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Nitpicking (UC Talk)

This excerpt from Linda Hessel’s Autonomous Birth blog:

I read midwifery blogs occasionally, and in this same afternoon that I was seemingly everywhere reading about managed DIY birth, I read a birth story that upset me so much that when I stood up my legs were wobbly. Pressure of induction because the baby is “late”, despite the mother’s body clearly not being ready to give birth. Pressure to have cervical exams that the mother is uncomfortable with. The mother feeling like she has to go through the motions of sexual arousal in front of her midwives because that’s what it says to do in Spiritual Midwifery. Cervical exams, conscious pushing and conscious not-pushing. A prolonged second stage, mother leaning back, the midwife’s hands on her breasts and in her vagina, pushing, directing. Pulling on the baby. Stimulating the baby with a dry towel, covering him with blanket and hat. And finally, a realization that the baby wasn’t late after all, but probably early.

The responses (except from the doctors, whose only objections are that homebirth is dangerous, of course,) were unanimously glowing. A beautiful story, inspirational, life-affirming.

I ask: Did she read the same story I did? She has several extreme inaccuracies it makes my knees weak that she interpreted the story so dramatically different than it really was.

I came to this site via a friend of a client of mine… the friend UC’s and we had a great discussion one day in the office, each of us exploring each other’s thoughts and beliefs, very respectful and kind. The friend sent me the link to Autonomous Birth and I read through the entire blog (it’s short) and then found where the Baby in the Breeze story is being discussed on a UC list, also negatively.

The truly amusing part of this whole thing is how horrid the UCers see the birth because midwives “did” things and the doctors see the birth as horrid because we didn’t “do” things! How hysterical is that? The moral of the story (before I even start) is “ya can’t please everyone – EVER – so don’t even try.”

Hessel made the comment that the birth was a typical fear-based midwife birth full of interventions and a lack of belief in the natural course of birth. Interesting perspective.

I’ve also recently been in discussions (in real life world as well as on-line) about what exactly a UC/Autonomous Birth is. Of course, I had one with my second child and I know plenty of women who have had them and many who wouldn’t do birth any other way, but I am delving further than I have in previous UC posts.

I want to know what the definition of UC is exactly. Is it self-defined? Is it a community definition that varies with individuality? (Similar to the definition of midwife which has a variety of connotations and nuances.) I understand why some women choose UC – those that have been so hurt by the medical or midwifery community especially. I understand that some women feel they know as much as a midwife (either they are midwives or L&D nurses or have very educated themselves) and want to UC as a show of autonomy from the medical and midwifery standards of care.

I don’t, however, understand a few things. If some of you UCers can help, it would be really helpful towards my education. As snarky as I sometimes get with this topic, I truly do want to understand. I sometimes think a permanent impasse will be the ultimate result, but I keep trying. I certainly would like someone like Hessel to spend a moment understanding where I come from and how I practice as a midwife. I want to afford the same to you.

I hear/read about "unhindered births" as if they are always conflict-free and intimate. I know that one of the main arguments about having a UC is the sexual nature of birth and how the sexual union that created the child should be the sexual union that brings the child out. I’ve heard this for 22 years now! When I was pregnant with Baby 2, Marilyn Moran and I spent hours on the phone discussing the perfection of a DitY (do-it-yourself) birth. What I learned was that there is no such thing as perfection. And it pissed Marilyn Moran off when I told her the severity of the problem my daughter had being born without assistance. Apparently, it isn’t always about the sexual union being great. It’s about being right.

Hessel, when discussing this sexual union issue, says that there isn’t a “normal” community that finds intimacy and nudity amongst strangers anywhere in the world. I found this astonishingly ignorant considering there are a number of communities in the United States that have just such standards of comfort and normalcy. Also, in other cultures that don’t have the luxury of space we are spoiled with, sexual conduct and nudity is very much a part of daily life (think Dances With Wolves). It is in our culture, fairly isolated in its Victorian beliefs that sex and intimacy should only be between two - and only behind closed doors. Her argument that birth is inherently sexual is correct. She is, however, incorrect that it isn’t normal to share that intimacy with outsiders.

Why, if midwives are so abnormal in birth, are there midwives in every culture around the globe? Why is it that women only birth alone when they have been isolated or shunned? Why do some animals have midwives if they are so unnatural? Why isn't the norm of the rest of the world acknowledged... that men don't go near the laboring woman... that birth is the realm of women?

Why isn't it acknowledged that intimacy has an entirely different connotation in our culture than it does in most others? Anyone take an anthropology course lately? It is not abnormal for women to touch other women's genitals in many, if not most, cultures in our world. The abnormal, if we have to use that term at all, is that women don't touch each other, help each other, view each other in this culture during the wide range of life experiences that include sex, birth, death, body eliminations and more.

I am baffled by the lengths women will go and still call their births unassisted or even unhindered. (This is something Hessel and I actually agree on!)

Why is it okay to climb on-line to get advice from strangers about possible variations (or complications), but it isn’t okay to ask a midwife who might have a tad more experience than the typical Net Surfer? Why would a woman who is having a labor/birth complication (variation) ask complete strangers if they should go to the hospital or not? How can any Net advisor say anything but "If you have to ask, the answer is YES!"

