|(Photo found here)|
Any pregnant woman has heard about it. The rice paddy birth.
It usually goes something like this:
"We make such a big deal about having babies in this country. Classes, hospitals, pain, blah blah blah. You know in country XYZ, women are working in the rice paddies and they just squat, give birth, pick the baby up and keep on working."
Really? Is there video proof of this?
Actually, to be fair, women have probably done this.
Women ARE strong. Birth IS a natural function. And rice paddy birth is not only possible but has almost definitely happened.
Still, I really don't like the rice paddy birth story. Let me tell you why.
First, it implies that birth is so easy that we could/should just jump back into our regular lives as soon as possible. And I happen to think this is totally bogus. (Did I just make it obvious that I am a born and bred California girl, or what?)
You know what I think the truth is? I think if I asked a woman who had given birth in a rice paddy and kept on working WHY she did that the answer would be kind of sad. I bet she did it because she HAD TO in order TO SURVIVE.
My guess is that women who have to resume work that quickly after giving birth do so out of necessity, not a burning desire to prove their empowerment.
Let me tell you another guess I have about this overworked woman. I bet she is less likely to survive birth and I bet her baby is less likely to survive too.
I have no doubt that a lifestyle filled with exercise, squatting and activity can make birth quicker and easier. I also have no doubt that birth is still hard work, hard on the body, and is designed to have a recovery period.
Some things happen whenever a woman gives birth--
1) She loses blood.
She made extra blood while pregnant so she can handle this loss, but still, blood loss can be exhausting. She will continue to lose blood for weeks. My humble, unprofessional opinion? She should rest until the loss of blood comes to a complete stop and her baby is nursing and growing well.
2) She has a 6-9 pound child come out of her vagina.
I had a friend recently tell me that after having children she felt like a freight train had come out of her crotch. I certainly believe that the female body is amazing and is designed to give birth and all that jazz. I have however actually given birth and I concur with the above statement. To say the very least, things are sore for a while.
3) She must nurture a baby outside of her body.
This requires her to feed constantly a growing child for a little while. The new baby needs mama all the time. Mama must feed this baby constantly and so must also feed herself and stay rested so she can provide adequate care. Being immediately and outrageously active is not necessarily conducive to either healing a body or feeding a baby.
~~When I talk to people from other cultures about how they honor the time of birth, I never hear stories about being at Walmart two days post-partum to buy toilet paper.
What I do hear are women being taken care of, surrounded with love and family. I hear about special diets, nutritious foods, and limits on when she is allowed to even leave her bed or her baby.
And what I see underlying this reverence and care given to a woman when she has just given birth is also a reverence for birth, for babies and for the real work it is to bring life into the world. A time of recovery and rest after birth is not unusual for women. It shows that people the world over valued this time and saw the importance of taking it seriously so that both mom and baby could survive and thrive.
I see something quite different when Western women are expected to jump right back into their "normal" life as soon as possible after having a baby. I see a culture that doesn't value childbirth or the childbearing time. I see a people who expect women to have even surgery and then be fully functional within days. I see a country that does not recognize or value the real work that is involved in motherhood or birth.
Before you get upset and tell me how FABULOUS you felt after your natural birth, let me say this. I have had natural births too and seen many other women have them. A great birth IS often followed by a period of euphoria and energy. In my experience it lasts a few days.
In my experience though too- if you over-do it in those first few days when you are on your "birth high" you will pay for it later and it can cause your recovery to literally take weeks longer.
So let's stop discounting the work, the energy and yes, even the pain, that can be involved just after giving birth. Instead let's reverence these few weeks and take them to rest, recover, and nurture our babies AND ourselves. I think we could see some incredible improvements in both postpartum female recovery, breastfeeding rates, and even baby contentment.
Birth in peace mama.
And then take a nap.