service person. I serve mothers and families. I serve my community. In my mind, that equals little or no pay. I feel guilty charging what I charge, even though it rarely covers my costs and even more rarely makes any money I can bring to my family.  For me, this is multi-faceted. If I’m serving my community, how can I charge a fair wage? Doesn’t that negate the very idea of serving? Furthermore (again, *for me*), I feel strongly that my services should be as affordable as possible, because I desire to serve all families, regardless of income. I know, intimately, what it is like to have very little or no money. I know that lower-income families tend to need the kind of care I have to offer more than those in the higher income brackets because they don’t have as many resources to pull from. BUT, how does keeping myself in that space actually allow me to serve those families, especially if I can no longer do this work at all because I’m forced to do a different job? Who am I serving in that instance?? NO ONE!

Here is my plan:

1. Re-train my thoughts about my service-oriented business. First and foremost, I must recognize that my work is indeed a business. As such, I must remember and think to myself..would I walk into Wal-Mart and negotiate for a better price? Would I expect the employees to do my shopping for me, for free? Does the coffee shop feel bad that they’re charging xx for their cup of coffee? NO! They recognize that they must charge a particular price to not only pay for their materials and time, but to also make enough of a profit to stay in business!

2. Re-organize my business to reflect this change in thinking. I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what this will look like yet.

3. Set up and advertise the various other services I am also capable of doing. I have done a fairly poor job of advertising anything beyond my basic doula service. I have so much more to offer and it’s time to shout it from the roof tops!

4. Know my own value. While I have said multiple times (to myself and others) that I DO know I’m valuable, I think perhaps I’m not quite there yet. I can say the words, but do I really feel it? I work really hard for my families and I do a LOT for them. It’s okay to say that I’m good at what I do, because I am. This is hard for me. A wise mentor once told me “value what you do and charge accordingly.” (starting to see a theme here)

5. Set goals. I actually did this for the first time at the start of the year and have been pleasantly surprised how well it worked. And that goal was more like a verbal intention of what I thought sounded good. What could I do with concrete goals written down and looked at on a regular basis??!

6. Invest in my business. This may mean investing money or time or energy or ??, but I’m going to do it. I’m going to make growing my business a priority, which will serve the dual purpose of getting me closer to my ultimate goal.

Watch out world, this lady’s about to take off! :)

 

Mothering and Daughtering

When I first became a mother, I was obnoxious and bordering on smug. I had it all figured out and knew exactly the kind of mother I was going to be. Most of all, I knew exactly the kind of mother I was NOT going to be…the one I had. I could point out, in nauseating detail, all the things my mother had gotten wrong in her mothering career. It was glaringly obvious to me that she did this or that wrong, which certainly resulted in this or that behavior. Over the years, I struggled to have a somewhat meaningful relationship with her (while still inwardly picking apart almost all of her parenting choices, especially the ones including myself).

Young adult me pregnant with now young adult L.

Young adult me pregnant with now young adult L.

As my daughter increasingly comes into her own ~ her own independence, her own life, her own power ~ I see myself through her eyes (as much as I can). Even more startling, I see my teenage experiences with my mother in a new light. I start to see that perhaps she wasn’t some of the awful things I’ve long described her as.

I see now many of my parenting is parallel to my mother’s parenting. She had “two” families, of sorts…I was an only child for 12 years until my brothers came along, resulting in her parenting both a young adult person and babies/toddlers. So am I. She had divorce and marriage during some pivotal times in my life. So did I. Off and on, she was a single, overworked, underpaid, exhausted person. So was I, for a short time. She cooked food that I thought was weird and refused to eat. So do I.

Was she, like me, struggling to find that balance between self and family? Was she doing the very best she could 99% of the time, while also being acutely aware that it was never enough? Did she yearn to hold me close, stroke my hair, breathe in just *one more* fleeting child moment? Did she delight in my delights, worry about my worries, wonder what was in my head? Did my burgeoning independence, my constant pushing for more freedom, leave her crying into her pillow at night…hoping that she was doing the right thing by allowing me the freedom I insisted I needed, while wishing I wanted her just a bit more? Did she think that maybe what I wanted was opposite of what I was saying, but didn’t know how to give it without disrespecting my autonomy?

At my wedding in 2010

At my wedding in 2010

Am I repeating my own mother/daughter history?

