Someone asked a question on Facebook this morning, “If you were writing a movie about childbirth, what would it be called?” My favorite answer was, “I don’t know but my book about birth is going to be called, “I’m not making this crap up!”
Ain’t that the truth! Some of the things I’ve witnessed in over 300 births have been sad, maddening, atrocious, shocking, and heartbreaking! I once went out to the hospital hallway and banged my head on the wall. I was that mad. And I am a mild mannered person…usually.
I think that it’s important for anyone who is going through a life transition to have a witness. Don’t the bride and the groom need a witness, the Maid of Honor and the Best Man? Doulas provide that witness for a birthing mom and dad. I usually share good news with y’all here. Stuff like, “A beautiful healthy baby joined us today” or “a strong woman birthed untethered (not tied down to IV, Epidural, Monitor lines), in water, held by her loved ones, caught her own baby”. Writing about all the gooiest, grooviest, ethereal births I witness may not be in your best interest. You need to know ALL the facts. We all do. The “I’m not making this crap up” stories are ones I don’t want to re-live. But it’s time.
Hospitals are for sick people. Hospitals are for high risk pregnant women, high risk babies. NOT FOR NORMAL HEALTHY PREGNANT WOMEN! You see, childbirth is not an illness, not a disease. In 1988 Birth Psychology released this BIRTH IS NOT AN ILLNESS article. Back then the Cesarean rate was 24.7% in the United States. People, doctors, scientist were thinking cesarean rates had hit a plateau.
“Data derived from the 1988 National Hospital Discharge Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics lead us to believe that the rate of cesarean section in the United States has stabilized.”
Ha! So why for the next twenty more years has the surgical birth rate climbed, and climbed, and climbed???
2010 Cesarean rate in the U.S. was 32.8%. Some hospitals in San Diego had a rate of over 41%
What does all that mean? And what does that mean to me?
It might mean a lot to you if you are of childbearing age, if you have a daughter or daughter-in-law, a wife or a sister and if you want her to have healthy, safe reproductive years.
Before I continue I want you to know that I believe in woman’s ability to birth ~ with all my heart. I have confidence in God’s design for our bodies to birth our young, and for our species to thrive.
“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”
~ Ina May Gaskin, Ina may’s Guide to Childbirth
I believe that in the hearts of most women there is a deep desire to birth in a safe loving way, much like the way conception happened. In ecstasy, in privacy, in bliss, under her own power. This is how we mother our young and this is how we conceived our young. This is how we can birth our young. Okay, back to the unpleasant truths of today….HALF of the women entering hospital to have a baby today will have a very unpleasant experience. The work of birth may turn scary. The natural hormones of labor may not be allowed to assist the mother and baby to travel the path nature intended. Did you notice I said “allowed”? Yes, hospitals will try to tell you what is and isn’t allowed. Even though their protocol may be unproven, unscientific. Women do have the last word. They can demand what isn’t allowed, but in the midst of labor this verbal exchange interrupts natures path, mothers and baby’s path. Natures path is to be tread on lightly. But medicine today, most surgeons (OBGYN’s), do not tread lightly. Getting back on path will take time and energy, energy that was needed for the birth of your baby. Taking a Bradley Husband Coached Childbirth Class or a Birthing From Within class or a Hypnobirthing Class does not guarantee that you will not be one of the victims of the system. Hiring a doula is no guarantee either. If you walk into a hospital today to give birth to your baby you are very likely to birth by cesarean section.
When surgery is warranted, saves a baby or a mommy’s life, I’m the first one who sings the praises of modern medicine. But today, I want to tell you about the many healthy women that without justifiable cause are induced, constantly monitored, have her labor sped up, slowed down, then when baby doesn’t like all that crap and mom is too numb to push, her baby is surgically removed. Removed is too soft a word, Yanked, Pulled, from her belly, is more accurate. Best case scenario after cesarean is Mom and Baby are fine. Physically. Mom and Dad celebrate. The family celebrates. They take baby home and wonder why they have breastfeeding issues, postpartum depression, Mom doesn’t trust her mothering instincts as well as she could. After all her body didn’t know how to birth her baby, how can she possibly know how to mother her baby?
Some women do NOT come out of cesarean section surgery physically fine. Some will come out of a cesarean with a hysterectomy, uterine rupture, bladder injury. And their babies are more likely to be sent to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for procedures that would otherwise not have been necessary.
Women die from complications of surgical birth, CESAREAN SECTION, at a higher rate than vaginal birth. THE CAUSE you ask? Unnecessary medical interventions. Things like too much cytotec, too many changes in shifts, too much traffic in OR, too much fear in the OB’s eyes because he’s spent too many days in court rooms all crash into a tragic ending. And the biggest tragedy is that you may never hear about it. WHAT? That’s right the reporting of this catastrophic event in our country stinks! “There is no federal requirement that the states carry out a confidential review of all maternal deaths in order to be sure that all are counted, to analyze the principle causes of preventable deaths and to make policy recommendations to prevent such deaths in the future.” (see The Safe Motherhood Quilt Project and Maternal Death in the United States: A Problem Solved or a Problem Ignored )
I’m grieving. My heart is breaking today for a first time mom I never met. My friend is her doula. The mommy was admitted to the hospital in awesome spirits, her pregnancy healthy, no issues, medically she was called “low risk”. So why did this woman barely get out of surgery alive?
Induction. Rushing. Rushing a woman’s birthing body is not smart. When was the last time you enjoyed someone rushing you to orgasm? Rushing a baby to be born is just bad science. Period. Who rushes a baby to crawl, walk, talk? Why do we rush them to be born? Slow down. Please.
My friend Doula Dawn recently shared this quote, ‘If one went to the extreme of giving the patient the full details of mortality and morbidity related to cesarean section, most of them would get up and go out and have their baby under a tree,’ [Dr. McDonald] said.”[Neel J. Medicolegal pressure, MDs’ lack of patience cited in cesarean ‘epidemic.’ Ob.Gyn. News Vol 22 No 10]
Yes. Under a tree would be good. I remember in 1978 reading Immaculate Deception by Suzanne Arms. She also mentioned this, “if you tie the majority of birthing women to a tree in San Fransisco’s Golden State Park and left them alone they would give birth just fine.” This resonated with me. I was 21 years old and I “Got It!” The ancient woman in my bones got it! I got that the reproductive rights of women were being tossed around like a football and the team with the most money was winning. Not the women. Not the midwifes. Not the babies. The men were winning. Back then the AMA was mostly men. What’s a shame is that even though female medical students today make up 50% of the student population, generally (I say this because there are, of course, awesome women working to improve the system) these women are trying so hard to be accepted by the “old school” that they are, mostly, numb to their intuitive woman’s voice, the gut says, “My God! Let this woman alone!” and her vying for the job voice says, “Protocol! Some one is watching! Try that new technique, get it checked off your list”. And the woman on the bed suffers, the baby suffers, the world suffers on a level we may never fully comprehend.
Coming Soon….Part II – We’re not taking it anymore! What women are doing to regain their reproductive rights. Childbirth is a human rights issue.