I’m a runner. Anyone who is also a runner or is close to a runner knows how much our shoes mean to us. When the whole sport pretty much comes down to how your feet hit the ground, the shoes in the middle are pretty important. We research them, test them in the store, and often wear them for a few practice runs before ultimately deciding that a pair will work. Once a runner has found a line of shoes that feels right and doesn’t aggravate any particular body part, he or she will do everything possible to keep buying the same ones.
The shoe industry is like any other and always tries to make their products “better.” Sometimes that means that a shoe that once was the perfect fit, suddenly becomes a disastrous choice. Or, in my case, a runner becomes pregnant and her feet change size, causing the shoes that had worked for 10 years to become uncomfortable. Whatever the reason, sometimes a runner has to try out new shoes and that can be a terrifying venture.
I decided to try a few different lines of shoe to determine what worked best for me. This could have been a very expensive proposition as your average running shoe costs over $100. Since you can’t really tell if a shoe is “right” until you run in it for a bit, you need to have a retailer kind enough to allow returns even after shoes have been worn. I am really lucky to be a VIP member of an online running store that allows just that – you can wear a pair of shoes for up to 90 days and exchange them for only the cost of the shipping. I could try a new pair of shoes and have the freedom to change my mind.
Knowing that you can try something and not be stuck with it in the long run gives us the freedom to try things that are hard or expensive. While having to pay for a pair of shoes that don’t work may be annoying, feeling stuck in a particular birth scenario that doesn’t end up working out can be really scary. Women deserve to have access to whatever type of birth they want; they also deserve to be able to change their minds if it doesn’t feel right or something else seems like the better choice in the moment.
As a doula, I help women find ways to feel comfortable during labor. Sometimes this means applying cold washcloths to her forehead or a heating pad to her lower back, sometimes it involves counter pressure techniques and words of encouragement, and often it means reminding a woman of her options during labor. Knowing that we have options and can change our minds gives us power. The more power a woman has or feels she has during labor, the more smoothly everything will go.
I’m really happy that I can mail back these shoes that make my feet feel like blocks of cement during a run, but I’m even happier that women can feel empowered to make the decisions that work for them during labor – regardless of what their initial plans had been.
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending a Birth Without Fear conference in Burlington, VT. January Harshe started Birth Without Fear as a way “to let women know they have choices in childbirth.” It has grown into “an inspiration and support to women and their families through their trying to conceive, pregnancy, birth and post partum journeys.” January does an amazing job helping women feel beautiful and powerful just the way they are. She is a strong woman who uses her strength to bring other women up.
I have been very fortunate to have had many outlets to share my own birth story and to connect with other women who have given birth recently. However, that is rarely the case today. With the growing reliance on socializing through social media, we are missing out on real, face-to-face connections with our peers. The Birth Without Fear conference is a way for women to meet and hear first-hand that their stories are valid and that they have the right to want more out of the birthing industry.
My doula partner Rainbow Crabtree and I are a part of a group called the St. Lawrence County Birth Connection, which is working to make birth a more positive experience for women in St. Lawrence County. One of the ways we’re tackling this huge goal is by hosting an evening to share birth stories. On Wednesday, November 16th, Birth Story Share: Holding Space to Honor All Births will occur at the Presbyterian Church on the Park in Canton. Join us from 6:30 – 8:30 pm for a chance to share your stories and hear from other mothers. We will provide light snacks and childcare.
If we don’t talk to each other about what we’re experiencing, nothing will ever change. We don’t have to move mountains – we only need to be there for each other and provide the space for healing and growth. The more we share, the more the world will be forced to listen.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.