Will my daughter spend a chunk of her womanhood feeling about me the way I felt about my mother?

I wish I knew the answers to these questions. The only thing I know, for certain, is that the love a mother has for her daughter is fierce. And one must hope that this fierce love is enough.

Missouri Legislature Works Against Women, Families and Midwives….AGAIN.

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Today is my day “off”. I have nothing on my calendar and was looking forward to spending some leisurely time with my family. Unfortunately, the MO legislature has different plans. Be prepared, I am angry. I am angry that I watched families all over the state work FOR YEARS to get midwives decriminalized and instead of being able to enjoy that victory, these families have had to waste their time, energy, and money to fight back bad bills year after year. I am angry that the people who were elected to represent us, who get paid  to represent us, are doing exactly the opposite. The homebirth families aren’t up at the Capitol, asking to be saved. On the contrary, we’re busy having our babies safely at home with lovely midwives and want nothing more than to be left alone. When you throw in the added insults of this bill being sponsored/cosponsored by ONLY women and knowing that there is a perfectly acceptable licensure bill that actually does what the legislators say their ridiculous bill will do (BUT IT DOESN’T), it’s pretty damned hard not to get irate. If you ever wondered why I get angry at our state government, at our legislators, this is it! It’s very simple…do the job you were elected to do, nothing more, nothing less.

Jumping off the soapbox of why I’m angry and onto the soapbox of details, here you go:

Representative Diane Franklin, along with fifteen female cosponsors, filed HB 2189, a bill which is eerily similar to the malpractice bill we saw last year (and the year before?) and vehemently opposed. Why is it back, you ask? One can only speculate…. WHY do legislators insist on wasting time and taxpayer dollars on a bill that does absolutely nothing for the citizens it supposedly protects and is woefully inadequate in terms of “protection”? Yes, “protection”. Apparently, we naive homebirth families need “protection” from these big, bad midwives.

That would be great and noble and stuff if only that were true. Guess what? There IS a bill that DOES the things supporters of HB 2189 say it’s supposed to do. That’s right! A comprehensive bill that was drafted with input from real, actual homebirth families. Can you imagine? Citizens having a say in the law??!! So why isn’t HB 1363 being supported instead? Again, one can only speculate….

One can only speculate that if midwives are licensed, they will be covered by insurance. If they get insurance coverage, more families might choose to have their babies with them. If more families choose to have their babies at home with midwives, hospitals lose money. When midwives were decriminalized, there was a legal pushback. A lawsuit was filed by the Missouri State Medical Association. Do you see where I’m going with this?? I distinctly remember an early trip to the Capitol where a legislator sat behind his desk and said to the two of us homebirth moms, “I’m just worried about how much money this would take away from my doctors.” Now, please understand, I’m not saying doctors themselves are to blame. What I’m saying is follow the money. Birth is a money machine. Unless you’re a midwife! Midwives strive to keep their fees, usually paid out-of-pocket, reasonable for families. Sometimes they even barter for goods/services to help a family out.

My husband says I should stop here before I go on a tirade. I think we need a tirade! My three home-born kids are giggling and calling to me from their hiding spot in the bedroom as I type….I think about each of their births, about the midwives who attended them. I think about the care I received: loving, supportive, empowering, evidence-based AND competent.

One of my favorite photos from my last son's birth.

One of my favorite photos from my last son’s birth.

 

I think about how the midwives I know are some of the most skilled, most compassionate, most hard-working, most trustworthy women I know. I think about how they set up a grievance board and regulatory structure (accountability!) without a law saying they must do so. I think about the peer reviews that are conducted, the educational topics they have at every. single. meeting.

In the end, I guess what I’m trying to say is: let’s call a spade a spade. Legislators, be honest that you’re not at all interested in protecting women and their families. If we, the people, can see HB 2189 is not about protecting us, then surely you can too. IF you care about protecting families, listen to the people. They have spoken, and continue to speak, LOUDLY about what they want. Do the job you were elected to do.

Are you a voting citizen in MO? Are you frustrated by this turn of events and want to do something? See below!

REMEMBER….This is not just about midwifery, it’s about YOUR elected officials representing YOU, something YOU ARE PAYING them to do!

