Part II – A Birth Revolution

 The song Times They are a Changin by Bob Dylan came to mind this morning.

Change is a given, a constant. Many of my favorite quotes are about change.

Although much of the recent change in my life is good I am feeling nostalgic and missing some things about the old days, when I was a younger doula, when some of my doula friends, now midwives, were still doulas moving towards a path in midwifery and I wondered if I would do the same.

One song begat another and Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds is consoling to me. I know there’s a time to every purpose under heaven. I preach about “a time to be born”.  I even buy my doula clients a bracelet with the charms that depict a time to be born, a time to cry, a time of peace, a time to embrace, and a time to plant.

Today is a time to embrace change, a time to apply change to the “time to be born”. As it turns out the time to be a birth doula still keeps me busy, feeds my soul. And the time to become a midwife never manifested itself. My heart is brimming with love for my doula work, my clients.

As I finished reminiscing, and thoughts return to this day, I find my heart racing.  But not because of the hectic pace, the fast crazy schedules we keep, but because along with the changed color of my hair and shape of my body BIRTH IS CHANGING!!! I’ve been working and waiting for 35 years for birth to change. It actually got much worse for many years.

Today I believe that Birth is getting better.

Does it sound like I’m speaking of a sick friend, “getting better”? Yes, Birth she was dying.

This peace loving hippy chick is also an activist, not unlike our anti war rioting 60’s friends. I am a part of society that has witnessed the effects of birth abused and I say, “NO MORE!” 

Everyone knows about the women who fought for the right to vote in 1920.  What some don’t know is that we even had to fight for the right to be administered drugs in childbirth in 1848. For some birthing women, in some situations, anesthesia is very helpful.  And the drugs were available, just not to birthing women! What? Why did doctors feel that women ‘deserved’ any pain they experienced in childbirth? They believed that God ordained it because of a misinterpretation of Bible scripture.  The doctors that swore an oath to ‘do no harm’ did not hold the birthing woman’s hand and say, “You are strong, you can do this.  You are safe, your baby is safe.” Instead it was the general opinion that God cursed women. Let’s get this straight once and for all! As a Bible believing Christian I have studied these scriptures. I have found that the common interpretation, “I will greatly increase your pain in childbirth” is incorrect. It is clear that the translator’s cultural beliefs have biased his judgment. The Hebrew word “etzev” correctly translated is ‘work’, labor is work, not necessarily painful, but definitely work. I probably would’ve been fighting along side these women for the right to receive anesthesia in childbirth. When we won that right, we of course embraced the anesthesia and encouraged liberated women around the country to do the same.

But it all went awry. A few years later women had forgot how amazing their birthing bodies were, how normal birth could be, what an important right of passage birth is. It wasn’t long before birth had become big business. The poor wanted what the rich had ~ the numbing drugs in birth.  That lead to us losing many of our beloved midwife’s. We did it to ourselves.  Yes, the money machine and the the fact that man has always fought to be in control (control of nations, control of women) played a big part in women losing control of their God given birth right. That men could not give birth and could not understand it has played a big part in the near demise of birth too. If you don’t understand it, and you can’t control it, KILL IT. This was their ways (think American Indians)! And so while many of our great grandmothers did give birth at home, assisted by other women, many of our grandmothers and mothers were knocked out, tied down, left alone, berated, and talked down to during our births. They were talked down to so doctors, most of who were men, could 1)make more money 2)feel important, in charge type dictators, and 3)ultimately get more women into their hospitals and get more power and money. The outcome was women who feared birth. These women told their daughters horrible stories about birth and the spiraling effect is what we have today, an almost 50% Cesarean Section rate, a dangerous situation.  When cesarean rate is over 15% we are doing more harm than good.

I was lucky. My mom loved having babies! My own father was born at home. As a preemie he was put in a shoebox and in the oven to be kept warm. That sounded logical to me. Not such a big deal. When I was a little girl my mom brought me home a fresh sweet baby every other year or so until her health failed and she could not safely have more babies. Even then in 1965 my mother was admonished by her Catholic priest for even thinking about taking birth control! And my Father had to sneak to have a vasectomy for fear the church would find out! But I was fortunate to have a mom who loved babies and birth. I was also raised on a farm where the various animals gave birth to lots of babies. I was ‘called’ into birth work after I gave birth to my own children and the whole enchilada came together.  The mysteries of childbirth were uncovered for me. The injustices of childbirth were exposed. And the wrongs needed to be righted!!!

Many women today are dedicated to reviving birth, healing it’s woes, exercising their birthing bones and feeding that developing primitive wild woman within! That wild woman has been suppressed for too long. Many men, seeing the harm done to their women and  babies, and the long term consequences of that harm, are also dedicated to reviving birth!

The result is A NEW WOMEN’S MOVEMENT HAS BEEN BORN!  This is being called A BIRTH REVOLUTION!  Women are taking back their birth right. Our reproductive rights were addressed years ago but our right to birth where we want, how we want, with whoever we want, has only today become YOUR RIGHT. The European Court of Human Rights, in December 2010, stated that childbirth is a fundamental human right. Women have the human right to choose how, where, and with whom they want to give birth. The Court held that governments cannot use the force of law to take away their options.

On May 31 and June 1, 2012, over 300 men and women gathered at The Hague University in The Hague, The Netherlands, for a conference on  Human Rights in Childbirth to discuss what it means for childbirth to be a human right and what conditions are necessary that can truly give women the right to control their own bodies. The film, Freedom For Birth: The Mothers Revolution,  includes interviews with over forty birth experts from four continents and with civil rights attorneys who spoke about the new context in which the violation of women’s rights in childbirth can now be framed. Human rights are universal rights*.

