Saturday, September 1, 2012

First Steps

The idea for the Iowa Birth Activists developed during a 12-hour car ride home from the 1st Annual Birth Activist Retreat in Summertown, TN.  The thought process went something like this for me (as it has been going for years...perhaps you can related).

"I'm so frustrated...."
"Something's got to give...."
"Someone should do something...."
"What?  What should be done..."
"Crap.  I think I'm that someone."
"What could I possibly do to make a difference?"
"Who would want to listen to me?"
"Well, doing something is better than nothing"
"Okay.  Fine. I'm going to start.....something."

Through hours of conversations, crazy big thinking, brainstorming, and several roadside stops to nurse my baby my driving companion and I had decided we were going to form a grassroots movement.  We were going to work to pull together our entire birth community from across the state.  No small feat. We wanted to work with all the special interest groups to form a larger body of people passionate about birth, about good outcomes for everyone, and about seeing change in how we do things in this state (and country).  We wanted to break through to reach out to consumers because we believe they are a major player in the mission towards change.

Well, that's all fine and good, but what is this group going to do?

While at the retreat we met a woman name Dawn Thompson from Improving Birth. She shared about a national rally that she was coordinating on Labor Day.  Why not start there?  Dawn and her team had already done so much leg work, created materials, and we ready to support various sites across the country.  Since we had just over 8 weeks to pull it off having that support and also knowing that we were going to be standing with others (across the country) sounded like a good plan.  It was a starting point.  So it was decided, we'd Rally for Change along with 1000s of others all over the country on Labor Day.

Why the capitol building?  This has been a big question and a good one.  There were several reasons for choosing this location.   First off we agreed that Des Moines was a good location simply because of its central location.  So, if we were going to be in Des Moines which hospital or location should we chose to be our site to rally for change?  We felt that we couldn't single out one hospital that was "worse" than any other and we also felt that making this distinction might divide people - we did not want to risk this division.  Secondly, we felt strongly that since this rally was only a starting point for the Iowa Birth Activists we did not want to launch our movement from a confrontational place.  Although, unquestionably our rally is planned to be a peaceful loving gathering - we know that being outside a hospital holding our signs about change could certainly be interpreted as confrontational. We decided that for right now we want people to know about Iowa Birth Activists and our mission and feel comfortable and safe in joining us.  Finally, we feel being at the capitol, even when no legislators are in session, makes a statement.  It says that we are not afraid to gather in such a public and political forum.  It also recognizes the importance of politics in this movement towards change.  In order for change to take place in birth it will need to happen at many different levels and on many fronts and the political front is certainly one of them.  As well it also lets the legislators know (because the press coverage will tell them) that we are not going anyway - we'll be here even when they are not.  We'll stand together and tell the truth about birth - whether thousands see us or just a few.  Because birth matters.

This is only the beginning, our first steps. 

~Mandi Hardy Hillman

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