Group: BOLD

In 2005, a play called Birth, written by writer and mother of two Karen Brody, had its first performance at the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services conference in Washington, D.C. offering a unique piece of art depicting childbirth in the words of mothers. Brody interviewed over one hundred mothers and picked eight stories to include in her play, based on the real stories of mothers giving birth. Rich in political themes of what constitutes good and humane care for pregnant moms, the play was the first to ask theatergoers to think deeply about childbirth issues rarely talked about in broad circles; like coercion and violence against pregnant women. It also was the first play to offer an intimate portrayal of birth sounds and the possibility that birth is for some women not a fearful scary moment, but a powerful life-changing opportunity to experience pleasure and normality. After every performance, Brody heard these themes passionately debated and decided the play was more than a piece of art; it was an opportunity to engage communities in a movement to make maternity care mother-friendly, to end wrongful acts against mothers in the labor and delivery rooms and encourage mothers to take back their power and know their birth options. On Labor Day weekend 2006 in the United States, Brody put out a call to communities to perform Birth for those four days. Twenty-one communities responded – from Seattle, Washington to Delhi, India – and over $50,000 was raised for organizations and causes devoted to making maternity care mother-friendly. On Labor Day that weekend, Brody hosted a kick-off production of the play in New York City with well-known birth professionals – Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Barbara Harper and Henci Goer – as part of the cast. Dr. Christiane Northrup, former obstetrician and popular women’s health author, spoke after the play on a panel. “I want to know,” Dr. Northrup asked. “Why women today are more interested in a Prada bag than the power available to them when they give birth?” Fueled by the success of BOLD 2006, and with a mission to make maternity care mother-friendly, Brody decided to allow groups around the world to perform Birth every year during the month of September. In 2009 Brody expanded the time-period to perform her play to year-round, recognizing the unique demands on mothers to not be fixed into a time. In 2007, in addition to offering the play, BOLD encouraged communities to hold BOLD Red Tent birth storytelling circles to continue Brody’s passion for giving mothers their voices back in childbirth. BOLD Red Tents have been held around the world from Iowa to Paris, France to Northern Uganda. Similar to performances, all proceeds are used to support projects that make childbirth more mother-friendly, often birth centers and doula support. Every year thousands of people participate in BOLD events around the world. This vibrant community stages benefits to educate and change social attitudes towards childbirth and make maternity care mother-friendly.

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