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Janelle Brandon Headshot

Protecting the Threshold

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I've watched women work too damn hard to have their rights and access to birth control restricted and/or decided upon by anyone other than themselves, their partners and their healthcare providers.

You see, I work at the threshold; I'm a birth worker (a doula and midwife assistant). It's this sacred place between two worlds that mom and baby hang out in for short or very long periods of time. Sometime,s babies slip nearly effortlessly from their mothers' bodies and peacefully cross the threshold to this side of living. Other times, women, quite literally, put their lives on the line to bring forth their children, that they may live and breathe and eventually pursue their own life, liberty and happiness.

Let's back up the threshold timeline. My first foray into birth control consisted of a diaphragm (OMG, no, what a non-spontaneous disaster nookie buzzkill), then those pesky pills (holy SH*T did I take my pill today?!), and then finally, an IUD. Wow, was that slick! I didn't have to remember to take something every day or push the pause button to locate and insert my tons of fun diaphragm plus spermicide. So basically, I was able to confidently cross the threshold to become my adult sexual self quite shamelessly and for the most part (aside from the IUD insertion), painlessly.

I would BRAG about the IUD to my friends. Seriously, so amazing. I've been having sex with the same guy since I was 20, (spoiler alert, he's my husband) so not having to worry about getting pregnant made my early twenties totally fun to have sexy time when and sometimes wherever (oh, alcohol!) I wanted. And then at age 24, I got pregnant. My beloved IUD had betrayed me.

And there I was at the threshold. Did I want to stay on this side? Or cross over into motherhood? Thankfully, it was my right to choose. And together, with my now-husband, we decided to cross over into parenthood. And getting from one side to the other wasn't easy.

It took all of my physical, emotional and mental strength to labor through and become a mother. It also took the help of a husband who believed in me, family who supported me, a doula who didn't leave my side and grouchy hospital staff who tolerated me. I will never forget the painful yet exhilarating sensation of my son's body exiting mine, when he was charged with the task of breathing on his own for the first time. He was lazy about the whole breathing on his own part at first, but he came around eventually and decided that he wanted to stay on this side.

Shortly after he was born, blood poured out of me. Several shots of anti-hemorrhage drugs and a near fainting spell and it appeared I would stay earth-side as well.

All of this because I had sex that one time. And super protected sex at that! Quite the production, if I do say so myself.

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And then we did it again. A few years later, in our dining room, a pretty, black-haired little girl slid out of my body and into my life and quietly and sweetly closed the door to any more siblings. You see, two months later, my husband took his birth control into his own hands and got a vasectomy. How liberating for us to have safely accessed birth control and parenthood as we saw fit. Opening and closing the door on our own schedule.

The collective beauty and kindness bestowed upon me during this time stirred a deeper calling within me to help other women cross the threshold into motherhood as gracefully as possible by becoming a birth worker (a doula and midwife assistant).

And the process hasn't always been graceful. In the past five years, I've encountered women who are single mothers (some by choice, others by difficult circumstances), mothers who've lost children, mothers who are poor, mothers who aren't convinced having a baby is what they want, mothers who've struggled with postpartum mental health disorders, mothers who've had dangerous medical conditions during pregnancy, delivery and postpartum and mothers who've pleaded with their newborns to take their first breaths. Most of those babies did. Some did not.

Working at the threshold is tough. Being at the threshold as a woman is tougher. I became even more of a supporter (if that's possible) of a woman's right to choose when, if and how she becomes a mother once I became a mother myself. After having bore witness to my own and all these other threshold crossings by women in the meantime, I am first in line to make sure that the ladies have everything they need. This, without conditions, includes unfettered access to birth control, love, support, education, advocacy and understanding to make the best decisions they can about their health and future with their partners and health care providers.

Guess who and what else shouldn't be at the threshold? Someone's boss. Someone else's personally-held religious beliefs.

I pledge to continue to protect and serve women as they cross the threshold.

Come on, America. You know better. Do right by your women.

This post originally appeared at www.janellebrandon.com.