Having a Gandhi kind of day!
My birth is not your party.
Talking to one of my Twitter friends, a fellow unassisted birther (we actually had our UCs on the same day!), I heard her say that she would love to attend a homebirth but sadly, does not know anyone right now who she could tend. She had said things here and there which had shown me we weren’t exactly the same in our philosophies, but my automatic reaction to the want to attend a homebirth is “WHY?” Of course, instead of saying that, I just sort of posed to her my feelings, such as “maybe it’s a good thing” (that she doesn’t have anyone to tend right now). Naturally this started some brief discussion about birth physiology. She did seem to disagree with me on being observed vs. feeling observed.
As you may already know about me, I feel that the primal instincts of a woman and her conscious mind do not always agree on how labor should be approached. When your body and brain are tapped into that state of being, I don’t care how much you love, trust, or respect people… having people present can create a feeling of being observed, which is detrimental to your peaceful labor. Even video cameras can produce this effect. It’s about stimulating the neocortex. If you have to kick your husband out, it doesn’t make you subconsciously distrustful of him, or any less of a woman, or cast doubt on your overall confidence in self or relationship. It’s just a part of nature. Yet, many unsuspecting women think it’ll be all hunky-dory (ew, hate that phrase) having people there. The surprise that this is not the case usually comes too damaging, too late. You can’t turn back time, you can’t take it back. The badness has begun. It changes an entire labor rather easily. The tension starts. The domino effect gets into full swing. Good luck coming back down from that, even with the power of your glorious mind.
Of course, there are those who are social butterflies who adjust better. People who are very uninhibited, performers of drama and theater, people who feel a “need” to be told they are doing well– these are the sorts that seem to do well having onlookers. Sometimes their primal mind still reacts and this creates friction, but they don’t connect A to B. Sometimes they still feel good, seemingly unaffected by the environment, but I feel these are more rare. Question if any pain you felt in labor, any tension, may have been relieved on the physiologic level if your attendees had been simplified, reduced, absent? We would have to admit and assume that this is possible, if we are being honest with ourselves.
I’m a private person and a little inhibited. I would say I’ve always known and sensed my need for modesty or privacy in labor. I’m also strong and self-assured, and although I love flattery and encouragement, I believe in myself enough to go on by myself.
These are not intended to be judgments on others, but truthful observation of personalities, perceptions, and the science of how birth works with brain/body.
The primal rejection of others is GOOD. It’s survival and preservation instinct. But you have to heed it, or labor could turn ugly.
I understand this is probably offending people. People who like to be tended to, thought it was necessary or enjoyable, and those who have previously tended people may feel defensive over this, or discount what I’m saying as all wrong. Wait, I’m not done!
People love birth. People learn about birth. People start worshiping strong women, and beautiful newborns. It has a magical, romantic feeling, does it not? People like to soak in that vibe, be part of the moment, “capture” the moment. But at what cost? At what cost are people trying to get high off of births? If you don’t yet know what I’m referring to, read this to start you off.
This is why I hesitate to lovingly use phrases like “birth junkie” or call myself one. “Birth nerd” is probably more appropriate for me. Unfortunately, I think there is a climate of true “birth junkies”– people who truly and nearly indiscriminately feel the desire to experience that birth high off of other people. I love and respect birth and the birthing space, want women to feel strong and babies to be born peacefully. I learn all I can to know about how to achieve this for myself and others. In having this knowledge, I am not so selfish that I would have to make myself a part of your magic moment and intrude on that to possibly ruin that.
“Did she just call me selfish?”
Well, maybe, but don’t get mad yet. It’s not what you think. I don’t think everyone is knowingly selfish, so because of this, maybe selfish doesn’t even apply. I, however, feel that because I understand what a mammal needs to feel safe in labor– I could not in good conscience violate that. It would be selfish of me, knowing and believing these things.
My midwives asked me to leave them when I confessed my need to UC. They said they “didn’t see the point” in continuing prenatal care with me. They also said they really “wanted to be part of my special moment”, wanted to “be part of my healing and empowerment”. It’s true, these women are enthusiastic about and love babies. Love to hold them, brag on them, meet up with moms and babies they served later… very kind, warm, maternal stuff. But, what I needed, what I knew I needed, was not being respected or adhered to. That right there dis-empowers me. You’ve automatically reduced me, and disregarded my and baby’s needs.
