“Do you want to hold a sign with mama?” My eldest son, nearly four years old, smiled and his eyes lit up beneath his sweaty brow.
“I want the red one!”
The heat index had to be into the 100s, but that didn’t stop us. The Improving Birth Rally for Change was yesterday, Labor Day, all over the country. The Houston rally took place on the outskirts of Hermann Park, in the famed Med Center, directly across the street from Memorial Hermann Hospital and just a little ways down the block from Ben Taub.
“What does my sign say, mama?”
I glanced down to look and got a lump in my throat.
“It says ‘Fewer Inductions’, baby.”
My sweet boy.
Due January 2nd, 2009. Christmas had come and gone and I was antsy. Two days before the new year and my husband Eric and I were walking the mall, trying to “get things going”. My waters started leaking. We were so excited that we went to the hospital.
Six o’clock the next morning my wish for a natural birth was thrown to the side as I was told I was failing to progress after having broken waters for 12 hours. The induction started as I was hooked up to the Pitocin and not long after, given an epidural. Several hours later I was being yelled at to push and being threatened with a cesarean if I didn’t get it together and get the baby out. I couldn’t feel anything. The OB told me she was going to cut me, and did, despite me begging her not to. As I waited to hold my baby after his birth, I was told I was “lucky” he was born vaginally and to be grateful that I hadn’t had a c-section.
More and more women, men, and children gathered and pulled on their blue t-shirts emblazoned with “YOUR Body, Baby, Birth” and the pile of handmade signs grew smaller as they grabbed statements like “Respectful Maternity Care!” and “Evidence-Based Birth!” and took their places near the street. News cameras trickled in. Some of my birth worker sisters gave interviews that would be televised on the local channels. The air was hot and heavy but buzzed with peaceful yet powerful energy.
I held a sign reading “Know Your Options”, a stroller carrying my second son parked by my side. My home birth baby, born gently into my own hands in a warm pool of water in our living room. He tossed a toy onto the ground for the ninth or tenth time and giggled once again as I picked it up.
Then, we marched.
The contraction hit and I felt a pressure I hadn’t experienced before. I told my midwife I needed to push. My doula massaged me, and poured water on my lower back as I moaned that I couldn’t do it. “You can do it. You ARE doing it.” I panted, I cursed, and I roared. “Reach down and feel your baby!”
I gasped. Found the strength and pushed on. Pulled him up between my legs and onto my chest. The midday sun shone through our living room and sparkled across the water that held my son and me. I never knew I could feel so alive.
So hot. The tall buildings blocked the breeze but not the nearly noon-time sun which blazed down on us. Mothers, fathers, children. Women without children. Mothers holding their babies in slings, mothers holding their babies in their beautiful, round, pregnant bellies. Wise women. Midwives, doulas, all of us with the passion. In our own ways, we had learned the truth. In our little corner of the country and in every other state in the nation, we rallied for change.
And for as long as we need to, we will keep marching on.
The Improving Birth Rally for Change in Houston, Texas took place on September 3rd, 2012.
Go to the Facebook event page to see photographs of the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/204648366328712/
Check out some of the news coverage of the rally here: http://www.youtube.com/user/thehumbledoula