For those of you who don’t know me well, I am a birth advocate. I teach childbirth classes through the Bradley Method (r), I’ve done the DONA doula training, I’m a La Leche League member, and I am now active in our local BirthNetwork chapter as a co-leader. While I definitely advocate natural birth and breastfeeding, more than that I advocate education, informed decisions, and healthy families. No two women are exactly alike, but every woman has a voice. Often, in birth, a woman meets herself, finds her true voice and place in the world as a mother. She surrenders everything to give birth to new life — hers and the baby’s. For this not to be a traumatic experience, she needs to be on her own terms. It’s much like making love. Sex is beautiful as an act of consent, mutual desire and surrender on behalf of both partners to glimpse the other’s soul. Sex without consent, without mutual surrender, is violent in every way, traumatic and scarring. As we hope a baby is conceived, so we would the baby the could emerge into our world, through love, with surrender and joy. If the baby is conceived out of consent, the mother will hopefully have help to work through the scars to give the baby a loving entrance to the world.
This being said (and I realize there are many topics that could be expounded upon), I want to focus on the woman’s voice, her choice, in choosing where she births (how she births is again another topic!).
There are many films, clips, etc., out there that show birth at a hospital, in a birth center, and at home. The best one I’ve seen lately is The Business of Being Born by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Apparently, it has struck a nerve. The birthing community is saying “YES!” This is what we need to inform mothers that they have a choice. You are not a number, an insurance claim, a machine or a cow being herded through the system. YOU can decide what YOU want. How do YOU want your baby to be born? How do YOU want your body treated? How do YOU want your spiritual transformation to occur? Where do YOU want to be? Who do YOU want to be with you? Are these questions you were asked when you gave birth? Were these questions you asked yourself? When I asked myself these questions, after three births in the hospital, I chose to be home, with my family and my midwives. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Visit the Childbirth Connection and study the results of their Listening to Mothers Survey. (You can view a free summary with registration). The results are mind-opening.
Now, read the ACOG Statement in their press release. Take a deep breath and think positive — even if that’s not your first reaction (it wasn’t mine).
- ACOG admits “childbirth is a normal physiologic process that most women experience without problems” — actually, greater than 90% of women equals their “most”
acknowledges a woman’s right to make informed decisions regarding her
delivery and to have a choice in choosing her health care provider.”
- “The cesarean delivery rate has concerned ACOG for the past several decades and ACOG remains committed to reducing it.”
- “ACOG encourages all pregnant women to get prenatal care and to make a birth plan.”
- “The main goal should be a healthy and safe outcome for both mother and baby.”
All this, we can agree agree on, undoubtedly. We all support women’s rights and health. What these points fail to factor in are the barriers that are leading women to either birth at home unassisted or to succomb to a controlled hospital birth.
Consider these questions and find the barriers:
- Does every woman have access to childbirth education that will encourage her to ask questions?
- Are midwives legal in every state?
- Are there midwives in every hospital?
- Is there a doula available to every mother?
- Are insurance companies limiting a mother’s choice in providers?
- Are malpractice insurance premiums keeping doctors from performing in the mother’s best interest?
- Do hospitals allow VBACs?
- Are doctors encouraging VBACs?
- What has ACOG done to reduce the cesarean rate?
- Are birth plans honored?
- Does a rise in maternal/infant mortality suggest that maybe our current system isn’t safest for everyone?
- Do other countries/cultures have models that suggest home birth is a safe alternative?
I could probably rant for a very long time about what needs to be different about our maternity care. Fortunately, there have already been guidelines set as to what counts as mother-friendly and baby-friendly. There are places out there. There is a hospital less than two hours from me that is mother-friendly. Two hours is a long ways away when you’re in labor. I know moms who have made the drive, though . . . in labor. There is a hospital less than 10 minutes from my house, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could with good conscious refer mothers there?
Isn’t there something we can do?
- Visit www.motherfriendly.org
- See if starting your own BirthNetwork in your community makes sense.
- Look into the Transparency Project
- Contact your state and federal legislators — start small and think big
- Rally like-mided folks and work together.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Gandhi said. Positively support a mother’s right, a woman’s right. When we each find our voice, our strength, eventually our collective effort will become a beautiful song, and that’s what we want recorded in the history books.