Monday, October 4, 2010
Natural Birth- Where Are You?
I show a video in my natural birth classes that only consists of squatting births. It is an old but powerful video, in part because you can see NO care providers at the births. Each woman gives birth with nobody assisting or touching her body. She simply squats and the baby drops out softly onto some towels below her. (They are all hospital births so the care provider is there, just in the back round).
What is amazing, and really shocking, about these videos is that they show that the act of birth usually needs nobody but the mother and the baby. You can see the baby twist and turn to exit the birth canal. Baby twists his head, baby turns his shoulders, one at a time, and the baby comes out. Mother pushes. Her body is prepared. She is giving birth NATURALLY.
Does natural birth happen in this country?
It probably depends what you consider "natural." I did a post the other day about "natural c-sections." I have heard moms say their doctor asked them if they wanted a "c-section or a natural birth."
Ummmm- I hate to break it to everybody but having a baby vaginally does not mean you had a baby naturally. In fact, I would go so far as to say that having a baby without pain medications does not mean you had a baby naturally.
I know, I just made myself sound like a heartless witch. Here is the truth- I have had three babies. All were born with midwives. Two were born outside of the hospital. Only one was born without head traction (pulling on the baby to help it deliver). Only one was born without medication for hemorrhage postpartum (I did hemorrhage with one of them, not with the other.) Only one was in my arms for two hours before anybody else touched her. Only once was the cord NOT cut until the placenta delivered.
It looks to me that we have moved so far from natural birth in this country that we don't even remember what it looks like.
We can have a woman induced, strapped to monitors, giving birth in a supine position, and we call it "natural" because she didn't have an epidural. This is ludicrous. It is also an unnecessary cruelty to women, babies and their families.
I had a good friend once who had been a nurse. She believed in natural birth. She thought it was better. Then she had two natural births. Both involved her pushing on her back. Both involved massive tearing. Both involved painful repairs. Guess what, she had epidurals for her other children, in part, because it made repairs that much less painful. She liked the idea of a natural birth, but in practice, it was incredibly painful in the hospital setting.
I love natural birth and love hearing how women preferred their natural births to their medicated births. It really makes me sad when I talk to women who preferred their medicated births. In fact, I almost want to tell them not to say anything to anybody because I am trying to change the way people think about birth.
But the sad truth is, a real natural birth is pretty difficult to come by these days in America. One of the reasons some women prefer their medicated births is because even if they do manage to have an unmedicated birth, it is pretty darn hard to avoid all the other invasive things that are not even considered unnatural, and yet are totally contrary to the normal birthing process.
It is not natural to be surrounded by strangers when you give birth.
It is not natural to have your babies head tugged on as it delivers. (Babies can and will turn and move to exit the birth canal.)
It is not natural to have drugs in labor to speed the process.
It is not natural to have somebody's HAND in your VAGINA while you are trying to relax through contractions or do pretty much anything else.
It is not natural to cut the cord immediately or even within five minutes.
It is not natural for the baby to be weighed on a steel machine.
It is not natural to poke and prod and clean this precious infant for an hour after it is born.
It is not natural to stick plastic tubes up a babies nose when it is born.
It is not natural to be told what position is best to deliver in. A fearless, unmedicated, unhindered mother should KNOW how she should deliver her baby.
In short, we do many things to laboring women that are nowhere near natural, only one of which is, of course, sticking needle in her spinal cord.
Don't get me wrong- I am not saying that women should think less of their birth experience if they did not have one that was as pure as it would be in the woods. I LOVED the births of ALL of my children. Every single one of them was an incredible empowering experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. (I think too many of us focus on the negative things that happen sometimes in birth as with life. But that is another story.)
What is particularly disturbing to me about modern obstetrics though is how we do not even realize what we are doing anymore. We don't realize that it might just HARM the birth process to do some of these things to a laboring woman and her baby. It might slow labor and make it more painful simply to have an unwanted stranger there. It might alter the mother's hormonal state to simply be asked to spread her legs and have an intern check her vaginal "progress" intermittently. It might change the experience greatly when a drug is given to make things happen quicker.
We must take birth back. We must remember first what it was meant to be before we can even do this. We must rediscover NATURAL BIRTH, and then get it. Fight the power ladies. Nobody is going to take this fight up for you.