I'm sure most of you in Blog World have already read the Washington Post article on Unassisted Birth, but if you haven't, there it is for you. I encourage you to also read the after-chat between Laura Shanley and Mairi Breen-Rothman, CNM found here.
I wish wish wish I could stick my nose in all the places the articles and their comments are occuring because of my own experience with Meghann, but because I can't, I will remind you all here, in a shortened synopsis, what it was.
After Tristan's (hospital) birth, which I thought was fabulous and terrific, I moved to Tacoma, Washington and went to an exercise class that was run by a Bradley teacher and La Leche League leader and was slowly un-brainwashed/brainwashed (as the case may be) into understanding natural childbirth and its perfection.
I was introduced to the work of Marilyn Moran, who is the TRUE mother of the Unassisted Childbirth movement, NOT Laura Shanley as she likes to profess herself to be. Anyway. I read Marilyn's book Birth and the Dialogue of Love and was highly encouraged to have a DiTY Birth (as they were called then). I actually called several midwives in the Seattle area but could not find one to take me on at my late gestation, my extreme weight and my deep poverty level.
(I hear myself on the other end of the phone often and it definitely influences my decision to help a woman in need.)
Because I couldn't find a midwife, I chose to have an unassisted birth - not called a UC back then, but we'll call it that now for ease's sake and to use the terminology of today.
I continued getting prenatal care at Madigan Army Regional Medical Center and also gathered things to prepare for a homebirth. I was going to have my Bradley/La Leche League leader as my doula ("Doula" also being a word not yet invented back in 1984) along with another 2 girlfriends, one a former L&D nurse and another Bradley teacher. My own Bradley teacher's 16-year old daughter was also attending to be my photographer. The two ancillary women's nursing babies were also attending.
After a birth-assaultive stripping at Madigan, I began labor and all the players finally came to the house (except my Bradley teacher who was camping as it was Memorial Day weekend) where I ended up laboring a total of 39 hours.
I pushed for 2 hours and Meggie was born, a gnarly shoulder dystocia that required quite a bit of resuscitation. Someone called the ambulance (no 911 at that time) and far too slowly, the fire department, police department and finally an ambulance descended onto our tiny house where, by the time they arrived, Meghann was breathing and doing okay. Eight men stood around staring at naked me sitting on the floor with my placenta still attached, their wanting to take me to the hospital. My former husband had to argue with the ambulance driver that I was fine and he would take me in himself. Someone put a glove on and tried to pull my placenta out by the cord. No one else was paying attention but me and I yelled at them to stop it and go away.
If I'd have had a midwife there, none of that scenario would have happened. The shoulder dystocia would have been taken care of appropriately. The resuscitation would have been deftly handled and I wouldn't have had the rude interruption of those gawking men, the arguments, the self-protection - the absolute massive intrusion of negative, cruel energy - all because I didn't have a midwife there.
Granted, my reasons for not having a midwife there were very different than many women's reasons. I had a UC because I was not going to go to a hospital with a 50% cesarean rate (and I would have absolutely had a cesarean) and my choices were limited to one: a UC - because no midwife would take me on.
I've read and listened to the multitude of other reasons for UCs including privacy with one's spouse, the belief in the perfection of birth if left alone and the pain of birth trauma/birthrape and the need to be removed from The System (including midwives) in order to birth with any sense of power. Of all the reasons to UC, the birth trauma issue is the one that I can wrap my head around as the most viable. Of course, "YOUR" reason for choosing is the most correct, but that's pretty normal.
In real life, I've known one UC death. In cyber world, I've known another. I've never seen a fetal death because of the disgusting crap foisted upon women and babies in the hospital. I'm sure I will get a lot of flack for saying that, but it's my truth. I don't deny the amazing amounts of abuse, trauma, assault and even rape that happens in the hospital, but I do believe the survival of babies is higher in the hospital than when left in the hands of UCers. I believe I am trained well enough to know when to transfer so babies and mothers are kept safe and when the unexpected happens, I am prepared to keep a mom and baby in a place of safety until help arrives and we can get them to where further help is available.