Isn’t it hindering the whole process when ANY outer knowledge is obtained or summoned? Is reading White’s Emergency Childbirth or Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery permitted? Isn’t reading anyone else’s birth story… even hearing anyone else’s story… hindering the experience? Wouldn’t preparing for an emergency be considered a disbelief in perfection? Why do some UCers not want a midwife, but want a doula there “just in case?” If there needs to be anybody, why wouldn’t it be someone who can do something besides dial a phone?

Isn’t listening to your child with a Doppler interference? Shouldn’t your instincts tell you all is well? Why learn how to measure blood loss? If you faint, it’s too much, right?

Why do women prepare their husbands for complications? Why would they put their partners through the extremely important task of learning how to be a midwife in less than 9 months? How can anyone who’s never been to a birth (or less than a handful of them) possibly be prepared for complications? What if there is a complication and the partner didn’t perform his/her duties as proscribed… where does that leave the marriage (or their hearts!)?

Tell me this, if it is okay for a husband to learn midwifery and utilize it on a woman, why isn’t it okay for another woman to do so? I suspect the word “intimacy” is going to be used… that that is the main reason… and autonomy, so a midwife doesn’t muck things up with directions, protocols and such. Maybe the problem isn’t the concept of a midwife, but what exactly a midwife does do to and with women in labor. Am I close? Let it be known now: ALL MIDWIVES AREN'T DOMINEERING EVIL DIRECTORS WHO WREST CONTROL FROM WOMEN DURING THEIR BIRTHS. Goodness, most of us love birth and respect its perfection when it unfolds normally. We are present with knowledge many don't have time or experience to know or practice and offer our services to the mothers and babies in our lives. Some of us don't allow protocols or even the law to dictate how we move in our practice with birthing families. The term midwifery is not a generic term. Please see us as individuals.

It’s hard being judged by people who don’t even know me or my style of midwifery. For Hessel to say the “Baby in the Breeze” birth was a “typical midwife” interfered birth is astounding to me. Can she not see the challenges presented and the lengths we went to help this mom have a beautiful homebirth? Didn’t she catch the medical alternatives? How can helping a baby who was in obvious distress by the heat (fetal heart rate of 200 – normal is 120-160 beats per minute) be wrong? Didn’t she hear that the mother herself had her limits and was going to go in for another cesarean if she didn’t birth by her 42nd week? What she couldn’t know is that anytime we left the room/porch to give the parents privacy, the mother called us back into the area because she had to have us there. Mom directed the photo shoot and video taking the entire time!

This mom is ecstatic about her HBAC. She found every second, moments of perfection.

But, Hessel has something to say about this, too. Apparently, midwives can’t possibly understand the distress women feel about their births because it is sometimes years before the woman has an inkling of the anger and sadness her birth experience evoked. She says that it is self-preserving for a midwife to sever the relationship with the mom before that realization hits and she is confronted with difficult emotions or painful feelings of hurt and sadness. The implication is that midwives foster closeness as a mechanism for trust and an allowance to enter the birth space, yet when it comes down to processing, the midwife is long gone. While that may be true in some instances, most of us stay in contact with “our” babies and their families for years and years.

I am always open to talking about the birth or their lives. Always. And I am open to hearing the harsh things about what I might have done or could have done differently. Heck, didn’t I explain that in the Keep Talking (Even When It's Hard) post? Also, this attitude of using a client for our own self-esteem is insulting to anyone who fosters a relationship that might (or will) be limited... friendships in school or work, cousins one sees once every three years, even partners that we might ultimately divorce.

My relationship with a midwifery client is as full and complete as my relationship with friends or family - I give my heart to them. I expect nothing in return, but always receive amazing amounts of reciprocal love and kindness. Even when a client has things to share that hurt, they are said with respect and kindness... no different than when I have to say something that hurts. Any relationship has its joy and challenges. A midwife/client relationship is no different. I put myself out there - for the long haul. Not just the short duration of the childbearing year. It's insulting to be told that is what I do.

Regarding the shifting of perceptions long after a birth, I changed my own views of my hospital birth, too. I thought it was so fabulous, I sent a letter to the hospital and doctor thanking them for such an amazing experience. In retrospect, it was horrible! I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. But, that hospital experience led me to where I had more compassion for the overall birth experiences (of all women) and my desire to help others avoid such a cold and painful process. It was in my re-submitting my birth story into an entirely different context that I could see it from a different angle and find it awful. Had I never discovered the natural birth movement, I would never have known that my son's birth was anything less than perfect.

(It is this lack of contextual knowledge that allows women to find their induced, medically paralyzed births fantastic. Is it our job to change their perception? Or is it their responsibility to see things in a different light? Is it right to go into another country and foist our beliefs and religion on them simply because we feel it is the right and true belief or religion? Or is it the path of the "native" to discover The Way if s/he is destined to do so?)

I listen to women who despise their former midwives. Heck, I’ve had clients who've come to me after firing midwives they’ve had for several births! It took them several births with the same woman before figuring out their needs had changed and things she did during the previous births just didn't work for them any longer. What I find interesting in the women's changes is that the blame tends to lie with the midwife instead of the woman accepting that perhaps she chose the midwife for whatever reason and she has outgrown that need now... needing something or someone else. (I'm not speaking about midwife/doctor abuse here... that is a separate topic.)

