Thursday, June 11, 2009

What I've been doing

I haven't been knitting much, but I've been doing a lot of reading...
Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy
Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block

I consider myself a natural childbirth advocate. I understand that not everyone wants to give birth naturally, but for the women who do, it shouldn't be so damn hard. For heaven's sakes - if there is an initiative to give women the right to choose to have an elective cesearean shouldn't women have the right to do the opposite: give birth without intervention?

Alas. With the closing of birth centers around the country, women are now faced with the extreme choices of giving birth in a hospital (with monitoring, IVs, and strict requirements about how quickly they must dilate) or giving birth at home with a midwife (with complete freedom but no immediate access to help if it is needed). And for women giving birth to twins, a breech baby, or with a cesarean scar the choice is between giving birth via cesarean or at home without a midwife.

I've attended two hospital births as a doula, and while I was amazed by my wonderful clients, I was irritated by all they had to deal with along the way. Everything I've read is true - each patient is managed as a potential lawsuit. Each patient is treated as high risk which, paradoxically, makes their labor that much more risky by reducing their freedom of movement, depriving them of food and water, and stressing them out when they need to relax.

The more I read, the more depressed it makes me.

I've been thinking of becoming a childbirth educator, since the schedule would be easier with regard to childcare than the on-call duties of a doula. But now I wonder - is it worth it? Even the former president of Lamaze has said that childbirth education gives women false hope and a false sense of control - when they will really have no control at all in the hospital.

I feel like one of the lucky ones. I was able to give birth at home.I live close to more than one homebirth midwife. Homebirth is legal in my state and covered by my health insurance. My pregnancy was uneventful and didn't require the added precaution of being in hospital. I live just half a mile from two hospitals should anything have gone wrong. I have a paramedic husband who could help had labor progressed faster than the midwives could arrive.

One hundred years ago (after routine handwashing was established, prior to "twighlight sleep" during delivery) my experience would have been normal, average, nothing to be excited about.