I went to my first local ICAN meeting last night and, not unexpectedly, found a fabulous group of women right here in Erie. With a 16 month old who mostly hates the car (though she's getting better), I hadn't been getting out much since we moved to Erie, until recently. Anyway, I'm so glad I finally made it.
The official purpose of attending was to see what I could find out about VBAC-friendly hospitals and care providers in the area, but the topic for the evening (a CPM came to give a talk about midwifery) let to a broader discussion on the safety of well-supported birth, including home birth, that was every bit as valuable. One newly pregnant mother was seeking general support on pursuing a natural birth and possibly a home birth, despite the objections of some members of her family, her mother in particular, as an RN. Boy, hadn't most of us in that room been there! My father was a doctor until his retirement a few years ago, so I'm all too familiar with that whole story. (I should blog about that sometime, huh? Note to self.)
The conversation shifted to another running theme for pregnant women: the tendency for everyone from friends to family to complete and total strangers to inundate you with horror stories about the worst labor they've ever seen/experienced/watched on some TV show. One woman mentioned beong cornered in the bathroom at her own baby shower - a scenario that was far from unfamiliar to us. Exasperated, I remarked "What if every time you went to get in your car, people ran up to you and yammered at you about a horrible car crash they'd seen/experienced/watched on some TV show? It makes about as much sense!" They thought this was an apt analogy.
Shifting again, we discussed ways of sussing out for yourself what your care provider's (and hospital's, if applicable) policies and attitudes about birth really were. The CPM speaker recommended an INformal tour of the hospital, thinking you might get a better idea of the climate from one of the nurses in a more casual, off-guard setting than an Official Tour. There are quite a few great lists of questions to ask your care provider, including this fantastic PDF from Choices in Childbirth and this guide to birth plans from Nursing Birth, but sometimes a single, thought-provoking question can tell you a lot more than a lot of specific yes-or-no answers to pragmatic questions, valid as those pragmatic matters might be. The book Your Best Birth is also chock-full-o' great questions and birth plans, as well as thorough and very easy to understand explanations of why each question and item in a birth plan is important (it doesn't do a lot of good to ask the questions if you're not really clear on why you're asking them). The website is a fine resource as well.
Back to the meeting. One of the local members, a doula and a gorgeous mom to four with a fifth on the way (with three VBACS under her maternity belt) had a nicely worded example of just such a question: "Tell me about an experience where the outcome was less than ideal, and tell me what you took away from that experience." This came up specifically when we were talking about interviewing home birth midwives, but wouldn't this be revealing no matter who you're asking? I for one would love to hear some OB's responses to that as well.
I'm also a big fan of a single but rather loaded question. Ready? "How do you feel about doulas?" That's it! Think about how much that will tell you about your doctor or midwife's whole worldview.
Through the mother above and another midwife in attendance, I got some great info on a woman who offers local workshops (I had been considering a lot of travel to attend trainings and visit family simultaneously), got invited to some other gatherings, and just generally got plugged in to the scene, or so it felt. I also watched a lot of exceptionally cute little one playing in the center of our circle - yay, I can bring Lily in the future if I can't swing coverage for the evening! Most excellent.
If you haven't been to an ICAN meeting, think about attending one, even if you're not seeking a VBAC or aren't even currently pregnant - hey, if you're reading this in the first place, you're clearly interested in the topic. So check it out! They're everywhere.