Birth the new birth

16 Dec

I’ve been reading some of your birth stories (not all, not yet. I prefer to absorb your stories.)

I’m so sad for all of us. We all have the same stories, in certain ways. Many of us were alone, pressured into decisions we didn’t want by nurses and doctors who didn’t believe we could do it. We felt like failures, like we weren’t real women. Fuck up’s.

We aren’t. We are not the wimps, the babies, the cowards many of us feel that we are. We are not failures.

But we need to find a way to change this for our daughters. We need to find a way to fix this. It’s not fair to us, it’s not fair to them. We are not, and have never been weak creatures who don’t know what’s best.

So do we become the next generation of doulas and midwives? Do we find a way to tell other women that it’s ok to say no, that it’s ok to tell that terrible nurse to go fuck herself, or tell that doctor to stop staring at the clock while he wonders why we won’t dilate. Is it our responsibility at all?

I’m surprised on one level at the visceral, sad reaction I’m having to many of these. We wanted birth that happened as they should, with a minimum of intervention, confusion or annoyance. Many of us didn’t get that.

Do we expect too much, or too little?

What do we do to change childbirth for our daughters?

8 Responses to “Birth the new birth”

  1. Jen December 16, 2006 at 11:24 am #

    Reading all of the birth stories has been such a moving experience for me. I’m starting to think seriously about becoming a doula. Other than that, telling these stories to anyone who will listen and making sure that women know that it’s not ok for medical professionals to take advantage of our fears to steer birth in a certain direction seems to be a really good first step.

    I think I’m going to talk to my midwife about doula programs here in NYC. I hate reading these stories and feeling so helpless to do anything to change them. I’ve spent so much time sitting here, crying at the experiences of women I’ve never met or read before.

  2. Kimberly December 16, 2006 at 3:34 pm #

    I don’t think we can really make sweeping generalizations “Doctors Bad/Midwives GOOD!” I know that of my two births, I vastly preferred the first, run by an OB/GYN. The second, a hospital birth with a midwife is a nightmare that still makes me angry when I think about it. My biggest regret is not ejecting the midwife from the room and insisting they bring in the ob–coincidentally the same guy who attended my first birth.

    My OB birth was fun, if that word can be used. The labouring was annoying because my mother freaked out and I ended up in the hospital a good 12 hours before Sabrina finally deigned to arrive, but that’s pretty much my only complaint. I was listened to. I was allowed to eat as much as I wanted–I was starving. I was allowed to just be how I wanted to be. I was cracking jokes and revelling in my sacrastic nature for much of it. Teasing the ob, and pretty much driving the speculum further up the resident’s ass while advising her to pull it out. And my OB supported me the whole time. When I was tired, and annoyed that everyone kept yelling at me to “PUSH!” and decided, “No. I don’t want to.” He supported that (Yes, I said HE. My birthing god is a male ob/gyn. Another reason I think we need to move beyond the medicine/midwife paradigm). The med student watching wsa horrified: “But..But…You HAVE to push! You can’t just say no!” When I looked at him and said, “Make me.” The ob laughed. Then he told me to relax and take all the time I wanted. 2 minutes later Brina was out.

    For my midwife birth, labour was a blast, but the birth was a nightmare. My Best Friend and I hung out together, shopping, watching Angel, eating out at an Indian place, until we got to the point that it was really time to go. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, she wasn’t *my* midwife. But she was A midwife, and I expected better care. First she fought with me over it being time to go (Babe was born about 2 hours after we got there). She showed up late because she had to go to the office to get the paperwork. Then she made me fill in the paperwork again–at the end stage of labour. Then she forced me into the fucking jacuzzi tub, an experience I absolutely abhor when another human being *isn’t* trying to exit my body. Then she spent about a half hour on the phone, ignoring me as i lay in the bed writhing in agony–my mother and friend watching helplessly. FInally, my friend got pissed and used every inch of her 6 ft, pink haired self to intimidate the woman in to getting off the phone and attending to the labouring mother. Which she did by ignoring my every request. At one point, deep in transition, the only bearable position was propped up in the bed. She decided she needed to monitor the baby and insisted the bed be lowered flat–as I was literally screaming at them to leave it alone(my friend still feels guilty for obeying her). At that point I fantasized about kicking her in the head–I still wish I had. I pretty much pushed Regan out on my own with her having barely enough time to catch her. My birth plan, the one she had to go to the office to get, stated I wanted to let the plancenta expell naturally. But it was going on 2 am and she wanted to get home, so she grabbed hold of the cord and pulled. She managed to detach the cord from the placenta, and had to go in and *dig it out*. Did I mention this was an unmedicated birth?

    At this point, I had had it with her. The only thing I could do, I did. I flat out refused to allow her to touch my baby. And I told my regular midwife, her boss, the college of midwives, and every pg woman considering midwifery my story, in the hopes that it would save someone else from being subjected to her “care.”

    I still believe in midwifery care. I just don’t think it’s the only way to expereince an empowered, positive birth.

  3. thordora December 16, 2006 at 10:48 pm #

    Kim, I wanted to slap your midwife mid way through this.

    You bring up a good point-even I’m distrustful of men as OB’s, since I cannot imagine why you’d want to do that job as a man-it’s not like I’d want to assist me with penis issues.

    And yeah, that’s a simplification, but for many women, after all the shit in their lives from men, it’s hard to trust one in that position.

    And being a midwife does NOT mean they’re a good one. Just like we’ve all had oodles of crap OB’s. Mine was ok, but managed to be on vacation BOTH times, leaving me at the hands of the moron who wanders around telling breastfeeding women not to worry about birth control. How I wanted to kick that man!

