on the act of giving birth, and the community that catches our baby

last night tim and i went to see a little documentary on natural childbirth and midwifery called Guerilla Midwife. the film was being screened at a vintage community theatre on wealthy street. we walked in to a crowd of pregnant women and women wearing their babies, childbirth educators, doulas, and midwives. they were a crunchy crowd, and a passionate one. there was literature out about all the natural childbirth and parenting resources available in our community. we found out that following the movie there would be a panel discussion made up of labor and postpartum doulas, home and hospital midwives, a natural health practitioner, and an OB.

Guerilla Midwife follows the story of one particular woman who practices at a small clinic in Bali, offering free or reduced-cost midwifery services to families in poverty. she and her team deliver over 700 babies each year. they do it because they believe that there is a correlation between gentle birth and world peace, just as there is a correlation between violent birth and war. they believe this because we are beginning to learn from science and research that there is a delicate cocktail of birth hormones released through the process of birth and in the hour immediately following that is vital to the bonding of mothers and babies, and that when natural birth is altered or interrupted (e.g., in the case of caesarean deliveries, epidural use, induced labor, and the whisking away of babies from mothers within minutes of their births), that cocktail is disrupted, causing hurdles to mother-child bonding as well as breast-feeding. what, they wonder, are the long-term consequences of this on a society in which 30%+ of babies are being delivered in ways that routinely disrupt that vulnerable period? does it inhibit the ability of humans to love one another as well? we know that in monkeys and other mammals, when their babies are delivered under the use of epidural or via c-section, the mothers will reject their young and refuse to care for them. as humans, our higher brains and our spirits enable us to adapt to such disruptions so that even mothers who have their babies by disconnected or traumatic avenues are still able to love their babies and be wonderful mothers. but are we making it harder on ourselves than we need to?

this is just the beginning of the many issues being explored in certain circles, and by science, regarding child birth practices and birth culture in our society. it provokes me.

i want very much to deliver our baby at home, but we’ve ended up choosing the compromise of using a nurse midwife in the context of the hospital, perhaps with the addition of a doula to our support team. and tim and i are learning about Bradley childbirth methods, which focus on intervention- and drug-free labor and delivery with the husband acting as the primary coach to his wife. we feel good about this course of action. i have a conviction that is deeply important and vastly impactful to my baby and my empowerment as a woman HOW i move through the birthing process. i do not want to be numbed, nor to take shortcuts, to getting our baby out of my womb. i want to actively participate in her birth.

i realize that this sounds silly or like needless suffering to some. i know mine isn’t the only perspective.

but however we each decide to birth our babies, one thing that i think we can all agree upon is the importance of birthing our children in an atmosphere of support, safety, gentleness, and great love. a lot of times that atmosphere is hard to find in a hospital, where there is so much fussing and intervening and worrying and screaming. and for many women they don’t have the supportive village of family and friends who speak the truth over them that they were made to give birth, and that they are adequate to do that work, just as they are adequate to parent their children.

i know that so many women give birth with fear and dread, and alone (either literally or because their family and friends are emotionally absent or abusive). i know there are lots of woman in my westside family who have given birth alone and in fear and covered in hatred or anger. and it impacts families. those beginnings matter.

so as i sat listening to the film and the panel discussion, i was washed over with gratitude for the choices i DO have in how to give birth. i am so grateful to have access to midwives who work with our medicaid status. and i am even MORE grateful to know that our baby is coming into a loving and safe marriage. and not only a healthy marriage and home environment, but also into a community of people who are literally THRILLED that she’s coming. our community considers our as-yet-unborn daughter a person and a soul, and they pray for her regularly, as well as for me and tim and our birth process. they can’t wait to know her name, to hold her, to help us to care for her and to raise her. and these people who will be the welcoming committee for our daughter are loving, Spirit-filled people whom we deeply trust. she has a slew of neighbors already claiming titles of honorary aunt- or uncle-hood. what a joy it will be to share our child with this village, and to let her newness and purity be a testimony of grace to a neighborhood of broken families. knowing that this is the life and landscape that our daughter will come into puts me at ease in so many ways and boosts my confidence in our ability to parent well. and hearing the birth stories of women in my life encourages me that i can do it, too.

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15 thoughts on “on the act of giving birth, and the community that catches our baby

  1. Who is your midwife? Will you be delivering at Spectrum?

    Jordan and I have also decided to have a natural drug-free birth. I go to an OB, but we have hired a doula to be part of our labor team. I never thought I’d say this, but I really look forward to experiencing labor and the miracle that birth is. If you haven’t read “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” – I absolutely recommend it. However, if you are learning of natural childbirth, chances are you have already read it. 😉

    Blessings on you as you get closer to your big day!

