April 18, 2011

Everything But The Cake: A Doula's perspective on Birth

These are a few excerpts of one woman's experience with being a Doula and witnessing hundreds of births in many different settings.  She is an advocate of a woman's right to choose her own birthing experience. She talks about the journey of giving birth just like the journey to the underworld, where a mother goes deep inside herself to birth her baby and with it, her hopes and dreams.  It's like she says it: Birth is a not medical situation.  Birth is a human situation.
I'm just saying. I am so tired of watching women give away their bodies, their journey, their rights, and sometimes even their dignity to a system of medicine that, when it comes to childbirth, is unnecessary and out dated. I mean, why would a perfectly healthy woman with a normal pregnancy choose to have a surgeon, an OB, attend their birth? Do you know how many Labor and Delivery nurses say to me, I've never seen a natural birth before? Why would a woman think someone like that would be equipped to take care of them?

I guess it comes down to this: I believe in birth. I believe in midwives that are properly trained and experienced. I believe that more often than not, birth is not an emergency. I believe that more often than not, birth is not a medical event. And when birth becomes a medical emergency, I believe in the ability of my care providers to act quickly and accordingly. I believe in the awesome power of modern medicine to save the lives that nature tried to claim for her own.

Birth is wild; it is achingly heartbreaking, awesomely powerful, deeply terrifying. It is unpredictable, and uncontrollable. There is nothing like it in the world.

She talked about the journey the baby makes on its way out of the womb and into an independent life--well at least far more independent than it was in the womb--and how this journey is very important for the baby to make. In fact, nature intended babies to make this journey. 

And that's what I'm trying to say now. Maybe this journey that we make as babies trying to arrive on the planet is incredibly important. Maybe what we learn as infants as we make our way out will already hold lessons that teach us how to survive independently. Maybe taking the helicopter to the top--when not medically necessary--really does leave us asking, "this is it? Where's the magic, what's so special?" Maybe skipping those trials by fire and water and whatnot leave us ill prepared to face a life full of gravity, bacteria, by-products, disappointment, and broken hearts. Maybe we don't learn that things will get uncomfortable and shitty but we will survive and adapt. Maybe we don't learn how to cope with the unending hardships of life.

Babies born vaginally and without the use of pain killers (to the mom) are high as kites. They are pumping out a good chunk of endorphins as a response to being forcefully ejected from their happy warm watery home and squeezed through a tube into the light and cold and microbes and noise and gravity and weirdness that is this world we live in. So, yeah, babies learn that things can get bad, very bad, and that Normal can change drastically, but the reward for enduring the change and bad times is a nice natural endorphin high. The first lesson babies learn is that stress, adapt and change = magic carpet ride.

(Aside: Newborns also learn that they NEED PEOPLE. They learn that life is not to be lived alone. If everything goes well the baby can go straight to mom after being born, and baby learns that feeling high = mom [and dad]. A sort of biological dependence is thus created between babies and their parents. Babies equate happy and high with mom and dad, therefore they can eventually equate happy and high with being in the company of other people. We need each other to be happy and cope. We can't do it alone. Nature sets it up for us to learn that from the very beginning.)

So yeah, it seems pretty obvious that babies who are born by cesarean have a harder time surviving. They didn't get time to learn how to do it. They didn't learn how to struggle, endure, persevere, cope, adapt, and change. And they didn't get their sweet reward at the end. What lessons do cesarean babies learn in the first few minutes? What stories do they begin to tell themselves about how the world works and their place in it?
To read more birth perspectives, check out her blogs at Everything But The Cake and Evil Cake Lady.

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