Midwives have this feature a lot. I think they are birth junkies, a lot of them. They soak up all the good vibes of the birth and bask in the glow. They love it. It’s a beautiful moment, and provides a high. Life, creation! And they, at the helm! The exchange of chemicals in the room seems palpable. But, this is not your high. This is not your moment. It is the laboring woman’s, based on her needs, what her baby needs. I desired prenatal care– that was the point of continuing to see midwives, for me. But, if they couldn’t be there for the magic hour, they wanted out.
Sometimes it’s a liability issue. Sometimes it’s a money issue. Sometimes it’s about missing that high. Sometimes it’s a combination of these. But the problem is, my Oxytocin and my private moment to adjust and transform isn’t to be shared around. We aren’t passing the blunt. And, if you keep it from me– MY birth high, my very needed chemical reaction for my good feelings and overall safety– that is extraordinarily hurtful. This has a devastating impact on the woman, the baby, and the collective female psyche, if you ask me.
In a moment of anger I equated these feelings which midwives have to a sense of psychological vampirism. It’s a strong analogy but even while calm now, I feel it makes sense. My critics, however, instantly latched on to that. “Oh, she doesn’t want the midwives stealing her precious birth vibes!” Yeah, well, these same critics would easily admit on any separate occasion where my words were not involved that midwives are birth junkies, AND it would be said with disdain, so I give those hens no credit for pecking at the first and slightest chance. One thing we could actually be in agreement on, but instead opposition is chosen. Please, let’s give credit where credit is due. Let’s admit that many midwives are indeed birth junkies and in fact, it is what drives most to that profession.
Recently I read how one of my favorite singers, Erykah Badu, plans on trying to become a midwife. She’s always been a spiritual person, one who understands and believes in energy, female power, etc. I have a lot of respect for her. But this is what I am working with:
She talked about coaching a friend through a 52-hour labor and realized, “When I saw the baby, I cried. I knew what I was supposed to do with my life.”“Nothing gives me more pleasure than being the welcoming committee for a mother’s new joy,” she said.
A benign statement, right? I mean, just what is my problem? But, read the words again, carefully. It is pleasurable. They feel in awe of the experience, they feel powerful in your power, they feel like gods watching over creation– especially when put in a position to be encouraging and coaching you. They are the ones helping you get through this. They are in control. They are the sanity amidst possible tumult. If not, voyeurs. It’s a birth high. You’ve entered someone’s magic.
Again, I don’t think these people have bad intentions. I think they see something beautiful and want to help, and to experience. I don’t think they mean to be “vampires”. It’s all that good, maternal earth mother sweetness. BUT, what I am trying to relay is, there is an exchange of energy happening here that whether you realize or acknowledge it or not, it may be having a negative impact on the birth you are attending.
One of my friends who is pregnant recently joked (I think it was a joke!) that she would love to have me come and be her doula. I said I would agree, but warned her that this would entail me telling her she could do it without me and leaving her alone (unless an emergency arose).
I would be honored for anyone who wanted me at their birth, much in the way midwives and doulas feel honored in serving, and I would do my best to be good to them. It would also entail pretty much the above. I am knowledgeable enough to lend a helping hand, but I would not dare intervene unless you absolutely needed me to.
I don’t think doulas and midwives are necessary at a birth. I think we just lean on them for lack of confidence.
On Twitter, I of course told Erykah that if she is becoming a midwife, to please pick up some Odent. I haven’t heard back (lawl).
But, please, can we stop getting high off of other peoples births? Birth junkies get hooked on that feeling and they need to let it go. Being an advocate for women means putting her first, and not bumming off of her. Her birth high may come once in a lifetime. It is the greatest of all highs she will ever receive in life. How many birth highs do birth attendants get? How many get them (unbeknownst to all present, themselves included) at the expense of the mother’s birth high? Break the habit.
Due to zero recipient interest, we are unfortunately unable to carry on with the program Books For Birth, which donates literature and materials for an empowering birth to women.
While we did seem to have several people express excitement over the program, there were no official nominees. To nominate yourself or others, people had to send an e-mail to email@example.com.
It saddens me to announce this, as I thought this was a very good idea, a noble cause, and a great way to do something charitable and giving that would have an awesome impact on people. It seems as though the need wasn’t great enough, or perhaps I was not being connected to the people in the most need. In any event, this news has been disheartening to say the least, and I had had high hopes for the future of it. I had imagined giving away not only great books, but great materials; I had dreamed of giving a birthing pool in December for the holiday season. In light of the failure of the program to take off (or the lack of need for the program), I will be taking somewhat of a hiatus from birth issues to focus on other projects of mine that have been vying for my attention, including another book I’m writing.
