Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grass Roots

My close friend and former Midwife Michelle, aka Kneelingwoman has written a wonderful post over on her blog. It really has me thinking about the state of grass roots movements, and where we are all headed as society. Do some movements, who were "grassroots" originally due to just being too radical or marginal or too small in numbers to be anything BUT very fringe, perhaps in the 60's or whenever, stand to benefit or be harmed ultimately by getting funded, supported or even, popular? My real-life experiences have shown me that, contrary to what my liberal heart would want to answer quickly (Funding! We need more funding! Fund everything! Support the people!) some stuff gets sullied, sanitized, changed, ruined, when it leaves the community level. This might sound and might be elitist, privileged, nit-picky, but it is what i have found to be true.

The real small stuff, the real community-level stuff is where the intrinsic goodness lies. The local midwife who delivered the 3 other ladies at your church's babies is better than the Big Birth Center with all its exciting jacuzzi tubs and hanging ropes. The group of 3 families that you and your kids grew up with is better than the 65 person field trip to the overcrowded cider mill with the homeschool support group you found online. Your 5 girlfriends sitting around nursing your babies, all different ages, talking about the real messy stuff, the real stuff, is better than the Lactation Class at the hospital.

Yes, better than. Better. But what about getting out the good word? What about those who dont have access to, due to financial constraints, social constraints, or bad luck, any of that, and them finding out about Homebirth, Homeschool, Breastfeeding "too late" and feeling so sad and left out--if only they had known, what about them?

I dont know. I guess we need many many grass roots movements. Tons and tons of them, all unique, all different, all serving the needs of their own specific communities, whatever those needs may be. But just broadly professionalizing/sanitizing/standardizing (the worst word of ALL) these things strips them of their very home-y-ness and real-ness and soon you get a midwife who "Isnt allowed to let you eat", or a homeschool group who "doesnt allow younger siblings", or a breastfeeding support group who never heard of anyone nursing triplets, or a kid after age 1 or 3 or nursing two kids when you are pregnant again, or whatever, and no you may not get up and tell us about it because you are not the Lactation Consultant.

Any experiences from any of you who have experienced this phenomenon, (did you have a great KoolAid stand and then when you opened your KoolAid store and chain of stores was there a loss of something intangible? Did your knitting circle get a little too stringent when its membership went from 3 to 75? Is it only natural to want a good thing to get bigger?)


Jill said...

Sure. Freestanding birth centers are a perfect example. In order to operate under the auspices of a nearby hospital, they are subject to hospital protocol. Only certain types of midwives can work there, the definition of normal or acceptable narrows and soon you have a birth center that only accommodates a small percentage of pregnant women. It's great for whom it works, but it dilutes the midwives model of care quite a bit.

Kelley said...

I'm think some things are better at a smaller level, and some things are fine at a bigger. I can't think of a lot of examples at the moment, but there are places for the small, intimate groups and places for the larger, more formal groups. Some larger groups, like LLL, work best in small groups though they are part of a larger whole. I think I'm going in circles, but I like the point you are trying to make.

Kneelingwoman said...

I think so much of it happens because people confuse the issue of "vocation" or, literally "what you are called to" with something they have to make money doing. I know, I know...midwifery is a demanding job with a lot of responsibility attached to it except the "original" homebirth midwifery "model" was about the parents taking responsbility for their pregnancies and births and the midwife was educator, support and facilitator; we helped the mother learn how to take care of herself so, in effect, as I always used to say "the Mom is the only direct care provider for her unborn baby". "Prenatal Care" was what the mom and family did in between visits with me. They made their "emergency back up plans". They bought their birth supplies. They read books and took my classes and learned everything about birth, the good, bad and ugly, so that they could make informed decisions. No one worried about being sued because they parents understood that this was their decision, their child, their birth! It was different.

As soon as people want to start "making a living" from their passions, something starts to change. I always made "something" from midwifery, but I could not support a family on what I made. I never intended to. I didn't do births on a quota system, always looking at how much money I needed to make that month. There is nothing inherently "wrong" with wanting or needing to make money as a Midwife but homebirth, as we've known it, is not the place for that because it's too much about relationship, friendship, trust, intimacy--you are attending a birth in someone's "HOME" and that has real, legal, moral and spiritual standing that cannot even equate with midwifery practices in another setting. It stands alone and trying to "morph" it into the "system" will change it because it would have to.

When we commit to "grass roots" we are mothers and midwives and families together. We help each other out with breastfeeding ( LLL is a great example Kelley ) and with each others' kids and we talk about marriage and family life and we work stuff out.

Find me a well funded "system" that does it better. Joy is spot on, dead on, right..ON!

Kneelingwoman said...

And thank you for the "spotlight" Joy-Joy! I love you.