Talking to my friend online about her birth reminds me that there are different views of birth. There are the people who go to medical school to attend very medicalized births of frightened women who may or may not be prepared for the challenges of childbirth. These same people attend births that are largely medicated in one form or another, and because of this, they see this as “normal”. The women who give birth in this setting often have to fight for their birth wishes. Even if women don’t come armed with birth plans, some have desires that they would like met, but in the face of having to defend their wishes in the presence of staff, they give up.
The normal that the other group of people see is totally and completely different. We see birth as nothing short of a miracle. Birth is normal, it is natural, and it is healthy. Birth is meant to happen to women, and women were built to give birth. We grow babies that are the perfect size for our bodies. The normal birth that this group sees has every confidence in birth. Birth is not a medical event, and it certainly is not an emergency. The women who give birth among this group of attendees often simply drift through birth without a fight. These births are peaceful, calm, quiet (sometimes eerily so), and have a sacred feel to them. Women feel loved, at peace, protected, nurtured, and surrender to their birthing energy.
I love talking birth, probably more than anything else in this world (except for sharing stories about Sydney, of couse!). My passion comes out, I get fired up, and I want for others to feel what I feel about this subject. There are certain things about birth that anger me, some that make me so proud to be a woman, and some that just sadden me.
I think back to my own labor, when I felt totally in control. And even upon arrival at the hospital, in San Ramon, CA, I felt the same. The team of people I had supporting me was incredible. Never did anyone treat the impending birth of Sydney like it was an emergency, or even a medical event. I self hydrated, walked, did many position changes, had intermittent monitoring, and never heard a mention of my pain. Going through labor was a time in my life when I felt the most vulnerable, but knew I was so loved and supported. Sydney’s birth was at the very least challenging. But it was also a time that defined much of my life now, it was a time that empowered me, and bonded us together as a family.
Birth is a time when women must feel supported, loved, and vulnerable. Our birthing energy must be focused, intent, and committed. We must labor with conviction, with a knowledge that we can do this. Women who lose this energy, this conviction become easily steered in directions they may not want to go. This does not make them weak at all, it just makes their path to birth different, and sometimes a bit more challenging, and sometimes still, more dangerous.
The births that OBs and L&D nurses see are dramatized because of the environment in which they are. They are closely monitored, managed, and manipulated. These births are mere fragments of what births should be. Many of these births are not at all what the mothers or the babies want, but sometimes, mothers truly know no different. Often times mothers are convinced of what they should want because of stories they have seen and heard from others (friends, family, media sources, etc), which creates fear in them, and they lose confidence and are convinced they need anesthetic assistance to get through birth.
Medicalized birth certainly has its place, it has its time, it has its necessity. But it is not a majority of the time. Healthy full-term mothers have a right to be fully apprised of how their bodies function, and how to work with their bodies and babies to have a birth with as few interventions as possible.
So here are some of my suggestions for a healthier birthing experience.
- Take ownership for how you want to give birth. Decide now, and follow through.
- Eliminate the words “Delivery” and “Deliver” from your vocabulary. They allow you no responsibility as a birthing mother.
- Create a birth plan.
- Research, research, research.
- Consider options you may not have considered before (home birth, birthing center, water birth, different hospital etc).
- Choose a care provider that is completely supportive of what you want. If he/she is not, find another one.
- Prepare for birth by taking a birthing class that fits well with you and your birth partner.
- Believe in your abilities to give birth.
- Hire a doula.
- Be flexible about labor and birth, accept that some things in birth may shift a bit.
- Envision your birth, just the way you want it to be.
- Ask for positive birth stories only. Walk away if people share anything less.
- Do NOT watch shows like Maternity Ward or A Baby Story.
- Arrange everything ahead of time so when birthing time nears, your life is free of undue stress.
- When labor begins, stay at home as long as you are comfortable.
- Have a happy, healthy, and safe birth.
- Take time following birth to talk about your birth to a person who respects you and will not judge.
- Do not feel like a failure if you chose to have interventions that you previously thought you would not. You are NOT a failure.