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Series: How Welcoming Is Your Childbirth Class To All Families? A Lesbian Couple Share Their Experience

Guest post by Cathy Busha, MSW

This post is the first in an occasional series on CBE teaching strategies that embrace the diverse populations that take childbirth classes.  Childbirth educators that want to welcome all families to their classes will find information and resources in the series for making their classes a positive place for all.  The second post in the series, to be posted on Thursday, will offer insights on specific things that educators can do, from a LCCE and lesbian mom.  Please welcome this guest post by Cathy Busha, MSW. – SM

My partner and I are expecting our first baby in July; she is carrying.  To prepare, like many first-time expecting parents, we signed up for a birth class offered through our insurance. Rather than seek a private class, it felt important to us to attend this class because 1) it’s free and our budget is tight 2) it’s at the hospital where we are having the baby and 3) from a social change place, I believe in integration not segregation; the birth class that is offered for everyone should be welcoming and have information inclusive of us, too.

While I have not experienced overt homophobia during our pregnancy, as the non-biological mom, I have experienced moments of invisibility. For example, when we found out we were pregnant, a well-meaning friend said, “Congrats! Anna is going to be a mom!” I didn’t know if the educator or our classmates would have judgment or visible discomfort about two women having a baby. While the advertisements for the class talked about partners, all the images were of heterosexual couples. As a genderqueer lesbian, I had some nervousness about attending the class.

My partner is a Lamaze certified childbirth educator, so I have learned a lot about the birth process through conversations about her work. That said, it felt important to me that we take a class together – to make sure I had a strong foundation of understanding of the birth process and how to support her. While we had been watching videos together at home, I wanted to take a class with her so we could learn, talk about the information and create our birth plan together, as a couple.

LGBT News, Facebook 2012

As I’ve explored books and blogs and birth websites, it seems the birth world, like the rest of the world, is hyper-heterosexist with rigid gender roles. Heterosexism assumes that everyone is straight: there are no pictures or stories of lesbian births on mainstream birth websites. At best, the word ‘partner’ is used, but all images, examples and stories are of straight couples.  I have grown weary of having to translate my role (non-biological mom) from mainstream books, videos and materials that assume all families are one man, one woman.

As for gender roles, on birth websites, women are portrayed with long hair, flowy white dresses, surrounded by flowers, brimming with nurturing instincts. Men, on the other hand, are described as bumbling, strong, masculine providers who may or may not know how to hold a baby or change a diaper, but patiently suffer through their wives’ crazy cravings and mood swings. I don’t identify with either of these paradigms and wondered how I would fit into the birth class we had chosen to take.

I fully anticipated that we’d be the ‘token’ lesbians in the birth class and I was right; however, there was also a single woman in our class who attended with her best friend.

Our childbirth class was two Saturdays with two different and wonderful educators.  As they taught us about the “stages and phases,” I felt affirmed and included when the educators said statements like:

  • “…partners are continuous labor support for the mom…”
  • “…a doula helps the woman and her partner through the birthing process…”
  • “…research shows that just holding your partner’s hand during contractions has strong emotional and physical results…”
  • “…it is important to start talking to your baby now – the baby can also hear the partner’s voice…”

Then I realized that while both childbirth educators went out of their way to talk about the birth mom and partner, I felt empathy for the single mom — the word partner rendered her and her friend invisible.  I wondered how can educators honor and include everyone in the room?

While our educators clearly tried to use inclusive language like partner there were still comments such as:

  • “…you fathers will also produce high levels of oxytocin during birth…”
  • During hand massage training, “…most of you guys in here have bigger hands then your partners…”
  • and “…when the baby is born, everyone wants to look at it and figure out – does the baby look like mom or dad?”

We also did a break-out session,  where the pregnant women made a list of what would be helpful from their support person during labor; we support people left the room and were asked to also make a list of what we thought would be helpful for us to do. When we returned to the room to share our lists, the educator said, “Dads – let’s hear your list,” which made the best friend and me invisible again. It felt hurtful and dis-empowering for the educator to use the word “dads,” particularly after working in our small group – where I felt very included and acknowledged by the other support people. It’s no surprise to me, but in working through this exercise in our small groups, it became clear that as support people, our hopes and fears for the birth process were exactly the same.

