Throughout my thirties I watched not one or two, but almost all my friends enthusiastically enter the hospital in labor, having claimed for nine months that they would have a natural birth. Yet they came out two (or ten) days later having been induced, forced to labor on their back, drugged, cut, and observed by countless strangers.
Their babies had been taken from them immediately after birth and they were having problems nursing.
I wondered what had gone on behind the doors of the L&D that all of them were checking out with dramatically altered birth stories.
In my third trimester I attended an all-day birthing class at a store for new moms and babies. The women in attendance were from around the world, highly educated in their fields of work, and well to do with all conveniences of life available to them.
And yet… here are some things I heard during class:
- “I’ve heard that babies nurse every two hours when they are born, but I sleep about nine or so hours per night. What will happen to my breast milk during the nine hours that I’m sleeping?” (after telling the class that her father was an OB-GYN).
- “I’ve never heard of a birth without an epidural… I didn’t know it was possible.”
- “What is the areola?” asked on learning how to help the baby latch.
- Not one had considered a homebirth.
- Not one had considered a natural birth.
- “How much is it going to hurt?” and “How can I avoid the pain?” were the primary concerns of almost all in attendance.
Although I had already studied so much, explored, and found quality help, I attended the class to learn more about childbirth and postpartum care of baby and mom. But these women were only now seeking education and help.
What they received, though, was a lecture about towing the industry line:
- You will have an epidural and likely other drugs.
- There’s a high chance that you’ll have a C-section—and the instructor showed a video so we “could know what it looks like and be prepared.” (I left the room.)
- Postpartum instruction: if you are going to drink wine, pump first—if you breastfeed—or “pump and dump” after you drink.
How could women feel calm and confident about labor with that lack of knowledge and the guidance offered in such a class?
Women were being trained to think of childbirth and postpartum as a “procedure”—to be endured and gotten through as quickly and painlessly as possible—and to rely entirely on a system that was treating them as a “workforce” and “profit center” rather than a family being gifted with another spirit in their lives.
There was no focus on natural childbirth. No mention of home birth. No discussion of postpartum as a healing, bonding, growing, significant, and once-in-a-lifetime experience for mother, father, and baby.
A treasure lost for those parents and babies. Precious, fleeting time and experiences that will never come again!
I had a different vision for my childbirth and postpartum experience, and I believe if those women in class, and thousands—if not millions—of other expecting moms knew of other options, if they knew they could get natural, loving, nurturing help, they would create a different vision for their own childbirth and postpartum time.
A great percentage of women in the U.S. spend two to four years after high school in education and preparation for the workplace. We are even willing to take out enormous loans for the cause.
Then when it comes to motherhood, we throw ourselves into the most important role of our lives with little study and no training— subject to tremendous influence from the medical industry, Hollywood, and other commercial enterprises—reliant on professionals to do it for us, whether “it” is conceiving, birthing, or raising children.
Doesn’t our role as mother and homemaker deserve commitment, study, and investment as we give to any job in the workplace?
If you’re like I was—with your intuition hinting that something better than the norm is possible—but without knowing what a doula really does, not knowing what really qualifies a midwife, and certainly not knowing what kind of help you’ll need postpartum (but hopefully knowing you will need some), I’ve got a suggestion for you:
We’ve been encouraged to concede our knowledge and experience of childbirth to the medical industry—but that’s exactly why so many women are fearful and end up with altered birth stories.
As with preparation for any task we want to do well—be it a test, a job interview, creating art, etc.—we must study, research, practice, watch DVDs, talk to friends who chose a similar path, look for teachers and help with congruent practices and beliefs.
Let’s take back and own our childbirth experience: study; find help and support congruent with our desires; do our best; then forget the rest.
That’s the secret! Knowing we’ve done our best we can release our fear and concern about the outcome, and move forward with calm and confidence.
If we really prepare ourselves with knowledge and support, we can go into any task—even childbirth—with confidence and calm.
After we’ve prepared to our best ability and found that place of calm confidence, we can respond to and handle whatever develops in the process, and live happily with the outcome—even if it isn’t exactly as we planned. (Written by Allie Chee)