25 January 2008

The Business of Being Born

I can't remember the exact moment when I, very pregnant with Science Boy (baby #1) six years ago, fled in frustration from the office of my OB and turned instead to the arms of a midwife and a midwifery practice specializing in out-of-hospital births. Maybe it had been a gradual process, when little by little, week after week, my appointment times with my OB were getting shorter and shorter and shorter. Maybe it had been abrupt, when during my last appointment, I found myself double-booked with another expecting mom. Maybe it was both -- the rushed nature of the whole thing, the feeling that my experience was so (hohum!) routine, that we had to keep to a schedule and the clock was ticking. I felt the lack of respect for me, my baby, the process.

So on my 36th week of pregnancy, I switched practices to an all-midwife freestanding birth center and promptly gave birth a week later. Maybe my body had been telling me something. Because somewhere along the way, I had made the transformation from one of those women who viewed birthing as a medical process--where epidurals, episiotomies and continual fetal monitoring were normal--to a natural one, an activity my body was built for, something I was born to do. Both my birth experiences, which had been drug- and intervention-free, had been positive, empowering, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar experiences.

But when I tried to tell other women what I'd felt, there was again this instinctive horror against what I'd gone through. How my birthing at a birth center was, despite a lack of reading and research on the part of the person I was talking to, inherently "unsafe." The "God forbid" factor was frequently invoked, as in, "God forbid something would have happened. What would you have done?"

For my second birth, I actually explored the possibility of birthing at home. Ultimately, because baby #2 had a very high chance of coming out severely jaundiced and would need to stay in a hospital anyway, we ended up birthing at a hospital. But the birth happened so fast (2.5 hours of labor from start to finish) that I wish I had gone through with my plans to have people come to ME instead of me going to them.

Home birthing and midwifery continues to be a controversial subject here in the U.S. despite the fact that it is widely practiced in Japan and Europe. We Americans are so indoctrinated on the idea that More Is Better when it comes to medical interventions that we've lost sight of how birth is inherently natural. We've accepted that epidurals are safe, that c-sections are routine, that a hospital is the ONLY place to give birth. If all that is true, then I ask you this: why then do we have the second highest infant-mortality rate in the developed world? Shouldn't we have the lowest?

Ricki Lake recently come out with a documentary in support of intervention-free births (she gave birth to her 2nd son at home and footage from the birth is shown in the movie). Here's a sneak peak for those of you interested:

The movement to take the birth experience back and away from the medical establishment has a long, long way to go. Perhaps we'll never think like our European and Japanese sisters. But the grassroots movement is there and I'm proud to be one of its members.


mamazilla said...

i can't wait to see this documentary!

i too was shocked by the infant mortality rate (IMR) findings from 2006 but i've read other conflicting research about how (IMR) is calculated by country. wiki has a small entry about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_mortality

i hope the film clears this up and i also hope it doesn't make moms who choose do hospital births feel guilty or "bad" about doing so...

we already have to deal with judgment and guilt from rooming in or not, cloth or disposable, breast or bottle, crying it out or not, etc...

i was very lucky with both births of my children in that my midwives were connected to OB/GYN offices and hospitals. so although, i gave birth to both children in a hospital, i had all the options of natural birth, hypno birth, water birth, etc..

my midwives were definitely in charge of my labor and delivery and "medical" procedures came "secondary". for example, when my daughter came, i pushed for almost four hours... finally, my midwife advised that we needed more help via an ob/gyn and "the salad tongs". :)

Jocelyn said...

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sunshine said...

I've had 3 babies, 3 c-sections... but during my last prego state, I couldn't find a doctor (I live in Canada) but there was a midwife in town. I explained that I need another section (I have a weird shaped uterus that doesn't let deliver normally) but she still took me on. Never did I feel rushed, during the care. My appointments were always on time and the midwive was so friendly. I also LOVED the at home visits for up to 6 weeks after. I didn't even have to get changed out of my pajamas for my check up!

Hazel Designs said...

I just love the idea that midwives massage you with olive oil so you don't tear! Sign me up!

Hazel Designs said...

I just love the idea that the midwives massage you so you with olive oil so you don't tear! Sign me up!

Marcia Colette said...

With the way healthcare is going down the tubes these days, we may not have much of a choice when it comes to home births. If so, I'll adopt. ;-) I'm such a wuss when it comes to pain.

mom2amara said...

Until recently, I had the cultural guilt that so many Americans have...needing to be "loyal" to our physicians.

But recent events concerning my health made me realize that my doctors cared very little about my well being. And it would be up to me to take matters into my own hands.

And I have. And I am grateful.

What am I getting at? I never thought "midwife" would work its way into my vocabulary. But I now feel this resentment towards how my care has been thus far. And if I am ever again blessed with another, I'll be more educated and open minded about my options.