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Entries in Birth Television (2)

Monday
Aug252008

I'm Offensive...

... and oh, so proud!

I don't know about y'all, but when I find a blockade, I love to knock them down. See a warning about a site? Gotta know what's so dang bad (good? juicy!) about it!

American Prayer was sent to me this morning. Not just because I am (obviously) voting for Obama, but because Dr. Wonderful is in this star-studded video! 3/4 of the way through, after the homeless vet, right after Woopi Goldberg, Dr. Wonderful is holding a baby. He's also writing a book about birth (in the vein of "Babycatcher") and was supposed to be on an episode of Scrubs, but had a baby that night. That man's connected!

The issue of birth trauma (something that needs a label put on it if I ever heard one) came up over the weekend in two different types of articles. The first addresses birth trauma directly, the second, indirectly.

GUERILLA MOTHERING: Mama’s baby drama doesn’t have to cause trauma says,

"The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in new mothers. Evidently, traumatic hospital births with a lot of medical interventions are leaving moms severely emotionally scarred. Imagine that! Someone comes into your hospital room, you’re already half-naked, scared, and in pain, and tells you that the baby you’ve carried and dreamed of for so long might die if they don’t do a certain procedure right away-and even then, no guarantees you’re going home with your little one. Yeah, I’d call that a little traumatic."

And...

"...he was born out of my numbed-to-the-point-of-paralysis body after a long night of drugs, having my water broken, and lying around practically tied to a hospital bed, as nervous as though a firing squad was waiting for me on the other side of labor. The very moment he was born, I held my arms out for him, desperate to hold him — but the Dr. took him away immediately to be examined on the other side of the room. I still tear up, just thinking about it, seven years and two additional births later. Is that a sign of trauma?"

And after her third, a homebirth,

"There he was. Healthy, serene, perfect. There is a photo of me, smiling, holding him in my arms, immediately after he was born. I had finally outrun those birth demons, and what a prize.

"It was the most beautiful thing I have ever done, and it truly changed my life. I went on to change careers, write a book, visit a monastery for a week, play roller derby — all kinds of things that I still think are not as cool as having a homebirth, but I would perhaps not have had the confidence to do, had I not named and claimed the birth of my third miracle child. That is the total opposite of trauma, without a doubt."

What's so sad to me is that she had to swing all the way to a homebirth to find the birth that empowered her the most. I am so frustrated, knowing Dr. Wonderful births, watching/hearing, over and over, the birthrape, birth trauma and birth abuse that happens in hospitals when it simply doesn't have to be that way. Keeping women and babies safe (the whole explosive reason/explanation for the massive amounts of technology and "inconvenience" to women in hospitals) just doesn't have to be so damned dramatic/traumatic! If I hadn't seen there could be other ways, I would never believe there could be other ways. But, I have - and there can.

Should We Push for Better Birth on Television as Well?, a blog post by the Massachussetts Friends of Midwives talks about how birth on tv is incredibly over-dramatized and how helpful it would be to see a variety of midwives in a variety of birth situations so women could see how birth can (and should!) be.

I wrote one of the most profound sentences in the comments section (if I do say so myself):

TRUE natural birth needs an agent.

The article speaks about the over-dramatization of birth shows, yet sings the praises of House of Babies, a show about a birth center in Miami, Florida. While the births are unmedicated and, compared to hospital births, the women are permitted free movement, the actual births are almost always in the lithotomy position (not flat on the back, but close to it) - even in the birth tub.

Shari Daniels trained and worked in El Paso where, for the most part, women birth on their backs. In fact, unless a woman precip'd, she delivered on her back. Easily 99% of the time. While on House of Babies it might seem the women are on their backs for good camera angles, I can hear the imploring of the midwives in almost the same words, English or Spanish, as the midwives in El Paso. I have long felt we are products of our training and experiences; it isn't unusual for Shari to nudge birth along at the end since it seems to work just fine. The urgency is just as palpable on House of Babies as it is on Babies: Special Delivery.

I wonder if I'd want a camera watching a birth I was doing. Talk about being judged for actions! Am I ashamed of what I do? Not at all. But I don't know if I could take the amount of scrutiny I know would happen. I wonder how many midwives would/could want Discovery cameras in their birth arenas.

I assisted at a birth once and the client permitted a camera woman who was photographing Rites of Passages in our culture. She not only took photos of that birth (and I purposefully took none), but also of a Bris of another midwife's client. The photographer, an intern for our San Diego paper, disappeared with the photos - never to be heard from again. I'm a tad wary of bringing in an outsider anymore.

Plus, watching Mindy's birth (Psalm and Zoya) be massacred on Discovery Health, it's hard to trust the media at all!

But, how do women get to see natural births? Is it really only through edited YouTube videos? How does the slow unfolding of birth get portrayed... the mundane-ness, the down-and-dirty boring reality of it all?

(And I don't mean I am bored. I mean that many labors plod along and that is perfectly normal and wonderful. It's one reason why I LOVE the Labor Day Birth Day on Discovery Health; one gets to see births in real time - and how many births really are drugged and end in cesareans. Natural birth can be hypnotizing in its contracting, moaning repetition.)

If women saw birth on its undramatic terms, would women be so afraid of the pain? I don't think so. Even the unmedicated women in hospitals are confined to beds; no wonder they scream! The women on House of Babies moan, but don't often holler.

