Getting High Off of Birth

28 09 2011

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.


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3 02 2012
Birth, Your Bitchy Friend « theperfectbirth

[…] Why is this midwife smoking all my weed? […]

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