In the class, we practiced massage, counter-pressure and other comfort measures. My partner and I are very comfortable in public with our sexual orientation/gender identities. As I rubbed her back, I wondered how comfortable this activity might be for a lesbian couple who was less ‘out’ or if someone in the room was openly homophobic.

Overall in the class, I felt we were acknowledged and accepted by the educators and classmates; however, all the videos, print material and photos were of straight couples. It would have been validating to see even one same-sex couple depicted. While childbirth educators should check out the Family Equality Council or Gay Parent Magazine to learn more about the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) community, the assumption that pregnant women “must be in relationship with a man” is what needs to change. Queer families are not the only non-traditional family structures that have been increasing; the solo parent (aka Single Mothers by Choice) community is a growing and vibrant one, too.

Overall, the class was a positive experience for my partner and me. I feel more knowledgeable and prepared to support my partner through childbirth. It may have been easier for us to take a private class, but it was more important for us to connect with other families and develop a sense of community. In meeting our needs, we believe we also helped break down stereotypes and increased awareness. I am eagerly counting down the weeks until I can put into practice everything I learned in class and help my partner birth our baby.

A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Cathy Busha is a Human Services/Social Work Faculty member at a community college in Salem, Oregon. A former middle school English teacher and high school basketball and track and field coach, Cathy has a Master’s of Social Work degree from Arizona State University.  The focus of her work includes diversity/inclusion, organizational development and multi-issue community organizing, particularly LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people of color, youth and immigrants. Cathy and her partner moved to Oregon from the Boulder, Colorado area this past August and are expecting their first child in July. She welcomes all parenting advice. She can be reached at cbusha@hotmail.com.

 

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Series: Welcoming All Families, Uncategorized , , , , , ,

  1. avatar
    Tory
    June 5th, 2012 at 08:17 | #1

    I appreciate this article as a way to inspire discussion among LCCEs, so thanks for addressing this important and relevant issue! However, I don’t think we need to necessarily change the way the classes are taught. What I mean is, what percentage of the class was heterosexual couples? I think we should teach to the majority while including the minority, as with the single mom example as well. But I don’t think we should change all of every class to accommodate the minority, although we definitely need to include everyone’s “special needs,” and each couple is different!

    Childbirth educators will always be teaching someone with a uterus how to birth a baby with the help of a “partner” who will support them! That is our common denominator when trying to serve our clients.

  2. June 5th, 2012 at 10:30 | #2

    As a lesbian interested in natural birth, I naively assumed that natural birth and inclusiveness went together. My partner and I chose a small practice of midwives with really impeccable skills and experience. While we ignored the early signs that they were not entirely comfortable with us, this discomfort really became a problem as I experienced serious complications in the pregnancy and we both needed a higher level of emotional support, which the midwives did not provide.

    Our high risk OB ended up being the model of positive care, compassionate and emotionally present, with an understanding of specific health issues we might be dealing with as lesbians(induced lactation, post-partum sex). Unfortunately think it’s unrealistic to expect that all care providers/educators will be comfortable with LGBT clients, however, I think it is reasonable to expect that providers will 1) educate themselves 2)examine their own concerns/biases/fears and think honestly about what level of care they are willing/able to provide.

  3. June 5th, 2012 at 10:35 | #3

    Great article. I have taught many lesbian families, and when I, too, realizes there weren’t any good resources for 2 moms, I created one-”Mothers and Babies: Lesbains Creating Families.” You can see clips at birthtalk.com/media/video.
    One of the most important things I’ve learned is that the mom who isn’t carryIng is mom, too, and needs to be recognized as such.
    I agree that cbes need to be inclusive of all families, and “partner” works for me. It could mean dad/partner, friend/partner, mom/partner etc. Don’t be afraid to ask how someone would like to be addressed.

