For the Love of Birth

About six years ago I was a stay at home mom, minding my own business and watching a lot of Curious George before play dates and after workouts.  I was having my babies like everyone else and all of a sudden my world was turned upside down.  One of the most difficult things I’ve had to do was wake up and become aware of how broken our birth system is in America before many of my friends, family and some people in the medical community were ready for the news.  It’s been a burden I’ve carried-and willingly so-because I believe that it’s as important as the food we eat and the air we breathe.

There were many days when I just wanted to go back to minding my own business.  Why couldn’t my message be something simpler and more obvious?  I didn’t like being the bearer of bad news, a downer or to speak out about something that is so personal.  I was scared.  I was overwhelmed.  Feelings of inadequacy made it difficult to even get out of bed some mornings.  I knew I’d lose friends and be labeled the crazy birth lady.  But I also knew what God designed for birth and that we had done a lot of messing around with it. 

I knew things weren’t right because I was looking too many moms in the eye after a birth experience that had left them broken.  The heaviness they hold inside keeping them from scooping their babies up with the love and compassion they were designed for.  They are wondering where that love and compassion went when they needed it most.  They can’t move on because they are so focused in.

I’ve heard too many women say that their bodies were broken after an unwanted cesarean.  And it breaks my heart.  I connect to them because I felt broken after my induced and disconnected births. 

At the same time I feel fortunate that my eyes were opened to this increasing concern in maternal/infant health only a few years before evidenced based care went mainstream.  My heart goes out to all those women in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who had to be labeled crazy hippies (unless that is what you were going for) and the end was so far off.  The reality is that there really isn’t an end, but more of a new beginning.  The hard work really starts right now.  Yesterday, ACOG (American College of Gynecologists) and the SMFM (Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine) released the  Obstetric Care Consensus No. 1: Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery.   This is a giant leap in the right direction.  As birth rights have become more and more mainstream we’ve seen small steps towards evidenced based birth, but this is by far the biggest most comprehensive statement I’ve seen in the last few years.

Here are just a few great points:

Slow but progressive labor in the first stage of labor should not be an indication for cesarean.

Adverse neonatal outcomes have not been associated with the duration of the second stage of labor.

Induction of labor can increase the risk of cesarean.

Before 41 0/7 weeks induction should not be done unless there are maternal or fetal indications

Perinatal outcomes for twin gestations in which the first twin is in cephalic presentation are not improved by cesarean.

Continuous labor support, including support provided by doulas, is one of the most effective ways to decrease the cesarean rate.

I love, LOVE research. 

RESEARCH

: careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something

: the activity of getting information about a subject

“creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.”

But really I go by personal theories most of the time.  I guess you could call them hunches.  I believe that we as humans were designed to live optimally in certain ways.  We were created to be born in natural, peaceful environments where our mothers scoop us up, hold us, love us and feed us.  But we mess with that.  We’re designed to grow up in homes where we are free to learn, explore, make mistakes, see forgiveness, practice life.  But we often mess with that too.  We’re meant to start with breastmilk, transition to what’s in season and continue eating the foods that can be grown around us in the soil we sink our feet into and our kids roll around in (and sometimes eat).  But we mess with that a lot.  As moms, we’re meant to come out on the other side of birth healthier than we were before.  And all of us were designed (when our bodies are being taken care of properly) to walk around with clear minds, energized bodies and motivation to do the work we’re intended to do.

This is where the real work comes in.  Our system is broken and it’s going to take overcoming fear of malpractice claims and changing the way our culture thinks about birth.  Women are going to be hurt by the late timing of this news, disappointed by what was taken from them.  Medical systems are going to be challenged as they work through ways to make these changes available to birthing women.  But just think about what we as a culture could see in our future.

What if our society replaced fear, systems and too much technology during birth with endless love, empathy and compassion?  What if women were filled up with so much peace and babies were born in rooms of calm voices, dim lights, faithful caretakers and placed on their mothers warm body with no time clock or checklist to pull them away?  What if that moment of warmth carried on throughout time as beautiful waves of memories that help slow us down and encourage us to love one another more?  I truly believe that the moment of birth was designed to make mothers prepared for mothering, babies prepared for thriving and those who witness it prepared to trust.  Yes, things happen and there will always be medical emergencies.  But ACOG agrees that we don’t have to approach every birth as if it’s so.  Realistically things will never be perfect, but I’m hopeful that they will be better for those who desire more love and less fear at birth.

“The chalice of this infant’s heart is filled to overflowing, and as she grows she will seek opportunities to share her love with others.  And how will she do this?  By following the model she has been given.  She will be there for others in the way her caregivers have been there for her.  What a lovely, healthy cycle!”  Maia Szalavitz

Adaline being filled up with love from her daddy moments after birth.