Dear Supporters of Missouri Midwives,

House Bill 2189 was recently filed. It is a one-item bill that requires midwives to furnish proof of one million dollars worth of malpractice insurance. If proof of insurance is not supplied prior to provision of midwifery services, a midwife will be guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

HB 2189 (http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HB2189&year=2014&code=R)

The Missouri Midwives Association and Friends of Missouri Midwives oppose this bill for the following reasons:

The proposed legislation is not practical and simply will not work.

1. Very few companies provide malpractice insurance to midwives. Insurance coverage is generally not available to those who practice in the home setting. Of those companies that offer malpractice coverage, insurance policies in the amount of “one million dollars” simply do not exist.

It might seem, then, that the solution would be to amend the malpractice insurance requirement to an amount that would be offered to midwives. This still would not address the issues of midwife accountability and safety in home birth as discussed below.

2. No other health care provider in Missouri is required by law to obtain malpractice insurance in the amount of $1,000,000. For example, physicians are required to have malpractice insurance of $500,000 under certain population conditions. (Statute 383.500)

3. Health care professionals who carry malpractice insurance are licensed. They are able to receive insurance payments for their services which creates the ability to afford malpractice insurance required for employment. The first step is to bring midwives to the same legal standing as other health care professionals through licensure and require insurance reimbursement for their services. This will help home birth families afford midwifery services and help midwives afford the professional requirements expected of other health care providers who are licensed.

4. HB 2189 unfairly targets midwives in an attempt to limit access to those health care providers and makes it difficult to continue the legal practice of midwifery. This discriminates against pregnant women and their families who desire these services and have the intrinsic right to the care provider and birth environment of their choosing.

5. Missouri has actually been limiting malpractice insurance payouts in the last two years. (HJR 45 proposes to amend the constitution to cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.) (See also: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/political-fix/caps-on-medical-malpractice-lawsuits-win-ok-from-missouri-house/article_6b5fcfd2-50ab-5e04-aff9-791797f61707.html)
This is from a concern that rising medical malpractice insurance premiums will drive doctors out of practice or encourage them to leave the state.

Clearly, there isn’t the same concern for midwives who may not be able to afford large insurance premiums since the pool of practitioners would be so small. Midwives might need to pass the cost of malpractice insurance on to home birth families making the already out-of-pocket expense of home birth completely unaffordable.

6. There is no practical enforcement plan in place for HB 2189.

7. Only one state in the U.S. requires malpractice insurance and that is Florida. Midwives are licensed in Florida, and the cost of insurance is subsidized by the state due to the small risk pool. Amount of insurance required is in amounts up to $300,000.

Other reasons HB 2189 is a bad bill:

HB 2189 does not provide a mechanism by which midwives can become registered, licensed, or otherwise known to the state of Missouri. It does not provide a means to confirm the fulfillment of educational and training requirements for midwives.

HB 2189 does not regulate the practice of midwives in any way. It does not address issues of accountability or responsible practice. It does not provide a board to direct scope of practice or designate rules and regulations to govern the practice of midwifery in Missouri.

HB 2189 does not provide a grievance process or case review mechanism.

HB 2189 does not address the issues of safety in home birth practice. There is nothing in the bill that will make the practice of midwifery in the home setting safer.

Malpractice insurance companies do not regulate midwives. They do not remove from practice midwives who act with negligence. There is no process outlined in this bill to determine if a midwife has been negligent.

Fortunately, midwives in Missouri do offer a grievance process and adhere to the practice standards set by the certifying agency NARM (North American Registry of Midwives). While there is already a high degree of professional accountability practiced in Missouri, this is because the state professional organization (Missouri Midwives Association) believes it is important and necessary for the professional practice of midwifery and not because the state has directed midwives to do so.

The state of Missouri has continued to be uninterested in working with midwives and home birth families to improve and safeguard the practice of midwifery.

Is there a better option? YES! HB 1363

Instead of HB 2189, we would like to suggest directing legislators to support HB 1363. This is a comprehensive midwifery licensing bill which does provide a mechanism for oversight and responsible, regulated practice. It also addresses the issue of malpractice insurance by requiring midwives to have coverage under the same conditions as physicians. It would also require Medicaid reimbursement for families desiring the care of Certified Professional Midwives and home birth.

