I recently gave birth to my second baby and thanks to my Hypnobabies studies, this became my mantra during my pregnancy. At the time, I decided to accept this as true without really analyzing it but recently, it’s come to the forefront again. This western culture that we live in professes to be so advanced and yet we lead the industrialized nations in maternal and fetal deaths. We are also at the top of the charts for interventions, medical assisted births and c-sections and I have to ask myself why we as a nation do not believe that birth is natural, normal, healthy and safe. Birth has become a huge production in which a doctor and his or her team must deliver us from this horrible thing called child birth. We as women can’t possibly be able to handle such pain and everything and anything must be done to help the inferior gender carry on the legacy of the human race. Well, I may exaggerate a bit, but there is a note of truth. The medical community and our society as a whole thought “bigger is better” right? If one person can do it right, 10 can do it better and if 10 people can do it, a machine can do it better still and thus began the industrial revolution. I believe all medicine has a place and is valuable beyond measure. The thing that should set up apart is knowing when to use the tools.
Enough history though, what does this have to do with birth? It was the industrial revolution that began the downward spiral of our maternity care in the US. People stopped trusting people and started trusting machines. This was very apparent in the medical industry where doctors stopped looking at moms and instead, focused on what the machines were telling them was going on because it was measureable and chartable. In this day and age when everyone wants to blame someone else, doctors and nurses have to have something in writing and they are constantly asking, “Could I do more?” Things have definitely gotten better in the last 20 years but we still have a long way to go. There was a time that a laboring woman was strapped to a bed and left in a room alone until she was far enough along for the doctors to come in and “deliver” the baby from her. Now, women are respected for the most part and there is at least some attempt to respect the wishes of the family. Dads are usually included and in most hospitals and doulas are usually a welcome addition. However, most hospital staff relies too heavily on technology and most doctors and nurses don’t even see a natural birth during their training. When one nurse was asked if a mom had a natural birth, she replied, “Yep, she only got an epidural.”
It seems to me that women have been having babies long before there were fetal monitors and ultrasounds. Don’t get me wrong, the advances in medicine are amazing and do save lives when they are needed and obstetrics is one of the few fields where the advances are needed less that they are sctually used. Childbirth is a natural and normal state of being for a women and a women’s body knows exactly how to birth a baby. If you have ever seen a laboring mom that is left alone to follow her body, you will become an instant believer. There are so many little things that work together to create this amazing event like the nesting instinct. Shortly before a mom goes into labor, she will usually get a burst of energy to get things finished and ready for her baby. When in labor, if a mom listens to her body, she will move and change positions to allow the baby the chance to do the same. It is such a perfect an intricate dance. During pregnancy, many moms get cravings for foods they would not normally eat like pickles and ice cream. Stop and think for a moment what is in pickles and ice cream: vinegar and milk/dairy. Dairy contains calcium which is needed to grow healthy bones for a growing baby and vinegar helps minimize heartburn which many pregnant moms complain of. The female body is designed to grow babies, so how could it be anything but healthy and safe. If it weren’t, the human race would probably not have survived as long as it has.
The biggest thing that gets in the way of a natural birth for most women is their mind. We are trained (here in the US) that the safest place to have a baby is in the hospital and to attempt anything different is either brave or stupid. We’ve all heard the horror stories from our well meaning relatives and seen the productions on TV and in the movies. When you are pregnant, you become a magnet for “those stories”. When a women does get pregnant, she wants to do what she believes is best for herself and her baby. For 20+ years, she has been told that giving birth in a hospital with a doctor is what is best. It sounds great, except doctors are trained to do something, whatever it is. So, what if we lived in a society that believed in the strength and commitment of women? What if we were surrounded by “I can” instead of “I can’t”? What if we were to trust in the perfect design of the human body? What if we all believed that birth is normal, natural, healthy and safe?
The best thing we can do to support parents-to-be is to encourage education and believe in the awesome-ness of the human body.