I get that women’s needs change over time. I get that perceptions change over time. It is a phenomenon I cannot wait to study in school... how one view can seem totally right in one moment and then, over time, with new information, the same view looks dark and horrible. Women wonder what was in their heads when they thanked their midwives or doctors. Too many think they were delusional or even hypnotized or brainwashed into thinking their births were wonderful, when, in fact, looking back, they feel they were being abused and used.

I believe the birth tuly was what the woman believed it to be at the time – even if there weren’t words to express the feelings (as in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder). I know that women who HATED their birth experiences knew it immediately. Even if they thanked the midwife afterwards. Even if they cried in the hospital postpartum. I believe that some women are in shock and it might come slower than immediately, but I also believe that it does not take years for someone to be disappointed or angry at someone's behavior surrounding their births. It might take years to verbalize it (because of shame or lack of words or because no one wants to hear the negative), but I believe it is felt right away. I also know that women can change their minds as their experiences are put in a different context.

I believe everything in life can look different from a different perspective.

Sometimes I don’t know what to make of UCers. I am confused and find myself frustrated with their murky explanations about what is and what isn’t a “true” UC. I am saddened that the women I know who have had bad outcomes, including the mothers of the two fetal demises, are banished from UC lists and groups as if they somehow caused the babies to die – or, more likely, that they might tarnish those that aren’t tightly enfolded in the dogma, spilling the truth that things really can – and do – go wrong even in the most perfect of circumstances and healthy of mothers and babies. Both women whose babies died had 100% unhindered births – and went on to have live babies with a great deal of medical help at their next births. Which birth would seem the better to them?

I think I would be better able to offer a nod (not that a UCer would give a whit what I nod for) towards UC as a viable choice in birth if the women and their partners involved were really informed about what they are choosing to do. Instead of getting caught up in the controversy/headiness of birthing without an attendant (a controversy/headiness many, myself included back in 1984, thrive on), some level-headed thought and consideration about what is really going on in birth – how birth can be extremely unpredictable (don’t I sound like a doctor! it makes me laugh hearing my voice say these words) – these are just some things to think about before deciding to forego a midwife.

I also find it interesting that a midwife might not be invited to the birth, but summoned afterwards to check for tears or to examine the baby. If birth is instinctual and an unhindered experience is sought, why bother with those tears being sutured at all? Why not trust that the bleeding will eventually stop or that the baby’s retractions are just a normal part of that baby’s experience? Why go into the hospital at all with complications? If you’d go into the hospital, why wouldn’t you try to stay out of it with the skills of someone who can be a half-way point between nothing and everything? If you believe that a jittery, sleepy baby will eventually come around, why worry when the baby slides into a coma? If a woman has been pushing for several hours, why consider going to the hospital at all? Why not keep pushing or let the body exhaust itself and allow the baby to fade away? Why not accept the service (and I mean that in a my-giving-you-service way) of a midwife who has methods and skills to avoid many things that might land a woman in the hospital?

(This is one of the arguments I get when people balk that I know how to do IVs, carry pitocin or suture… that midwives shouldn’t have those skills because it isn’t natural. Well, tell that to my clients who would have had to leave their homes, possibly their babies, interrupt their postpartum period to hang out in the hospital while someone who doesn’t love them at all ridicules them and causes untold amounts of pain [spiritually and physically]. They would tell you they are thrilled I have those skills to avoid being admitted to the hospital. The more I can learn, the better. As long as I keep perspective on when to use things and when not to, I will be fine. And so will my clients.)

And I trust that my clients will be the ones to adjust my perspective as the need arises. It’s happened before (humbly and appropriately so) and my behavior has changed because of the different pieces of information given me… and it will happen again.

How else would I have been able to do a Hands Off birth? It couldn’t have been possible until I was enlightened on my Empowered Childbirth list several years ago. There is always room for growth, even in me. Ha! Especially in me!

Much of Hessel’s comments stung because she doesn’t know how far I have come as a midwife. She doesn’t know I work SO hard to keep my hands and wishes out of a birth - so much so that I am sought specifically because I can allow the birth to unfold without my even being in the room. She doesn’t know how I’ve apologized to those I hurt in birth during my training. She doesn’t know I did two vaginal exams in 2005.


I keep listing things and then thinking, “It doesn’t matter. It is never enough. I’m a midwife. An abomination. An expletive. Someone to be eradicated. Birth will never be pure until I am not there.” The exact same thing happens, in the opposite, with the medical folks! I explain what I can do, have done, etc. and I end up thinking the same thing. "It doesn't matter. It is never enough. I'm a midwife. An abomination. An expletive. Someone to be eradicated. Birth will never be safe until I am not there."

I look back at the comments around the web regarding this "Baby in the Breeze" birth and know that, by far, the majority sees the amazing beauty in the birth. I am proud the doctors think I am a loon! I shake my head that a UCer would see the birth as anything but the beauty that it was.

