“To speak of birth, to touch people’s hearts and souls and to awaken that part of humankind that has forgotten that it matters enormously how a baby comes into the world — that is our task.”
– Vicky Chan and Nick Edmondstone, Tree of Life Birth Center
Four babies, four very different births
My first daughter, born into the world two months before I graduated college, and five months before I married her dad….
… came a week before she was expected…. I labored at home all day and then went to the hospital…. given Pitocin and an epidural, she was born within a few hours after we arrived at the hospital.
… I was 22…
My son was born a week before his expected date, and it was a scheduled induction. After arriving at the hospital in the evening, we were “held off” until the following morning because our doctor had an emergency ceserean.
Epidural and Pitocin given and four hours later he was born.
… I was 25….
At 29, I gave birth to our daughter…. she was born a few hours past her expected date…
…. in the wee hours of the morning, at home…. unassisted.
We planned a birth at home, but did not plan the unassisted part.
At 32, I went from the care of a midwife center, to midwives at our hospital, to MFM, which is for high risk pregnancies.
What fascinated me most about birth is how much I have learned, and my change in perspective since having my first child.
I did not think about how, or why, or why not…. I didn’t think about my placenta, or the fact that my body even grew a special organ to sustain the new life within me.
Knowing very little about birth, I also didn’t think about the risks of childbirth.
Looking back, I can see how ignorance was bliss…. and a form of survival, as I did a fantastic job of facilitating a healthy pregnancy and birth during that time.
While pregnant, I finished on-campus classes, performed in a Shakespearean play, got engaged, worked at a daycare center, took online classes, and moved out of state.
Reflecting on this young woman, who experienced massive life and physical changes, I admire her courage and dedication, energy and will…. what she lacked in mindfulness, she made up for in adventure, optimism, grit, and bravery.
Fast forward five years, the deep dive into birth began and I stepped into the newly realized choices I had surrounding birth.
I have learned that birth is one of those things that once you learn about…. you cannot un-learn….
…. once you dive into the vast seas of choice, responsibility and possibility, there is no returning to a mind that is blind.
Just like many other industries, there are different views when it comes to birth, and although times have changed dramatically, practices seem to remain stagnant and slow to catch up.
Many medical providers view birth through a clinical lens, fogged with large egos and liability restraints.
This means that a woman’s choice comes second to the rules and regulations enforced by a board of decision makers and their employees who work as medical professionals within the facility.
The same rules and regulations that were put into place to protect women, are also the same rules and regulations that can prohibit a physician or nurse from providing a patient with care that is commonsense and based on the belief that a woman intuitively knows how to birth her baby.
Let’s unravel here for a minute…
“In the early 20th century, physicians began experimenting with a combination of scopolamine and morphine in childbirth. Alone, scopolamine acts an as amnesic, erasing all later memory of childbirth. Given with an opiate, it also has an anesthetic effect. Scopolamine-morphine, named “twilight sleep,” permitted the patient to be semiconscious with intact contractions during labor, allowing the physician to coach the woman through childbirth without her remembering the experience afterwards.” – Changes in Childbirth, Laura Kaplan
These physicians were driven to find pain-relief solutions for wealthy women who demanded childbirth free from pain.
This is all well and good!
But just like anything else in life, a chain reaction takes place…
… mistakes are made…
… lessons are learned…
…. resources, attitudes, mindsets and technology changes…
… and the great experiment continues.
As physicians were trying out different formulas, the results ranged from successful to neurological compromise in women and children, to the loss of lives for both child and mother.
This, among other labor and delivery practices, became routine.
As years went on, more births were done in hospitals, where the physician became the conductor and the patient became a passenger.
Liability > Individuality
Every year that passes, the list of rules and regulations that hospitals and medical professionals have to abide by grows.
Each patient that walks into a hospital affects the bottom line of the hospital and at the end of the day, this has massive influence over the mindset of the professionals working within the facility.
There is a moment in most conversations with a medical provider where they lean away from individual treatment and focus on routine and commonplace within the practice.
There is a moment in care when a medical provider decides risk vs benefit for both the patient and what is reasonable within the boundaries and liabilities of his or her facility. This may or may include what is honestly in the best interest of the patient, all things considered.
This is where it can get hairy….. and why birth plans, for example, can create communication and be a voice for care.
If we as patients want the best outcome for ourselves, we must learn how to advocate for ourselves, our health and our experience.
Education, understanding and responsibility become an important part in advocating for our health and the health of our children.
If you felt empowered to, would you?
I noticed that as a birthing mother, I became on a need-to-know-basis.
I wasn’t offered many choices, I wasn’t given much information…
…. again, ignorance can be bliss.
…. and perhaps that woman wasn’t ready to answer those questions, make those choices… she was young, she had a lot on her plate… she had little experience being an adult, and certaintly no medical training.
… maybe she wasn’t ready to step into her power as a woman, as a mother, as an active participant in the birth of her motherhood and the birth of her baby…
…. her soul had not yet awoken fully but the rumbling had begun…
…. so what if she had been given the opportunity to decide…
… what if her options were discussed with her and she was supported in having a birth that required no medications, because she was at low-risk, young, strong and fully capable of bringing her child into this world safely and soundly…
…. even though it didn’t follow a routine protocol, what if she wanted to have a birth without interventions? Would it have been an inconvenience for the hospital and her medical providers?
Would it have been harder for them?
Harder for her?
Would it have been costlier?
Is it because she didn’t ask about it?
…. I am now here to ask about it….
If you felt empowered to have a birth that was authentic to your body, authentic to your baby… would you?
If you felt empowered to experience a fully supported birth, the birth of a mother, the birth of a baby, with you as the driver, because your body knows how to birth and your baby knows how to be born….
…. would you?
More than any other time in history, we have the opportunity to not only survive childbirth, but thrive.
There are circumstances that require interventions. If we find ourselves in this situation, it’s even more important that we ask questions, do our own research and advocate for our health, for our baby and our experience.
The end does not always justify the means.
Birth is important, and how you feel about your pregnancy and your birth is important.
Becoming pregnant and experiencing childbirth…. changes you.
Mentally, emotionally, physcially, physiologically, spiritually, every way you can be changed….
…. we don’t talk about it enough, and it shows up a few days, months, years later as stress, depression, illness, or disease.
We aren’t empowered during our pregnancy and we aren’t empowered during the birth of our babies… the silence continues as we make our way through motherhood and in every way we show up in our lives…
…. we continue to feel shame, guilt, sadness, loss, disappointment and fear, we question these emotions in silence…. and too soon forget what our bodies and our spirits and our hearts, just went through.
…. and continue to go through.
The way we treat birth speaks volumes to the way we treat the psyche of a woman.
…. we fail to listen, to understand, to trust and to empower.
But that is changing…
…. we are strengthening our voices…
… and our bodies and our spirits are ready.
All Photos Credit to: Perth Birth @catfancote.capturingbirth