The Blood, Sweat, and Tears Needed for Birth Without Fear: Mr. BWF’s Take

by Birth Without Fear on August 16, 2013

nurooBirth Without Fear has become more than just a mere Facebook page, and much more than a simple blog. It has become a juggernaut of pregnancy/birthing/postpartum support for all women that has never before existed, an actual movement of women believing that giving birth, no matter the methods or the outcome, is indeed a blessing and not a scary condition to always be monitored in the antiseptic setting of a hospital.

But behind this movement of support for women from all walks of life comes work and more challenges than anyone reading the Facebook page or the blog could ever humanly imagine.

The Growth of Birth Without Fear

Birth Without Fear was originally just a Facebook page, a simple little side project that January thought would help some other women. That turned into a thousand women. Two thousand women. Multiple thousands of women. Updates and inspirational quotes and uplifting support for women giving birth via cesareans in a hospital setting, at home in a birthing tub, in a birthing center, or whatever other method of childbirth women choose to experience. Your choices don’t determine whether Birth Without Fear will support you or not. Your choices are your choices and Birth Without Fear will support them all equally. And therein was the source of the Facebook page’s phenomenal growth.

Then came the numerous hours of HTML coding joy to construct a website sufficient for the needs of women reading from all over the world, which is still, and always will be, an ongoing process. Should that word be bolded or not? What font to use for the navigation bar? What should the header image look like? What color do we want the hyperlinks to be? How wide should the content margins be? Most recently, with so much traffic crashing the site, do we upgrade to a dedicated server or a virtual private server? A lot of seemingly miniscule decisions that, as a whole, can make or break the aesthetics of a website that trumpets the vital and important message of a woman’s right to choose a fearless and supportive birth experience.

Articles were next. Having been through the gamut of birthing experiences, January had no shortage of material to work with and write about. From birthing providers, to birthing experiences, to the actual labor process itself, postpartum (the good and the bad), breastfeeding… The list could go on and on. And it continues to go on and on. Every day. Multiple times a day.

Birth stories started coming in after that. And coming in. And pouring in. And flooding in. Hundreds and hundreds of birth stories that have been put up on the this site, with, no joke, three years’ worth of birth stories waiting to be sifted through in email. And with birth stories comes editing (because, no offense, not everyone is an English major, and January and I are spelling and grammar sticklers), and formatting, and adding photos. A time consuming process. I know. I’ve done all this personally.

Within the last year, website and Facebook admins have been brought on to assist Birth Without Fear in its unbelievable growth and presence, these admins giving up so much of their own time to help other women receive the support they long and crave and need. Sponsors have come on board to show their support for Birth Without Fear. January has been sought out to speak regularly at events around the country. And we put on the first ever Birth Without Fear Conference in October 2013 in Arlington, TX. That, in and of itself, is no small feat, let me assure you.

In short, the growth has been astronomical and nothing either of us imagined back in 2010 when a little ol’ Facebook page called Birth Without Fear launched.

Behind the Scenes of Birth Without Fear

In Birth Without Fear’s early days, back when it was just a Facebook page, I didn’t give it much thought. That wasn’t for very long because January’s message of support was getting out to a lot of women in a very short amount of time.

After about six months, January decided to start up the website to support the Facebook page. We had just recently moved back up to Dallas from Austin with very little money after my associateship went sour, so it was a very challenging time for our family. I was very stressed about having to suddenly hit the reset button on my chiropractic career, and spending my free time staring at HTML code was a distraction from all that. January began posting up articles, and they were more than well-received. It seemed like a lot of women were starved for some kind of support or validation from their past experiences. January was pregnant with #5, a.k.a. Mini, at the time, so she was in the pregnancy/birthing zone.

And then the hate came on. We were totally caught off guard. Women scarred from traumatic birth experiences wrought by irresponsible or careless providers saw Birth Without Fear as only about having a natural childbirth at home, and they attacked like a feeding frenzy of sharks. Three weeks out from giving birth to our fifth child, one individual made some particularly heartless comment on the blog that you just don’t say to a pregnant woman preparing to give birth to her own child. There were many others that attacked, on Facebook and the blog, and it was relentless. I was concerned watching January go through this as we were about to attempt a second unassisted homebirth. I was really angry about all of it. In fact, I hated Birth Without Fear and all the trouble it was bringing into my wife’s life and that it might ultimately affect our birthing experience in a very negative way. I was really scared for January and for Mini. Ultimately, our second boy was born unassisted at home like we planned and the BWF hate subsided over time. But the postpartum depression was just beginning.

I had a graveyard shift valet parking job at the time to supplement my income while I got my practice off the ground. Six days after Mini was born, I was back at work parking cars for drug dealers, hookers, and drunks proud of their marital infidelity, basically the seedier side of society that crawls out of its hole between the hours of 12:30 and 5:30 in the morning. It made me sick some nights, knowing this was what I had to do to support my family while my wife was at home struggling with recovery from a particularly rough birthing experience.

