maureenMaureen Whitman

Hi Maureen, can you tell us a little about your background?
Certainly! I am the mother of three, an experienced childbirth educator, breastfeeding counselor and postpartum group facilitator and the founder of BirthPhilosophy.com. I became interested in pregnancy and birth at the same time most people do, when I became pregnant with my first.

Over the years I have been fortunate to be involved with organizations and individuals who believed that the more informed and educated a woman is about her pregnancy, the more satisfied she is likely to be with her decisions about her care– and that education needs to start well before she is pregnant. So I am working to extend and expand the conversation about birth and related issues to a non-traditional (not even remotely pregnant!) audience of young adults who are interested in a forum for study, advocacy, and peer-to peer sharing.

My certifications and experience are:
– Mother of three great kids ages: 19, 16 and 13
– Counselor, Boston Association of Childbirth Educators/Nursing Mother’s Council (BACE/NMC)
– BOLD Method Certified Birth Facilitator, The BOLD Method for birth
– Retired Leader/Regional Administrator, La Leche League International (1996-2010)

Can you discuss the genesis of BirthPhilosophy.com?
Birth Philosophy is a direct result of my own experience. As I mentioned, I have three children, and my oldest is now in college, but when we were pregnant with him, now almost 20 years ago, I knew so little about what I was getting into that at the time it was really unnerving.

I realized that I had this huge information gap, and the message coming from popular culture telling me how to prepare for pregnancy, how to have the baby, how to feed the baby, all of that – well, it didn’t ring true to me – it seemed more like marketing and less like sound advice. So I started looking around for better information, asking around to people I knew and trusted and they turned me on to a whole different way of approaching pregnancy and birth. BirthPhilosophy is my attempt to share with others who are interested in these topics some of the quality information, ideas, and philosophies that I know can be helpful to be aware of. Mainstream media and resources can often be lacking in this type of information. Plus, there is so much out there! It helps to have someone you trust point the way to what is available and why it is important.

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Think about it this way: our culture spends decades educating, coaching, and cajoling the next generation to prepare themselves and make the best choices for their education and careers (or even their weddings!). And that’s how it should be, as college and marriage are big life events. Yet for some reason we don’t really encourage young men and woman to talk about or learn much about birth until they see a positive pregnancy test. Most people will admit that 8+ months is often not nearly enough time to really learn about and make big decisions about how and where to give birth. Why are we waiting until the baby is so close to arriving to start digging in on what birth is really like so that women are confident and have a solid personal philosophy about the setting and approach to giving birth that is best for her? Men and women understanding (and maybe even seeing) normal and healthy pregnancy and birth, even years ahead of time, in a thoughtful considered way is, to my thinking, the best way to go. So I created a place where it is comfortable for young adults to study and learn about birth just like they would study economics or philosophy or history.

What is your philosophy regarding the birth process?
To me the cycle of pregnancy and birth like is tending a fire. A burning fire is a powerful life force that is key to survival. Yet, without one or more specific elements a fire cannot be sustained.

A fire needs

  • oxygen
  • heat
  • fuel

A powerful and positive birth is like that fire.

An experience that truly supports a woman in this important life cycle will have specific elements. A positive birth experience begins with:

  1. An awareness of your natural instincts (oxygen).
  2. Understanding of your own abilities (heat)
  3. A well-supported pregnancy and birth (fuel)

A woman who is able to experience birth in a self-affirming way is able to carry forward the power of that experience into other areas of her life, which is a really important concept to understand early on.

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Based on my postpartum counseling experience, I see that women will often change their approach from one birth to the next because they were not happy with how the first or second birth happened. Why not better prepare women and families well before they give birth the first time so that the opportunity for satisfaction can be maximized right from the start?

The sooner a woman is able to recognize and understand the significance of the birth experience and the potential power it has to fuel her in her mothering and beyond, the easier it is to uncover and harness the needed elements to start and keep that fire going. And if a woman is truly in charge of her own personal birth philosophy and makes her decisions from this solid ground, there is less likely to be lingering doubts or dissatisfaction, no matter what the birth ends up looking like. There are lots of options.

BirthPhilosophy.com sponsors a number of meet-ups. How do these work? Are they a part of a network?
There are few things more nurturing in this world than a group of women who are really invested and looking out for each other. We started doing meet-ups as a way for each of us to share what we know and to offer each other support. Social media is great, but when it is possible to get together in person and really get to see and hear where people are at, well, that’s the best.

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We get together once or twice a month or so and cover topics of interest to the group. Here is a link to a recap of one of the recent meetings that will give you a flavor of what they are all about:

http://birthphilosophy.com/category/blog/

You also offer mentoring and leadership services. Can you touch on them?
I really benefited from learning from other women and families when I was a young woman and mother and I still find situations where people are sharing thoughts and resources and encouraging one another to be really enriching. I realized that younger women, despite not yet being ready to start a family, still had quite an interest and curiosity about the topics of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding. and parenting. Birth Philosophy uses a discussion group format that invites in not only seasoned birth professionals and experienced mothers, but also students to participate.

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Both the in-person Meetups and online Birth Philosophy groups encourage this younger age range to learn, explore topics, and then, ideally, share what they know with their peer groups — either informally or in planned programming at their college or in their community. I can help with organizing or brainstorming content ideas for any type of outreach someone might like to do. Some of the students are interested in these topics because they are planning public health, nursing, nutrition, law or maternal and child health courses of study. Others feel drawn to become involved in the political and social aspects of birthrights in our country and globally. I have started featuring some of these amazing “Young Voices” on my blog. They have a lot to contribute and will really influence how things will be changed or improved in the future so I think it is important to engage them in the conversation with all of the rest of us who have long been working in this field.

Do you have a favorite herb that is used during the birth process?
Nettle and fenugreek seem to be popular for boosting milk supply for breastfeeding moms, but I’d have to say that raspberry leaf is my favorite. Drinking tea made from these leaves throughout pregnancy and throughout the pre- and post-natal year is really beneficial for so many reasons. Plus, tea just seems to be such a simple and nurturing ritual for a pregnant or new mother to engage in for herself. Wish Garden has a great selection of products that support women’s health!

raspberry

How can people get in touch with you?
The best ways to reach me or just to see what is going on are:

website: birthphilosophy.com

email: maureen@birthphilosophy.com

twitter: @birthphilosophy

or join the Birth Philosophy Childbirth Study Lounge on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/groups/4652589935