Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Strategic Planning

      "Change is disturbing when it is done to us, but exhilarating when it is done by us!"

           I spent most of yesterday in a planning meeting discussing how we were going to build and sustain a comprehensive communty-based midwifery care & birth center.  A place that is accessible, culturally congruent and effective in nurturing family and community health.  Let me tell you...it was an amazing experience.  Imagine 10 to 15 motivated individuals discussing a "vision" and how we are going to get there.  It was a good mix of varies cultural perspectives with past and present philosophies converging on a project that is worth the time and effort.  What I loved most about this planning meeting was everyone's ability to think "outside the box." This kind of motivation and creativity is inspiring, as well as nurturing.  It  was good to know that despite the years of "internalized colonization," that our traditional knowledge and necessity to reinforce "community" was not lost.  We spent most of the day discussing barriers to birth center visions like ours and you would be amazed at what came up in our discussions.  Here is what we came up with...

Vision Wall

Blocking Progress..

1) Inability to hold/respect multiple world views alienates healthy relationships
2) Misogyny denies the divine feminine blocking harmony and spirituality
3) Fragmentation of spirit disconnects us and blocks healing.
4) Healthcare chaos blocks effective collaboration and nurturing care.
5) Culture of violence uses intimidation to block resources, creativity, and love
6) Addiction to consumerism creates insecurity, distracting us from our authentic self, empowerment and  meeting our real needs.
7) Institutional oppression replaces and suppresses critical consciousness.

       Before you begin to think that we are radicalists, let me explain something.  Native Americans in all parts of the country have experienced hardship and organized separation from their cultural knowledge.  Does the concept "Intergenerational Trauma" ring a bell?  I'm not going to go into the history of this,  I think that it's important to read up on our history, because it will help you understand why things are the way they are on our reservations.  From my perspective..alcoholism, sexual abuse, physical abuse, child abuse, depression, suicide, and devaluing of women are all outcomes of these past traumatic events.  I bring this up now, because we see what the issues are.  We want to try to make an effort to provide a space for change and healing.  Again..I realize healing and deciding to change is an individual choice, but it is possible.
      Okay..I'm going to go all out "midwife" here, but there is substantial cultural knowledge and scientific (for those of you who need hard evidence that this does occur), that a woman's emotions during pregnancy effect the fetus.  We are all well aware that what we eat during pregnancy effects the growth in our fetus's, but so does our emotions.  In our "Navajo Way"  we are not to see or say things negative while pregnant, because this will effect our child.  Recently, while attending a conference a physician presented evidence that this does happen. I can post the article's if you like.  My point is, change happens at conception.  I've always thought that each community should have a birth center, because their presences should be a health indicator of the community.  Because, really when things went way ....left field is when birth was taken out of communities.
         Our goal is to bring birth back to communities, while encouraging harmony, healthy relationships, and reinforcing our relationship with the land (which has sustained us despite how we continue to treat it). Indigenous people used to farm this land for food, but this has also gone by the way side.  If you can pull yourself away from the TV, you might notice that more communities are starting community gardens and there are more grants supporting farming projects that encourage teaching youth traditional agricultural practices.
          I think the time for healing and for regaining some of our indigenous "life ways" are returning.  I find myself surrounded by more and more individuals who are motivated and ready to get things going.  Which is why being apart of strategic planning meetings like this one feed my spirit.  I look forward to catching my first baby in this new birth center.

Espanola Valley Women's Health


  1. I'm a new reader to your blog Nicholle, and I am very excited to see where your journey takes you towards a birth center for the families of your community!

    (I'm a student nurse-midwife, up on the northeast part of the US.)

  2. Happy to see that you are interested! I think as a student, it's important to stay connected to things that keep you motivated and remind you why you are spending so much time studying towards your life's work. :)

  3. Thanks for your insights, courageous comments and committment to ongoing action towards creating this Birth Center to Espanola Valley communities. It was an honor to be a small part of this tranformational opportunity. Thanks for all you do. Bev

  4. Hi! I work in a rural hospital on vancouver island. So rural in fact, that women are not supposed to have their babies here. They're supposed to drive for two hours to the next major city centre (but ideally move there a couple of weeks before their due date.)

    Most of the women out here are First Nations (Native Canadian) and live an hour away or more by boat from our remote little hospital. Of course these women will not leave their home, their families, when they're 8.5 months pregnant, to go live in a hotel room in the city by themselves.

    Of course, babies sometimes happen here, as they tend to do. But the distressing part is that because they're not *supposed* to happen here, there is limited support for babies and mothers. No specialist. No nurse midwife. No emergency surgery if needed. We need a proper plan to bring birth back to our community.

    I look forward to reading your journal.

  5. I think you would enjoy this article http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Birthing+home+takes+village/3888724/story.html about the work being done to ensure that Inuit women in the far north don't have to go to the south to give birth.

  6. Avital, thanks for this article. I found it inspiring and an interesting read. When I talk about this vision of a birth center to friends, I'm always met with looks of concern. Like..is it safe?..How far will you be from a hospital. They just don't realize how many women actually die in a "safe" hospital from child birth. I realize some things are unavoidable and can have detrimental consequences,..i.e amniotic embolism. I think for Native American women, having the ability to birth in an environment that supports their beliefs and supports them as women, is necessary. Supporting our cultural knowledge about childbirth is vital to our social structure and needs to be reintegrated. Thank you for posting this article. Gives me hope, at which I have lots of..but more "evidence" that it's possible to birth outside a hospital in a safe way.

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