Eventually I quit the valet job and got some color back in my face after a month’s return to a normal sleeping schedule. The practice was sputtering and going nowhere and we hit a financial rock bottom. Throughout that period, Birth Without Fear and all the women counting on it, and January, for support was all that kept her going. She still didn’t sleep well, still suffered from postpartum depression, and I was struggling to make a practice work as one of seven chiropractors on a single intersection in the North Dallas area. But Birth Without Fear was growing, women were getting support for the first time ever, and they wanted more of what January had to offer.

An opportunity to move to a small West Texas town and open up an instantly busy practice fell into our laps and we jumped on it. It was truly by the grace of God that this happened. It helped us get back on our feet and remove the stress that comes when you have no money and have to keep hitting ignore on the cell phone when the bill collectors call every 15 minutes.

While the practice was doing well, January still was not. Birth Without Fear was growing immensely and January was spending more and more time growing it, on Facebook and through the blog. Too much time by my estimation. I found myself really and truly resentful of Birth Without Fear and how much time she was putting into it without it uplifting her in any way. Yes, there were the positive emails, the ones that praised January for helping to change their lives and open their minds up to a new, positive way of viewing birth. But it seemed like a lot more time was spent dealing with haters, putting out fires, responding to comments on Facebook and the blog and I just didn’t understand why she needed to spend so much time doing all those things. I mean, c’mon, it’s just Facebook we’re talking about here. Right?

Having talked more about it since then and understanding the depths of her postpartum blues, I know now that Birth Without Fear was an outlet for her, that it distracted her from the difficulty of the depression she was suffering from. She was meeting so many great people through Birth Without Fear and even patching up differences with some former haters. It really was bringing goodness into her life, but it was hard for me to see this in a tangible way. All I seemed to focus on was how tired I was of hearing about the people who made nasty comments (and rightfully get banned from the Facebook page), the ridiculous copycats with nothing better to do in life than mimic and mock Birth Without Fear and pretend they’re original, and Facebook’s occasional banning of January for obviously hypocritical reasons. But I slowly started to realize that Birth Without Fear was doing some good things and that, after two years, some people began wanting to be in on it for business reasons. For me, this validated a lot of January’s selfless hard work for so long.

But not all of it. Being a little dense like I am, I just felt that Birth Without Fear was this little side hobby that was bringing in more negativity from haters than I cared to know about. I didn’t care for it, didn’t want to know about it, and couldn’t understand why January was on the computer SO MUCH dealing with it!

We finally sat down and had a talk about Birth Without Fear. I told January that she either needs to give it up or take it to the next level to justify all the time she spent working on it. I felt like it was just there, existing as a good resource for women, but not necessarily doing what it potentially could.

She chose to take it to the next level. She began speaking at events. I had the opportunity to watch her speak to a packed house in Phoenix and Austin. We also decided to go ahead with our own Birth Without Fear Conference.

For those of you who have never planned a conference, I can’t even begin to explain how much planning and work is involved in it. There have been more than a few sleepless nights spent on organizing, planning, and working on the conference website to make it all look the way we want. And still, we are learning as we go. Every single day. Writing up contracts, tweaking the website on an hourly basis, returning emails… And that was just yesterday afternoon in between seeing patients!

January just returned from Philadelphia, and I wasn’t able to make the trip out with her because we don’t live by family or anyone else that can watch our five kids for two to three days at a time. So I stayed home with the fearsome five and ordered a lot of pizza (because it was easy and I didn’t have to cook it), took them to McDonald’s once (which shocked January because I absolutely detest McDonald’s… but they had Smurfs toys!), and played a lot of Mario Kart Wii with the kiddos (man, I hate that blue shell when it knocks you out of first place!). All while January, once again, knocked it out of the ballpark at MommyCon.

And this is what we’ll be doing for the other MommyCon events over the next two months, all so Birth Without Fear’s presence can continue to inspire and validate what women want to hear. But I’m not going to lie, it sucks for me. I’ve been there for her through the thick and thin and I feel like I should be there to support her. But we also have kids that need us and they are a priority. January stayed home while I was away in chiropractic school and student clinic and studying for National Board exams and occasional weekend seminars. I guess it’s my turn now, right?

b and j

My reason in writing all this is to show all of you that Birth Without Fear is not some easy magical thing full of rainbows and unicorns (as January loves to say) that just happens when we click our heels together. There has been literal blood, sweat, and tears that has gone into building Birth Without Fear into the movement it is today. It has been a challenge much of the time, for January and for me. And as it continues to grow, the challenges will continue to evolve and we will continue to adapt and grow because of them.

Birth Without Fear now fills a void that no one realized ever existed, and when I stop and think about it, I can’t help but marvel at what January has done. It has become a movement of support for women, to inform them of their choices and empower them to speak up for what they believe in. It takes a lot of work and isn’t some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of thing. But nothing worth doing in this life is easy, especially supporting women in their birthing choices in a society, a nation, a world where birth is seen as a problematic condition and not the epitome of godliness that only women can achieve in this mortal existence of ours.

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