Let’s take a minute to imagine a birth. Imagine a birth where the mother is lost. She is not supported to make informed decisions. In fact, she does not know she has choices. Imagine she is making her decisions based on different levels of fear. Fear of pain. Fear of death. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of feeling stupid. Fear of not knowing what she is doing. When she speaks with others, they fill her head and heart with negative ideas of womanhood and birth. They tell her to expect the worse and to plan to not get everything she wants in labor. In fact, she does not know what she wants in labor. She is allowed ideas on that? Hmmm.
Imagine that she does not know what her body is doing when labor begins because it does not begin with her water breaking (like most TV shows and movies portray). Or, imagine that she does not feel confident in the size of her body and trust that her body built a baby that it can push out without help. So, she gets induced.
She does not know all the terminology her care providers are saying to her. Her spouse feels as uninformed as she does. She does not feel comfortable asking questions and she does not feel comfortable with all the different people in the room whom she has never met. She does not ask them to leave because she does not know that is an option.
They let her know how long she can labor, she asks when she can have an epidural because the pain and the fear of pain is just too great. It is especially hard because she is lying down. Is she allowed to get up and walk around?
After the epidural she cannot feel her labor anymore and so she trusts the machines instead. In fact, the care providers also seem to trust the machines over the sensations she is saying are happening to her. The baby is delivered by cesarean section because, as they told her and she believed, her body was “too small for this baby” and because it was in distress (caused by all the interventions and the environment of this birth).
The baby weighs 7lbs. The baby is born and they whisk it away to do tests and screenings and the mother has to rest and be sewed back up. It is over an hour before she holds her baby and sees that its eyes are closed because they have put gel on them, even though it was not delivered vaginally and she has no STD's.
The moment has arrived where she finally feels she will connect with her baby and begin to nurse, but the baby is sleeping because it was already given formula.
Now, this may seem very negative. This may seem extreme but these are stories that I have heard and read from women. Birth matters because this extreme example is the norm. There may be a few pieces to that story that vary between women, but the majority of women are living in fear and are basing their decisions during pregnancy and birth on fear. Many do not even know that the decisions are truly theirs to make. Let’s read a different story:
This mother has grown up surrounded by women who love their bodies and their babies. They love being with their children and do not wish to send them away for hours per day.
She has grown up knowing that birth is spiritual, magical, romantic and joyful. She also knows it is a responsibility, can be overwhelming, intense and surprising. She reads positive birth stories and shares the highlights with her spouse. She is excited about the support they’ll receive. Together, she and her spouse decide if they will have a care provider or if they want to have a free birth at home. If they do decide to have a care provider, they then search for and find one that agrees that birth is natural and not something to be feared. She finds answers to her questions and grows in the knowledge she is receiving.
They attend a birth class that empowers them and their partner even more in the process of birth. They understand what to expect and trust the process. Labor begins and it is joyful and a little confusing. (Are these real contractions?) After many hours the waves start getting more intense and their midwife is summond, if they have one. Or, when she feels ready, they head to the birth center or hospital. The birth begins to get strenuous but this woman is supported and loved.
She stands, sways, lays, swims, is held and fed. In the stark quietness of birth she prays and feels a total connection to her Savior. She knows she is capable and remembered. She knows she is now in transition because she just threw up. (Yep.) And then, the pushing. She has read about it but never quite knew what the ring of fire really meant, until now. She didn’t know her body would push without her conscious mind telling it to.
She again feels her ancestors and God with her as she pushes her baby out. She pulls it to her chest kissing it and telling it just how much it is loved and wanted. It latches and they stare at each other, oxytocin racing.
This may seem like the other extreme. But, most parts of this were different parts of my birth stories with my four children. Birth is exciting. And why is it important? Why does it matter how babies are born? Can’t you feel just from reading these two experiences the type of world the baby is born into? If we want to help our children have a better world to live in we need to honor how they come into it.
They are spiritual beings deserving reverence and respect and the vessels that bring them onto the earth deserve support and love. We honor the earth when we honor the process that comes naturally to us. Our bodies were made to procreate and with time, knowledge, trust and love, natural birth happens. It connects families and changes people.
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