13 Aug Birth is Normal, Natural and Healthy
Last weekend I went to California for my husband’s cousin’s wedding. It has now been almost three years since our own wedding and three years since I have seen many of these people. So the big question was not so subtly brought up.
“When are you thinking of having children?”
“Hopefully soon.” I answered.
At my in-laws house I expanded a bit on this and said excitedly, that I want to have a home birth. Two of the teachers at the PYC had a wonderful experience birthing at home and I would like to have the opportunity to birth where I feel the safest and most comfortable, right in my home. My father-in-law had the same reaction as pretty much everyone I share this idea with,
“What if something happens?!”
“Well, if something happens the hospital is less then 15 blocks away and I go there. My midwife would not allow me to birth at home if I am a high risk patient, (which the majority of women are NOT) but if that is the case then I will deliver in the labor and delivery unit.”
My father-in-law’s perception that pregnancy, labor and birth needs to be a medical event, is not too off base from the view point of our culture these days. When in fact, for the majority of women pregnancy, labor and birth is a natural function of the body! As renowned French physician Dr. Michel Odent has said “One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it.” We don’t need a medical team or noisy, beeping machines telling how to digest food, cough, sneeze, poop, cry, laugh and breathe and we don’t need them telling us how to birth. What is more helpful is having a supportive group that allows you space and time to work through labor and only step in when MEDICALLY necessary. (By medically necessary, I mean free of routine interventions!)
Unfortunately, we are bombarded with the negative images that women are helpless and incapable at birthing their own babies. When was the last time that a movie or TV program portrayed a laboring woman as strong, confident and capable? (Well, Knocked Up– did do a pretty good job!) But the most media uses pregnancy, labor and birth as a means to create humor and provoke fear. And whether it is on a subconscious level or not, that is what we start to believe is the truth.
I often encourage women to read some positive birth stories. Long time midwife, Ina May Gaskin, has two wonderful books filled with positive birth experiences. There are pictures of women relaxed, smiling, naked and instinctually positioned birthing their babies. These are not a special group of women. These are women just like you and me, expect that they have placed themselves in the situation where birth is seen as normal and natural.
The very first sentence of the Lamaze International Philosophy of Birth is “Birth is normal, natural and healthy.” Another segment from the philosophy is “Women’s confidence and ability to give birth is either enhanced or diminished by the care provider and place of birth.” The Farm (yes, that is the name of Ina May’s Birthing Center) has a 1.4% cesarean rate while many of the NYC hospitals average over 30%. However, the World Health Organization states that no region in the world is justified in having a cesarean rate greater than 10 to 15 percent. We can’t just blame the doctors for this outrageous statistic. We need to look at ourselves, our ideas of birth and those around that influence our decisions. The women that birth at Ina May’s Birthing Center are not physically different from us proud Manhattanites! But perhaps mentally and emotionally they are. They have the confidence in themselves to believe in their own innate power and wisdom to birth their babies without allowing technology and fear to dictate how and when they should birth.
Next time you are watching TV and a hysterical pregnant woman is in labor, change the channel. Let’s not reinforce this negative stereotype. Instead let us pave the way for our daughters to believe in their body’s natural capability.
*I have included a few links to interesting articles about the escalating cesarean rate in our country as well as statistics from The Farm Midwifery Center
The Farm Midwifery Center: Outcomes of 2,028 pregnancies: 1970-2000
Births completed at home – 95.1%
Non-emergency transports – 3.6%
Emergency transports – 1.3%
Cases with no hemorrhage – 98.2%
Cases of postpartum hemorrhage – 1.8%
*The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, Goer, Henci, pg 5