Birth and Death

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Recently, I’ve encountered some very real, natural life occurrences.  And as I have encountered them, I have realized the similarities between birth and death, and realized there are huge, vast differences between the two as well.  As I teach HypnoBirthing classes to excited expectant parents, I also know that there are people preparing for death.  Everyone dies, but it seems that we, as Americans are so afraid of death, that we keep it a secret.

I’ve had a challenge in explaining to my daughter, who will be 4 this year, the realities of life.  I don’t know how much she understands,  but I am as honest as I can be, at an age appropriate level for her.  I answer questions when she asks, while sometimes inside, I have questions too.  It seems that in this past week, I’ve reached a level of comfort and clarity with the end of life.  I’ve also discovered that I have almost as much passion for end of life issues as I do for birth.

I think this passion grows out of my Social Work background, and the belief that everyone has the right to dignity.  At the beginning of life, mothers choose to birth their babies in a manner that is most comfortable to them.  Dignity is present when mothers’ wishes are honored.  At the end of life, many people prepare an advanced directive, decide what they would like to have happen, and how they would like to be treated.  Dignity is present when the wishes of the dying are honored.

Sometimes, though, wishes are not honored.  Many providers who care for pregnant women have a skewed view of what normal birth is, and so their methods do not mesh with the wishes of mothers.  Many times, birth is hurried, labor is induced, babies are rushed, when this is medically unnecessary.  A similar situation arises with the end of life, hospitals are so concerned with saving life, that even in situations where patients wish for no intervention, intervention is ever present.  Advanced directives can be helpful, as can Do Not Resuscitate orders, but if they are not in hand, they cannot be honored.  Procedures are performed to keep people alive, because a large part of the medical system is there to “fix” what is wrong.  In dealing with birth and death, since they are both natural occurrences, there is nothing to fix.

I understand that we, as humans, are extremely selfish.  We want our babies here NOW, and we want our loved ones to stay with us forever.  The thought of saying goodbye is excruciating, but it is a reality that we must face.  Allowing people to be born and to die on their own time is essential.  It provides a balance to life, but it also provides dignity to those who are entering or leaving our lives.

With death especially, we must remember that there are some things that death has no power over.  Death cannot change the love we feel and it cannot take our memories.

For those of you preparing for the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one, I pray for the wisdom for you to know that it will happen in its own time.  I pray for you to feel the comfort of just letting things stay as they are, now.  I pray for you to understand that you cannot control what or how it happens, though you may feel an intense need to.  I pray for you to soak in every moment of waiting, allow it to saturate your very being.  I pray for you to just be.  Allow yourself to not rush or prolong what is inevitable, it will happen, and when it does, just breathe.

Additional suggestions:

Birth:

  • Think about the kind of birth you want for yourself, your birth partner, and your baby.
  • Research everything.
  • Take a birthing class.
  • Create a birth plan.
  • Talk to your provider at length about your wishes during labor and birth (if he/she does not agree or seem on board, switch providers/hospitals or both).
  • Be confident in what your body was created to do.
  • Be flexible in your approach to labor and birth.
  • Hire a Doula.

Death:

  • Talk to family about your wishes.
  • Create an Advanced Directive, detailing your wishes (on paper).
  • Decide on details concerning what will happen to your body, before you pass on.
  • Know that no matter how much everyone prepares, this will not be easy on anyone.
  • Have the confidence to express your details to those you love.
  • Determine whether Hospice would be a viable option for you in your final journey in life.

Your input is greatly appreciated.

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