I really can't please everybody. Heck, I can't even get everyone to agree on some basic definitions! My responsibility is to my clients and their families. It is in my honoring them, that I keep moving forward as a midwife. My clients know I listen to them and will for years. (Gotta love email!) I stand with my heart open, listening.

Thoughts? (Especially you, Sage Femme... I really look forward to your comments.)

References (23)

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Reader Comments (21)

I don't think that all UCers are on the exact same page and that's where a lot of this is coming from. Just like all midwives are not the same, all UCers are not the same. For me personally, my reason for UC is that no matter how wonderful or supportive a midwife may be, even if she would agree not to be in the room or touch me at all, which is virtually impossible to find by the way, I am extremely in tune with things around me. Just the knowledge that someone else was in my home, especially a midwife, would be enough to make me tense. When I'm tense I can't relax, and then I have much more pain and a much longer labor. I'm a very private person. And with the added knowledge that there was a midwife there I would most likely, knowing myself, act weaker than I actually am and ask the midwife to do things to help that I would know deep down I did not want. I am only fully confident when things are my full responsibility. I cannot speak for other UCers, though I do like to offer my support to them if I'm needed. I do not think all midwives are evil and I think women should be free to choose the exact birth that they feel is right for them, but I also feel that women should take responsibility for those choices. I am aware of the risks, have gone to GREAT pains to educate myself, secure a back up plan, to recognize signs of things going amiss and to have a plan for what to do in those situations, and I've been especially kind to my husband in not forcing him in any way to "become a midwife." I wouldn't dream of putting that kind of pressure on someone I love so dearly. His greatest responsibility during my birth is just to bring me food and be a father, nothing else. I thank you for your perspective and I'm sorry you feel attacked. Just please realize that just as you don't wish to be generalized as a midwife, UCers have the same wish.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

i think the key here is to not start attacking those who see birth differently, but to look at what your intentions were with the birth.

sure, it was a painful read for me. most birth stories are. sure the mom is thrilled - she had a vbac. she is probably more than happy with your care.

for me, it's about what am i bringing into the situation? are my fears warranted or are they really just a product of my education and what i'm subject to in our culture?

i can barely comment on this whole situation because i feel like it's not about who is more hands-on or hands-off, it's really about looking at how we can make births MORE gentle, less directed, less forced. if we can't hear criticism of how it could be different, or we can't even look ourselves as to how we can be different, then what's the point?

for me, my births have been looked at very constructively by Linda. this is what has helped me grow as a midwife. without someone questioning why it is i do or think something, how on earth could i change a thing?

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSage Femme

You give a good many things to think about.
Our opinions are shaped by our belief systems and those are further shaped by our experiences.

My experience with UCs has not been positive. I intellectually know that not all are like what I've experienced. It does not change my experiences. I am the ONLY person who knows my heart and what my desires were for our birth experiences. I felt accused of not trusting the birth process and "asking for complications" because I did not make the same choices as other people who chose UC. Who are they to make such accusations about MY choices and MY responsibility. THIS behavior is what destroys the goodness that brings us together. (and it works both ways)

Even so, I try and reamin respectful of each person's awesome responsibility of educating and choosing what is best for them. There will always be consequences, no matter what choice. Each person is different, each birth is different, each experience is different. Only we ourselves can decide what we are willing to risk, choose or enjoy.

The advancement comes in accepting that not everyone has to choose what we want and the betterment comes in not attacking what another person has chosen, especially when the choice is different than yours. Again - this works both ways. Attacking the differences only WIDENS the gap in all the different birth worlds.

I'm still baffled by how a woman can be induced at 35 weeks, have every procedure/intervention available, have a depressed baby and STILL think that it was equivilant to heaven. At the same time I've come to learn that - "how" babies arrive isn't important to everyone. For some - its' just a means to an end. Perhaps this is what I understand the least. I keep reminding myself that its just different, not necessarily wrong.

I'm scattered today and my post doesn't make a whole bunch of sense....but its where I am today. Hope someone can get something out of my letters.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterWash Lady

If a woman desires a midwife assisted birth because she decides, in her great capacity, that she's able to fully trust, to ask for and use support and value good intention, I can't find anything wrong about that.

To each his own.

How sad that birth stories that are perceived to be magical and whimsical to the women who own them, are being judged so harshly by others.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterladyelms

Anon: and you are one of the prepared women I have talked to, but you have to know you aren't the majority. So many seem to find the UC option a "cool" thing to do - and in this time of extremes from out entire culture, birthing extremes get their due time, too.

I'm not sure if this was obvious from the piece, so I will say it now.

I do NOT hate/despise/disagree/ignore UCers. I *do* support them where I can, offering help, kindness, skills wherever the women might want or need me. I share any of the knowledge I have with any who ask... I have written extensively on aspects of birth that many in the midwifery and medical world consider proprietary. I am more than glad to tend to a woman whenever she might call - even if that is several days postpartum.

I am not trying to foist judgement upon UCers. I am wanting to understand so I can better serve that faction that is very visible in my own community.

The defensive comments were merely answering accusations about the birth I attended or about midwifery, intimacy and birth in general. I wasn't throwing down any gauntlet... not at all... I *do* understand some of the UC movement... please remember I had one myself... but there are so many discrepencies in "the movement," I want to offer an opportunity for the UCers to figure out answers to the obvious questions those of us on the outside have. I don't know if this is making sense, still. I'll keep trying to explain.