Unassisted birth is proclaimed by those who don’t ‘get it’ to be “stunt birthing”. I find this a laughable notion because I’m the least likely person to take unnecessary risks. I may do things that other people find bold, but I do them when I find them to be necessary. I will grant you that coming out of our culture, having no real education on unassisted birth, it would be easy to conclude that this is a reckless and merit-less practice, but I don’t deal in preconceived notions, I deal in what is. The fact is, unassisted birth is one of the safest and most pleasant ways you can give birth (if not THE most) ; birth is far safer than we were culturally conditioned to believe.
I swear, I’m no storm chaser, and I don’t do crazy stuff to exhibit bravado. I’m an introvert. I’m a nerd. I have my pride and will stand my ground, but I don’t look for trouble. I won’t start a fight, but I will jump in to stop a situation from escalating or protect someone from getting hurt. I won’t skydive, but if a plane were about to crash and I had a parachute on, I would find the courage to jump. I will chase after people who rob me, I will prosecute people who’ve harmed me. To me, unassisted birth is not a stunt, and I am not doing a trick and being reckless. I am doing something more like all the latter examples I am giving… something I call “outsmarting the dragon”. It’s self-protection and -preservation, really. It’s not putting yourself in harm’s way, even if that seems like the normal thing to do. Sometimes it’s doing what seems brave only when it’s the right thing to do. It’s chasing the right thing when you recognize what actually IS right.
I am not a stunt birther. Like I tend to remark, “I don’t even like roller coasters.” When I was about 17, fresh out of high school, my boyfriend (who is now my husband) and I went with a bunch of our best friends to a theme park for his birthday. We started the time off with one of the baddest roller coasters they had. I made myself get on, even though it looked very daunting to me. “What are you, a punk?” I said to myself. “It’s just a roller coaster. Be brave. Deal with it.” So I did.
I didn’t enjoy myself like my friends had, no. Everything about it felt wrong to my body. My heart beat fast. My boyfriend watched me in concern as I kept my eyes closed the entire time. I felt as though my breathing was halted. I felt tears welling up as I couldn’t catch my breath. This was a fast and furious ride with long steep dips– those are the worst. I hate the feeling of falling. When we got off, they were all happy at how awesome that ride was, but not me. I was happy it was over, and caught my breath, calmed my heart, and let my watery eyes recover.
We all went on other rides and did the usual theme park stuff, nothing as drastic as the first ride… until the end of the night approached. We had time for just one more ride before we left. It was a roller coaster with a dragon theme. They convinced me to get in line, and I really thought I could do it. However, soon I wasn’t so sure about this one. It didn’t look as bad as the first, but I wasn’t feeling really up to it. The more I considered it, the more I realized how ridiculous it was that I was about to get on something I truly derived no pleasure from in any way, and in fact had no real desire inside to go through with. What was the reason, the purpose? To prove something to myself? I already knew I could do it– I just didn’t want to, didn’t have to. To prove something to my friends? Nah, that’s not my style. I make it a point to befriend people who like me for who I am. I stayed in line the whole time but at the last minute, I decided I wouldn’t get on. It just didn’t feel right to me. I said goodbye and told them all to go ahead without me and I’d meet them on the other side. They actually chastised me, criticized me, were mad with me. They made me feel like I was being a baby. These were my friends, usually very cool people, very tolerant… what did it matter to them that I didn’t want to get on? I wasn’t stopping them from riding. Why would they want me to do something that wasn’t enjoyable to me? I walked out of the line, backtracking through the people, in tears. My boyfriend followed me.
We stood outside the exit waiting for our friends to finish, leaning/sitting against a cement wall. I cried to him that I didn’t understand why they’d want me to do something I was uncomfortable with just for them to have a good time. I couldn’t believe they had made me feel that way about something having to do with personal comfort levels– how silly! We aren’t all daredevils. We don’t all find the same things to be fun. My boyfriend comforted me. Then he said, “Hold on a minute.” He ran over to the gift shop across the way. A few minutes later he returned and handed me a gift. “For you.” He said.
It was a little cup the size of a shot glass that said something along the lines of, “I conquered the dragon”. You know, one of those “I survived the ride” bragging souvenirs. Still wiping away tears, I laughed at him, and said, “But I didn’t even ride the ride!” And I knew what he was going to say in the split second right before he said it: “You did defeat him. You outsmarted him.” I remember smiling at him and hugging him. Even after our friends got off the ride, they were still annoyed with me. We all grew apart eventually. I don’t talk much with them anymore. But, as far as my husband and I go– I still remember that as one of my favorite moments from our story. I don’t know if it translates as such here, but it was romantic, and a great metaphor for us and our life that we’ve faced together. I’ll always remember that moment as one of those perfect ones in life.
