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.