The Skeptical Mother Retires

29 04 2013

I was on vacation this weekend but got several messages, posts, etc. (on my page and privately), of people asking me what happened with The Skeptical Mother. Her Facebook page was apparently no more. I had no idea what was going on when I first started getting these questions. People knew I was her friend and inquired why she was gone, and then I even started to catch some of the blame for it (from anonymous trolls, not legitimate people… so eh). I just wanted to put up a quick post to set the record straight. (Our skeptical mom’s blog remains up, for those who still enjoy reading her old posts.)

The reason The Skeptical Mother has chosen to end her page is because some other page was copying her content. This entailed stealing pictures (including fan shares), as well as using her exact captions word-for-word as Sammy (TSM) herself had written them. I imagine how silly and discouraging this could be. When you run a page, it’s something you do as a hobby as it is. You aren’t getting paid, and it often takes hours of your volunteering per week just to maintain. To not get credit for the effort and have someone duplicate you for their own popularity can be pretty frustrating. It feels like someone cheating off of you during a test you worked hard studying for, or someone copying a song or piece of art you put together and calling it their own (and getting the credit for it). She and I have had copies and shares before from other pages (including big name, popular birth pages), but nothing so blatant and shameless as this. In the end, the whole thing just seems so petty and not worth it anymore. You can’t copyright Facebook posts (?) and it doesn’t seem to count as plagiarism per se… it’s this unimportant gray area, unless you’re the one devoting the hours and it happens to you.

I don’t want to tell you the name of the page because they don’t deserve any more publicity, but I want to tell you they are quite large in terms of “likes”– at least twice the size of The Skeptical Mother, maybe even approaching three times as big as her page was. The reason they are so big is obviously due to ripping off of numerous popular pages all at once, as I have noticed now they also copy verbatim other very popular birth blog pages. They were essentially a content copier, an accumulation of the beloved and favorite giants in the birth/motherhood Facebook world.

She had just recently become the most popular Facebook birth page (that I know of), with well over 100,000 likes. I was so happy for her.

I hope that sets the record straight. The page had given Sammy a lot of trouble since she started, and I think she always felt it wouldn’t last forever. This was just the last straw. I’m sad to see her go but also happy for her if it gives her added peace. She is my friend and I want whatever is best for her. If you’re feeling sad or angry that one of your favorite pages is now retired, I totally understand, but I hope that you can also be happy for her because this just might be a return to increased serenity for her.

To the Birth Activist Who’s Really a Birth Passivist

25 04 2013

All births are not created equal. I think you probably know that.

Yet, you have the soft spine to falter under societal pressure, to pat every woman on the head, and tell her well enough is well enough. “Hey babe, however you say you feel, is how you feel! And that’s all that matters!

But that’s not all that matters. No, not by a long shot.

Because with women… there are things we don’t say. There are things we tell ourselves which are not true. There are things we don’t know because no one had the balls to tell us. And maybe once, a long ways back, when you were fresh in your pain and knowledge, you told someone the truth. You waved goodbye to that the moment you chose to try to please the majority of women. Trying to be all-inclusive reduces what is potent in your message.

Women… we’re strong, we carry the burdens of the world on our shoulders. We cry in silent pain, we have a tortured collective consciousness. We have a lot of messages we are met with daily that gives us vague encouragements to keep on keepin’ on. Of course those have a place, have some value. We need sisterhood, right? We need support, right?


What is sisterhood? What is support? What are they, actually?

Is it the moment I tell you that if you want your abusive relationship, that’s all that matters? Is it if I make you comfortable for one fleeting instant, when I help encourage your complacency so you can resist change, or is it when I help you pack your bag to leave?

Is it when I speak as generally as possible, to avoid offending a larger crowd? Or is it when I tell you that when I was in the same position, the only thing that healed was to walk away from the crowd?

So, to the Birth Activist who is really more of a Birth Passivist… women don’t need to hear what you think they want to hear. We are inundated with positive, bland messages… the sort of feelgood shtick that sometimes keeps us trapped indefinitely. Women don’t need limbo.

If you want to make some waves, it’s okay to rock the boat. It isn’t empowering to placate, to condescend. The truth is offensive. If you want to put power back in the hands of your sisters, you can count on offending a hell of a lot of people who aren’t ready for that kind of responsibility for which you advocate.

And if YOU aren’t ready for that kind of responsibility, don’t pretend to be something you are not. Birth Activist!? You’re not a birth activist if you approve of just about anything. You see… not all births are equal. And yes… I am sure you must know that, which is why you bother talking about birth at all. Not every woman needs that head-pat and smile you’ve started dishing out, to be praised up and down just for being special, just for breathing, just for modestly trying. We have enough of the “you’re good enough” in society. We have friends for that. We have posters of cats for that.

