ME TOO: Who Among Us Doesn't Have a Story to Tell?

She was an exceptional legal secretary, a regal beauty, and an independent woman who repeatedly tried to ignore her boss’s advances.  One day, upon his return from a foreign business trip, he presented her with a string of French pearls and a litany of love. It was the 1930s so the secretary saw no way out but to quit her job. That woman was my mother.

She was a motivated professional who took her work seriously.  The first time it happened she worked for a medical board that certified physicians. At a formal dinner one evening, a doctor rubbed his hand up her leg under the tablecloth. She pushed it away. Later the doctor invited her on a trip to the Caribbean. She rebuffed him.

The next time, she was working in a different city when, standing next to her seated boss as he reviewed a document she’d handed him, he put his hand up her skirt. She slapped it away.

The time after that, she was on assignment in another country. Her work finished, she approached the local director to say goodbye. He grabbed her, kissing her on the lips.  Repulsed, she pulled away. But once again she told no one, because it was a time when women didn’t speak of sexual harassment or sexual assault, there being no words for it She was silent because she didn’t want to lose her job or be accused of “asking for it,” and she knew nothing would be done about it anyway.   That woman was me.

It isn’t necessary to cite other times it happened to me because by now everyone sort of gets the picture.  And I was one of the lucky ones: I was never raped.

Now, thanks to a growing number of brave, bold, truth-telling women, we are finally talking about the rampant sexual assault and harassment taking place in just about every workplace you can name. We are naming names. We are outing a pervasive culture of sexual abuse that exists in this, and most other cultures. We are refusing to be complicit via silence, choosing now to raise our collective voices in order to press charges so that we can put an end to the madness of male power and its concomitant sense of entitlement.

We thought Anita Hill’s dignity and truth-telling all those years ago might have been the beginning we see now, but it didn’t happen then.  Thankfully it’s happening now, because of a growing cadre of women who will no longer submit to second-class status, silence, or male prerogative.

Many of those women now hold public office. But they no longer hold their tongues. By telling their stories in the halls of power, they are starting to bring down men who insult them, trivialize them, accuse them of being liars and sluts, physically assault them, and once made them feel small and afraid.

There are men standing with us now too, taking up the fight against sexual harassment and abuse. Perhaps they heard playwright Eve Ensler when she said, “I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you? You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us?” To those men, we say, it’s about time, and if they really kick in, thank you.

Rob Okun is one of them. He is a writer and psychotherapist who edited a collection called Voice Male: The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement.  In a recent blog on www.counterpunch.org he wrote, “For decades, men who have never battered or raped would offer excuses for not standing up for women who faced harassment – and worse – offering this lame rationale: ‘I don’t engage in these behaviors, I’m a good guy, these are women’s issues, not mine.’ Those days are over. Sexual assault is not a women’s issue; it’s a community issue, and men, ready or not, we have to break our silence.”

In his piece, Okun credits women with “dragging domestic and sexual violence from society’s shadows” as they created rape crisis centers and shelter for domestic violence survivors. He credits the few men who stood with them initially as allies while coming to grips with their own passivity in the face of violence against women. He calls upon more men to act. He also calls out Donald Trump, who “has yet to pay a price for his sexual assaults.”

The work of Okun and other men working independently and alongside women is encouraging. But like gun violence, the problem of sexual harassment and assault will not simply disappear. It will take concerted group effort, and individual brazen acts. It will require telling our stories. It will take laws and enforced regulations in various workplaces. It will call for zero tolerance.

Can we get there in the age of Weinstein, Spacey and Trump?  As one good man said not long ago, “Yes, we can!” But only, it seems, if we raise our voices, tell our stories, press charges, and vehemently declare Enough!

The Look of Fear on the Human Faces of Misogyny

 

We hear the word “misogyny” so often in the litany of worries about a Trump administration that, like other words in that long list, it begins to lose meaning – although the silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was a great reminder. Behind that word, however, are the faces – and lives - of women, both inside the U.S. and further afield. We need to hear their stories, in their own voices, to remind us what’s at stake for women when a government is headed by a man who gloated over his own acts of sexual assault and called women “pigs.”

