Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tell Our Daughters

Last night I had one of the best experiences of my life because my awesome friend Steph invited me to be her "doula" for the birth of her second baby. "Doula" comes from the Ancient Greek, meaning a "woman who serves" and I did my best to fill that role. Very different from being the birthing mother, I was the watchful observer, chearleader and overall supporter. It was a privilege to witness Stephane centered in her power, affirmations, self-knowledge and strength. She had to be strong for many hours, and she was up to it!

Maybe because I stayed up all night, today has felt surreal, and I am walking through dreams of new life and awe of the female body.

I thank my first midwife, wise-wise Margaret Strickhouser (now founding Atlanta's first birth center), for encouraging me to educate myself. She gave me a reading list at my first prenatal appointment. This list introduced me to a community and more resources that opened my eyes about our past and present childbirth culture.

I have the power!
Four babies and 8 years later, I've collected a bit of knowledge that I'm going to share here. I'm not trying to convert anyone. You likely already guess that my bias is to trust natural processes over technical interventions.

I would like to see women educated and prepared for childbirth so that they can create the birthing experience they want. I have heard many emotional stories of medical interventions with painful outcomes from mothers who felt pressured by the "experts." I wish that by the time my daughters are having babies if they so choose, they are doing so in a new culture. One that knows and honors the woman's power and competence to birth. Where scores of wise-women doulas and midwives gently guide and encourage our daughters to do what their bodies are designed to do. Of course, there are exceptions, times to thank God for our medical advances, but I am wary of those exceptions becoming the rule today.

For more on any of the points below, check out the Resources list at this post's end.


I want to tell our daughters...

1. Prepare Your Body! Train for birth like the marathon it can be. Find prenatal yoga led by a doula where they practice relaxation techniques, teach postures for positioning baby during pregnancy and while in labor, breathing and vocalization techniques for pain management. In my favorite classes, we read birth stories from prior class participants and discussed our questions at the class' end. Find a Birthing From Within childbirth preparation class that familiarizes you with the entire birthing process, multiple pain coping techniques including visualization, and trains your partner or coach to give you the kind of help you want.

2. More important than writing out your dream birth plan is choosing your healthcare practitioner and birthing facility. If you are a low-risk, healthy pregnant woman, the greatest determining factor of whether or not you will have a Caesarean is based on your practitioner's rate. And studies have shown that simply having a woman experienced in childbirth calmly watching over your labor will improve your experience and outcome. Choose healthcare practitioners and labor room guests who will remind you of your competence as you labor, make you feel comfortable and respected.

3. Your baby actually sets off the chemicals that start your labor. Trust that baby will come when she is ready. Remember that predictions about babies too large to birth are often wrong because ultrasound weight predictions can be off by 2 pounds.

4. If you have a breech baby, you can still give birth naturally. Find a chiropractor that practices the painless Webster method (my second born turned head-down within 5 days of treatment, in my ninth month).

5. With every medical intervention, the statistical likelihood for more interventions increases. Examples of interventions:  Cervidil/pitocin for inducing or quickening labor; epidural anesthesia or narcotics for pain; vacuum/forceps/episiotomy to quickly extract the baby; Caesarean section major abdominal surgery to remove baby.

6. With every Caesarean, the statistical likelihood for repeat Caesareans and related complications increases exponentially.

7. The World Health Organization recommends Caesarean rates be under 10-15% because beyond this point, maternal and neonatal complication rates rise. Many OB/GYN practices and hospitals in the United States have Caesarean rates of over 50%. To give some perspective about the medical necessity of these surgeries, the Caesarean rate at Ina May Gaskin's midwifery center in Tennessee is less than 2%.

8. When you think you can't, you can (and you might almost be done - many times the urge to give up climaxes right before you are ready to push out your baby!). Your body is strong and knows what to do. During natural birth, your body will adjust your hormones to give you more relief as your contractions grow stronger. And your baby works with you as you labor, reflexively pushing against your cervix as you contract. Work together! Talk to your baby, call to your baby, see yourself holding and nursing your baby. What you believe about yourself will prove true, so decide to know that you are strong.


- Birth without Violence by Frederick Leboyer
- Birthing from Within by Pam England
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
- Prenatal Parenting by Frederick Wirth
- Choosing Waterbirth by Lakshmi Bertram
- Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger
- Birth as an American Rite of Passage by Robbie Davis-Floyd
- Immaculate Deception II by Suzanne Arms
- The Business of Being Born

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