I want to begin by saying that this is the hardest blog post I have ever written. I say that in all seriousness after 2 years of blogging about my deepest, darkest secrets. I’ve been staring at it for weeks. Typing, backspacing, retyping. It’s been hard because there is so much to say. I thought about making this a series, but at this point I cannot figure out how to break up this information. It is also difficult to state my personal beliefs and experiences in a way that will not offend someone. I try my hardest here, please understand that. I am going to put this out there and write subsequent posts in this series based on your feedback.
When I wrote my birth story about 3 months postpartum I thought it was a positive story. I thought that it had all of the things a good American birth story was supposed to have. Lots of drama, pain, drugs, blood. All of the birth stories I had heard from friends and family were similar to mine. They generally had a beginning of things going wrong, a middle of drugs and finally an end with doctors swooping in to intervene and save the day. It ended with a healthy baby; that’s the point, right?
As I struggled with breastfeeding and began to find my way as an attached/gentle parent I started a blog. I shared these transitions of my new life as a mother and began to attract readers who were going through the same thing or had already embraced the values I was beginning to embrace. People started to comment on my birth story things like “I’m so sorry you went through this,” and “I hope your next birth is a healing birth.” Hmm, what did these people see in my birth story that I did not?
More than 2 years have passed since the birth of Jack. It is difficult to put in one blog post the changes I have gone through as a woman since having my son. I attribute all of these changes to my struggles with breastfeeding. I pushed through those struggles with a fierceness I didn’t know was in me. While doing that an entire world opened up to me about breastfeeding, birth and parenting. I discovered that I had been exposed to a staggering amount of misinformation that undermined the power of my body to naturally do what it was supposed to do to give birth to, breastfeed and care for my young.
- “you have to get the epidural because you won’t be able to deliver your baby without it”
- “you can’t squat during labor; you must lie flat to deliver your baby”
- “you’re not making enough milk, but don’t worry, supplementing with formula won’t affect your supply”
- “you don’t need to see a Lactation Consultant, you’re fine”
***These are just a few quotes from doctors and nurses from Jack’s birth.
As I started to learn about the power of my body I began to think back to all of the interventions and professionals that undermined this power. I don’t blame the individuals. They were simply doing what they have been trained to do and operating within hospital protocol. I do believe that the culture of birth in America has reached a crisis point, that the overuse of medical intervention can be harmful and undermines and interferes with the natural power of a mother giving birth, and that hospital policy and protocol can devalue a woman’s wishes for her own birth plan.
Hospitals have only existed for a short period of time (and thank goodness they exist!). As birth transitioned from midwives to doctors in hospitals it was taken over by timelines, schedules, protocols, policies, etc. It became a business. Hospitals offer a ton of wonderful things that save lives all the time. But not all births can be expected to go the same way, to happen within a certain time frame, to be void of surprises. Every woman labors in her own way. Sometimes it happens that medical intervention is used when a normal birth is not progressing according to the hospital expectations or when a woman’s birth plan is not within traditional hospital protocol. These are the times where healthy mothers and babies are put at risk.
I underwent tests at 1 week post due. The tests were all negative, meaning my baby and body were doing just fine. But due to the hospital’s protocol I was admitted for induction. (So why bother with the tests? $$$). When medical intervention is used on healthy pregnant women it often leads to more unnecessary medical interventions. My induction led to erratic contractions which led to the Epidural which led to labor stopping which led to Pitocin which led to an episiotomy.
It has taken a lot of reflection, reading birth books, talking with other women and learning about the natural process of labor to look back and see how the power of my body was undermined and I was taken out of the driver’s seat. These are my experiences and my views. Not all women share these experiences and views. This is why women choose different things for themselves in all aspects of parenting. My personal experiences have led me to choose a path that does not involve doctors or hospitals (unless the need arises). I have chosen to birth with a midwife.
No, having a healthy baby is not the whole story. My experience as a woman also matters. It actually matters the most over anything else. When women feel empowered and in a position of authority over their bodies and birth experiences they have better outcomes. So when I feel empowered and in charge this will actually lead to a more natural and successful delivery.
I have chosen to birth with a midwife because midwifery focuses on the power of the female body. Midwifery believes that my body was designed to give birth and knows best how to deliver my baby. My midwife provides me with information regarding every decision along the way and I make the final call. My midwife believes that the more in control I am the more positive I am going to feel about my birth and therefore the more successful the outcome will be. My midwife believes in intervening only when it is necessary (and she is trained to do so and fully equipped to handle most emergencies right here in my home) and these cases are laid out clearly to me in advance. My midwife believes in the need for hospitals and will take me there if need be. My midwife is most comfortable with me laboring naturally and is prepared to provide emotional support and be present for the entire labor and delivery process.
- Fact-Hospitals and medical interventions save lives. All. The. Time.
- Fact-Healthy babies are born in hospitals. All. The. Time.
- Fact-Women have satisfying and empowering births in hospitals. All. The. Time.
Becoming empowered is not about doing what Abby is doing. It’s not about doing what you think is cool, what your friends are doing or what the other mothers in your Facebook birth group are doing. Empowerment is learning all of your options and doing what you think will lead to your most fulfilling birth experience. Whatever that is. Yes, whatever that is for you. We all have different needs based on our personal desires and past experiences. The key is learning all of our options, learning about the birth process and putting ourselves behind the wheel. We’re not all going to end up driving in the same direction, but we will all be driving that vehicle ourselves.
Not everyone can have a homebirth. There are medical conditions that can prevent your ability to safely deliver your baby outside of a hospital. Your midwife or doctor can help you determine where you are safest.
I don’t know if I would have come to this decision without this community. Thank you for being a large part of why this birth will be my healing birth, no matter what happens. Because this time I am calling the shots.
Abby Theuring, MSW
***If you are just starting out I would like to offer some recommendations for further resources.
Gentle Birth Care (the midwife practice I have chosen)
The Business of Being Born (documentary)