 

Writer Jia Tolentino recalled recently that “during the Obama Administration, I had begun to feel, thrillingly, like a person. My freedom no longer seemed a miraculous historical accident; it was my birthright.” She experienced her loss as a “woman-specific disaster,” captured in the words of a woman at a protest in New York the night after the election. “I’m afraid that a man will hurt me in public, and everyone around will think it’s okay.”

 

Women serving in the military and female veterans are feeling the potential threat of misogyny in particular ways that call for empathy. “Many of my close friends are survivors of sexual abuse in the military,” says advocate and filmmaker Patricia Lee Stotter. “Both men and women who have been raped and sexually harassed during the years they served their country are now enraged and despairing. It’s understandable. When Mr. Trump was asked about the problem of rape in the military, he said, ‘What did these geniuses expect when they put men and women together?’”

 

It’s a horrible trigger,” Stotter continues. “and it’s re-traumatizing survivors of military sexual assault. Their cases were adjudicated within the chain of command which was another act of violence. … For survivors of military sexual assault, the idea of a predator being commander in chief is devastatingly reminiscent of their experiences in the military.”

 

Speaking on the promise of anonymity, one woman veteran who suffered military sexual assault, told me that “women feel unsafe because Trump’s rhetoric is what many of us experienced in the military. I’m triggered. I can’t sleep. I’m having trouble focusing. I am nearly blind with anger. I feel unsafe.” Corroborating Stotter’s concern, she continued, “Both women and men that are assaulted while serving in the military may have very limited faith in the chain of command when the Commander in Chief normalizes abusive behavior. And otherwise decent people may be swept up in either participating in normalizing, or failing to oppose assaults or harassment fueled by the Trump Effect. When abuse is given a green light, nobody is safe.”

 

Here is a voice from abroad that illustrates how far-reaching the Trump Effect is. Annie Viets, an American business professor teaching at a private Saudi university, sent me these remarks. “I have heard a number of comments since the election from students who want to get their masters degrees abroad. In the past, the first choice of many of them has been the U.S. But now some students who were thinking of using their scholarships to study there are looking toward Europe. They say, ‘It doesn’t look like we’re going to be welcome in the United States anymore.’” And Saudi Arabia isn’t even on the restricted list, so far.

 

What make this so sad Viets says is that, “When students return from the U.S., they are forever friends of our country. Their experiences are inevitably positive and they develop a deep appreciation for our freedoms and way of life. Welcoming young people from around the world to study is essential if we want to spread the value of democratic principles peacefully. In turn, we benefit from their many lively minds and perspectives.”

 

Rula Quawas, a professor of Women’s Studies and Literature at the University of Jordan in Amman, says her students are afraid of coming to the U.S. on scholarships too. However, she wrote me, “the fear will not stop them from coming to be educated. I agree with them. This is the time when we should stop being afraid. We must be vigilant and push back when the need arises. But we are not going to let one man or his administration hijack our dreams. We are entitled to a good life and a good education.”

 

In this spirit, an American woman who asked not to be identified told me, “The venom being spewed toward women is stunning and terrifying. As a woman and an activist, I feel afraid too. I don’t think a lot of people – even the good men – are getting the level of trauma and threat women feel. But women are mobilizing and we will keep up our acts of resistance, whether they are marches, strikes, donations, letters to Congress and news outlets, or speaking out in public forums. We will support each other as we strike back in solidarity. We must remember to share our stories, pace ourselves for a long battle, marshal our resources, laugh when we can, feel the warmth of family and friends, honor what we have achieved, and trust in our own resilience.”

 

Writer Susan Chiva puts it this way: “The overall struggle is to stay relevant in the age of Trump.”

Take note, Mr. Trump: We can – and we will.

 

Marching with the Multitudes to Make the World Sane Again

MARCHING WITH THE MULTITUDES TO MAKE THE WORLD SANE AGAIN

As the old adage goes, “you had to be there.” There could have been lots of places in the U.S. and abroad because women’s marches took place the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration on every continent and in at least 700 locations around the world.   The turnout and global solidarity was unprecedented, and deeply important: It signaled a turning point and a resistance movement that could well save democracy here and internationally.

The idea for a march began a week after Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the presidency, not by popular vote but because of an antiquated Electoral College that has prevailed since the 18th century. A Hawaiian woman named Teresa Shook thought there ought to be a march so she posted the idea on Facebook. The post went viral – and helped make history as it mounted global resistance toward all that a Trump administration represented.

