Today I stumbled upon the blog The Feminist Breeder and more specifically this post entitled "Why I Won't Leave My Births Up to Chance". There is a huge movement across America right now, a blessed movement, that can be called feminist. Normally I am not of a feministic mind and I'm very old-fashioned. But in the delivery room you can call me a Feminist with a capital 'F'. Truthfully what was once considered the norm for birth hundreds of years ago is, well, old-fashioned but today it is called feminism because women have to take back the power that has been taken away from us in the delivery room. Women are standing up and saying "No" to the unnecessary interventions being thrust upon them by doctors, nurses, and even some midwives.
It is a movement that is passionately bringing awareness to the facts and horrifying statistics in today's American childbirth system. Many of which I am reading about in the book Pushed by Jennifer Block.
Okay so the post by The Feminist Breeder (TFB) really got the wheels in my brain turning. I'm going to pull some quotes but please do go read her post if you have a moment. She wrote it so well I don't even want to paraphrase her. She herself had a cesarean delivery after her doctor said she couldn't push her 8-lb baby out and then she went on to have a 10-lb baby vaginally (known as VBAC or vaginal birth after cesarean).
TFB Says - What happens during a woman’s birth is not all up to chance. Maybe some of it, but certainly not all of it. Despite their best intentions, what most women don’t know is that those interventions can be nearly impossible to avoid without having comprehensive birth education...
I think this little blurp says the gist of it. We are constantly having medicalized birth flashed in front of our faces from the media. Anything that is not mainstream (i.e. home birth, midwives, doulas) is considered flaky, irresponsible and downright crunchy or hippie. And yet when I flip on the TV and see a laboring woman tied down to a bed with wires and cords snaking out from all around her my heart just sinks. Is this what birth has become? Is this what birth is meant to be? Is THIS considered normal and responsible? To make a laboring woman look like a sick patient and for interventions to cause her to tear, to have deeply cut episiotomies, forceps pulling on her precious newborn's head... all of these things happening to her instead of allowing her body do what it was created to do?
And then I see a home birth video of a woman bearing down, perhaps squatting on the floor or in a tub of water, completely uninhibited without a single wire in sight while her baby is born into her very own hands as she cries and says, "I did it. I really did it!" I cannot help but rejoice with her. THAT is what I want for women, for me, for our babies!
I can see myself as that first woman, tied to the hospital bed. In fact that was me during my first two births. I went in with the mindset, "I want to TRY natural but if I just can't handle it there's always the epidural waiting in the sidelines." I pretty much set myself up. I didn't take a single class on childbirth, I had no idea what to do when the contractions hit me and I found myself suffocating through the contractions. My fear was greater than the pain which made the pain more intense than it truly was. It is like being in a kiddie pool, drowning, without realizing that if I just put my feet down I could touch the bottom, stand up and breathe.
So I got the epidural and I got it almost immediately. I did not even try to labor without it. The epidural immediately threw out the window the ability to get up and move around and moving around is the best thing you can do to decrease labor time and dilate that cervix. I was tied to the bed with an epidural in my spine and a catheter between my legs, an IV in my hand, a blood pressure cuff on my bicep, a heart monitor on my finger tip and two huge itchy black bands wrapped very tightly around my very sensitive and contracting belly.
And........ laying there caused the contractions to slow down. They gave me Pitocin to speed them back up. But the thing they don't tell you about Pitocin is that while they are stronger contractions they are less effective than your body's natural ability to contract. Pitocin increases your labor time. When it is time to push often the mother cannot feel to push and can be whisked away for a cesarean for "failure to push" if the doctor says, "You're just taking too long". And don't even get me started about pushing while laying on your back or semi-sitting. It narrows your pelvis so greatly and the only advantage is that the doctor can see everything that is going on; since when is this about the doctor and not the woman giving birth?
When I got pregnant with my third daughter I was so distraught over what happened my first two births. I couldn't sleep, I had nightmares when I did sleep, my doctor kept threatening early induction or cesarean, I bit my fingernails down to the quick and found myself filled with so much anxiety. When my doctor annoyingly took my birth plan one visit and barely glanced at it I finally decided at 37 weeks pregnant to take my birth plan to a midwifery group. I know if I stayed with him I would have a scar on my belly today. Once you are in a vulnerable state (labor) your doctor commands all and things go his way... unless you speak up for yourself! Even then it can be very, very difficult to get them to bend but it can be done. I didn't want the battle of wills. I didn't want the fight. I just wanted a peaceful labor and delivery.