  4. June 5th, 2012 at 10:38 | #4

    This is why I used to offer a class specifically for lesbian couples. It isn’t just about changing language. There also has to be some acknowledgement that the non-bio mom/parent has no genetic connection and therefore acknowledge the other ways of connecting. And that men and women ARE different. In my classes, I also allowed space for the couples to talk about the conception process if they wished and what the birth process might look like in a hospital setting (since the non-bio mom always gets passed off as a sister or doula until everyone is made aware, which can be awkward) It’s about teaching labor support for a person that may be smaller than the non-bio mom. Showing videos that portray lesbian couples or other family structures (there is one. I have it.) I wished someone would have taken over teaching my class when I stopped but nobody ever did. I wish I had more hours in my day and the resources to continue because I still feel like it is an underserved niche and needs to be addressed.

  5. avatar
    Meghan
    June 5th, 2012 at 11:18 | #5

    Tory, inclusiveness doesn’t mean only changing nouns. By “teaching to the majority”, lesbian women, single women, women who have used ART and may have a partner not biologically related to their baby, women who are planning an adoption, are minimized and told that we are not important, because there aren’t as many of us. It essentially replaces woman-centered care with majority rule. By centering the class on heterosexual norms, those norms are reinforced and those who do not conform to them are placed as “other”. Instead of individualizing teaching, it’s stigmatizing these families as “different”. Why should birth classes parrot the power structure? Isn’t part of the idea of unmedicated birth to challenge structure?

  6. June 5th, 2012 at 11:34 | #6

    Thanks for this post. You reminded me that, just as I have a listed resource for multiples and women of color, I should probably share a suggested resource or two about lesbian/gay parenting and conception via reproductive technology. Should probably try to find a good birth video of at least two women, preferably lesbians, for when they might take my class. I live in a small university community so I have some but limited need for this. I try to always say mom and birth partner — about one/fourth of the birth partners are not the husband in my classes — boyfriend, mother of mom, sister, cousin, even a dad of the mom. Thanks again for the blog.

  7. avatar
    Christine
    June 5th, 2012 at 12:47 | #7

    Thank you for this article. I am going to be doing my Lamaze Instructor training in the Summer and I want to ensure I make everyone feel comfortable. My initial thoughts were single moms, but of course gay/lesbian parents as well! I wonder if there would be enough lesbian couples in my area to do a class for them though…. Will have to look into that. And I will keep in mind the pictures, movies that are shown and see what is out there. I don’t think that because the norm probably is mom/dad couples, that mom/mom couples should be made to feel uncomfortable in a prenatal class.

  8. avatar
    Angela
    June 5th, 2012 at 12:51 | #8

    This is a great article and I appreciate your information. I am an LCCE. I also have a sister who is a lesbian and have gay/lesbian friends. My children are not being raised with the same prejudices that I was raised with. They believe its totally normal that their aunt has a girlfriend or that their dad’s best friend, Mike is married to another Mike. But, however enlightened and sensitive I may be with the definition of family, I still struggle with being inclusive in a class setting.
    I have taught many classes with lesbian couples and single moms and I think they are usually pretty happy with the classes, I even continue to correspond with some of them after the babies are born, but I have had a few comments that the class was “biased toward heterosexual couples or not sensitive to single parents”.
    Most of the time, however, my classes consist of heterosexual couples and I do get comfortable referring to “dad” as the support person. Like you said in your class, most of the time the instructor used the term “partner” but the few times she said “dad” made you feel invisible. When I have single moms or lesbians in my classes, I try to be inclusive by using “partner” or “support person” and when I am aware of the support person’s relationship, I will acknowledge that. For example, “your sister can go with the baby to the nursery” Once I referred to a woman’s partner as “mom” and discovered she was just a friend filling in for the dad! But how do I acknowledge the dads and their unique relationship to the child without offending single moms or lesbian couples? Is it OK to say dad sometimes or not at all?
    And as far as single moms go, childbirth is an intimate experience and sometimes we discuss sex or nipple stimulation as aids/alternatives to labor induction. It is not always possible to completely ignore the fact that most couples are in an intimate relationship with their partner. I’d love to hear your feedback and am looking forward to the next article. Thank you!