Walking away from hospital birth (or even just attended, medicalized birth) was just another way I outsmarted the dragon. I already rode the ride. I knew I wasn’t comfortable with it, knew it didn’t feel right, knew I didn’t like it, even though everyone else was doing it and said it was perfectly safe. I’m still met with such animosity, confusion, and judgment, more than a decade after this event, from those that seem annoyed with me that I walked away and encourage others to walk away (same mess, different dragon). It’s okay. It’s okay to walk away from something you don’t feel right doing. To me, the real stunt is a hospital birth when no emergency to speak of actually exists. To me, that’s the daredevil activity. I don’t feel safe, knowing what I know about it. I know too much to feel safe anymore there. I don’t want to follow the crowd. I am at peace with this, content to walk away.
Listen to your gut. You don’t have to follow the crowd. Peer pressure still exists, even amongst grown women who have become mothers. Or, maybe it’s all of society. It could be your husband, your best (childless) friend, your mother, your neighbor. Everyone may misunderstand you, thinking you are the one with something to prove. But there is no contest here. Ultimately, all of that is an illusion. It is always just you and the dragon, and you get to choose what you will do when confronted with him. All of those people will disappear from the picture when your life is over, and all you will have is your story in full… the choices you made, your reasons why, and what kind of person you were in heart, soul, and character.
Doing what you have to do for yourself without needing the approval or understanding of others is outsmarting the dragon.
One of the main problems in pregnancy and childbirth today is lack of information. This comes in the form of the spread of misinformation and misconceptions, lack of availability of great birth resources, and lack of access to these. It’s not that most women mean to be miseducated, but it happens, even to the smartest and most diligent moms-to-be.
This is why In Search of the Perfect Birth wants to put an end to that. “Books for Birth” was created to connect women to good birthing resources through sponsorship/donation. It is completely not for profit. We only want to help people. If successful in launching and execution, our goal is to do monthly giveaways of great materials. Mostly this will consist of literature– excellent books like Unassisted Childbirth, Heart & Hands, Spiritual Midwifery, etc.– and occasionally we strive to include other materials (birthing pools, baby scales, etc.). I am serious about wanting you to have your best birth and feel that nothing should get in the way of that, so I’m doing what I can to help. When women are informed and have the right tools (knowledge, confidence, and supplies included), they can have a powerful experience rather than a traumatic one. More and more babies can be born healthily, and in peace.
How can you get involved?
Each month we’ll select an item and let you know ahead of time, via this blog and Facebook page. If it’s something you are excited about sponsoring for a mother, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org (please make SPONSOR your subject). We will be happy to work with you. If you are not selected as sponsor that month, please keep an eye out for following months to donate. We will surely need you! We don’t want to make you keep resubmitting, but it’s our way of ensuring you approve of the gift we are giving that month, as well as keeping you from being on any “please give” newsletters from us. No one likes spam. 🙂
Most donations will be quite small, so if you can donate even just the cost of a used book for a new mother, that could be as little as $5. If you are sponsoring the full cost of the book or item, we will ask that you purchase and ship it (say, from Amazon, for example) yourself at your own expense. If you would rather make any donation of money, we can work that out too. This will allow multiple donors to all contribute and chip in for one gift to a mother. This would obviously work best for more expensive items, but any help is appreciated. In the event of multiple sponsors for a single item, I will collect the funds and ship the item myself to the mother.
Who can be a Sponsor? Anyone can sponsor! Of course, this may be most beneficial coming from organized groups like the ones on Facebook, which already exist for empowering women in birth. However, individuals are welcome to help.
Aside from doing a good deed in the world of birth, you will also be getting recognition from us and the mothers for your generosity. We will be publicizing these activities by sharing photos of the items donated, sharing brief details about the mother herself, and talking about the generous sponsors and who they are. You will always get credit for your part (unless you wish to remain anonymous), and this could be good as well for getting additional traffic to your Facebook page, website, blog, etc. Good publicity for good works.
Please send your item ASAP when the month in question rolls around. For example, if you sign up and are approved in September to be a sponsor, October is the month you want to send the gift. The sooner, the better. Remember, nominees are primarily moms-to-be… if you send it too late, they may have a baby by the time their gift arrives!
