When I first met local doula Taylor Davis, arguably the nicest human I've ever met, and Jo Kilburn, the fiery doula behind the Seacoast Birth Network, I knew we had work to do together. We met for coffee and they told me that they had a dream to bring Birth, a play by Karen Brody, to the Seacoast but had been unable to find a venue. I got on the horn, calling on friends from my UNH theatre days and was directed to Genevieve at the West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth, NH. When I first spoke to Genevieve she told me that the only weekend they had open was Mother's Day Weekend 2017. Seeming too good to be true, we booked the theatre!
Our next step was to secure a non-profit to donate the profits of BIRTH to. It was an easy choice, located in Rochester, NH Hope on Haven Hill is a licensed residential recovery facility for pregnant women with substance use disorder, and their babies, for up to one year postpartum. This organization is helping women and their families in our community by providing true support throughout and beyond the childbearing year.
To find a cast, we put the call out to local moms groups, providers, anyone we thought might want to tell the story of Birth. The response was amazing and soon we had a cast of eight & a violinist to accompany them. These women came from all walks of life, doulas, mothers, social activists, childbirth educators, a chiropractor, and a physician. They each put aside time in their busy lives to meet with us to rehearse. Slowly their characters began to emerge; it came naturally to them to play out the stories of these eight women, stories we have all heard within our own communities. There was one scene in the play that was so poignant that I had goosebumps up my arms each time it was run, and there was not a rehearsal that I didn't bark out spontaneous laughter.
It was incredible to watch the play grow, and suddenly it was opening night. We had our first full dress rehearsal that morning, everyone was nervous but determined. I thought we were a little low on ticket sales, which I hid from the actors, but when I left that rehearsal on Friday afternoon I began to take stock and I found that not only had we sold all the tickets, I had oversold the tickets! What a blessing to be able to confidently tell our actors that we would have a full house to benefit Hope on Haven Hill.
The lights dimmed, and Taylor took the stage, thanking everyone for coming and honoring all of our amazing sponsors. Finally, the actors took their places and BIRTH began. As the actor Jillian, played by doula Kate Noble, aptly points out it is a lot of work to go through all your birth baggage, but as we followed the actors through the birthing experiences of eight different women it didn't feel like work. It felt affirming, humorous, sometimes sad, and sometimes serious to see the experiences of low risk US women played out, and I think we all left feeling a little more certain that "My body rocks!"
Our ultimate goal, Jo, Taylor, and me, was to open wide the conversation about birth in our community and to bring together a diverse community. I for one left the experience of BIRTH with a list of women to call if I need a consult, a backup provider, a safe space, or just a friend with whom to enjoy a cup of coffee. I believe that it is through relationships that change really happens, and in that I believe that we exceeded our goal. I cannot wait to see what we all do next!
A big thank you to all of our amazing sponsors that made BIRTH a reality:
New Life Midwifery, White Lotus Physical Therapy, WellSpring Center for Wellbeing, Roots of Life Midwifery, Doula Trainings International, Gus & Ruby Letterpress, Bayside Midwifery, Garrison Women's Health, NH Midwives Association, Newmarket Family Chiropractic, Seacoast Birth Network, Dover Doula, Seacoast Mom and Baby Expo, Soleil Salt Cave, Lakeside Life Science, Evidence Based Birth