  2. wow- i’m in tears. thanks.

    i have to say, watching birth in hospital environments always makes me cringe and cry. i’ve had 3 labors/deliveries, 2 of them totally natural, and i don’t want to know what that looks like. i can tell you what it feels like, because the natural births were hard. i don’t think they were harder than the epidural/pitocin birth- in fact, i was much happier with them. and my children were very different from birth on. the birth experience does affect mother and child. and father.

    we’re doing our second homebirth in May (or april, or whenever the baby chooses to come), and while i don’t look forward to labor yet, i know that when those pains start, i will rejoice that this new life will be coming to join us. our family, our life, our community, our world.

    it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s harder than you think you can handle, you’ll be stretched beyond human bounds, but you can do it. and you’ll do amazing.

    • thank you for this, cassi! it encourages and heartens me to hear from women who’ve achieved natural child birth… and still say they would do it again! 🙂 what a unique position you’re in to have experienced both sorts of birth.

  3. awe, this was so good to read! it IS truly a blessing to be in such a village as yours–with people who love you and hem you and tim and little baby in on all sides! God is good. we have felt that here. and your birth experience will be beautiful and uniquely yours! it is such a wonderful memory to have.

    • we’re blessed, you and i, with our respective villages. 🙂 can’t wait to have you here soon to talk about and mentally prepare for this birth.

  4. sounds like one I am going to have to get my hands on, huh?! I can’t wait to hear about your birth story! I am litterally tearing up right now thinking about how amazing childbirth is! And I am so happy that you are at this point, the point of wanting to FEEL the birth. God created it to be such a beautiful thing! You may not be to a point where home birthing works out right now, but I believe you will get that someday (assuming you want more than one !). You are in great hands with your midwives where you are at. Gail is fabulous! 🙂 Thanks for sharing these feeling Brooke. We (women) need to share this stuff with each other b/c when we do…we help empower other women to believe they can do it too! Praying for you in your last “leg” of prenancy! God bless you and Tim!

    • thanks so very much for the encouraging words, kathy. i remember i loved reading your birth story with alayna when you posted it; it was an encouraging story to read. bless you!

  5. Brooke, I love reading everything you have to say about childbirth, children, pregnancy. I am so happy you are blogging, and I can read it.

    I am once again having a natural hospital birth, as our insurance doesn’t cover home births, and I honestly enjoyed the experience of driving away from home in the empty nighttime streets and having a large, uncluttered dark room to birth. I feel very fortunate to live in Madison where there is so much demand for affirming, natural birth experiences in hospitals.

    I am really looking forward to my second birth. I really believe epidurals and other interventions are fine choices, but they are not me. I hate numbness. I prefer pain to disconnection. And I truly loved giving birth. The whole experience, even as I threw up on the floor after trying to eat (because I read I should eat something, not because I wanted to) and as my family members were holding back my legs and the pain was, well, serious, serious pain. Even through that, I felt like I was doing something good and important. I felt very strong. The next day I couldn’t sleep, I was so alive. I felt like I was glowing.

    Sorry for gushing. I just get so excited about birth. And I hope I’m not understating the pain and making it sound too sunny. Every woman and baby and birth are so different!

    Also, I’ve been meaning to ask, Brooke, what size family is on the heart of Tim and yourself?

    • lindsey, thanks for sharing some of your birth story and your own thoughts about the decisions you’ve made about how to give birth. it seems like birth is one of those few places where pain and joy are so linked together that they are nearly inseparable, and both are intense.

      as for family size, we don’t really have a number. i feel like we’ll bend and flow with whatever our Father seems to be inviting us into. we could imagine 3-4 but more than that wouldn’t be our natural desire. 🙂 and how we build our family may be a combination of adoption and birth, both. we’ll see.

  6. It’s really interesting reading all this. My mom gave birth naturally at home with the youngest five kids and said she’d never go back to the hospital after that. I haven’t really done any research on it yet (but then, I haven’t had a reason to yet :-D). I remember Derek talking about an article he read about the connection a child has with their mother in those first few hours and how crucial it is. Thanks for sharing what you’re learning!

  7. You are lovely and blessed…and your baby-daughter is also. Looking forward to holding my arm out to be among those in the loving community you describe…xo mom

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