It was no difficult decision on whether or not to drive across town to meet one of my all time childbirth idols, Penny Simkin. It was a small gathering, organized by another childbirth educator in our area. Even though we got a late start, with me making more than one wrong turn, somehow I managed to get myself, Bethany and our friend Michele there just in time. We were, in fact, some of the first people to show up.
Penny was even more wonderful in person than I imagined she would be. Her warmth and compassion for women in birth was evident in the way she spoke. She was candid about how to help women as they birth in a less than ideal hospital environment. She expressed concern for the plight of underprivileged women, immigrants, non English speaking clients. She wants to see birth workers empower women with realistic choices while educating them in how to work with their labor. It was no secret that she "knows" a lot. She started as a physcial therapist in the late 60's, then trained as a childbirth educator. She expanded that knowlege to include doula work and helped found DONA, an organization to train doula's. I knew that she is smart, educated and experienced.
But I was touched most by her compassion. The expression on her face as she heard the stories of women who felt disempowered or unheard. For the women who felt violated, misunderstood or condescended to, she was all compassion. Concern and warmth lined the edges of her face as she listened to doula's expressing the displeasure at feeling unable to advocate for their client's rights.
And that knowlege, combined with compassion creates a fire and zeal to continue to educate anyone who will listen. She inspired me to be that kind of birthworker. I want compassion for women and families to be the fire that kindles my desire to teach and promote real birth.