Friday, February 3, 2012

My Thoughts About Child Birth in America

I sat in the chair at the hair salon listening to the conversation of some young girls regarding labor and birth. Young meaning younger than myself. They were at least out of high school but how much older I can't really say... they just seemed young. Maybe early twenties. I couldn't help but to smile a bit, suppress a chuckle, but also feel terribly, terribly sad for them. Here I am with my huge belly hidden by the apron and thinking of my own views, experiences, and thoughts on child birth and how widely they vary from these girls and most of America.

They talked about the horrors, the pain, the drugs, and the weeks of bleeding during recovery. None of it was talk of empowerment, of amazement at what their bodies were made to do, or of the pride of coming through labor and birth triumphant and ecstatic. One had experienced a typical American style labor and delivery and was expecting another baby later this year. She wouldn't even think about refusing an epidural or other pain medicine. I wonder if she was even told anything about the side effects of the epidural? That they are dangerous? That there can be lingering damage done to your body and increase the likelihood of a C-section? That they cause blood pressure issues in the laboring mother and can bring on fevers in which antibiotic IV drips are used during labor. Without the mother being able to move around in labor the baby is at risk of fetal distress. In addition, they can slow or delay labor (not always). If she doesn't ask or question how much is told to her? Would she really choose the medical interventions if informed? Perhaps...

The others would just make statements of "my mother told me" or "I heard". None of her statements included positive references to child birth. It seems that in America, women are resigned to go through this horribly painful experience that is flawed and faulty means to an end = new baby. In addition, her body is so flawed that it can grow a healthy child but not birth it naturally... I don't know about you but I refuse to accept that view of myself or of womanhood/motherhood. I won't accept generalized, blanket, medical treatment. I won't accept my pregnancy and labor being treated as if I am flawed or diseased. Can things go wrong? Yes! Of course. Life goes wrong. The best laid plans fall short, but in all my reading and study it has become clear to me that the more interventions in the birthing room the more likely those best laid plans fall short. This is from personal experience as well.

Why would this matter to you? You are pregnant but why not just accept all that your doctor desires for you? Surely they know what they are doing. I am not so sure. Of course they are skilled individuals. Yes, they mostly have your best interests at heart but it isn't their body or their child. Before you accept any or all medical care read about the pros and cons of each procedure. Don't limit your reading to Parent magazine or Baby Center website. Go to the library or book store and pick up a variety of titles. Decide for yourself.

Clearly I can tell you I am biased towards the midwifery model of care. Child birth can be pleasureful. You can have a baby and control labor "pain" without drugs. You are built to have babies and that makes you powerful. The bonding you feel and the success with breastfeeding is hugely influenced by your labor and birth experience. Will it probably be the hardest experience of your life? Very probably but don't sell yourself short before you have tried. Set yourself up for success and require informed consent before every medical procedure (unless a truly life saving measure is necessary).

Deal with fear and don't buy into the American style of labor and birth without thinking it through. Just as your diet, exercise, and prenatal care affects your baby growing, so does your birth experiences affect your baby physical and emotional well being. You know not all pain is bad pain... and this pain comes with a great reward. A beautiful bundle of joy.

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