If you are a doula or childbirth educator, you are probably familiar with using acronyms to help parents navigate pregnancy and birth choices, particularly those choices that fall into the category of interventions.
When I first started teaching in the late 1990’s, I found the acronym BRAND (below) in a Midwifery Today Journal.
B – Benefits of suggested procedure/test/action;
R – Risks of procedure/test/action;
A – Alternatives available;
N – Nothing… what will happen if no procedure/test/action is implemented;
D – Decide
I taught my Variations, Complications and Interventions class using this acronym for a couple of years. Then, in one of my classes, one of the dads (whose job was something like: “technology feedback and neuro-linguistic specialist” – seriously, I couldn’t make that up) pointed out to me that the root of the word decide is: cide – meaning “to deliberately kill or eliminate.”
It is important to know that the class this father was in was made up of the following mix of couples: 5 first time parents and 3 second time parents whose babies had all been born by cesarean section. Those 3 couples all believed their cesarean sections had been unnecessary and were looking for a more empowering and satisfying experience this time around. It was important to them not to eliminate options.
At the time, I also worked at the Puget Sound Birth Center and I often noticed that one of the midwives, Valerie Sasson, never used the term “informed consent”. She would instead say, “informed choice”. That left an impression on me and the students in my class agreed that having choice in childbirth was paramount.
So, that evening, that class of passionate parents collectively came to the conclusion that a satisfying birth could include giving birth by cesarean section if the mother and partner felt they had choices and if they felt they were well-prepared, well-informed and well-supported.
That evening, we changed BRAND to BRANCh with a ch for CHOICE.
I loved this – BRANCh – my mind immediately conjured up an image of an amazing, majestic tree.
When I share this concept now, I talk about the idea that all the main branches represent each letter of the acronym, one branch is benefits, another is risks and the rest, that the smaller branches represent the questions you will ask to make informed choices and all the leaves on the tree represent the ALL the choices you might have. I tell them that each time they use these tools to ask questions, do research, inquire and consider what is important to them, they are growing the roots of this “empowerment tree” deep into the ground.
I proceeded to teach BRANCh for many more years until I heard Lamaze Trainer, Teri Schilling, introducing this concept to some new childbirth educators. She referred to the now familiar acronym, B.R.A.I.N. The letters are all the same except the “i” was added to stand for your INTUITION. I knew that day I really needed to add the i into BRANCh. I was always telling my students to trust their guts! I felt it was important to add it into the acronym so they would always remember to check in with their own inner-knowing. I would put it in…but, where?
The answer came relatively easily. In our i-tunes, i-pod, internet culture, it made all the sense in the world to me that we would: i-BRANCh! And so it has been ever since.
In one of my doula trainings, childbirth educator, Xylina Weaver doodled away as shared the evolution of i-BRANCh. After class she shared her doodles which eventually led to a beautiful “Informed Choice Tree”art-piece above which she generously sent to me.
Now, when I introduce i-branch to the parents and doulas I teach, I begin first with BRANCh, alone. And then I talk about the leaves on the tree and ask them to tell me if they notice, when they are looking at trees, how the leaves will sometimes be moving, showing us that the wind is blowing when we otherwise don’t feel or notice it. I ask them if they might have a built-in, invisible signal in their bodymind that alerts them to something they need to know. And sure enough, you can see it on their faces, watch their breath change slightly in their bodies as each one remembers their own inner-voice, their inner inkling that communicates to them as well. Their intuition.
And with that, we all feel the roots of our trees growing deeper.