HB 1363:

http://www.house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HB1363&year=2014&code=R

How Can I Help?

The bill has been assigned to the Health Care Policy Committee. Please check to see if you live in the district of one these legislators on this committee. If so, please contact him or her soon!

Also listed are the legislators who have signed onto HB 2189 as co-sponsors. If you are a constituent of one of these representative, please contact her.

If not, you are still free to write or call any of these representatives, but being a constituent will have more impact. Clicking on a name will take you to her page on the legislative website.

Contact your own representative and let them know what’s going on and your position on these matters. It is essential that legislators across the state hear from home birth families.

Please feel free to use any of the points mentioned above as ideas and starting points for your own conversations.

What’s next?

If you would like to come to the capitol to meet with your state representative and do some lobbying, but don’t know quite where to go or what to do, please contact Dawn Finney at dawnmfinney@gmail.com . The MMA maintains a weekly presence at the capitol and either Sarah Davis or Dawn Finney, the co-legislative chairs for the MMA, can arrange to meet you at the capitol and help you get around and visit your representatives and senators. The capitol is a beautiful building with interesting museum displays, and it really makes a great family day trip to see the capitol and legislative system in operation.

Health Care Policy Committee Members:

Last Name First District Party Phone Room

Chair:

Frederick Keith 121  Republican 573-751-3834 403B

Vice chair:

Franklin Diane 123 Republican 573-751-1119 206B

Members:

Cross Gary L. 035 Republican 573-751-1459 112
Hodges Steve 149 Democrat 573-751-4085 101C
Kelly Chris 045 Democrat 573-751-4189 106B
Kirkton Jeanne 091 Democrat 573-751-1285 135BC
Morris Lynn 140 Republican 573-751-2565 200BC
Neely Jim 008 Republican 573-751-0246 115C
Neth Myron 017 Republican 573-751-1218 408B
Pace Sharon 074 Democrat 573-751-4726 105G
White Bill 161 Republican 573-751-3791 407A
Wood David 058 Republican 573-751-2077 115A
HB 2189:

Last Name First District Party Phone Room

Sponsor:
Franklin Diane 123 Republican 573-751-1119 206B

Co-Sponsors:

Crawford Sandy 129 Republican 573-751-1167 302-1
Solon Sheila 031 Republican 573-751-8636 305B
Lichtenegger Donna 146 Republican 573-751-6662 314
Entlicher Sue 128 Republican 573-751-1347 207A
Lauer Jeanie 032 Republican 573-751-1487 412C
Haefner Marsha 095 Republican 573-751-3762 305A
Swan Kathryn 147 Republican 573-751-1443 115I
Mims Bonnaye 027 Democrat 573-751-7639 116-3
Nichols Mary 072 Democrat 573-751-1832 105H
Zerr Anne 065 Republican 573-751-3717 315
Black Linda 117 Democrat 573-751-2317 105F
Englund Vicki 094 Democrat 573-751-3719 135BB
Newman Stacey 087 Democrat 573-751-0100 101K
Brown Wanda 057 Republican 573-751-3971 412B

 

 

Why I Share

Because sometimes this life makes me feel like this:

LesleeAnd sometimes it makes me feel like this:

ColinAnd then sometimes it makes me feel like this:

meI share because it feels important to me to be real and authentic. I have received comments before about being put together or some such and I want to always be sure to be honest that there are many days I think I’m going crazy. This life is fluid. It has amazing highs and incredible lows, sometimes all in the span of an hour. I feel guilty, I feel proud, I feel inspired, I feel humbled…the list goes on. And, I want to share that. I want to give a true portrait of what my parenting life (or my life in general) is like. Sometimes it is beautiful and loving and poignant. Other times it is harsh and angry and loud.

In my community, I see mothers from all over the spectrum of philosophy that have great triumphs and great sorrow. I want them all to feel as though they are not alone. I want them to know that I see how hard it can be, or how easy it can be. I understand that it’s never the same and that none of us is perfect all the time.

At LLL yesterday, we were talking about guilt. So much guilt. Let’s start right now and let go of that! Guilt isn’t helping us be better. It’s strangling us. It’s keeping us caught in the “shoulds” and “coulds” and “what ifs” and “if onlys”. Screw that! Let’s live and love and everything in between, and know that it is all a part of being human, learning, evolving.