    I’m want to know how we can fix/change the process so EVERYONE, or almost everyone, receives the care you did-REAL care. I don’t care how we do it. I just want it so bad I can taste it.

  4. katsplace December 17, 2006 at 12:39 am #

    I think the important thing is to empower our daughters to be their own voice – whether that means they want a hospital birth with an Ob or a home birth with a midwife or want to give birth standing on their heads (though I don’t think I would recommend that one)

    It’s not wise to steer everyone toward midwives anymore than it’s wise to steer everyone towards Ob’s. And it’s as emotionally damaging when c-section moms are automatically treated like they need sympathy when they feel ok as it is to tell a traumatized woman that “At least her baby was healthy”

    Birth is an individual process and needs to be treated that way. It seems to me that it’s when women are forced into a way to thinking that we get into trouble – no matter which way that thinking is. I don’t feel cheated in any way because I had my children through a C-section but that in no way invalidates the feelings of the mom who felt cheated, angry and impotent because she did have a C-section.

    All too often I see “the perfect birthing experience” expressed as if it’s a nicely shrink wrapped package we can take off a shelf and if we do everything right it will be perfect and empowering and mindblowing but if it doesn’t work out that way – you have failed in someway because this is the way it’s SUPPOSED to be.

    Maybe some women’s birthing experiences are supposed to be different and that difference isn’t anything more than different.

  5. Kimberly December 17, 2006 at 10:37 am #

    I agree Kat. I think I’m mostly happy with my births (aside from a deep, abiding hatred for that midwife) because my entire birth plan consisted of “Healthy baby.” Everything else was pretty negotiable. Well, except for being utterly ignored by my caregiver. That was beyond the pale.

    I think we need to move away from the militant, adversarial view of hospital birth promoted by sites like motheringdotcommune. I don’t think it serves any purpose other than to reinforce those steroetypes and battlelines. Which is not to say that women should not take control of their births and advocate for themselves. But coming from a starting point of “you are the evil medical establishment and you will assault me and make me less than an animal in this process” isn’t really an effective way to open a dialogue.

    And in some ways, the midwives are no better. I know doulas who will walk out and leave the birth if the mother asks for drugs. I know midwives who, far after the point where the mother has made that choice and committed to it, will stall and delay so that it is not an option for them. Seems to me, it’s exactly the same as the evil hosptial paradigm, just without pain relief.

    And about that hot button, let me say that I have given birht both naturally, and with drugs. And really, I don’t see a big difference. It’s not like they gave me a “better” baby because I didn’t have an epidural. Nobody gave me a medal. In both cases, I pretty much got exactly the same thing: a baby.

    I get Thordora’s point about male obs. But I think it’s superficial at best. Honestly, it makes about as much sense as the it’s unnatural to want to be a stay at home dad argument. Maybe these men just really like delivering babies. Maybe during thier mandatory rotation, they found their calling. They realized that what they wanted to was to help women bring life into this world.

    I think the key is threefold. It’s changing the preception of pregnancy and birth from a condition that must be managed to something that is natural and generally needs only to be supported. It’s empowering our daughters to understand and not fear birth. To knowthat they have options and control over their bodies. And it’s in encouraging people to enter the birthing profession–both medical and midwife–who are interested in supporting women through that process rather than promoting their own agendas.

  6. thordora December 17, 2006 at 10:52 am #

    oh god, motheringdotcommune needs to be burned. That crunchynut crap just confuses things even more.

    Personally, I’ve never understood why men become OB/GYN’s, and I wondered that from my very first pap smear. They make me nervous and uncomfortable due to circumstance, and I doubt I’m the only one. It’s likely wrong, but I question the motives of a male OB/GYN. Always have. IN situations where I have a certain set of organs, and they don’t, I wonder how much they really get. But the same could be said for an OB/GYN who has never given birth.

    But, I also question the motives of these FOUL women who are nurses. Which is why I’ve always supported that birth should NOT be dealt with as an illness to be fixed, but rather a process to be helped, supported as you stated.

    I’ve had one of each as well, and I preferred the drug free birth in terms of being present during the birth, and for a quicker recovery. Ironically enough, Vivian, who was induced and the results of an epi, had perfect Apgars. Ros, who was out quickly and naturally, pooped in the womb, and had a 6 and an 8 I believe.

    So yeah. It doesn’t make us superwomen. It just gets the kid out. But even I judge in some instances, planned c-sections, or planned drugs. And I try to fight that in order to understand it. Because like my issue with male OB’s, it my own bullshit to deal with, not someone else’s.

    And maybe that’s the key-maybe we all need to keep our shit to ourselves in order to HELP eachother.

    All I know is that I could have used a group of women like this when I was pregnant. That alone would have made a huge difference.

  7. katsplace December 17, 2006 at 7:36 pm #

    I get Thordora’s point about male obs. But I think it’s superficial at best. Honestly, it makes about as much sense as the it’s unnatural to want to be a stay at home dad argument. Maybe these men just really like delivering babies. Maybe during thier mandatory rotation, they found their calling. They realized that what they wanted to was to help women bring life into this world.

    I also kind of get it but think it seriously shortchanges men as a whole. I think it’s entirely possible and reasonable for a male to want to go into this field. To suggest it’s unnatural also seems to lump all men into a oversexualized stereotype. They only care about women’s bodies for sexual purposes and only care about pregnancy and childbearing in terms of getting a woman pregnant.

    The very WORST OB I have ever seen was a woman. She had absolutely no compassion for pregnant women. She treated me like an incubator not a person. One of my very best is a fairly young male who LISTENNED to me and got that I was a human and a mom along with being a pregnant woman.

  8. Kimberly December 17, 2006 at 8:41 pm #

    Again, I’m with Kat. The most notoriously awful OBs are usually women in my experience. Makes you wonder…

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