Ahri is co-executive producer of The Birth Tour and Birth, an event and public radio documentary project that takes a close look at practices and perceptions of birth in the US. She was gracious enough to share some thoughts about birth, vision, and community with me via email.
How did you come up with the idea for The Birth Tour?
I had an incredible experience after having my son. My community brought food every single day for six weeks! One friend silently slipped into my home and gave me a 2-hour massage without saying a word, then slipped back out. Another friend came, without my request, to clean my house and do the laundry. My husband and I were astounded by all the support and I remember saying to him, "What a different world it would be if every family had this!"
And so, two projects were born with my production partner, Tania Ketenjian.
Our intention for THE BIRTH TOUR is to help catalyze community support to raise the next generation. In six cities across America, we are gathering people together in small and large groups to explore:
• How you were born
• If you've given birth, how it happened
• The importance of understanding your options
• Creating your community of mothers, fathers and families
• How has birth changed your life
The idea is to generate connection among people through our common human experience of birth. Hopefully, these events will strengthen community support, particularly among families.
With each city along THE BIRTH TOUR, we are carefully choosing local organizations and/or businesses as our local sponsors who are building support systems for families in the area. They continue to bring people together after THE BIRTH TOUR leaves town.
In addition to THE BIRTH TOUR, Tania and I are co-producing a public radio documentary called BIRTH.
The documentary explores birth practices in America. From delivering at home to c-sections, we interview women about their experiences of giving birth and look at the history of birth and how it has changed over the past century in America. We interview a range of women and their partners, anthropologists, historians, doctors, midwifes, doulas, and even kids who have witnessed birth. The style of the documentary is a sonic experience of stories and voices woven together with music and sound.
BIRTH will be distributed through Public Radio International in March of 2007 for Women's History Month.
Our National Sponsors include: Motherlove Herbal Company, Mothering Magazine, The Institute of Noetic Sciences and The PRI Program Fund.
Please call your local public radio station to request the show be aired in your community!
You've already held two of the tour dates in Oregon. How is it going so far? Did anything that has happened surprise you?
Our experience in Oregon was powerful. It was amazing to see how participants were so able to access and share their stories with each other. I was most surprised by everyone's willingness to be vulnerable. The event structure is really quite simple, which allows for everyone's sharing to be potent, alive and deeply authentic.
The room felt as if everyone was home.
What do you find is important about the telling and sharing of birth stories?
I think sharing birth stories is critically important for two reasons.
First, we need to know it's possible.
I recently spoke with a woman who said, "If we don't hear stories of women's inherent ability to give birth, then we might forget that it's possible." Regardless of how women give birth, it's important to know that most women are designed to have healthy birthing experiences.
Secondly, having a child is one of the most profound changes in life and is an event that can bring community together. We are meant to be supported in this transition. We need help. We cannot do it alone. Telling stories, particularly surrounding birth, connects people and connected people can effortlessly create community support.
I can well relate to your feeling surrounded by community after the birth of your son. I felt the same way after giving birth at home in Scots Bay, and those feelings were a large part of why I began to write about my home and this place. As I've traveled across Canada the past few months reading from The Birth House, I keep hearing the same refrain..."Your book has reminded me that we've lost our sense of community in this world...around birth, and around life in general." Can you share your thoughts on timebanks.org and your involvement with them?
In the course of interviewing people for the radio documentary and speaking with people after THE BIRTH TOUR, I have come across that same statement multiple times.
I think community is happening strongly in pockets and patches around the globe. My community is absolutely incredible. We have dinners every week. When new babies come the whole community rallies to organize and cook food for the families. When our kids need to be watched we call or just come over. We have women's circles twice a month where we share deeply about what is happening in our lives. I've been in the same women's circle for over 2 years. When you organize something and continually show up, magic happens. It's interesting. Women are definitely more wired to establish community, particularly when kids enter the picture. Perhaps it is our primal response to ensure the survival of our offspring. To deeply connect is medicine. It replenishes us to move forward. To make time to stop and contemplate our lives with people we love is ancient therapy.
I believe that all humans crave connection. It is imperative for the evolution of our species.
That said, when Tania and I found out about Time Banks we immediately knew the concept would be a perfect action for THE BIRTH TOUR.
One of the important aspects of becoming a local sponsor for THE BIRTH TOUR, is to help set up Family Time Banks in each town. This is an exciting new community service.
Time Banks are a tool for neighbors to get to know each other, caring for kids, pets and older parents, minor repairs and yard work, car-pooling to after-school activities; rides for elders to shopping and appointments and the safety, comfort and warmth of a neighborhood that looks after each other. For every hour you spend doing something for someone in your community, you earn one Time Dollar. Then you have a Time Dollar to spend on having someone do something for you. It's that simple. Yet it also has profound effects. Time Banks change neighborhoods and whole communities. Time Banking is a social change movement in 22 countries and six continents.
I think Time Banks are a way to catalyze our innate ability to create support networks for ourselves and our families. It makes sense to depend on each other. Again, we can't do this life alone.
A special thanks to Ahri for her time and her thoughts!
There are three more dates on The Birth Tour,
September 10, Santa Fe, NM
October 15, Boulder, CO
October 22, Berkeley, CA
You can find out more about Ahri and Tania's work, the tour and their documentary, Birth, at their web site, Thin Air Media
You can find out more about timebanks at timebanks.org