  9. avatar
    Angela
    June 5th, 2012 at 12:53 | #9

    Here is a DVD that includes a lesbian couple who choose to have a homebirth. http://www.itsmybodymybabymybirth.com/Home.html

  10. June 5th, 2012 at 14:12 | #10

    Thank you for this article. It’s so important to have truly inclusive classes. Is there a way to advertise, or to mention that classes are inclusive? How do we, as educators, let LGBTQ families know that our classes are open to them?

  11. June 5th, 2012 at 17:02 | #11

    Tory :

    I appreciate this article as a way to inspire discussion among LCCEs, so thanks for addressing this important and relevant issue! However, I don’t think we need to necessarily change the way the classes are taught. What I mean is, what percentage of the class was heterosexual couples? I think we should teach to the majority while including the minority, as with the single mom example as well. But I don’t think we should change all of every class to accommodate the minority, although we definitely need to include everyone’s “special needs,” and each couple is different!

    Childbirth educators will always be teaching someone with a uterus how to birth a baby with the help of a “partner” who will support them! That is our common denominator when trying to serve our clients.

    Thanks for your comments, @Tory. I think that with some thought and intention, it is possible to create classes that accommodate all, so no one needs to feel marginalized, or in “the minority.” When a class is meeting the needs of all the participants fully, then we can offer families an opportunity to move into parenthood with confidence and we are giving them tools and skills to make the best decisions for their birth and early parenthood, setting them up for success. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and discussing this blog post. I appreciate it!

  12. June 5th, 2012 at 17:14 | #12

    Deena Blumenfeld RYT, RPYT, LCCE :

    Thank you for this article. It’s so important to have truly inclusive classes. Is there a way to advertise, or to mention that classes are inclusive? How do we, as educators, let LGBTQ families know that our classes are open to them?

    @Deena, great question! Check out last week’s blog post by Robin Weiss, “Lamaze Connections” on how to update your profile and include personal information on the specific classes you teach! This information may be available to the public searching for a class, (I still need to play around with mine more!) and also, you can have pictures on your website that reflect the populations you serve, or even a statement that says that your classes welcomes LGBTQ families, or all families etc. Maybe even a rainbow flag or other image that is a common symbol indicating all families welcome. Certainly, maybe advertising in magazines or on websites that are geared for LGBTQ families, or contacting the HCPs that work with those families who may be conceiving through ART to let them know you serve all families? Just some brainstorming ideas! Thanks for participating in the conversation!

  13. June 5th, 2012 at 17:15 | #13

    @Angela I love this DVD! Thanks for sharing a great resource!

  14. June 5th, 2012 at 17:17 | #14

    @Angela Great questions Angela! What a good conversation this could be! I invite CBEs and others to share their suggestions and ideas to help answer your questions. Folks, let us know how we can do better for all!

  15. June 5th, 2012 at 17:19 | #15

    Ami Burns :

    Great article. I have taught many lesbian families, and when I, too, realizes there weren’t any good resources for 2 moms, I created one-”Mothers and Babies: Lesbains Creating Families.” You can see clips at birthtalk.com/media/video.
    One of the most important things I’ve learned is that the mom who isn’t carryIng is mom, too, and needs to be recognized as such.
    I agree that cbes need to be inclusive of all families, and “partner” works for me. It could mean dad/partner, friend/partner, mom/partner etc. Don’t be afraid to ask how someone would like to be addressed.

    thanks @Ami, for sharing your resources!

  16. June 5th, 2012 at 17:21 | #16

    @Mary I am glad that you found a sensitive and caring provider who met your needs. It can make all the difference.

  17. avatar
    Kyla
    June 5th, 2012 at 18:35 | #17

    I don’t think the entirety of a class should be changed because of the “exceptions.” I believe the default is (and in the majority of the cases) mom and dad. I think if you want the word “dad” to be changed to “partner” then go ahead and make that change. There are many dads out there who are insulted to be called the “partner” rather than their child’s father. I don’t think it should be taken away from them because of a smaller population of people who attend childbirth classes.