I can hear the arguments. Why not avoid the possibilities of transfer at all? Why not just be in the hospital in the first place? This quote from my post Oh, the homebirth debate blog... (is more annoying than words) describes why that isn't an emotional possibility for so many women:
It would be wonderful to demonstrate a completely natural birth in the hospital (NOT a homebirth in the hospital as many would want to call it) and watch all the care providers squirm with discomfort as their jobs became almost useless "just" sitting and observing. It would take an incredibly strong woman to be able to withstand the intense tension brewing, but it would be a great lesson for hospital personnel to witness. I believe it could never be done - and that's just so sad. It's sad that not only could we not even demonstrate a normal birth, but that nothing like it would ever occur in the hospital setting. The closest I have seen is in in-hospital birth centers, but even that is difficult to compare to a homebirth.
So much fear operates around birth with doctors and nurses (and many CNMs and even midwives), I do understand the drive for UCers to birth alone, to maintain the stance of strength and autonomy.
But, I believe a re-education of those that are birth workers is what is necessary. It seems absurd and daunting, sure. I know it seems crazy to think we can re-train that horribly evil doctor that slices open every woman's perineum and has a 45% cesarean rate. I don't have the exact answer HOW to do it, I just believe in the answer that we have to do it. Maybe it is in "seeing" that we need to do it. Aren't we all mad enough at The System? Don't we want it to change yet? Don't we want birth abuse/birth assault/birth rape to stop yet? Don't we want the reasons for women to have to choose UC to stop being created? Until we end the trauma, UCs will multiply.
In the commentaries and blogs, don't the masses hear themselves? Don't they hear how they sound saying it doesn't matter how the baby comes out, that the misery a mom and baby experience doesn't matter, just that they both are alive in the end? Isn't that horrible? How can people who whimsically subject themselves to plastic surgery for beauty or schedule cesareans because they don't want to feel the pain say it doesn't matter how a woman FEELS when it comes to her own birth experience? How can that 95% or more who gets an epidural say that? It's absurd!
Still, even though women are "made" to have babies, women don't traditionally birth alone. Many mammals don't birth alone, some even having "midwives" with them as they bring their offspring forth. A midwife is merely someone who knows a little more than you do about a subject. It doesn't mean you are stupid or wrong or ignorant or less than. It just means she has more experience because she has studied more on the subject and/or been around it more. Myself, I've been to right around 900 births. While you do know your Self best, I still have quite a bit of experience around birth and bet I can share a thing or two with you.
A hairdresser knows a bit about hair... even though it's yours. She doesn't know ALL about hair. She doesn't know all about YOUR hair. But, she can cut your hair in a nice way given guidance from you.
A brain surgeon doesn't ask your opinion at all, yet has a damn good idea what to do inside your skull if she's inside there.
Ah, but those aren't "natural" things. I gotcha.
What if you are hemorrhaging between periods. What if you are hemorrhaging postpartum. What if you have a breast lump.
You get the picture.
Where does "natural" end and "un-natural" begin? Who decides? Laura Shanley?
I think one of the most offensive aspects of the UC movement is the rabid Us vs. Them (Black/White) and the true inability for any discussion regarding UC and the possibility of finding a midwife who might actually support a woman's need and desire for autonomy - which, they (the UCers) profess, is their true desire. It is only in the past few months that I have seen any discussion that has included outsiders and, surprisingly, the interviews have been coherent and inoffensive. Good for Shanley.
Perhaps it will take the UC movement to wake up The System to the birth assault that's occurring and affect the change that's necessary for women to get their needs met - so they are able to have a birth worthy of themselves. Birth should be gentle, beautiful, loving and respected - no matter where it happens. There is so, so much to do to make change happen. I keep writing about this and there doesn't seem to be any change (except with finding Dr. Wonderful!). I wonder what more I can do.
What are YOU doing to affect change? How best can each of us use our talents to bring forth change? Ponder on it. Use your energies to imagine a world where respect for women is a given. Let's stop putting energy towards the negative crap they foist upon us, eh? Let's "see" what we want and create it... even if it takes small steps.
We can do it.