Sage Femme: How many people do you allow or encourage to read through your birth stories and offer "constructive" criticism? How do you believe someone who is critical of your style isn't passing judgement on who you are as a person or a midwife? How do you believe they aren't wondering, "What was she thinking?!?" It is the main reason my posts get so bloody long! If I don't expound on ideas, I am accused of knee-jerk reactions or cookie-cutter care. Obviously, by people who don't know me so well.

I absolutely agree with you on continually working towards a more gentle birthing experience for our clients... if you've read me for any length of time, you know I am on that same road. I speak LOUDLY about midwives who don't. I also listen acutely... in real life world, on-line and to those I love and trust and I wiggle and nudge myself into new and different configurations for each of my clients and their families. I am not static. Neither are you... and it is what I love about you. I'm saddened that the story was hard for you to read. I would think that of all people, you would understand what was happening. It's sad that you didn't understand at all.

Wash Lady: I agree in not making anyone do what I want them to do or make them do what someone else wants them to do. Gads, choice is the topic of the week, isn't it? I support women's choices to birth how and where they want... even if I don't get it. Even if I don't think they have all the information. If if they have a negative outcome. Especially if they have a joyous outcome! I never want anyone to "pay" for their choices.

I'm not trying to poke a finger into the chest of a UCer at all. I am frustrated and confused by many of the discrepancies in their arguments and beliefs. I'm asking for clarity.

And, as such, I will continue clarifying, too, since even my long post isn't being heard very clearly. Sometimes words aren't enough. Sorry.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I'm perplexed by the UC situation. Largely because I wouldn't/couldn't choose to have an UC birth. I see birth as a time to share with other women. My midwife included. She's the one with the skills and experience to protect me (and my baby) if it becomes necessary. I would be in no fit state to really be able to manage a bad situation myself and I couldn't ask my husband to know when things were iffy... and then have him bear the burden if the worst happened.
Do we all need to grow as professionals and as caregivers and guardians of birth space, yes, but do we further the cause of autonimous birth (which to me incidentally means that first and foremost the desires and choices of the birthing mama are respected) by attacking a midwife who goes out of her way to help women have the births they want?
I spent a long time wondering how many women in this country find their wishes completely disrespected and ignored because of their hx of c-section. How many women would LOVE the experience of that mama rather than the experience they received at the hands of mainstream hospital obstetrics. Hell, I had no prior c-section and I'd trade for her birth (and midwife) any day!
Realistically it's a small, small group of women who willingly, deliberately chose UC birth. And for them I wish them the safe, happy uncomplicated birth they dream of. But let's not freak out at a great midwife who facilitated a great birth. Makes no sense to me.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLouisa

well I already ranted about UC a while back- having had a UC myself and yes I would say that being very critical of everyone and everything was a component to us having a UC and now I would never recommend it. to be clear I am more socialized than that I do trust others- and I know what my limitations are I labor alone no matter the setting- but having someone around who knows what they are doing incase of an emergency is a tremendous weight off my shoulders. I am really unwilling to be just thrown to the wolves of the main stream medical profession without any help or someone who has enough expertise to keep me home rather than haul me in-
now to say that although I have been hands off there have been women who absolutely want my hands on them when giving birth- what should I do stand with my hands in my pockets and not touch someone? that is crazy- I have been at such a range of births with women in a room full of women all chanting and petting mom and this is what mom wants to mom walking away from everyone and holding on to a porch railing and at the last minute saying someone get over here and keep the baby from hitting the ground- even women who wanted husbands as witnesses but the husband was not to do any assisting hand holding or anything but the woman wanted some intense contact from us.
thing about the droves of women going to the hospital- they do not want to be alone during birth- they may not ultimately want what they end up with but they also do not want to be alone during birth--
I have been to births where first time moms have been fleeing the intensity of the contractions- and they are young enough to have some endurance to this without some guidance they would end up in the hospital with pain meds because they would have used up their reserves before they got into serious labor--

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

You probably know, NM, that your words from this post have been 'lifted' and used at another blog. (isn't the first time either) You know who it is... no need to advertise her debacle.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Anon here again, mostly because I can't think of a clever name right now. I wish I could offer a solid definitition of a UC for you, myself, and countless others. But like I mentioned earlier, there just isn't one. Some "UCers" think they are UC even if they've had more interventions than can be counted and sing the praises of their amnios, etc, others are more like me and tend to listen to themselves, never miss an opportunity to learn more, no matter what the source, and tend to do everything ourselves unless we feel something is just completely beyond our own understanding or accomplishment. It's all very confusing. Perhaps I need to re-read the birth story in question as I don't remember being horribly upset by it because the woman didn't seem upset by it. I think that for me most times when I find a birth story upsetting, barring outwardly abusive personnel attending, is when a woman herself is hurt by her own birth. I've been there. I don't want to judge, especially a woman who is already in a vulnerable place and needs support above all else. Now I'm feeling scattered. My personal definition of a UC involves learning, inward reflection, trusting yourself, and in that trust being able to relinquish control should a situation arise that is too dangerous to handle on your own, and educating yourself to know when that situation has come. Hope that made sense.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

honestly, barb, i consider any birth story or subject i write about open for discussion and criticism. the only time i never ask critical questions about a birth story is when it's the woman's own story.

