It’s still a work in progress and undoubtedly will continue to be for a while, but the Project AfterBirth site is officially live as of today..
Somehow it only just occurred to me that the launch of the Project AfterBirth site coincides with the week in which my second child was born, two years ago now. I will never forget that on that day One World Birth’s revolutionary film ‘Freedom For Birth’ also premiered on over 1000 screens in 50 countries in 17 different languages. I remember so well because our poor doula was one of the wonderful people who had organised a screening of ‘Freedom For Birth’ and as a result had to dash straight to the art centre where it took place when she left us with our new baby at 8am in the morning after having been with us all night.
Beautifully in line with the premiere of ‘Freedom For Birth’ on that same day, 20th September 2012, my second birth was natural and took place at home. The strange thing is that I had still not got over the physical trauma of my first birth by then. An intense three day labour, most of which took place at home, had ended in a forceps delivery that left me with permanent coccydynia, chronic pain and on-going nerve damage. Yet somehow, none of this stood in the way of my body delivering another healthy baby at home two years later, just in time for our doula to arrive, but ten minutes too early for our midwife!
Naturally, my second birth was an overwhelmingly empowering and life-affirming experience. But over time, rather than having a healing effect on the memory of my first birth, it only seemed to magnify the horror of it. When I eventually started working again, there was little else I could think of or write about. I was not able to shake off the feeling that what had happened to my first-born and me had been needless and most importantly, part of a much bigger problem facing 21st century birth and early parenthood.
After completing a collection of (soon to be published) poems that form the heart of what has since become Project AfterBirth, I started researching the current state of birth and early motherhood in the West within the context of the media, the medical profession, maternal mental health, the advertising industry and women & gender studies. The question at the forefront of my mind was:
‘Why can women no longer trust their bodies to do what has come naturally to the majority of them since the beginning of humanity?’
Somewhere along the line, wonderful life-saving emergency options (for the 5% of cases where things don’t go ‘to plan), became the norm in birth and early motherhood. Babies now predominantly depend on synthetic powder food solutions for their survival, in the same way that most of their mothers now depend on hard drugs and metal instruments to bring them into the world. In England the number of instrumental births saw a 25% increase and cesarean births a 50% increase between 1991 and 2011, with the USA experiencing a 60% increase in cesarean births over the same period. At the same time, one in every eight women now seeks professional help for postpartum depression in the UK with similar figures in the USA, although many more are suspected to be suffering in silence in both countries. Suicide is the number one cause of maternal mortality in the UK, and believed to be second in the USA.
As a gender skeptic, I believe that there is only one thing which truly marks an intrinsic difference between people; the ability to give and nurture life. I believe this ability is the only natural (i.e. non-cultural) driving force behind some subtle but crucial variations in the mental, physical and emotional make-up of the two halves of humanity. Following this argument I feel that us losing this ability en masse cannot fail to have irreversible consequences for all of humanity. I certainly cannot think of any issue which needs attention more urgently.
Welcome to Project AfterBirth.