What we need you for is to give women that jolt of energy, that kick in the ass, to know they can do better. They aren’t getting that from their neighbor down the street, their sister-in-law, or the dentist. Their bff since high school doesn’t understand about “birth freedom” or why her friend still cries about an induction. If you tell her there’s nothing wrong with these norms, what good are you? Do your fucking job. Birth Activist, you are not everyone’s girlfriend.

And, you do not achieve the kind of change you say you’re about by kindly implying that maybe women ask for some power, ask a few questions of medical staff as they meekly submit a soon-to-be-ignored birth plan, or bargain birth needs with their husbands. You achieve that by telling them exactly what they are capable of and how to avoid the same god damn mistakes that got you where you were, or where I was, when we were in pain. You might be their only lifesaver, so fucking act like it.

As a birth activist, the goal should be to end suffering. Not perpetuate it. Not condone it. Not look at a shiny coat of paint slapped on a tragedy and mirror the smiles.

If you want women to be brave and face their births with courage and strength, and dignity, quit convincing them that anything that happens to them is okay. It’s not. It’s not okay. And just because they feel their junked up birth was necessary today… doesn’t mean they can keep pretending they feel okay about it tomorrow. And, when they awaken from that dream, guess who they’re going to remember telling them how amazing the status quo was? You.

Every baby is wonderful. If we get a good outcome for the child, we all celebrate. This much is true.

No, not every birth is special, magical, good. Not all births are equal. Not at all.

The Himba, Namibia, & the Birth Song

22 04 2013

Alicia recently shared a link with me about an African “birth song”. She thought I might enjoy it since I talked about having dreamt all my children. I really loved it and shared the link on my page. An excerpt from the story goes:

[T]here is a tribe in Africa where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.

Kristyn pointed out that some of these stories that get passed around aren’t authentic, even though this one in particular was very nice. I decided to look into it a little more and here’s what I found. The link is pretty much word for word of the last link, and credits the source as being from Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community New World Library, from Sobonfu Some.

Elizabeth commented on the interesting red-brown skin color of the woman in the picture (the first one pictured in this post). It’s actually not natural, but comes from a paste applied. This is done by the Himba of Namibia.

More about their distinct appearance, in an excerpt from New African Frontiers:

The characteristic ‘look’ of the Himba comes from intricate hairstyles, traditional clothing, the use of personal adornments in the form of jewellery, as well as the use of a mixture of red ochre, butter and resin from the Omuzumba shrub. This paste is known as ‘otjize’ used as protection against the weather and a skin lotion. It is rubbed on the skin, into hair and onto traditional clothing.

And more from that site, this time about birth:

When a woman is ready to give birth, she will be accompanied by a group of women outside the homestead. They will assist her during her labour. Immediately after the child is born, the women return to the homestead. The mother and child then spend a week at a special shelter built to the side of the headman’s hut, near the sacred fire, under special protection of the ancestral spirits. After the week has passed, the child is brought to the sacred fire and introduced to the spirits of the ancestors by the headman. The child is given names from the patrilineal and matrilineal lines, ensuring that the origins of the child are known.

Were the people of Namibia the same people with the “birth song”? The retellings of the story are so ambiguous with their whole “somewhere in Africa” lore.

This blogger reports of hearing the same sort of story told, and yes, specifically about the Himba people of Namibia. One of her links goes back to this post, which says the tale comes from the Ubuntu tribe while showing a picture of a Himba woman. Yet, Ubuntu is a philosophy, not a tribe (as far as I know). The ultimate source here is quoted as being from Tolba Phanem, African poet. I can’t find anything else about this poet, except for this story being circulated. An excerpt of the blogger’s retelling goes:

When a woman of the Himba African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes to the jungle with other women, and together they pray and meditate until they find The Song of the Child. When a child is born, the community gets together and they sing the child’s song. When the child begins it’s education, people get together and the child sings their own song. When they become an adult, the community gets together again to sing it. When it comes to your wedding, you hear your song. Finally, when their soul is going from this world, family and friends are approaching and, like at their birth, sing their song to accompany it in the journey.

I’m still not sure about the Birth Song story, but it’s going around a lot, and is often credited to the Himba (when it even specifies). It might be accurate.

Buy Elizabeth McKeown’s radical book about her birth journeys, In Search of the Perfect Birth, on Kindle or with Amazon in paperback.