yes, i've been critiqued and asked why i did something. sure. it's part and parcel of making this stuff public. in my opinion, if you only want people to agree with you, then make a private community filled only with people who wholeheartedly support you no matter what.

i'm in this shit called life for harsh lessons and the hard stuff that accompanies it. i've been called to task many times about what i do / don't do - and by asking questions like this, i'm forced to seriously consider if what i did was in my integrity. if it was, i typically feel fine about it and let it go. we just agree to disagree. it's ok.

the only time i feel myself getting very defensive is if i know, deep inside, that my intentions behind a birth were not what they could have been. it happens alot. we're human. i usually reflect quite a bit and come back to see another side, even if in the end there's nothing i can do about it.

i think that for me having an open forum like this means that i'm best able to be reached, heard and talked to. my blog is not private. it could be discussed elsewhere. so be it. it's not something that i'm trying to keep to myself.

i feel uncomfortable that you linked to linda's blog when she never once linked to yours or even mentioned who the blog author was when she wrote her piece. i'm not sure if it was done to send people over there that would rally for you, or if you just didn't think about it being anything but credible to link to the original subject.

linda definitely has a right to pick apart any birth story, as i do. it's part of the process of asking "why" and "how". it's part of learning.

i don't pick apart stories too much because it would take up too much energy. i'm sure people pick apart mine, but i would definitely like the feedback.

if you'd like to discuss this more in an email, i'd be very open to. i don't think it's nitpicking - it's definitely learning.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSage Femme

Anonymous #1 is right, not all UCers are on the exact same page. I will go with UC this pregnancy because my choices are very limited. I wish you lived near me, I'd love to have a midwife I could call upon. My last baby was born at home with a beautiful midwife who sat in another room until I called for her. I live more than 400 miles away from her now. There are 2 midwives (as best I can tell, they are a-legal here and not advertising) who do homebirths in my area. One is not available; the other I had planned to hire, but she has disappeared. That leaves me with the choices of going with an OB at the hospital, or UC. Did I mention I'm also a vbac mama, although my c/s was with my first and this is baby #5 for me? The hospital here, and those within an hours' drive, do not allow vbac, even with one (or more) successful vbacs under one's belt. So I could show up pushing (and fighting), not the ideal birth situation to be sure, or go in like a good little patient for my scheduled surgical baby removal. I wish there were more of you around, and I wish that we could stop the bickering about which is better and just allow women the right to make that choice for themselves. I wish I were an elephant so all the women in my life would gather around me and keep me safe while I labored and gave birth. I don't want to be alone, but I'm not about to sign up to be sliced open for no good reason. Where is my choice?

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Because blogs are public forums, I always link directly to what I am commenting about. It's what I've always done.

Once again, this wasn't supposed to be an US versus THEM sort of discussion. It was meant as a delving into thought processes - from the UCers, midwives, docs alike.

And oh yes, I do know my stories will be pulled apart like so much taffy. I've never expected all feedback to be positive... that would be more unrealistic than Star Wars. I absolutely appreciate positive AND negative (if you want to call it that) comments about who I am and how I work.

If it hadn't been for UCers, I would never have shifted from my pretty damn invasive midwifery style that I thought was the normal way to practice. I am always open to change. Always.

I am much more a fluid than a solid. I don't want to become stiff and immobile. You all here help me remain flexible.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife


Your writing pierces me. I know no other word. Thank you for taking the time to delve into topics such as these with every fiber in your being.

This topic intrigues me. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts:

I view UC as the ultimate goal in birthing. Beautiful, ecstatic, natural, humbling, and yes, sometimes terrifying. That said, our fears (unfounded or not) of death or “mistakes”
, our mistrust in the intentional circle of life, our lack of faith (not religious), and our worship of medical technology put us a long way from achieving that goal, particularly in this country.

So, I say that small steps should be viewed as big victories. If that’s a doctor in a hospital willing to labor sit or give a VBAC a chance – YAY! If that’s a midwife assisting during a homebirth so a Mom feels safe and loved– YAY! If that’s a doula supporting a Mom with counterpresure to relieve discomfort – YAY! Let’s celebrate these micro movements, as we would celebrate any step towards change in our world. I mean, hey, an alternative fuel vehicle doesn’t immediately cease our dependency on fuel entirely but it certainly provides us better odds at reducing our dependency. Know what I mean?

My wish is that conscientious advocates of the birthing world (UCers, midwives, doulas, OB’s, Mothers, Fathers, etc) would band together in support to celebrate, discuss, and continue creating spaces for these victories. NM, I wholeheartedly believe you are doing this.

And, I also believe that sometimes we have to fake it till we make it.

I applaud UCers. I applaud midwives. I see them both as integral parts to the most important whole: natural, trusted birth… assisted, attended, hindered or not! And after all, isn’t it said that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts it’s made of?


August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

Yes! I had this big ol' long post and I don't know why it didn't go thru, but now I just want to say that Yes! what sage femme wrote, how putting yourselves out there opens you up and feeling on the defensive Means Something...