The global marches weren’t just a rebuke of Donald Trump’s agenda or tactics, nor were they a call solely for women’s rights, a point largely missed. In addition to women’s rights as human rights, the marches focused on issues like immigration, climate change, healthcare, economic stability, LBGT rights, education, political representation and safety. As one New Zealand organizer put it, “This movement is about inclusion and solidarity [after an election that] insulted, demonized, and threatened many people. … The marches are an expression of the millions of people around the world who stand up for those who were vilified during [Trump’s] campaign.”

As soon as I learned about the DC march, I knew I had to be there along with the anticipated 250,000 people expected. So did my daughter. We drove to DC from New York. At a stop on the New Jersey Turnpike it was clear that everyone there was on their way too. “Pussy Wagon” one van said. “Nasty Women” and “2017 March on Washington” were scrawled on other vehicles. People high-fived each other and gave thumbs up as they smiled broadly at each other. Traffic was terrible but no one got upset. Instead, they waved at each other from their cars and waited patiently for their turn to pass through toll booths. It was like a block party on an Interstate.

On the morning of the march the excitement for us began as we headed toward the mall amidst a growing stream of knitted pink hats. The atmosphere was one of energy, community, and hope. On the mall, prolific signs, some serious and many hilarious, gave rise to cheers and photo opps.  “We Shall Overcomb!”  “You can’t comb over climate change!” “I wish my uterus shot bullets so it wouldn’t be regulated!” “Exercise Respect or Expect Resistance!”  “Immigrants Make America Great!” “I can’t believe I Have to March Again about this stuff!” “I’ve seen better cabinets at IKEA!” “Tinkler, Traitor, Groper, Spy.”

 People continued arriving, most on foot, some with walkers or in wheelchairs, little ones in strollers, elders in bicycle rickshaws. As more and more people converged, I was reminded of Gandhi’s Salt March in India. Then as now, people flowed like rivers joining a swelling sea of humanity.  The crowd grew larger and larger. Strangers hugged each other, laughed together, shared knowing smiles, all of us touched by the kindness and courtesy of the crowd. It felt like one big family reunion.  

Many of us gravitated toward 14th Street where the march would continue from Independence Avenue. Soon we heard the sounds and saw the banners. Then they came – and came and came and came -- for hours. By this time an estimated million-plus people were either marching or cheering marchers on. Periodically a chant would rise up or a banner would elicit a collective roar that swept across the city like a tsunami sound wave. 

“I hope Trump is looking out his window at the White House and takes a hint,” a man who had come with his young daughter told me. “It’s hard enough to be a teacher, but now?” a young woman said. An older woman stood silently holding a sign that said simply, “Nyet,” the Washington Monument looming large behind her.

At about 3.30 in the afternoon people who’d been on their feet for hours began peeling away from the continuing parade to make their way toward Pennsylvania Avenue where they hoped the march would pass by the White House. Overwhelmed security personnel began trying to clear a path in the road, red lights flashing and sirens wailing. But the street filled again with a river of people after they’d passed. Then police blocked access to Pennsylvania Avenue and began turning people back. Multitudes kept coming, unaware that they would be caught in a morass of marchers. Still, calm prevailed despite the crush of bodies.

At this point, being claustrophobic, the pangs of panic began rising in my chest. My daughter told a benevolent but seemingly befuddled officer that she had to get me out of there, and he allowed us to cross a barrier so that we could move toward the Ellipse and Constitution Avenue.  From there we walked until we could hail a cab back to our friend’s house.

The entire day, in a word, was awesome. One of the most amazing things about the largest protest march in U.S. history is that not one arrest occurred and no one was hurt despite the huge turnout. In place of anxiety or unanticipated consequences a palpable spirit of friendship, solidarity, commitment and hope prevailed. Even when the density of the crowd became potentially alarming and an organizer instructed participants through a megaphone not to move, calm prevailed as participants waited patiently for directions on how to leave.

After it was all over we heard some wonderful stories. A woman from Vermont said that when her bus made a pit stop at a Walmart’s en route to Washington, the workers applauded.  At the end of the march, a DC Metro driver asked over the loudspeaker, “You ladies have a good day?” A roar of approval went up. Then the driver said, “Thank you for what you are doing for all of us.”  And a Southwest Airlines jet had all its interior lights shining pink. We also learned that all the discarded signs from the march would find their way to various museums, this being such an historic event.

