Normal Birth Series: What Should Birth Look Like?

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Picture a birth scene for me. Got it? Ok, now remove any blinking machine. Delete those tubes traveling into a woman’s body. Dim the lights. Erase the hospital bed and the baby warmer. Take the hands off the giant clock. And, finally, get rid of cervical exams. Yes, completely.

What are you left with? Hmmm…. difficult to picture, isn’t it.

Don’t feel bad for drawing a blank here. The medical system in the United States has very effectively removed the picture of normal birth from our culture, from our communities and from our minds. I was reminded of this when one of the major supporters of normal birth in our area was stripped of his right to attend births today. This local doctor  supported a woman’s right to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) – even if she had multiple surgical births in her history. His patients could dictate their own standards of care – including number of prenatal visits, prenatal testing schedules, birth procedures, etc. His pregnancy and birth care indicated he trusted women’s bodies, he trusted birth and he was willing to let women make decisions that were best for them. Basically, he let normal birth happen as often as it could.
Now, he was not perfect. Every doctor – every PERSON – makes mistakes and should be called to account for them. However, people should see this decision by one of the major medical systems here for what it really is: a sign, a symptom of something is deeply wrong with our perspective of a baby entering the world. Normal physiological birth is frowned upon, discouraged and even under attack.

This wasn’t always the case.

Let me paint a historical picture for you: 100 years ago, women were able to birth their babies in the locations and with the people they chose: hospital or home (birth centers didn’t exist then) with a doctor or midwife (or a neighbor woman who was closer if things moved quickly).

Jump forward in today’s picture: our choices are now more limited.

If you want an experienced provider to attend your birth, you can choose from multiple hospitals or a single birth center in our area. The hospitals all provide VERY similar support, which is dictated – not by the woman’s desires or even by scientific evidence – but by the desire to protect the medical corporation from lawsuits. And, you have no choice of the people who will actually be there when you deliver. Complete strangers will join you during one of the most intimate times of your life.

The birth center in our area is a good choice for some women: if you’ve never had a cesarean, if you start care before they’re too full and if no variations occur in your pregnancy or birth. You will have the benefit of knowing your providers and having some say over the care you receive.

But is this picture complete enough?

Does every woman have access to the location and provider she desires? (NO) Is she able to truly make choices in her prenatal care and birth support? (NO) Does physiological birth happen in the majority of births in our area? (NO) Is the care of every woman dictated by what has been scientifically proven to be best for mother and baby? (DEFINITELY NOT)

So, what do we do? How do we change this systematic removal of normal birth from our culture? How do we demand better care for ourselves, our friends and our daughters?

Let’s start by re-introducing ourselves to the picture of birth: in all it’s glory, its mess, its benefits and its joy. My friend, Amber of Agape Birth Services, and I will be giving you insights into normal birth and what YOU can do to change the view of birth. Education is the first step: If you know different, you can do different! It will take everyone who believes women are smart enough to paint their own picture of birth (that should be all of us!) to make this shift together. The picture has to change, and together we can make it happen!

Can’t wait to start learning? Get on the NIH website to see what normal birth looks like and see if any hospitals in your area are mother-friendly as described by the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services.

– As always, prepare for a normal birth with Birth Boot Camp and hire a doula (or two) for labor support! –

Read more of the series here!
Natural Birth Series: Oxytocin, the Love Hormone – Amber Piller

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