What I've been wanting to say, all day, was I worry about your blog NM (actually, I woory about ALL blogs - it hits really close to home...but that's another long and sordid story!) because I worry about you: putting yourself out there and getting bashed, hurt, and perhaps even sued or something. This is CA after all! Eeek. And the emotional toll of it all...

But if you can keep it light in the learning then maybe there's half a chance. I don't know.

My 2nd baby was born at home unintentionally unattended. It was awesome. What I remember the most six years later was not being told to do anything - "Try the shower...do you want to go to the bathroom?...maybe we should move to the bed, now..." which I am sure would've been said as I was pushing her out standing in the hallway. It was very, very nice.
And felt wonderful.
But her father was there and in the end he was given huge accolades and unfortunatly, accepted them, for catching her. And maybe it's cuz I am going through the wreckage of our marriage and do not have much perspective, but I think that hurt our relationship.
So when I think of birth now, I think of women with women because it is Women's Work. Not men's. And they should not take credit.

That'll get me bashed, I am sure.
I have more to write on this, but end it here for now.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLesley

This is perhaps a bit of a different perspective on what I've been reading here and elsewhere.

As a fan of birth blogs and forums, I read Linda's post on mothering where she commented on "baby in the breeze" and instantly recognised what she was referring to in her own blog. I am a stranger to all of you and I very easily realised who was being discussed and I must admit my heart was in my throat for the Mama who's birth was being dissected, should she be visiting similar places I do.

It would not be nice to have other people's judgements on your very personal experience. Were is the respect for her autonomy and freedom to process the experience for herself if she has to spend energy deflecting opinions that jar so violently with where she is right now emotionally with her birth? Surely everyone recognises this could be a psychically crushing as an interventionist CP during the birth? She may well come to the very same conclusions in time, but that's hers to do.

I guess I have just seen it done too many times. Unfortunately the other recent example I saw was another UC proponent critiquing a mother's account of her HB story in the DAY after the birth - but it's by no means relegated to those who support UC. As seen by anti HB let alone UC commentators regarding this story - the lack of respect is astounding and distressing to me.

In debriefing my birth with someone, they'd try and identify new issues for me to get upset over, and not only that, try and tell me to be upset about things that *didn't happen* (and I'm not talking about stuff which if it didn't happen, it means something else *did* - like not seeing and touching your baby after birth means you WERE separated - we weren't, it's an example, but instead social or spiritual aspects of a birth they deemed I'd "missed").

The arrogance of that! I wish I could give examples but they are probably reading (hence the anon! yes it's a small birth world out there!). It still smarts they'd have the cheek to do that, like my distress about a birth they don't condone is just more points in their agenda's column. So they'll happily add insult on injury to tally it up. Using me. Not sharing information with me, empowering me, supporting me. Naming it and judging it themselves. So I then had to wrestle the story back from CP's who'd hurt me and then them as well! Gee thanks! Is it safe with anyone except me?

I really don't see the point in picking on one story when that's the risk you are running. I LOVE reading UC stuff, because it is shaping my beliefs about births. I LOVE reading generalised observations from a UC perspective on midwife attended births, or when the birthing woman herself offers up the story to be assessed with a UC slant. All extremely useful to me in my own budding opinions.

I don't mean this as an attack on Linda, I understand the discussion has been widespread. I just want all those involved in a discussion springing from this one birth story to respect it is the woman's story first and foremost. Not the midwife's story (although she had permission to tell it.) Noone's opinion really matters, noone else gets to stamp their conclusions all over it.

August 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

UC birthers have actually caused me to redefine how much midwifery is important and how sloppy we can be when we talk about statistics or how much we midwives and our society undervalue what we can do...
my own birth experiences are what caused me to be a more hands off midwife- not connections to UC births.
I have a preference for reading stories in an uncritical way- maybe during a second read I would have some comments or questions- and most of the time I thankful for the shared experience.

August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"when discussing this sexual union issue, says that there isn’t a “normal” community that finds intimacy and nudity amongst strangers anywhere in the world. I found this astonishingly ignorant considering there are a number of communities in the United States that have just such standards of comfort and normalcy. Also, in other cultures that don’t have the luxury of space we are spoiled with, sexual conduct and nudity is very much a part of daily life (think Dances With Wolves). It is in our culture, fairly isolated in its Victorian beliefs that sex and intimacy should only be between two - and only behind closed doors. Her argument that birth is inherently sexual is correct. She is, however, incorrect that it isn’t normal to share that intimacy with outsiders."