My daughter and I had marched together for reproductive rights in 1989. Here we were nearly thirty years later doing it again. I asked her what she thought the real significance of the day was. She hesitated thoughtfully and then said, “Progressivism is the future. Young people know it and want to build and sustain that future. Historically, many others around the world know from experience – or from older relatives – what it’s like to live under dictatorships or autocracies.  They look at the US as a beacon of hope, a symbol of democracy and freedom.  The US still promises this vision. It’s part of what they were marching for, what we were all marching for. We can’t let go of that.”

I think she hit the nail on the head. Somewhere between the rhetoric and the reality of America resides the hope she spoke of. The multitude of marchers we were part of still believe in that hope and promise, even as they fear it is slipping away.

That’s why we were all there: We can’t, and we won’t, let go of that hope. That was the promise we made to each other, and to the world, on the day of the marches.   It’s one we will not break, which is why the marches continue even as I write this piece. We are resilient, resourceful and determined. As women said in Beijing at the 1995 4th World Conference of Women: “We are here. We are there. We are everywhere. And we are not going away!” We are your mothers, your wives, your sisters, your daughters, your granddaughters, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues. We roar and we vote. And we are not going back.

Note: Unable to post pictures with this piece, not sure why!

When Gray is the Color of Hope

Years ago I wrote a column about the complexities of race relations. It bore the same title as this commentary. I revisited it recently because of a troubling experience that brought it to mind.

The event that triggered that first piece involved an exchange I’d had with a black woman for whom I felt deep respect. We were in a women’s group talking about women and depression.  I said that my maternal grandmother had hung herself. I talked about her limited, sad life and recalled that her happy moments were few. One of them was occasional day trips to the beach where she could sit quietly and escape her daily life, rife with various oppressions. Suddenly, the woman snarled, “At least she wasn’t cleaning other people’s toilets!” The comment pushed our conversation into a contest about which of our grandmothers had suffered the most in their equally sad lives.

In the essay, I wrote, “What is it that brings about the rage of one woman, or one race, against another in so powerful a way that what might have been shared in the name of solidarity is obliterated? I do not ask this out of historical naiveté. One can certainly articulate the roots of black, and feminist, rage. But there is something in our psyches striking out, pushing on frayed edges, about to burst. It is palpable and it is straining our collective being.”

I also recalled a letter I’d written to writer Alice Walker who seemed then to be very angry at white women. “Mea culpa,” I wrote. “I am not black. I am not poor. But have I nothing of value to offer? Is there no way for us to hear each other and to find strength in common experience so that we can grow and build a better future together?”

These questions resonated again in a recent exchange I had with someone I have long respected for the vital work undertaken by this community leader. I had hoped to attend an event being organized by this person as a journalist in order to write about the organization’s important work. When I asked to attend the event as media, limiting conditions were imposed that were outside standard journalistic practice. The restrictions were particularly disturbing since I was known to the event’s organizer and should not have presented a threat of insensitive reporting.

When I said the restrictions were unusual, explained why and asked for them to be lifted, I received, to my shock, an accusation that I was revealing my sense of “white entitlement” and that I had “implicit biases.”  In an exchange that included reference to our respective work,” I was told that I enjoyed “the luxury of whites” to retire when I tired of my career while people whose “dedicated life work” could never stop.    

These comments left me breathless. They smacked of reverse racism offering no path to reconciliation. They suggested that all white people constitute the Other, the perpetual outsider in need of education in order to understand and empathize with the black experience. This from a community leader whose entire raison d’etre is said to be racial justice, dialogue, and the growth of healthy diversity within our communities.

In the piece I wrote on race relations, I paraphrased feminist writer Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. “She makes a strong case for conversation in which community is the center.  She asks us to explore how our fierce claims to individual rights may be impeding the larger context.”

In Fox-Genovese’s own words, “Race and gender should enjoy privileged positions in our understanding of American culture for they lie at the core of any sense of self, [but] unless we acknowledge our diversity, we allow the silences of the received tradition to become our own.”

