Last night I had a dream that my baby was born and I had absolutely no memory of her birth (it was a girl in the dream although we don’t know the gender yet). I had no recollection of her first cry, the pain of her crowning, the cutting of the umbilical cord…these details all had to be relayed to me. I remember feeling cheated, as if I’d missed an amazing parade which was thrown in my honor. I woke up feeling more sure than ever that my husband and I were making the right choice of birth plan.
We have decided to have our baby naturally and preferably at home. It’s a decision that when shared with friends and acquaintances has sparked eyebrow raising and soap box speeches but also the occasional praise. I’ve been reminded of the possibility of bleeding out after birth and told that it’s best to have a doctor present. However, I’m convinced that my body, above any medical degree and institution, knows what’s best for my baby and myself. I have no desire to be a number, rushed into a hospital and told by a staff of lackadaisical foreign eyes what’s best, how to deliver and when I’ve pushed long enough. It’s not that I don’t trust the medical field at all, their place in society is as necessary as any other life affecting field (teachers, political leaders, sanitation workers) – however in my own research I’ve found outstanding evidence that in the field of obstetrics, the goal is often to get a baby out of a woman in the most efficient way possible. Which is fine in the case of an emergency or at-risk pregnancy. But for healthy women, such as myself, the goal should be to supervise and preserve a natural and beautiful experience with as much comfort and harmony as possible. Giving birth is not a chore, a burden or a necessary evil. As a life experience, it’s a rarity and it is what defines a woman in many ways – as we are born to do this task. Even as I sit typing, my 17 week old fetus, if female, is carrying her own generation of eggs, ready to take the bumpy yet rewarding path of womanhood. I’ve had so many people say, “We’ll see how you feel when that pain hits.” I can only assume that I’ll feel the way I’ve felt when I’ve reached all the other seemingly impenetrable walls of my life – STRONG.
There are astounding statistics about the percentage of death rates among mother and baby in the world pin-pointing the US as one of the world leaders, also one of the highest for a preference to surgical births. For example women in the US have a higher risk of dying during delivery than women in 49 other countries worldwide. For all the technological advances available in the US, that number is absolutely astounding. The rate of maternal death has doubled in the last 25 years along with the amount of non-emergency c-sections. When a c-section was once a last resort up into the 80’s, c-section births now account for a third of all births. In 1965 the c-section rate was just over 4%, and at last count (2007) US c-sections are at over 31% and rising. Most people assume this is just science showing us simple-minded women a better way to have our babies. But when taking a closer look at how beneficial surgical births are for hospitals, my opinion about their innocence changed. Surgical births are not just an “efficient” way of delivering a baby – they are practically *McDonaldizing the process. Births can now be scheduled far in advance, guaranteeing that a doctor will not be woken out of their sleep or taken away from their golf game to attend a 20-hour labor and delivery. It means less staff required to attend a birth, less hospital resources used to accommodate it – and similar to your last visit to Chevy’s or Applebee’s – a mother is in and out and handed her neat little bill in absolutely no time.
The downfall? An incredible increase in health risks (we’re talking MAJOR surgery!), a serious risk to your baby and yourself, longer recovery time, and even withdraw (for you AND baby) from the medicines used to induce and numb you during the procedure. These are only a sample among a list of hundreds of possible side effects including death – when deliveries are intervened by scalpel happy surgeons who were not trained in any way to provide care and mental support to a woman in labor.
Ladies – pregnancy is not a burden and delivering your little one is not an inconvenience. It’s an amazing gift. Being alert and aware during the process sets into motion the beginning of your journey as a mother. Starting with the astonishing confidence we gain from having battled the pain independently to the once-per-birth boost of oxytocin – the love hormone we are flushed with when our baby emerges, which begins the flow of milk and our bond to the new life. Our decisions as women are so often taken from us by the male-ran world in which we reside – and I won’t allow this one to be manipulated in any way. We should be safe, and well-educated on our choices as women when facing the question of a birth plan. We have every right to choose a medicated or planned birth if so we decide that is best for our babies. However, do so with all the facts.