  18. June 5th, 2012 at 19:14 | #18

    I am one of the two instructors for the class that Cathy writes about. The other instructor is male, and we are both ICCE’s. I appreciate Cathy’s comments on what worked, and where we can improve at being inclusive. As a CBE for the past 10 years, and a doula for 16, I can say that my goal is always to make the participants in my class feel comfortable, and accepted. This hasn’t always happened, and for that I’m sorry. When teaching for a large hospital we are directed to deliver “consistant messages”,not vary from the curriculum, make the class fairly generic, all the while trying to teach evidence based information. I believe that many private, community based classes are better able to shift class structure, and/or content, to include those who don’t “fit the norm”.
    The norm in most hospital based classes is mom/dad. It’s not an excuse, but when you teach class after class, for months that only have hetero couples in attendance, it can be difficult to always remember to change your language, and activities to make sure you are being inclusive. I think it easy to teach on “auto pilot” and it’s tough jump into gear suddenly when you meet a new class that very diverse. As a conscientious teacher, who is very comfortable with the LGBTQ community, I try my best to get it right. Sometimes, it’s not good enough, and I know I will always have the opportunity to learn how to be a better teacher for all.
    As I said, Cathy’s comments are very helpful to me as I work towards expanding my teaching abilities. She and her partner were wonderful to have in my class, and I thank them. Can’t wait to here about baby’s arrival.
    I am also retiring from teaching at this large hospital. I will continue to be a birth doula and a private educator. I feel I will be more able to prepare women for birth, teaching outside the confines of a large institution.
    Everyone’s comments have be excellent and thoughtful. Good conversation.

  19. avatar
    Cathy
    June 5th, 2012 at 19:42 | #19

    Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I’m glad the post has created engaging dialogue.

    From my perspective, in a birth class, educators should only use the phrase ‘support person.’

    Using ‘default’ and ‘majority rules’ logic (ie using “Dads” in a birth class) leaves a lot of people out and is hurtful to someone like me — a biological father is no more a parent than I am, so why not have language that honors and includes us both?

    “Support person” clearly defines our task in regards to childbirth – to completely focus on how to be positive, steady, and encouraging to the laboring woman. While I will be an equal mom and parent to our child, in the birthing process, I am a support person.

    “Support person” doesn’t privilege relationship status; in a birth class, a person’s role in creating the baby or what that role will be after the baby is born is irrelevant.

    When birth educators stop using language that assumes everyone in the room has a partner (LGBTQ or straight), it liberates us all to focus on our behaviors (support) rather than identities (dad, non-bio lesbian parent, best friend, etc).

    Dads and non-biological moms who want to be recognized in those roles/identities can take a parenting class — a birth class is all about supporting the pregnant woman.

  20. June 5th, 2012 at 20:59 | #20

    “As for gender roles, on birth websites, women are portrayed with long hair, flowy white dresses, surrounded by flowers, brimming with nurturing instincts. Men, on the other hand, are described as bumbling, strong, masculine providers who may or may not know how to hold a baby or change a diaper, but patiently suffer through their wives’ crazy cravings and mood swings.”

    So true!!! Can we please have better representation of pregnant women. If I see one more picture of a belly-rubbing, horizon-gazing, pregnant woman, I’m gonna loose it (not that it should never be portrayed, just not ALWAYS). So in all the pregnancy books I own, I draw big tattoos on the women’s arms and a lip rings here and there. It’s good for sanity.