While this film contains shocking cases of birthing mothers rights abused, if you don’t see it, I do not have the words to paint the tragic picture. Many eyes are being opened, many women are tired of being lied to, tired of being cut when unnecessary Cesareans happen, angry that their struggle to mother their children in a depressed fog was caused by a system that is broken. Many women have gone on to have Vaginal Births After Cesarean, when their doctor told them they couldn’t do it.  Many women have discovered that their bodies are indeed beautiful, powerful, able to create orgasms and babies in one full breath! And able to create the best food for their young, breast milk! It’s powerful and it has me dancing in the street with my woman friends.

It has me crying with joy when I hug a new born mommy.

This Birth Revolution does not mean that hospitals are bad. I love some wonderful OBGYN’s and I’m grateful for the compassionate care they give to the women with high risk pregnancies or the women that choose hospital as their birth place. The Birth Revolution means that insurance companies and hospital administrators need to rewrite protocol to be inline with todays (most current) studies. There is clear evidence that disproves many of the current maternity care practices. Here are four examples:

  1. Induction for non medical reasons -with proper care, the need for induction (which is a chemical interruption and acceleration of a natural process of the body) is only necessary less than 1/3 of the time that it happens in the USA.
  2. No automatic EFM (External Fetal Monitor) – Research has shown that women that use continuous EFM are 1.7 times more likely to have a Cesarean or have assisted birth with forceps or suction than women that are monitored with intermittent auscultation.
  3. Women should be free to eat throughout labor –
  4. Women’s choice of birthing position – women should push in any position they find comfortable– it is not necessary to be continuously upright or continuously lying down during the pushing phase.

This revolution is not a frivolous or self indulgent cause. I believe it is critical to our planets well-being. I cannot figure out why more money is given to save other threatened species. I cannot figure out why most people know more about our warming planet, and other ecological crisis than the crisis of human birth and the crisis’s that are born of misunderstood and mistreated birthing women. Why am I so passionate? What motivated me? I’ve been witness to power abuse in the birth room. I have heard mommies cry in sorrow when they retell the story of their precious baby’s birth. I have also heard mommies who cry with joy and ecstasy as they tell of their baby’s birth. I’ve seen a 14 year old girl healed by the compassionate actions and words of a midwife, after a life of abuse. As an abused child myself I believe birth was the catalyst for my own  healing. I experienced my power and it was bigger than my abuser, I took the power of love for my baby and turned it into the power of self love!

I am passionate because I know life is a miracle, how fragile life is! I’ve held three angel babies in my 11 years as a birth doula. I’ve had other angel babies born to clients that I did nor hold but I spoke to these babies often when they were in their mommy’s belly. One does not forget that experience. Ask any mom who’s lost a baby…at any age of gestation. We never forget. I thank God for progress in medicine and for Neonatal Intensive Care Units and their nurses who’s specialty is working with these little ones who need their help. I also thank God for the scientist that conduct the studies and provide proof that there’s a better way for all people to enter the world. At whatever age we live to and at whatever time we die, don’t we want choice, compassion and love at every turn?

After it’s all said and done (studies, riots, rally’s and court cases) today’s Birth Revolution means that women, all women, will have the last word, complete control of their body, their birth and their babies. If a woman is planning a home birth with a midwife and her baby mysteriously dies (yes, death is a part of life, science doesn’t have all the answers) in utero she should not be pressured to go to hospital to birth. She will still give birth. This birth is still a sacred event. Her baby is still her baby. Can she be surrounded by loved ones, in her environment, her food, her smells, her comforts? Can she birth HER baby into her hands? Can she meet her baby in privacy, grieve in private?

And if this same woman chooses to birth this baby angel in a hospital should she be considered any less loving, compassionate, or sensible?

As a birth doula I’ve known women that prefer to go to hospital to have their incomplete miscarriage.  I’ve also known women that have chosen to stay at home and wait until nature takes it’s course.  Is one way right and one way wrong? Why? For who?  This line of thinking is the same for a healthy pregnant woman, who’s baby is thriving. She may choose to stay at home to birth, her sister may choose to go to hospital, her girlfriend may go to a hotel or a friends house or a birth centre. What is right for one woman is not right for all women. What is right for you is your RIGHT! You are right. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

There is no wrong way to birth. So why then do women often feel like they did something wrong? Maybe because of the way our society has inherited the “bad girl” crap. Or maybe our own sisters, neighbors, church, and family have told us what is right or wrong for OUR OWN bodies and OUR OWN births for too long.

Women of Earth Take Back Your Birth! OWN IT!

I’ve got a resolution – go to the Improving Birth website, read about us and join the revolution.

After years of planting and weeding we are beginning to see a good crop of strong sustainable birth practices be born. May you reap a joyful birth experience! This Thanksgiving I am contemplating the harvest and thankful for the people all around the world that have worked hard for the blessing of birth ~ as God intended.

a bit more nostalgia…sing along.


This is Part II of II ~ to Read Part I go to I’m Not Making This Crap Up


  1. Thanks Lea 🙂 Beatles music is timeless. I love these too. Midwifery work is more timeless, As a woman passionate about the process of birth every song I hear I am able to somehow relate to womens work and birth.

    P.S. I love your work.

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