Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Business of Being Born

Craig and I happened across an excellent documentary on tv the other night. Every person expecting a baby should watch this film. The Business of Being Born outlines how midwifery and birthing center/homebirths provide a safe, meaningful and empowering experience for women during labor and delivery. It also discussed some very interesting aspects of hospital births.

For example, the U.S. spends more per birth than any other industrialized country and yet we have one of the highest mortality rates. And that about 1 in 3 births are ceasarian sections these days. Not to mention how hospitals and OB's have gone stark raving mad with the number of induced labors. Which leads to more epidurals (which DO have effects on the baby!). Which leads to more C-Sections.

With a C-Section, the mother and baby don't get the flush of hormones that trigger milk production and bonding among other benefits. Not to mention that after a C-section, the baby is away from his or her mother for up to several hours. That magic first hour of bonding is lost. And people want to schedule thsoe things for convienence?

I experienced a bit this phenomenon as well. As soon as I was within a couple of weeks of my due date, my OB/GYN (who, overall, I did like very much) started murmurings about 'we need to be having a baby by...' I took that opportunity to tell her that my body and my baby knew when they were ready, thanks, no Pitocin for us unless there was a problem. Two whole days (gasp!) after my due date the nurse was still baffled. "You don't want to be induced?" NO! Why would I volunteer for purposefully much harder contractions that may or may not truly induce labor but will probably result in me wanting to be drugged up, which slows labor, which leads to more PIT, which all can lead to major abdominal surgery. What is wrong with these people??

Sorry, this post wasn't intended to be a rant. Thank goodness for modern interventions when they're needed. My point is that they frequently are not. Women should be encouraged to trust their bodies to do what they are designed to do. Instead all they know of childbirth is the silliness they see on tv and they're petrified. Hardly a beautiful and meaningful experience when you have that mindset and then intervention after intervention piled on rather than encouragement and support. As my mom has said, "So many women think childbirth is the worst thing that can happen to them. It's not!"

I was lucky that the women who taught my childbirth class did an excellent job of explaining medications, how the body works during labor and basically gave us some information to help us take charge of our labor and delivery. They also discussed many of the surprising facts about hospital births in this country covered in the movie. Luckily, the hospital we used is fairly forward-thinking. So long as I told them my wishes, they were happy to comply.

The real gem in preparing (and afterward) though, was my doula, Mary. Why insurance companies don't cover doulas is a mystery to me. They would save money, especially considering the cost of drugs and potential surgery versus, say, $500 for a doula. (We were able to use Craig's HSA fortunately. Let me know if you want to know the tax info.) Mary was awesome in going over how we wanted labor to go, what type of pain relief we thought might work for me and so, so many other items that hadn't even entered my mind. (Check out this delivery planner if you're interested.) It was so reassuring to be able to call her up at midnight and say "I dunno. This is what's going on. What do you think?" She was worth her weight in gold and then some. (She's pretty petite, so it may be more than just her weight!)

My point in all this rambling is that the movie got me thinking through labor and birth again. I had a relatively easy labor and over-all enjoyed the experience. I believe a very big part of that was that I had information, a plan, and support. We told my doctor and the nursing staff at the hospital what I did and didn't want. I was empowered, not overwhelmed by nervousness and at the whim of what was easier for the staff or at least what they 'usually' did. I hope anyone having babies gets what they need in order to feel the same way. Even if out-of-hospital birthing isn't for you (or so you think!), check out the documentary. Netflix has it. It is biased, but as far as everything I've read, it's also all true.

Here's to happy, healthy babies!

(Happy 10 months to Big I yesterday. You've hit double-digits, bud!)


  1. Good spokesperson for the cause. Good Job! I'm glad you also mentioned the need for medical intervention when necessary. I know of some infants and mothers that wouldn't have had such happy endings if those interventions had not been there. But if possible--the less intervention the better!!

  2. I should have also mentioned to have dialouge with your doctor. Don't just make demands but don't just go with whatever he or she says without question either. It's their job to help you...but they went through a lot of school to learn how to do it after all.