If our culture could get the taboo issues regarding sexual expression and childbirth out of the way, labor would look much more delicious than painful. Reminding women that sex looks scary to the uninitiated (kids, for example), but really is a delightful journey that sometimes includes moaning and hollering. So, too, can birth be the same. I think our repressed society struggles with the sounds, smells and similarities of birth and sex, hence medicating, covering up with non-descript gowns and mechanizing the whole experience so we don't have to be reminded that our genitals are involved.

Hmmm... where did that come from?

Food for thought, though.

True natural birth does need an agent. Wonder who she is.

Friday
May162008

Deliver Me

Somehow, I missed the fanfare about this show. Sometimes, not watching anything but HGTV can mean I don’t see or hear about cool shows like Deliver Me.

While Deliver Me’s first season is over, you can still catch it in re-runs on the Discovery Health Channel.

Of all the “baby” shows, this one ranks next to DH’s 3-Day Live in 3 L&D’s Around the Country extravaganza. What I like about them both is they are the most real, the best example of life on the labor & delivery floor.

The 3-Day fete is cool as all get out because it shows birth in real time… in real SLOW time… and demonstrates the enormous amount of pitocin used, the vast quantities of epidurals given and ultimately the scads of cesareans done on every third woman.

Deliver Me is edited more, but watching (sometimes in horror) as woman after woman is induced, augmented, epidural’d and then “sectioned” is a study of birth reality shows at their finest.

Maybe you have to be a midwife to enjoy this kind of stuff.

Three OB’s – Drs. Bohne, Hill and Park work in a really busy Los Angeles practice together. Besides their work, they are also friends and mothers who share snippets of their personal lives with the camera. Doctors as humans. Amazing concept for television.

Not seeing the first, introductory, episode, but jumping right into their story, it was easy to decipher who had what role in the office. Later, after seeing the first episode, the doctors themselves validated what I had come up with on my own.

Dr. Allison Hill would be whom I would choose for my own personal OB – if I had to choose one of the three. Her easy-going manner and seemingly endless patience for someone who wants individuality resonates with me. Not that anyone shown has ever asked for limited monitoring, ambulation in labor or encouraged to hang in there when they initially wanted to “go natural.”

Dr. Yvonne Bohn stands in the middle of the intervention spectrum, reasonable most of the time, but dishing out annoying gems to pregnant patients like “I had my epidural at 2 centimeters! I had a few contractions and that was it.” Encouraging.

Dr. Alane Park is someone I would steer clear of if I wanted to attempt a natural birth (or even an unhindered pregnancy!). Goddess forbid a woman find herself at 40 weeks, the testing and hand-wringing concern from Dr. Park is enough to make any woman want to schedule a cesarean – or stay at home to labor and walk in complete and pushing. While I have met doctors like this, rarely is it held right in front of our faces, episode after episode… my slack-jawed emotions wanting to scream at the tv, “What the hell are you so afraid of?!” Dead babies. I already know what she’d say.

But, the interesting aspect of this series is the humorous, touching, hugging and weeping that the women do on camera. I can’t imagine they would be faking it, but never have I met an OB that was so tender with his or her clients. In fact, I don’t know many CNMs like this! But, I suppose they are out there and I just have had the opportunity to meet the cold, distant and austere obstetricians that have cared for my clients in the past. Only Dr. Wonderful comes close to these women’s warmth and love.

I like that the patients portrayed are shown in their own homes, too, and we get a glimpse of their lives outside of the prenatal and birthing “patient.” A variety of women are highlighted, including multi-cultural families, a lesbian family and loads of women with complications or serious personal or medical issues.

An LA times article offers this (pretty) flabbergasting thought:

“As a result of the show, they said they've learned that every one of their patients has an interesting story.”

You don’t say!

So, besides my nitpicking, it’s really groovy to watch pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, “incompetent” cervixes, cervical cancer survivors and the plethora of high-risk complications unfold on the small screen. It’s risk-free for me sitting on my couch, yet I learn a great deal from hearing how OB’s react (in a clinical and emotional way) when confronted with these situations.

Special note:

There are an inordinate number of fat women in the series. I was shocked every time I saw yet another obese pregnant woman. Baby after baby was “too big” to come out the vagina and invariably it was one of these fat women who housed giant 9-pound babies. Wow! NINE POUNDS! Can you imagine? If they allowed/encouraged the women to get up and out of the hospital beds, they might actually have a chance at a vaginal birth of their really-not-that-big kids. Over and over, women were told their babies would “never” have been born vaginally because they were so big.

(I would have a really hard time swallowing that doctors really say this so often except I heard it with my own ears when the woman at the top of my blog page delivered a 9 pound 10 ounce brow presentation via cesarean and the doctor sidled up to her post-op and said she could never deliver a baby that big, that the baby wouldn’t have possibly been born vaginally even if the baby was in the optimum position. Yeah, right.)

I find it really odd that homebirthed babies are so much bigger than these hospital cesarean babies and they make such a giant stink (pun intended) about their size. They would crap their pants if they had to vaginally deliver 10 pounders as a matter of course. My guess is they would get women UP if they were faced with this dilemma. But, instead, it’s easier to cut. For the doctor, anyway.

I look forward to next season’s show and nod knowingly that even as I write this, one of the three women is on-call, possibly helping a woman have a baby and the other two are living their lives outside of the hospital. It’s an odd concept, knowing a doctor so intimately.

But, I love it. Voyeur that I am.