Just wanted to agree with your view on this obviously this has been put forth with little knowledge or study of humans in other places or even people in poverty in this country-- I grew up in a very very small space- 8 by 20 ft trailer and I don't know how you are not going to be seen or not see anything in that close of quaters- people who live in small spaces- or tents not only see and hear things in their own houses but also in other places near by-- many old festivals were fertility rights and - what I was told by my grandma about how to make your garden grow- and this was a Catholic grandma - anyhow it was to have sex in your garden before you plant.... good for you and your garden ; ) and oh the Maypole dances I have been to-- infact dancing in general--

August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

My ideal next birth would be a midwife assisted homebirth. However, like another commenter my choices are REALLY limited because our nursing council is suspending and deregistering homebirth midwives who attend HBACs. Doesn't matter how happy the client is with the outcome, if the hospy gets wind of it and decides to complain, look out. So for me, it is very important to click with my midwife. I felt my trust was betrayed by my midwife, I know she acted NOT in my best interests but to a timeline and my failure to progress was nothing more than pressure and intervention. I can see clearly where I went wrong in not standing up for myself, and I know I took the easy way out by choosing a birth centre because I thought I wouldn't have to fight for the birth I wanted and thus was mentally unprepared when the interventions begun.

My midwife had been very "motherly" all throughout my pregnancy and when "push" came to shove I found I couldn't question her, stemming from my inability to stand up to my own mother. No matter how loud the alarm bells rang, I didn't want to make trouble. I was one who thanked her for the birth, denied how I felt, got PPD and started to get pretty cranky about things. I also realise that I can't put all the blame on her, I have to understand why I rolled over and gave up so easily. Anyway, the point of this is that my options are limited for birth #2. If I can't click with one of the 2 midwives I know of here, what do I do? The thought of hospital makes me nauseous. A transfer is one thing, but willingly putting myself in that position again is another. That leaves UC. Honestly not my ideal choice. I feel I would have a LOT of work to do, not just in understanding birthing etc but also an emotional journey in order to be up for the challenge. However, I agree with so many of the things you said, about women assisting women, about intimacy, about avoiding transfer... it makes me so angry that I would be forced into UC when I want a midwife! No idea what the point of this is... lol sorry.

August 21, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranastasia_wolf

I don't think you'll ever get a unified answer to your UC questions. After all, UCer's are composed of different women from different walks of life and came to their own version of UC for their own unique reasons. It isn't like midwifery where you have to go through schooling and apprenticeships to learn how to do it. You don't go to conferences or get magazines in your mailbox telling you the latest and greatest accomplishments and rules to follow to be a UCer. You aren't licensed, you don't belong to an organization, you don't answer to anybody. You don't need clearly defined rules or guidelines that you all must follow to be a UCer. The first time I heard of the concept of UC was from my DH's mouth. He asked me one week after our sons birth, "what did you get out of the prenatals and birth from the midwives and hospital that was helpful?" I couldn't answer him, there was nothing. He suggested that we just stay home and do it ourselves next time. I had never heard of such a thing before and insisted that we needed to hire a midwife. I haven't decided for or against UC for us yet, but my point is, my DH didn't find the concept of UC in some book, or even from another person. He thought of it on his own, and if we end up doing it, we wont be out there looking for rules that we need to follow for it to qualify as a UC. We will simply do what we want and what we feel good about, and if that classifies us in some UC category it wasn't because we followed all the rules in order to qualify for UC status, it will be because we followed our hearts in order for any of our future babies to born in a much gentler manner than our son came into this world.

August 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Z.

I almost went UC with my third. I had a hostile sOB who was the interventions are standard type. Denying food during labor, forcing a sugar test, all bets are off if he says so.

DEMs have no way to be licensed in Michigan. Doctors don't do backup care for midwives. He wouldn't support a home birth, but would allow me to labor unassisted at home. (scary, he said safer alone without a midwife?)

I was thinking UC, then call the doc and say oops. Forunately I read Tales of a Baby Catcher, and found the error of my plans. I searched online for a month before I found a birth place unaffiliated with doctors or hospitals, which did have a good system for transfers to a very close hospital.

Now, my employer says no excuses, you didn't know better before, but now I am required to have a doctor, or lose my entire maternity pay. What a world, I saved them thousands of healthcare dollars, and they took three weeks of my salary.

I may be stuck with plan A again. Or I may just not have another, because ther is no safe avenue for birth in this intervention happy area.


August 22, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterstockingup99

Frankly, I think the mommy-wars need to just go the way of the dodo bird. Why do so many moms feel the need to judge every other mom for every other thing on the planet? If you homebirth with a midwife, that is not good enough... you must UC! If you UC with books and a midwife on call, that is not enough... isolate yourself further! Or whatever... really this is just ONE example. ie: If you breastfed to 18 mos, that is not enough because you should've done it to three years! It goes on and on and on and on.

Personally I do not get it. I think I'd rather focus on the positive myself. And attitudes like that are, IMO, what steers many women AWAY from non-mainstream choices and back into the arms of their OBs, where they feel less judged and less like they are in a perpetual desire to be the PERFECT MOM!

Let all perfect moms step forward now and take a bow while the rest of us imperfect souls keep on muddling along doing the very best we can.

Anyways, mommywars aside... I am so grateful for my midwife. I have heard some midwife horror stories. I have even met a few I wasn't too impressed with at a birth center near me. But the midwife I chose is amazing. She's warm, she is kind, she respects me and she respects birth. She has the knowledge to help me when I need help and that is what she is there for!

I can only say that if you're uncomfy with your midwife, maybe you should try to find another... and hopefully one day soon there will be LOTS MORE midwives so that we all have more options of choice.

Thanks for your blog... I'm looking forward to a midwife-assisted homebirth in December :)

August 23, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

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