Are you pregnant? Are you a mother? Do you know a mother-to-be? Would you like to receive an excellent resource to help you along the way? Nominate yourself or someone you know at email@example.com (please make NOMINEE your subject). Tell us a little about yourself (how far along you are, birth history, what you’re like, etc.) and make sure the item being sponsored that month is something that you don’t have, would like, and could use. We will choose one nominee a month. You don’t have to be currently pregnant to be considered, but pregnant mothers will receive first consideration. You do have to re-nominate yourself each month if you want to be considered again. Previously sponsored nominees will be considered, but preference is given to newbies. I’ll be sending out reminders for this, so just keep an eye on our Facebook page or this blog for updates.
If you are selected, you do agree to let us use a picture of you (likely your profile picture; negotiable), refer to you by name in our postings, and privately give your mailing address to the sponsor you are matched with. We do recommend liking your sponsor on Facebook, just as a show of thanks for their generosity.
SPONSORS & NOMINEES
We do ask that you both be a friend to our page on Facebook to participate. This includes people who are being nominated by someone else. We want our materials to go to people who will really be receptive to them, so if you are trying to convert a skeptic, this would not be the best use of Books for Birth. We think “pushing” our “agenda” on the unwilling is a lost cause. No wasted opportunities! We intend to reach people who are accessible and open to alternative resources, because it is these folks our energies can help to get the most out of this program. We believe that if people are looking for certain information, the sort of which we provide, they will find us. Of course, help them find us by linking them to our page(s)!
Nominees and Sponsors for the month will be chosen on the 18th of each month prior to the month given. For example: the deadline for October’s nominees and sponsors submissions will be September 18. The item selected for sponsorship will be announced the 8th. For example, the book to be given in October will be announced September 8th. Some exceptions may apply; life happens. All changes and variances will be announced. To stay posted, keep an eye on our FB activity.
That’s it! Thank you for all you do– whether it is in trying to give yourself and baby the best chance at the best birth, or for empowering other women to achieve this. Each of you is changing the world for the better, immensely. Now go tell your friends.
“Don’t think for yourself!” seems the cry. “You can’t possibly learn enough about giving birth to take charge of it,” seems to precede the unspoken other half: “...so why bother.“
Well this coming week is Empowered Birth Awareness Week, and so I’m here to tell you– smash those myths! Take your birth back! Why? Because it matters, and you are capable, no matter how much that notion offends others. We are not willing to put ourselves or our babies at risk just to give in to the false sense of security provided by the status quo, because this is too important a topic to pass over into the hands of other individuals to just take their words for it.
I’m tired of people playing the blame game, as if allowing women the liberation to give birth without fear were some offensive notion.
If for honesty
You want apologies
I don’t sympathize
If for “kindness”
You substitute “blindness”
Please open your eyes
Women deserve better. We want to be empowered, but we have a lot of critics out there, and some of the worst are some of our own. Keep encouraging, keep informing, for yourself, and for all our babies.
Join the event on Facebook. Click “yes” to the RSVP. Tell them where you heard about it. More importantly, tell other people to join.
The following was taken from an anonymous comment left on a popular blog many years back. I enjoyed the perspective so much– especially in a stand-alone sense– that I wanted to share it with you. The conversation is midwife to midwife.
Truth is, your hands are not skilled enough to prevent death. None of ours are.
You seem to want to “save” those unassisted birthers. You put out a booklet to “show” them the “right” way to do things, the “danger” signs, the “correct” way to handle complications.
The fact of the matter is that women need to hone their instincts. The UC community does not lie about death. However, fewer women have been hurt by birthing alone than by birthing with someone who has energy around danger (and some of your posts point to your nervousness with various situations) and expecting complications. We, as midwives, all bring fear that has come from our experiences. Some women just don’t want that.
I cannot count the number of complications I’ve seen caused by “non-interventive, liberal” midwives. Shoulder dystocias, hemorrhages, etc. We are not all knowing. We are not as safe as a woman’s instinct.
So, what? birth is as safe as life gets – but only with a midwife in attendance? Bunk. There are hardly any mws that practice on faith and openness – but women/mothers can birth their babies with their instinct guiding them. That’s more than I can say for many midwives.
As a whole, we are a profession that is not honoring women or birth. We bring fear, judgment and a feeling that we know best to our clients. We do not serve women the best way we can.
I will, and do support UC couples because they are informed and responsible. Granted, deaths happen. As they will at home with midwives and in the hospital. However, if a person is unwilling to look THERE, they only have themselves to blame.
This was written before I ever even knew I would be having a midwife homebirth, nevermind an unassisted birth.