It's Labor Day in the United States, a day created by the labor movement to celebrate the social and economic achievements of workers in America. On the first Monday of September, most of us enjoy a day off work, killer retail sales and grilled meat! While we enjoy the last bits of summer bliss, we may not know the day was intended to pay tribute to those who have labored to increase the strength, accomplishments and welfare of America.
The History of Labor Day
Labor unions initiated Labor Day. These unions aim to enhance the lives of working families and achieve justice in the workplace and our country. The whole goal of unions is to ensure working families achieve what they deserve and have worked hard to gain, namely by working to improve the conditions that affect their work such as minimum wage, social security, 8-hour work days with weekends, paid overtime, laws regarding child labor, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
The History of Childbirth in the United States
From the beginning of time, there have been men and women fighting to make childbirth better, easier, safer and more healthy for women and their families. Although there are things in the past that many of us would look down on, like the Twilight Sleep Movement, we must keep in mind that even practices that in retrospect caused problems for birthing women, they were driven by good intentions. In some cases, like Twilight Sleep, women were clamoring for chloroform and painless birth. In later movements like the Natural Birth Movement, leaders like Fernand Lamaze, Grantly Dick-Read, Robert Bradley and Ina May Gaskin fought to bring husbands into delivery rooms and bring an end to harmful practices like routine episiotomies and forceps use, which seriously harmed women and babies. They also inspired evidence based childbirth classes and education for women to understand their bodies, the process of childbirth and their medical options.
What Labor Day has to Do with Your Labor
As an American citizen, I am grateful for those who have gone before me, paving the way for me to have a right to a career as a woman, make at least minimum wage, and protect my children from working in factories. As a woman, I am grateful for the doctors and midwives who have worked tirelessly to understand women's bodies and make it less likely for women to die in childbirth. Having experienced preeclamsia during pregnancy and severe seizures after childbirth, I am thankful for the medication that saved my life, when in years past I could have died. I'm also grateful for Penny Simkin, John Kennel and Marshall Klaus who championed evidence based birth and the evidence for continuous labor support.
Those who Labor for Your Labor
Now, I am grateful for leaders in the doula community working tirelessly to elevate the role of professional birth workers, who give their time and resources to support and educate birthing women and their families and who deserve respect and compensation for their skilled work. Although the idea of promoting fair pay for doulas and childbirth educators is not a new concept for many of my colleagues and me, it is incredibly reassuring to see many women in childbirth support roles once again laboring for change, respect, safety, knowledge and choices for themselves and the women they serve.
Women matter and so do I.
This Labor Day I am celebrating the work I do to help women experience positive and meaningful birthing experiences and get what they want in childbirth, while also giving thanks for all those who have gone before me to do the same. Just as the Labor Movement sought justice for our nation and the workers who built it, the birthing movements of the past and present strive to make birth better for women. What I do is important, and the work women do to bring their babies into the world is also important.
May we all labor together to continue to seek a better way for women, and for the medical and support professionals who walk alongside them. Happy Labor Day!