In my desire to design a creative life, health is one of the central and reoccuring themes that I will touch on. Part of health includes for women child-bearing and child-rearing, themes that while not in my immediate realm of daily life are still deeply intriguing to me.
I have a lot of friends and neighbors who are currently pregnant. Last year, I had five sisters and sisters-in-law who gave birth. All of these women are amazing, outstanding, dedicated mothers with a lot more experience than I have. They all birthed in different ways and I respect each of their decisions and preferences for birth. What matters most is a healthy baby and a healthy mother.
What I want to delve into though is natural childbirth and the support or lack of support women experience who choose this route.
I think that birth is such a mind-altering and perspective-changing experience that we need to give women every opportunity, every advantage, and every option available to them to make their birthing experiences positive and empowering. And that is where I think a movie like The Business of Being Born is a great introduction to the discussion.
Newsweek recently latched on to this subject in an excellent article "Birth, The American Way".
Amid the controversy over what constitutes an ideal birth experience, doctors, researchers and natural-birth advocates agree: Caesareans save lives when medically necessary. But defining medical necessity is complicated. Natural-birth advocates cite a "cascade of interventions" caused by hospitals' practice of using the drug Pitocin to stimulate labor. The drug can cause painful contractions, which doctors treat with an epidural painkiller. The epidural can then retard contractions and lead to more drugs, fetal stress and the doctor's recommendation of a Caesarean. Natural-birth advocates say that hospitals, driven by profits and worried about malpractice, are too quick to intervene.
Instead of a "cascade of interventions" that women who want natural childbirth may face, we need to note how to best assist, comfort, and support a woman during childbirth.
I've never been pregnant or delivered a child. But I've participated in one remarkable birth and been a loving supporter of other women who have been through childbirth. One thing that I find stunning is what happens when I talk to some of my pregnant friends who want to deliver naturally. They say things like "I hope I can do it without drugs" and "I'm going to try to do it naturally" with the emphasis on words like "hope" and "try." In the modern medical practice of birth and delivery, most women are not supported if they want to give birth without the aid of drugs or intervention--hence words like "hope" and "try."
I used to think that giving birth naturally meant a woman would go to a hospital, lie on her back in a hospital bed, grit her teeth and scream loudly with all of her force and willpower until she pushed the baby out victoriously. She had to do all of this while refusing drugs and most of all without the support of her doctors or the nurses attending her. It seemed a very solitary journey.
I had it all wrong.
How I envision natural childbirth now is a woman choosing first a health-care provider who is not only knowledgeable and experienced in natural-birth practices, but also a whole-hearted supporter of them. Then she has to choose a location for childbirth--whether it is a hospital or birthing center or her home--where the support team (nurses, doctors, midwives, family, friends) is behind her 100% in her decision and assists her in every way to have the experience she desires.
That means these professionals have to be knowledgeable in techniques--water birth, birthing balls, birthing stools, massage, counter pressure, visualization, relaxation, dimmed lights, gentle music, soft voices--and positions--walking, sitting, squatting, hands and knees--so they can truly assist the laboring mother as she focuses on her body and her baby.
This new vision sounds and feels like a remarkable journey--one I would like to participate in some day soon.
L'chaim! To life!