For Suzanne Arms, believing how a person is born doesn't matter is a serious mistake.
"When you're talking about the birth, you're talking about the first journey the baby must make to completion," Arms said. "Its first task is to come out of the womb and ... it has great implications for the mother and the baby."
Arms, who wrote "Immaculate Deception: A New Look at Women and Childbirth" in 1975, will visit Juneau from Monday to Thursday "to speak and get people interested in the issues surrounding birth," she said.
Her trip is sponsored by the Juneau Family Birth Center, a nonprofit organization formed in 1998 to provide natural birthing options.
"I've known Suzanne Arms professionally for many, many years," said Kaye Kanne, a midwife and director of the Family Birth Center. "I thought it would be wonderful to bring her to Juneau and raise some awareness about her work."
Though Arms is not a midwife, Kanne said, "she's very well known amongst midwives and physicians who go to conferences about birth. All of the conferences I go to for continuing education, she's there."
The Family Birth Center and Bartlett Regional Hospital work to give their expectant mothers an opportunity for a natural birth, said Andi Foldenauer, clinical assistant manager of obstetrics at the hospital.
"We try very hard to honor our moms' birth wishes, for whatever they want," Foldenauer said. "If the mom is wanting low intervention and no medication, we try to accommodate whatever they want, with the safety of the baby and the safety of the mom in mind."
The birth center is sponsoring Arms' trip to raise awareness about more than just midwifery, Kanne said.
"We're promoting the support of families - support to create the kind of environment that's going to prevent child abuse, neglect and cultural problems that can extend from birth," she said.
Though the way a child is born is not the only factor affecting a child's behavior and character, it can be an important one, Arms said.
"It's never any one thing that shapes or makes us, it's always a combination of our genetic heritage and our earliest experience and then the environmental influences that we have later on," Arms said. "But the piece that's been left out of the whole dialogue is the piece that's from conception to age 1."
Arms cites evidence in cellular and neural biology that stress in the earliest stages of life can cause the brain and nervous system to operate in a constant state of stress, leading to behavioral disorders and learning disabilities.
At 6 p.m. Monday, Arms will host at the Silverbow a screening and discussion of "Giving Birth: Challenges and Choices," a video Arms produced in 1998.
"It shows the difference between the medical paradigm and the midwife and holistic paradigm for birth - and they're very, very different," Arms said. "It will inspire (the audience) about what is possible in birth and what birth is meant to be."
At a brown-bag lunch from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, co-sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children of Southeast Alaska, Arms will lead a panel discussion on transforming the lives of young children in Juneau. The discussion will be held at the University of Alaska Southeast auditorium.
Wednesday evening at 6, the Family Birth Center and Arms will host a five-course meal at the Back Room at the Silverbow. Proceeds from the $100 tickets will go toward the birth center's new building, which will be built above the Salmon Creek falls behind the new SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium building, Kanne said.
She is waiting for an estimate from the building's contractor to release a cost for the building, but she hopes construction will begin by fall 2004.
Arms' final public event in Juneau will be a potluck dinner at the Family Birth Center at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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