Thursday, February 12, 2009

Doors and Windows

They say when a door shuts in your life, a window opens. Well, it seems like a door has just slammed in my face, and knocked me upside the head in the process. I guess I should not have jokingly complained about the inconvenience of working one night a week because it's come back to bite me on the rear. The childbirth classes I taught those nights are actually my favorite part of my job. They started out of a program I created to help empower women and families in the childbirth year. Many people don't realize how many choices they have in regards to their births, or their children. They don't know they can ask questions, make decisions, or trust themselves and their instincts. Originally, the project was funded through a grant, and then picked up by the public health department. Over the last five years, we've helped hundreds of families with education, encouragement and support. Last week, I learned we will be part of the budget cuts everyone is suffering from these days.

Times are hard, and lots of programs are being cut. It's hard to say that our program is more important than other programs, but I will say for sure that we do make a difference. People are more likely to make changes in their lives around the time of a babies birth. Women are more likely to quit smoking, drinking, and start eating well and getting healthy when they are having a baby. Why? Because it's not just about them anymore. It's about the baby. Even fathers and grandparents are more likely to improve their lifestyle when a new baby comes- for the baby. And when that baby starts their life in a healthier home, they are going to be a healthier person in the long run. Preventing problems is cheaper than treating them, and it starts in the home. First 5 has put out plenty of research on early brain development that backs up my maternal instinct which says bonding with babies is important.

I know I have seen the difference our program has made first hand. No, we didn't change the world, or the system, but we did support a lot of people in doing their best with their families. We've seen mothers as young as 14 decide to breastfeed even when it wasn't easy, and to continue their education. We've seen young father's make a commitment to support their child financially and emotionally. We've seen grandmother's decide they would help their grandchildren have a better life than they were able to give their children. And each one of these people matter.

I think the thing that set our program apart has been the personal touch. We connect with people and support them, not as experts talking down to them, but as peers who happen to have some expertise in the area of childbirth and breastfeeding. I am pretty confident that some of the positive changes we have seen happen have been because of a personal connection with the families. A brochure or poster or even human contact in a clinical setting just isn't the same.

So, while I'm bummed for myself, and the fact that my hours have been cut, therefore my pay will go down, and my favorite part of my job is gone, I am more concerned for the people who are having babies who are not going to make any personal connections because they are lost in a big system of impersonal agencies.

So, that's the door in my face. I am looking for the window. Perhaps it is in freeing up time to put into my children and other pursuits like writing, art, dance and music. Hopefully, the breeze will start blowing through the window soon, letting me know what direction to look into.