  21. June 6th, 2012 at 06:55 | #21

    I was a birth educator back in 1975 in an area where LaMaze was unheard of. For five years I was the only educator in an area of several counties. In posting the graphic picures of the type of coupls there are. It remindned me of my own childhood. My parent after my mother died in childbirth was my grandmother, then my aunt and uncle who took over my care and who I thought were my biological parets. Also my bio dad who was always around (I had two dads). I argued that with my second grade teaches who saw it was futle to argue with a six year old.. When my brother and I were older Dad took us places and enjoyed time with us. So families too can be grandparents or an aunt and uncle (my uncle passed when I was six) my aunt who raised me became a widowed aunt for four years. Later she remarried but her husband was more like a step father. Dad was still always around us as he lived near by. Dad took my brother to raise. Dad died when I was 13 and my brother a week short of 18. After dad died my family was my aunt and her husband. So many combinations that as long as there is love in the family and the child feels secure with what ever parent a child has. So not to worry if its two females or two males or a single parent no mater the relationshipi. No one cares about a Dad and Mom type of set up. There just has to be a kind loving person who gives of their time and workes to support the child. That is a family. If I had a lesbian couple they would have been treated the same as a heterosexual couple. But alas the time and being located in a small southern town it was a situation that never arose. If people are accepting of themselves as a two female couple or a two male couple, then those around them will also be accepting. Just be accepting of the educator if she refers to Mom and dad and not Mom and mom or dad and dad. I have a nephew who along with his partner adopted a baby. I think of them as mom and dad as one stays home to cae for the baby and the other works to support them. They are good parents and I would except nothing less. If a child is raised by two moms or two dad it does not matter. That has been happening since the begening of time. I have known two spinster aunts and a bachelor uncle took in 7 of their nieces and nephes to raise and did a good job at it. In the old days it was what ever the situation called for and no comment was made of it. I also have a grand daughter in law who I love and is a great mom and she has piercings and tattoos. So does my grandson and they are excellent parents. It is just the time we are in and what people do do not make them any less a parent.

  22. June 6th, 2012 at 07:12 | #22

    Thank you Sharon for such a great article and for raising such an important issue. I am a Lamaze Childbirth Educator working in Australia and from the outset I wanted to establish a childbirth education practice that also addressed the needs of both same-sex couples and single mothers (either by choice or circumstance). While I totally understand and agree with your point about integration and not segregation, I also believe that had you been in a warm and supportive group of gay women, knowing the course had been structured specifically with you in mind, you would have been able to avoid those unfortunate moments when the educator forgot to use inclusive language. Unfortunately, we are all so conditioned to think of this stereotypical image of what constitutes a family, even though the reality is that society has been moving away from that image for years now.
    While I absolutely believe that less segregation is better, in this case I think it is warranted. I also teach a class for the Jewish community, including a women-only class for more religiously observant women who are not comfortable with men being around when such candid matters as childbirth are being discussed.
    As for single mothers-to-be, a huge part of what I stress in terms of the benefit of the course is that they have an instant support group postpartum and a “mums and bubs” group which is so critical for single mothers.
    Families come in all shapes and sizes and it’s about time we recognised this long before our babies are born.

  23. avatar
    Rachel
    June 6th, 2012 at 10:44 | #23

    What a lovely post. I took my first Lamaze class when I was a first-time mom-to-be with my close friend since my husband was in Iraq. I remember so often feeling like the exercises were not for me – especially the ones that had us massaging each other or holding and rocking each other – which seemed too intimate for me and my friend (even though we would do some of this in labor!). Now as a Lamaze instructor, I try to be sensitive to this and always refer to the “support partner.”

  24. June 6th, 2012 at 12:09 | #24

    Great conversation! I truly appreciated this dialog as a mental health professional who strives to be inclusive!

  25. June 7th, 2012 at 08:05 | #25

    Thank you for this series and conversation. Language is an important indicator for how we perceive and express our world. I think we forget that it is a living thing, language…and that we need to tend to it, change it, and create it as if it were a process, not an object.

    I am so happy to see this series. Bravo!

  26. June 7th, 2012 at 14:00 | #26

    I have mixed feelings about this. As a lesbian midwife with a transman partner (who had a baby and co-breastfed with me 26 years ago), I certainly understand the need for inclusiveness in language. But, trying to get it right *all the time* is impossible and pretty rude to expect the speaker to do so.

    I have mobility issues and recently took a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course where some yoga was a part of our meditation. I am unable to do many of the yoga moves and so sat out those portions. When the instructors were telling the class how to do the yoga, they did not say, “And if you’re sitting, do this.” They’d already said, “Modify the movements to your body” and that was enough. I would have felt extremely uncomfortable if they kept addressing me in particular.

