I first encountered One World Birth on Facebook on August 30, right before they officially launched their site and filming project on September 1. I'm in the process of becoming certified as a Childbirth Educator with BirthWorks International, so I was instantly drawn to the One World Birth philosophy. As an educator in training, my passion is making knowledge about natural birth options (doulas, midwives, pelvic floor exercises, relaxation techniques, etc.) available to as many women as possible. Toni and Alex share this idea of universally available information, but on a global scale. Their vision is to provide information on all aspects of birth, from leading names among birth professionals around the world, in order to shine a spot light on the problems with birth in our current medical systems and promote awareness and informed choice in birth.
As an independent film team, Toni and Alex rely on donations and sales of their existing documentary, DOULA!, to fund their travels. When I stumbled upon One World Birth, we were not in a position to donate a significant amount monetarily. Then I found a place on their page asking for crowd sourcing, or support from people who could offer a place to stay and a meal while they were traveling. This I could do! I'm from the South, and we are all about some hospitality! :) I contacted Toni, not really thinking I would hear back from them. I thought surely they must have already heard from lots of people with offers of places to stay. But then she wrote back with an enthusiastic, “yes, yes, yes to your very kind offer of somewhere to stay when we come to Raleigh in November!”
Toni also asked if I could help line up people for her to talk to and film here and possibly arrange a film screening of DOULA! as a fundraiser for their trip. My excitement was a little subdued with anxiety at this point as I'm not really part of the birth professionals circles in my area yet. I had a few contacts and hoped they would have a better network that would be helpful. I started emailing and making phone calls with mixed results. The doulas and home birth midwives I talked to were excited to be part of the project, but the hospitals and even our one local birth center never returned my phone calls or emails. Toni and I were both disheartened by the lack of response, especially since she had been contacted by folks saying specifically to come to Raleigh because of everything going on here. It was frustrating to not be able to find the “everything” when the time came.
One confirmed filming opportunity was with Dr. Alisha Davis, a chiropractor in Raleigh who specializes in pregnant women and children, including newborns. Toni was scheduled to meet with her Friday afternoon to film her in action working with some of her pregnant patients. (I could also vouch for Dr. Davis' work as my family has been going to her since our son was one year old, through my second pregnancy, and continuing with my daughter when she was born.) Toni and Alex stopped briefly at our house to drop off their luggage, settle in their daughter and their production assistant, Lucy, then took off again to meet Dr. Davis at her office.
My kids and I had a wonderful time visiting with Toni's daughter and Lucy while Toni and Alex were away filming. My son is the same age as her daughter, so they clicked right away. It was nice to be able to give her some time to be a kid with other kids. While I'm sure the traveling experience was exciting for her, you could tell she was happy to meet some people her size who were more interested in playing on a swing set than talking about having babies. :)
As of about two weeks before Toni and Alex were supposed to be at our house, we still didn't have much lined up for her to film, aside from Dr. Davis. Then we had a bit of a breakthrough. Toni was contacted by a doula in Chapel Hill, Joanne, who was eager to help. She was able to arrange a screening for Toni's film on Friday evening, November 18, for a room full of midwives and doulas. So after a busy afternoon of driving down from Virginia, hurrying off to film Dr. Davis, then back to our house for a traditional “Cracker Barrel” style Southern dinner of chicken and dumplings, fried okra, and sauteed apples, Toni and Alex were off again to Morrisville to show their documentary and discuss their current project.
I was excited to be able to attend the screening. It was a great audience for the One World Birth tour! These were the ladies on the front lines, helping women on a regular basis to have a natural birth with little to no medical intervention. It was very inspiring to be there hearing their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. There was even one midwife, originally from the UK, who was able to offer comparative data between the US and UK, such as home birth rates (about 2-3% in the UK versus 1% in the US) and the legal barriers (including the threat of being arrested!) midwives face in the US and the UK.
Probably the most inspiring part of the evening was Toni's response to one midwife who stated that she wished she could see bill boards everywhere promoting midwives and the importance of natural birth in society overall. Toni's response was a challenge to just do it! :) She said, if you want to see a change happen, make it happen; find a way to connect with someone who knows someone who owns a bill board company, etc. and make your vision come true. It seems like such a simple answer, but it's a deeply convicting challenge to not just sit on the side lines dreaming or complaining, but really jumping in and making it happen. And that is what Toni and Alex are doing; it's the sum total of what they are about. It's what I hope to do as an educator, offering a non-profit component to my business that makes natural birth education available to low-income families, single moms, teenage moms, and anyone else who should have access to this information to be able to make an informed choice about birth and not feel railroaded by their OB into an epidural and C-section. I hope to incorporate a network of doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, all willing to commit to offering their services at a free or reduced rate so that natural birth options are not just options for the privileged who can afford them.
The Raleigh leg of the One World Birth tour ended Saturday, with more Southern food (and the ensuing explanation of American biscuits versus English biscuits) and more filming with Joanne and a hypnobirthing class. From there, Toni and Alex, their daughter, and Lucy, headed off the enjoy some down time in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina before continuing on to The Farm to talk with Ina May Gaskin.
I was inspired and humbled by the genuine, passionate vision of the One World Birth team. It was incredible to be part of what they are doing, but it was also wonderful to meet them as individuals, as real people, real parents, with real struggles, goals, and ideas. They are just as warm, personable, and on fire as they seem in their video blogs and I am honored to know them. I'm excited to see how One World Birth continues to grow and change the world, and I extend Toni's challenge to be the change that you want to see. Doing so allows us all to partner with Toni and Alex to bring about positive change, starting locally and spreading around the world, until every woman has the resources necessary to make informed choices and have the birth experience they long for.