“Acknowledging our diversity, finding our centrality, and deciding what kind of a community, and nation, we will become are lofty goals not easily operationalized,” I had written. “But perhaps if we could all find a way to talk about it together we could begin. Maybe someday, even though things may not be absolutely black and white, it won’t matter quite so much whose turn it is to ride in the front of the bus.”

Where we sit in the bus is no longer germane to a discussion of what divides us. We have, at least, moved beyond that terrible and unjust chasm. But within the context of my recent experience there is still much room for healing, it seems. That healing cannot take place if we can’t speak to each other respectfully, free of difference-based assumptions, and charges of gross insensitivity. Healing will not take place if we can’t work together to realize the benefits of individual and organizational relationships or foster partnerships that lead to respectful and productive dialogue for social change. Finding such common ground is especially important among people in leadership.

It broke my heart to participate in the exchange I’ve partially shared, especially because I believed the two of us were respectful of each other and our respective work. The episode showed me that there is still much work to do, even between people we think share similar goals and aspirations.

But most of all, the exchange made me sad, like my grandmother must have been when she sought understanding.   

Where Are Women's Organizations in the Fight for Reproductive Rights?

In 411 BC, a comedy by Aristophanes rocked Greece. Lysistrata was a play about one woman’s mission to end the Peloponnesian War by persuading other women to withhold sex from their husbands and lovers until they had negotiated a peaceful settlement.

More than two millennia later, on October 24, 1975, 90 percent of women in Iceland went on strike for a day in the name of economic and social justice. They refused to go to work, to cook or to take care of children. It called to a halt every sector of the country.

On April 25, 2004 the national Mall in Washington, DC witnessed the March for Women's Lives which drew over 800,000 people. Organized by the Feminist Majority, NARAL Pro-Choice America, NOW and Planned Parenthood Federation of America among others multi-generational attendees focused on reproductive rights alongside entertainers, politicians and icons of the feminist movement. The press had a field day.

Each of those events represents a strategy for social change that helped shape history. I’m wondering where such strategies are now among women’s organizations.

Following the recent Black Lives Matter marches that were so effective in garnering media attention and which helped push President Obama to call for renewed efforts to enact new gun-related regulations, I began to wonder why there isn’t a more visible, strategic presence among women’s organizations given the growing attacks on women’s reproductive rights at both national and state levels.

While I recall the power of the many marches I participated in during the 1980s in which issues such as abortion, women’s privacy and their human rights were captured through sheer numbers, compelling personal testimonies, and a responsive media, I’m not necessarily making a case for such mass protests as the best strategy. I understand that from police protection to publicity to Porta-potties, such events involve extraordinary organizational skills and plenty of personnel. They are also hugely expensive. I also know that many of the marches of my day had less than the desired impact on legislation.

I get as well that social media and the Internet have changed the way organizations do things in major ways. But beyond asking people to sign petitions and donate money what is their impact in the absence of human-face, big numbers activism? What exactly is the social media strategy? And what is being done to augment it? (I ask these questions while acknowledging Planned Parenthood’s impressive use of social media under the leadership of Cecile Richards.)

So I decided to put these questions to more than half a dozen key women’s organizations – including the very ones that had organized the 2004 March for Women’s Lives. It breaks my heart to report that with one exception none of them even bothered to answer my repeated calls and emails, even though I’m a bona fide journalist with a certain amount of name recognition among these groups. (Perhaps, like the National Organization for Women they’re too busy promoting “pink Viagra”). The one organization that responded after much prodding was Naral Pro-Choice America; they sent me a bit of canned PR stating that they were “committed to amplifying the voices of Americans who believe that women should be in charge of their own healthcare choices.” The piece mentioned “in-person rallies” and “online petitions” and “getting Google and Yahoo to remove their false advertising.” It said they had challenged TED Talks “to change their policy from one that excludes abortion talks to one that embraces them.” 

 Excuse me? That’s it?

One woman I did talk to was Donna Dees-Thomases, who organized the highly successful Million Mom March in 2000 calling for an end to gun violence. The march, which boasted 750,000 people in Washington, DC and 250,000 others marching in satellite rallies in over 70 American cities on Mothers Day that year, led to a highly successful grassroots movement in which chapters were established around the country. Now united with Handgun Control, Inc. and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence and known as the Brady Center, their chapters continue to advocate for gun violence prevention legislation primarily at the local and state levels, resulting in many legislative successes. That’s strategy at work.

