Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do Women Truly Have Options?

I have been reading a lot of birthing stories lately, and most of the natural women had to fight for their births. I have never read a story where a woman wanted an epidural and had to fight to get it. They are readily available, as are all drugs for a laboring woman. What truly makes them different? Does not wanting drugs make you crazy, so your opinion truly doesn’t matter?
Is choosing to give birth naturally a realistic option today?
There are 2 views on birth:
1. It is a normal, natural process
2. A medical event fraught with the possibility of things going wrong.
Why are they so completely different?
When did birth become an event that is beyond scary and made women terrified of using their body the way it was made to be used? The idea that the female body is ineffective or even weak isn't true. Even with medical advances and less women dying than 500 years ago, in doing so, we have lost our power to give birth. We have lost the ability to believe in our bodies.
One in three women nationally leave the hospital with a scar on their uterus. In some states it is as high as one in two. When you tell women that they need an incision to have a child, you put a little seed in their brain that they can't get rid of. No matter how much they believe in their body, that little seed can grow until they are as terrified as the doctors and midwives that planted it.
Yes, things can go wrong in birth. Yes, cesarean sections are sometimes necessary. Yes, medications are sometimes necessary. However, they are not necessary at the rate they are being used in the United States and other places around the world.
Women are being told that their babies are too big or their pelvis is too little. They are being told that they need to watch their weight and have tests from the very beginning of pregnancy to make sure they aren't poisoning their unborn baby. They have routine ultrasounds, not for medical need, but just to see the baby. They are told that their fluid is low and the baby's heart had a deceleration, which means they need to be induced or cut.
We have given so much over to technology that we forget where we came from. Women have forgotten what their bodies are capable of doing. Women have forgotten that their body grows that baby whether they have those tests or not. Women have forgotten that how much they weigh doesn't matter, and replaced it with the thought that all that matters is pleasing their provider.
The fear has to stop.
Women have lost the right to birth as they please, and every day, even with the ones that fight back, it truly is an uphill battle. For every great midwife or OB, there are a hundred that aren't. For every woman that trusts her body and trusts birth, there are thousands that want nothing more than for it to be over, for them to be drugged and to watch Soap Operas through their labor.
Birth is not a medical event. Birth is not inherently scary. Birth is not a time that needs to be micromanaged.
Birth is a joyous time, a time when a family welcomes another person into their love. A time which should be looked on as one of the most important days of a family's life. It shouldn't be numbed, or controlled, or feared. It should be rejoiced and celebrated.
You can choose to attend childbirth classes, you can choose your provider, the place you give birth, when to have an epidural, even choose to have a cesarean and these choices are supported. But if you choose natural birth, there is a lip service saying you can do anything you want, but you get little to no support when push comes to shove.
“In a birth environment that fails to provide what women need to give birth naturally, it is no surprise that so few women do so.” - Judith A. Lothian

It makes you wonder about the maternity care system in our country, yet again. Does a laboring woman’s no not mean the same thing as a laboring woman’s yes? Are drugs truly the only way to make a woman happy and enjoy her experience of her birth?
If you are in labor, do you truly need to be saved from the experience?
Is choosing natural birth truly a valid option anymore?


April said... [Reply to comment]

I consider myself truly fortunate in that, when I was sent to the hospital for an NST (after refusing an induction that my OB tried to spring on me without explaining WHY I needed one), the OB on call was a woman who had herself naturally birthed twins six years prior. I truly felt that she was "on my side" and supportive of my wish to vaginally birth, without pain medication, my own twins. And three days later I did! It makes me sad that I have to consider this a stroke of luck, rather than standard care.

Sheila said... [Reply to comment]

I was given the option of birthing naturally. The doctors and nurses said, "Oh, no epidural? Whatever you like!" and just left. The problem was, I got nothing I needed to support my natural birth: I was stuck in bed on the monitors the whole time, subjected to vaginal exams all the time (and I'd have to tell them "I'm not numb, please wait for the contraction to be over"), asked questions, asked constantly to "rate my pain" (which made me focus on the pain), had my water broken, was threatened with Pitocin, was directed to push so hard I tore ... that sort of thing. And the thing is, I think my doctor and nurses thought they were supporting my natural birth because they didn't offer any drugs once they heard I didn't want them. They simply weren't familiar with natural birth, so they didn't think to do anything differently except withhold the drugs.

Next time, I'm staying home so that I can have a natural birth the way I want it. It's no wonder that women who set out to have a natural birth fail, because there's nothing so excruciating as going through unmedicated labor in an environment not at all designed for it. It's on their turf; you're expected to do it their way. So next time, I'm staying on my own turf.

Jenn @ Connected Mom said... [Reply to comment]

I made it through my first induction with no pain meds until my c-section. My second I only got to 30 hours before I got the epi. I had IVs and internal monitors and the exams were horrible and I caved. I completely agree that staying home is the best way to get a natural birth. We had hoped to homebirth our second and couldn't. I was so disappointed.

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Wow, April, that is wonderful! It is so rare for them to even let twins be vaginal that that is amazing!

Sheila, that's what I think too. Most the time they think that natural means without drugs, when it has a completely different meaning. Natural involves no interventions and the mom working with her body. I hate when they talk to you during contractions. It makes me want to strangle them.

Jenn, huge huge huge huge huge hugs. I think you are amazing for going that long without pain meds. You are truly awesome.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

I live in the UK and was lucky that when I was 6 months pregnant with my first child I moved into an area where there was a community team of midwives who throroughtly supported my plans for a natural home waterbirth. My midwives were more than supportive and were very excited to be able to support me with my choices.

I was able to achieve the birth experience I wanted with no obstacales and will definately be repeating this experience (fingers crossed!) with my subsequent pregnancies!

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