“Maternity mortality has doubled in the past 25 years despite new technology offered to labouring moms. Birth by C-Section is 30-50 percent in many hospitals. The time is now for women to reclaim their wisdom-call it that, gut feeling, intuition, inner guidance-in order to give birth with power, pleasure and unharmed”. This statement is written by Karen Brody, founder/playwright of Birth, a play recently directed and produced by Fernie resident Tanya Malcolm.
Karen who resides in Washington DC made the trip to Fernie to attend the performances at the Arts Station Theatre and also to lead a “My Body Rocks” workshop at Essential Yoga Studio on Sunday, October 24. This was to offer “An opportunity for you to turn away from duty to others and focus on your responsibility to yourself. To take you on a powerful journey to tell your story and in the process find your true self, that voice inside of you that knows….. You Rock!”
Players were Tanya Malcolm as Lisa, Lisa Tessler as Nathalie, Kylie Rogers Walker as Sandy, Chelsea Breeze-Kent as Amanda, Virginia Robinson as Beth, Sonia Roy as Jillian and Jen Asselin as Janet.
The play was fast paced and well acted. Tanya is a natural born actor but the ease of presentation the other women had in the performance that was at times intense, at times comical was surprising but superbly done.
After the play was over a talkback panel that included Karen Brody, Angie Abdou, Dr. Mike Rumpel and Dr. Virginia Robinson took place at the Friday evening performance. Saturday’s performance panel included Carolyn Thibeault, Sivan Bar-Sever, Heather Stephens and Dr.Lisa Tessler.
Angie inquired how it was that Virginia could get up on stage, “the thought terrifies me” Virginia responded “that’s exactly why I do it”. She then added that she was glad to be a part of it, “we have certain biases we don’t even know exist, I have delivered babies all over the world, it’s a great honour”. Angie added that she had never acted but done lots of writing and that “this was a fantastic performance”.
Mike commented “I love looking after pregnant women and kids, it’s amazing to me, aside from being a father my wife’s deliveries are the closest to experiencing giving birth”.
Karen said she “wrote to give moms a voice”. She interviewed women who had given birth in the fifties and found it disturbing that they had gotten gassed and were chained to beds, knocked out, “we want healthy babies but also want healthy moms spiritually, physically, there’s issue of medicilizeation of births, we need to make the right choice, individuals are not being educated, I interviewed 118 women to write this play. The themes of women coerced are very similar in USA and Canada. We have to make people aware of childbirth today, I researched how women gave birth, some readily spoke, about home birth, tragedy, I tried to make it representative of what’s out there and added humour, it’s really much more serious than this play shows”.
Someone commented that the missing story in the play was of the “wonderful obstetrician”, why wasn’t it included in the play? Response, “I would love to find a way to honour ob’s that guide their patients to wonderful birthing experiences”.
Virginia and Lisa say they couldn’t foresee any of the women here saying those things in the play “here in Fernie we’re moving in the right direction”.
Karen said “Every community is different; this play has been performed all over the world, Paris, Winnipeg, St Louis, Montana, India”.
I found the stories of birthing in the play interesting. Having given birth four times with a general practioners each time I have to admit it never occurred to me that it should be any different. I thought it was a vast improvement on my mother giving birth in Italy at home attended by only a midwife and then here in Fernie having to spend over a month in hospital with her fifth pregnancy. Her first child died six hours after birth with the midwife but the hospital delivery survived despite complications.
Today women giving birth give a great deal of thought to this process, they seem to focus more on how to keep healthy during pregnancy, making sure they eat the proper foods, restricting what they drink, getting proper exercise. At age eighteen when I gave birth for the first time I had no idea that being pregnant was such a process. I ate what I could tolerate and what I craved, I walked everywhere, I never smoked, drank coffee or alcohol. I gained thirty- five pounds and delivered a five pound baby girl. With the fourth at age twenty-six, I gained eighty-five pounds and delivered a nearly nine pound boy. The difference being that with three small children under seven and what seemed the largest snowfall in Fernie’s history I spent most of my time indoors feeling sick and nauseaus. In the seventies I never heard anyone say your “Body Rocks” or that mothers took time to discover “themselves outside of the current role they play”. Women have come a long way yet here they are going back to the old way of doing things. They are fortunate to have the knowledge and ability to pick and choose what works for them and their bodies, luckier yet to have medical people that are educated in these needs and willing to work with them.
Congratulations to the entire cast of the play and everyone that made it happen, it was a wonderful experience to attend and to stay for the panel discussion.