“Women are organizers,” Dees-Thomases told me, explaining the successes the Brady Center has had. “They’re out in front and they’re making an impact.” At the same time, she thinks too many women in leadership may have become “institutionalized thinkers.” They don’t realize, she explains, that, for example, simply organizing and assisting a few women to visit their state legislators, to testify, to write letters can have a big impact. In other words, it seems to me, they no longer think strategically, or put effort into that kind of activism.

They don’t even bother talking to feminist journalists anymore, it seems, and that gives me pause (especially when I pull out my checkbook.) It also leaves me wondering where the women’s movement goes from here. I guess I won’t be waiting for a callback on that.

The Heart of Birthing: Doulas & the Support They Offer

Having just witnessed another birth, I’ve been reflecting once more on why I became a volunteer doula and what the work means to me.

I’m a baby freak, plain and simple.  As a young candy-striper I routinely snuck into the pediatrics ward so I could rock sick kids.  While my high school friends dated, I babysat.  If I hadn’t been a product of the fifties, I might have considered becoming a obstetrician or a midwife.  Instead I followed the path that most girls my age did: I went to college for a liberal arts degree and then became a secretary -- a medical secretary.

My real career began when I became program director in 1979 for the National Women’s Health Network, a Washington, D.C.-based education and advocacy organization dedicated to humane, holistic, evidence-based, feminist approaches to women’s health care. In 1985 I went to Nairobi for the final international conference of the United Nations Decade for Women (1975-1985).  Inspired by that amazing event and armed with a master’s degree in health communication, I began working internationally on behalf of women and children, always trying to bring a gender lens to the table.

In the midst of all this, I gave birth twice.  My children were born in the seventies as the women’s health movement, and individual women, were beginning to advocate for natural childbirth and to resist the traumas of overly-medicalized birth experiences.  We took Lamaze classes, learned about nursing, expected dads to be active in our deliveries.  I was lucky:  not only were my labors quick and unremarkable, but the small community hospital where I delivered was sympathetic to the changes taking place in birthing.  There were no monitors, no drugs “to take the edge off” if you didn’t want them, no enemas, no shaving, and no macho-docs (although I couldn’t talk my doctor out of the episiotomy).  I labored with my nurse and my husband and when the time came to push, I watched my babies come into this world in total awe of what had just happened and what I had done.

Several years ago, I learned that my local hospital had a volunteer doula program.  Signing up was a no-brainer and I’ve now had the honor of supporting dozens of women and their partners as they’ve done the hard work of delivering a baby.  Not one of them has failed to say afterwards, “I couldn’t have done it without you!” (They could, but I’m glad to have eased their experience.)

One of the early births I attended stands out in my mind.  It was a first pregnancy and the mom labored stoically for thirty-six hours, pushing for five, before her son was born. As the hours passed, I held her hand, wet her lips, wiped strands of matted hair from her eyes, rubbed her back.  “You can do this,” I whispered in her ear when she grew doubtful. “You’re doing a magnificent job! Soon your baby will be born.”  As the baby finally crowned, wet, dark hair pressing urgently against her, I held the mother’s leg in my arm, her hand clenching my free wrist as she cried out with that guttural groan of a woman pushing her child to life outside the womb. And suddenly, there he was, head emerging, wet and pinking up even as his perfect little body swam into being. Later, swaddled and suckling at his mother’s breast, his father, eyes wet, whispered across the bed to me, “Women’s bodies are so miraculous!”

“Yes,” I said, my own eyes filling, “Miraculous.” Always miraculous, no matter how many times you give witness, or weep yourself to see a woman giving birth.

Doula supported childbirth has been proven to reduce the incidence of c-sections, shorten the length of labor, reduce the number of medicated births, increase breastfeeding and provide higher satisfaction for mothers regarding their birth experience. As one pediatrician put it, we are “the descendants of those millions of women who gathered at bedsides around the world” to help women through labor and delivery.  “Some day we may again reach a point where women rely on the traditional circle of birth-experienced [women] to ease them through childbirth. … Until then, skilled, compassionate doulas will ably stand in for them.”

That is why I feel privileged to do this voluntary work.  It is simply an honor to give witness to birth, and to offer as many women as possible the opportunity to have a birth that is supported, memorable, and full of joy.