Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Not Question the Status Quo?

I’m just a writing machine lately. I guess I have a lot to write about and more time on my hands since we have unpacked and almost completely organized our previously chaotic home. Down time has been an absolute necessity for me these days, and with this extra time, I have begun to read a lot more on the actual birth process in preparation for the event. We will go for an ultrasound on the 16th of January and find out which way the babies are facing. They say that with twins, the babies’ positions are fairly decided by week 28 due to the lack of space. If baby 1 is head down and it stays that way- we are on for a natural delivery (January 16th has since passed and we did find out that baby 1 is head down!); and that brings me to the subject of this writing- natural childbirth.

I should probably start this by telling you that my desire to one day experience pregnancy was perhaps a bit different from other women. It wasn’t about having that wonderful little bundle of baby at the end of 9 months as much as it was about having the privilege and opportunity to experience childbirth. It’s true. I know some of you are thinking smugly to yourself that you would love to hear what I have to say after I actually experience childbirth. But let me encourage you instead, to think- wow, that’s really interesting; and have an open mind to other perspectives.

For many of you who know me, natural childbirth has been a passion of mine for a long time. I could blame it on the fact that my mother and “2nd mother” are both midwives and I grew up surrounded by women who were activists in the field of labor and delivery; tirelessly working to change shortcomings in the medical system as they knew it. But that really only explains a small part of where my passion comes from. After all, how many times have we been exposed to philosophies or ideas by our family, to turn around and do the exact opposite?

I used to tell my mother that if and when I had babies- they could knock me out and wake me up when it was over. I would say this in part to watch her squirm, but I would also say this in part because it was truly how I felt. So what happened to me along the way? How did I become such a proponent for natural childbirth?

Well, as I watched different girlfriends and acquaintances around me give birth with varying degrees of satisfaction, dissatisfaction, trauma, and disappointment; I began to ask questions like why? Did it have to be that way? What led to some of these really disappointing outcomes? Why did some people have really great and fulfilling labor experiences, while others were left to feel disappointed, empty, and wounded?

As I embarked on this journey of questioning, I began to see a common thread throughout those experiences that were positive and those that were not.

For all of us, I believe our top priority is giving birth to a healthy baby. Many of us are taught to think that this will often be at the cost of our labor and birth experience, when in fact it is quite the opposite. A well informed woman along with her well informed husband, have a statistically higher rate of satisfaction in the whole process; along with a statistically lower rate of intervention, cesarean and disappointment. Now this is not to say that cesarean= disappointment. There are ways to feel fulfillment through this type of birth as well; but it does take a bit more planning and preparation in order to feel positive toward an unplanned cesarean birth.

Back to the common thread I have found throughout different birth experiences... education, empowerment, and action. Women and their spouses who are educated about the birth process, their bodies, and how we were created to function are more empowered and thus more confident in taking an active role in their birth plan; making it much more possible to experience the birth they desire.

Unfortunately, a lot of us do not think about these things until after we have given birth for the first time. For many, the extent of our education comes from books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting and the readily available horror stories other women feel they should share with all expectant moms. Often, we go into the birth process feeling tentative, scared, and certain that our Dr. knows best. We assume that as things have improved with medical technology it has made birth better, and that medical intervention is therefore a good and necessary thing. As a result of all of these elements- we essentially walk in, play the good patient, and allow everyone else to make decisions for us.

Ask most women if there were things they would have changed about their birth experience, and they will tell you yes. The sad truth is that there were likely a number of things that they could have changed had they had the tools, knowledge, and confidence to do so. It is often during subsequent pregnancies that many of these women further educate themselves and take more active roles.

(Then there are those of us trying to learn from them and do this ahead of time.)

Phil and I have just finished The Birth Book by Dr. Sears and The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin; and they have been incredibly wonderful tools in preparing and empowering us both for childbirth.

Why do all of this you ask? Because I believe that child birth is a unique and sacred gift and experience that requires planning and preparation; because there are women out there who feel it has been one of the most wonderful and fulfilling experiences in their lives; because I think we have been told lies by the medical establishment and are selling ourselves and our bodies short on a daily basis when we preemptively say we can’t handle pain and just need a drug to help us cope; because we continue to give our bodies and births over to an establishment that makes decisions based on the fear of lawsuits; and because our cesarean and drug induced birth rates are climbing with each day in the US while our safety still ranks low compared to many other nations.

Mainly, I want to see what this amazing body can do in the right environment with the support of my awesome husband.

1 comment:

Clarice said...

Ahhh... you were listening. :)