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1999 LLLI Conference Sessions:
Peggy O'Mara on Birth

By Carrie Ganz
Silver Spring MD USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 5, September-October 1999, p. 166

Birth is our own personal journey. It is like the adventure program "Outward Bound" in that it calls us to test our limits and expand the boundaries of what we thought possible. In her session, "Inward Bound: Top Ten Ideas in Birth Preparation," author and publisher Peggy O'Mara emphasized the importance of seeing birth as normal. The top ten ideas can be summarized in one simple concept - that we are capable of giving birth. It is normal. Even those of us who have experienced joyous and wonderful births may have trouble truly accepting that it is a normal process. O'Mara said that it wasn't until after the birth of her second child that she fully understood this. How does giving birth relate to breastfeeding? The way we birth may set a precedent for the way we approach nursing our babies and even the way we mother. Peggy gave an example of a friend of hers in labor. The friend's mother kept saying "Oh, you poor thing." The friend replied, 'I'm not a poor thing. I'm a warrior." This is a strong powerful image of a birthing woman. This is a woman who is prepared to defend her baby like a lioness! A birth like this one may give a mother more confidence in herself and she may have more confidence in her ability to breastfeed.

O'Mara asked all of us why we think some mothers experience the birth of their dreams and others do not. She talked about birth as a medical process and the ways in which we interfere with the natural process. Fear was a large factor. Fear has an enormous impact on the way we birth. It creates changes in our bodies that slow or even stop the normal progression of labor. Fear is a distraction that holds us back.

O'Mara talked about the history of birth in the US to help us understand where this fear comes from. She also discussed the positive trends that give hope for the future, such as the growth of midwifery and the rise of freestanding birth centers. These changes are giving women more choices about where and how they give birth. New movements are directing their energy toward making our birthing environments more "mother friendly." However, the increasing use of drugs in labor and the rise in the rate of cesarean births are discouraging trends.

There was so much information in this session. Peggy O'Mara inspired us with the breadth of her knowledge and her continued commitment to change. She alluded to the Founders of LLLI in reminding us that a small group of women really could change the world. If we act together we can make hospitals more "mother friendly" and offer more women the information they need to have fulfilling and empowering births.

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