It seems that for the last seven weeks, I’ve been living under a social rock. I haven’t been too busy to set-up playdates, reach out to call family, or add more to my plate. Instead, I’ve been relentlessly trying to finish my Bradley academic requirements to become a provisional Bradley educator.
And I can now say, with little sleep and much relief, those pre-requisites are complete and will be well on their way to California by today. In less than two months, I’ve attended a four-day workshop, read several pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding-related books, typed up detailed questions, answers, and outlines about them, attended La Leche League meetings, sat in on a Bradley class, and did some hospital evaluations – and while it has made me more informed, the process itself has left me undeniably (more) jaded and (more) disheartened. It’s made me want to leave American birth culture alone and run to the nearest country that views birth as a normal, physiological process. It’s made me feel like there’s a terrible mountain where there used to be a plain – and most problematic of all, it’s a man-made mountain that shouldn’t even be there. The other problem with this mountain is that people feel the mountain should be there – they have no idea what it even looked like before. They think the mountain is saving lives, and not jeopardizing them or even more scarily (to me), impacting them slowly over the course of a lifetime. The mountain is a problem, and tackling it, isn’t going to be my job.
My job is going to be educating couples to be informed consumers and parents because today, the idea of ‘informed consent’ is laughable. When’s the last time you heard about the drawbacks of an epidural (the most commonly used anesthetic today)? Did you know it could interfere with breastfeeding? Or let’s tone it down a bit, and say you want a natural birth, but you’re told you need an electronic fetal monitor to make sure your baby’s safe at all times? Would you be able to work agreeably with your provider and show them research that by hooking up to that machine, which has no proven benefits over a non-ultrasound fetuscope (even for high-risk), that you’ve just tripled your chances of a Cesarean delivery? I think not. I don’t think anyone is saying this in prenatal visits today and I think that’s malpractice.
And maybe that’s why I’m doing this – starting to teach natural, husband-coached childbirth classes in the fall. I’m so tired of hearing someone say to me “I wanted a natural childbirth, but…”. I’m so tired of hearing that x,y, and z happened, and that Mom and Dad were saved by medical technology (which to be completely fair, medical technology absolutely saves the lives of mothers and babies) – but when’s the last time you questioned their complete overusage? Or not only saw the benefits of interventions, but their drawbacks? Or challenged the idea that natural childbirth, like ‘natural’ breastfeeding, may require some practice and positioning to make it successful and possible? If you had asked me 6 months before I got pregnant with Marin what kind of birth I’d envisioned, I would have never told you at home or without medication. Robust, detailed education gives people the option to change their minds and make truly informed decisions.
I’ll end with this – I’ve had two natural childbirths. I have found them to be some of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I would consider the first to be very painful and the second, hard work. I know that pain thresholds vary, but that does not mean that you cannot be in a less or more painful position or that you are left powerless. I did Bradley for my second, hard-working birth, and I felt relaxed from beginning to nearly the end. I’m not saying Isaac’s positioning had nothing to do with that, but I think my own training as a Bradley student left me with quite the impression that exercising, learning, and practicing positioning and relaxation for my birth can directly impact the birth itself positively. I also felt, as opposed to with Marin, the even if the small chance of transfer occurred, Mike and I were readily prepared to make decisions that we’d already discussed prior to that time. I know that natural childbirth is not desirable by every couple, and that there’s a lot of misconceptions about it and the women who want them, but I think it would be an understatement to say that it can be extremely benefitial to explore further if you are expecting. And since this is my blog, I’ll put out one shameless plug – I’ll be teaching all about it come early September of this year if you’re at all interested in being in my first husband-coached, natural childbirth class. We can sit and chat more about childbirth for 12 weeks together.