    So, maybe a CBE could say at the beginning of each class something like, “I try to be inclusive with my language, but will miss sometimes. Please know you are not an oversight. Know that you who are not the mainstream are just as important as the others in the class. I will do my best to be inclusive, but I’m sorry if I miss the mark sometimes.”

    I do *not* think that saying “Support Person” is the proper way to avoid marginalizing. Support person is minimizing the role of the parent, of whatever gender or sexuality. Perhaps changing the language up… “Dads can go with the baby to the warmer,” and “The other mom can go with the baby to the nursery if there’s a cesarean” – like that. Maybe mixing up the nouns is more appropriate and inclusive.

    I want to say that, now that I am experiencing the transgender world, language is a HUMONGOUS deal in the GLBTQI community, one much more than in the mainstream world. Trying to be inclusive has gotten us people who don’t even relate to being he or she, but they/them/their (individuals, not groups). Imagine trying to be inclusive with pronouns in a class *they* are in! Sometimes people just need to chill and go with the flow. Not everything is an assault on their life(style). Not that CBEs and others in our world shouldn’t be aware and make the necessary changes, but it shouldn’t be the biggest deal in the world when someone makes a mistake.

  27. June 7th, 2012 at 16:12 | #27

    I’m a bisexual midwife in a committed relationship to another bisexual female; we have a bunch of kids and grandkids between us. I have also taught and trained a variety of subjects in a variety of settings for over 25 years. And I’m ordained in a mainstream denomination.

    I’ve done a lot of learning over the years about ways to engage, then ensure all learners in a class remain engaged. The primary point, for me, is to engage these learners as individual. I must remind myself to notice them, and to track their responses to what I am doing and saying. If I an focused on them, then I am far less likely to overlook the need for safety and belonging that all people have. Inclusive language comes naturally – because that woman, that Chilean, that Irish man are right in front of me, and I am speaking directly to them.

    Now, this means that I cannot be worrying about what comes next or which picture to show or whatever. Preparation is critical, so that my focus is on the learners, not the material. But that is how it should be, anyway, right? :-)

    It also means that I must be able to meet their eyes without flinching. My own prejudices and discomforts must be faced, admitted, and managed, so that I can look at each person of each color or ethnicity or religion with an open face and heart. But that is how it should be, also!

    Thank you for the article. This is a good conversation; although I suspect that the ones who would most benefit are least likely to be present. :-(

  28. avatar
    Katherine
    June 7th, 2012 at 17:23 | #28

    Nice post. Thanks for pointing out that single moms (by choice or circumstance) often feel the sting when it is assumed that they will have an intimate partner with them for the labor. When I talk to people about birth preparations or classes (I’m a doula, don’t teach, but am careful with my language), I will use “partner,” “support person,” and “family or friends” when talking about people who will be accompanying and assisting the mom during her labor. Really, even saying “husband” can be an erroneous assumption on the part of somebody talking about a man and woman who are having a baby together…

  29. avatar
    Dana
    June 13th, 2012 at 10:26 | #29

    One group that I noticed was really left out of the child birth/prenatal classes offered through the hospital in my area was adoptive parents. I’m not sure if your classes were specifically L&D but the series (of 6) offered through the hospital here focussed a lot on after the baby comes, so while an adoptive couple might not want to attend pregnancy and birth intervention classes, the other 3 which were on breastfeeding and newborns might be desirable. You also have the option of signing up for only the ones you want here, so you could completely skip a bunch of them.
    I do think that in general there is a lack of inclusivity in the way pregnant women are treated, not just their partners. Pregnant women are assumed to have certain feelings and instincts about parenting, and being pregnant. I know several people who’ve felt highly ambivalent about pregnancy and had few/no outlets to express those feelings, and going to classes that assume excitement can be detrimental.
    I guess my point is that the use of inclusive language surrounding “support person,” “partner,” or “birth partner” is a kindof a tip of the iceberg type thing.

  1. June 5th, 2012 at 06:14 | #1
  2. June 5th, 2012 at 11:00 | #2
  3. June 8th, 2012 at 06:01 | #3