Not all midwives are heaven-sent but I found a good group. They took me in and three days past my due date my water broke at home. They only deliver at the hospital so off we went! While I did have the external fetal monitor and contraction monitor on when I first arrived I was free to move about, unhindered, after they got several minutes of data. I barely remember them listening for my baby's heartbeat with the handheld doppler. I learned how to breathe and cope through my contractions. They HURT like nothing I've ever felt but I was strong and my will was even stronger.
I began dozing between contractions. I learned to not tense up during a contraction. My husband said he could tell I was having one by my facial expressions but that my hand was limp in his as I coaxed my body to relax through the pain. And then I was bearing down, screaming like a woman who was pouring her heart and very soul into giving birth. I was pushing and no one was yelling in my face on how to push or telling me to hold my breath. My baby was born onto the bed in less than a minute with my midwife barely ready to catch her. I pushed in a side-lying position though I really wanted to get up on my knees and squat. There just wasn't time for me to move, ha ha! It was so joyous and exuberant. I was more alive than I ever felt.
I was looking through my birth pictures and the picture of me after I gave birth to Abigail is horrible. I look like someone had punched me in a boxing ring and my face was so swollen with the junk they pumped through my IV that I am almost unrecognizable. My eyes look drugged! Well... I was drugged! So drugged and ill after I delivered her that I didn't want to hold her (don't worry - my closest bond to any of my daughters is with Miss Abigail though I do regret her birth greatly). Then I looked at the picture of myself after giving birth to my youngest, a natural birth, and I look like I had just gone out for tea on a cool spring day. I did not look like I had given birth; I wasn't swollen, my skin was a little flushed but clear and my eyes were open and intent on my newborn.
TFB says - I don’t believe that women need to be taught how to birth, but I do think they need to be fully informed about any interventions they are looking to avoid, and learn techniques for coping with labor naturally. In these modern times, women fear birth because they haven’t grown up seeing their mothers/sisters/aunts giving birth, and they have no idea what a normal birth looks like. The fear of birth is very often a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And to this I cannot add anything that I didn't say above. I'm hoping this next birth our daughters will be present. I show them videos of birth (including cesarean birth). I want them to know what birth looks like. Yes there are true complications that arise that call for immediate, emergent delivery and I thank God for the technology available to us and the OB surgeons to perform those life-saving tasks. But to put every woman through the ringer and treat every single laboring patient with the same protocol is not good medicine; it is absolutely irresponsible. We are individuals with individuals needs, desires and hopes. It is not selfish to desire a birth that will be the safest entry for our baby into our world. It is not selfish if you decide you need an epidural or pain relievers for the pain. Just education yourself fully on each and every procedure because even though your OB is required by law to tell you all the risks they do not do it. You are your own advocate.
All of this is related in the utmost respect. I know many of you are women who've had and are planning cesareans. I just want you to know that I respect you so much and that each woman should make the choice that is right for her. That is the gist of what I'm trying to say; that we have to educate ourselves on the choices available to us and realize that a medical birth in a hospital bed is not the only option. And we must remember to not judge one another for the births we choose to have. I hope you find here that I am not judging you but merely a huge activist passionately preaching the news of natural birth. It is no way to demean you.
And that is my closing statement. YOU get to choose your birth. The only reasons your birth plan may not go according to plan is due to very rare complications or if those interventions are slowly introduced to you during your labor. And to quote The Feminist Breeder again: "What happens during a woman’s birth is not all up to chance. Maybe some of it, but certainly not all of it."
Educate yourself, trust your body and know that having a baby safely can be the norm, NOT the exception if you know what you want to avoid and take the stand to let it be known.
Another great post I found right after writing this:
Why Birth Plans Exist at Stand and Deliver.
I'll be talking more about birth options; it's one of my favorite topics! And with a new little bundle on the way I cannot wait to share some ideas I have for our upcoming birth.