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How do you communicate possibility? How do you share that which is not yet experienced? That’s one of the mysteries in the work we do to make change.
Can we show individuals and communities that a different way is possible? That they can create a different reality in their lives, their institutions, their neighborhoods?
People learn and interpret reality from their own experience, not from someone else trying to convince them. But human beings find ways of growing and changing. Some of these are developmental, as our brains develop or our experiences expand. Some are based on glimpses of others’ reality. Some are driven and supported by a deep human need to make things better. We hope and we dream and we grow.
The challenge is to create a space where that change can happen. HealthConnect One has worked for decades to learn how to facilitate that process. It has to do with starting where people are, with creating a safe environment for their feelings and their truth, and following their lead to discover what they really want. It involves support, and especially the support of a peer, someone with whom you can identify and who shares your background and experience. It is easier to visualize success if you see someone like you who has experienced that success. It involves respect, and integrity, and challenge, and affirmation of small steps. This is a radical process. It asks the big questions and listens to the whispers of answers. It is hard, hard work, and it is inspiring.
The attachment of parents to their babies before they are born and after they come gives us a glimpse of this process – the dreamy, scary, emotional and incremental shift of incorporating a new human being into our lives. Even without seeing and actually touching the baby, parents can feel the baby kick and respond. They can begin to understand that what they do affects this person-to-be, and that they are and always will be affected deeply by him or her. But they relate to the baby in the context of their own history and experience. It may be with pleasure, perhaps with fear, and most always with hope.
Until relatively recently, human women have always birthed with the support of other women. Going through pregnancy and the work of labor and birth, learning about your own power and experiencing the support of someone who has been there before, can be a template for all of life’s challenges and changes.
If we can help to create and sustain holding spaces for that growthful work, we are communicating possibility. When we support the power to make decisions and act on them, we are making change.
There is no place else I would rather be.
Rachel Abramson is a master’s-prepared nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She has provided leadership for HealthConnect One since 1986, for which she has received numerous awards – including APHA’s first Maternal and Child Health Outstanding Leadership and Advocacy Award (2009), the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies State Impact Award (2003), and the Start Early: Learning Begins at Birth Award (2003) from Voices for Illinois Children. She is co-author of The Community-based Doula: Reclaiming Birth, Empowering Families, published by Zero to Three Press in 2006.