I’ve returned from Honduras, and am using an unexpected break to update the main Birthing Naturally website.  As I started, a funny thing happened – I realized how much my view of birth has been changed by my learning over the past few years.

It isn’t that I’ve suddenly changed my whole philosophy. It is that my understanding of the problems women face has been expanded.  Let’s face it, when you are an independent childbirth educator or doula you pretty much see one kind of woman – the kind who does research to make informed decisions and has enough freedom in her life to act on those decisions.  I was a little different in that I also worked with single women and teens.

But now, I’ve worked with women without access to basic health care; women who don’t know where their next meal is coming from; women without any understanding of how their body works – and this is all before I add what I’ve experienced when I travel.

This has had the effect of softening me.  I used to think I understood what women needed during pregnancy and birth, and the list was short because it reflected a culturally homogeneous group.  My lists are more flexible now.  I have less things I think a woman must do, and more things women might benefit from.

I am taking this as a sign of growth. How have your expanding experiences changed your perceptions of pregnancy and birth?

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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