The Importance of Excluding Onlookers From Freebirths

13 12 2013

If you’re going to be of service to women and want to be taken seriously, having a well-rounded education is important. There are many things you’ll want to know before you can safely feel adequate to provide “care”. One important thing to know on laboring women is, when it comes to witnessing their homebirth, UC (unassisted childbirth) is not a spectator sport.

ImageEven if you allege to be hands off, the problem of the observer is one hopefully known to all UCers and would-be UCers. It is one of the reasons (maybe even a main reason) why many women decide on freebirth at all. One of my favorite writers on natural birth, Michel Odent, talks frequently of the mammalian needs in birth. Of our four basic needs, privacy is one of them. Without it, the mother senses danger and this complicates the labor.

‘To give birth to her baby, the mother needs privacy. She needs to feel unobserved.” –Birth and Breastfeeding, Michel Odent. Any doula, midwife, or doctor should read this book. 

You can read more here: Do Not Disturb: The Importance of Privacy in Labor, Judith A. Lothian, RN, PhD, LCCE, FACCE, The Journal of Perinatal Education- Advancing Normal Birth, from the US National Library of Medicine- National Institutes of Health (PubMed Central). Sidenote: This link also discusses the fetal ejection reflex, for the interested.

Now some may argue that it is possible to give a woman a feeling (or an illusion) of privacy and still have onlookers or caregivers. I will not debate that at this time, but I will state that if one is trying to observe a birth to determine their own readiness to venture into the fields of midwifery and the like, this learning experience is a detriment to the mother.

“There is no privacy without a feeling of security.” –Birth and Breastfeeding, Odent.

Anything you bring into the birthing space, the mother can sense. Any fears, hesitations, reservations, doubts, lack of confidence, lack of understanding of anything, lack of skill, lack of intuition, she spots like a dog smells fear. She taps into her primal state and the neocortex (rational, human, intellectual thought) attempts to disengage. If she has the awareness in any aspect of her consciousness that you are here to test yourself, this can generate feelings of insecurity in the mother. This is particularly true if you are not in an intimate relationship with her. Feelings of insecurity and lack of privacy will, again, complicate labor.

“Most women who understand what is going on are keen observers not only of their own actions, but of the reactions of those about them to every fresh event or incident. I have laid stress upon the sensitiveness of the mind of a parturient woman; if you wish to deceive them, you will fail.”

Confidence rests upon the knowledge of perfect preparation.”

“During labor, women spot doubt in a doctor’s mind as quickly as a kestrel sees a rat in the stubble… However good an actor or however suave a humbug, confidence has no counterfeit.” – these quotes from Childbirth Without Fear, Grantly Dick-Read.

The woman in labor, sensing any lack or fear on the part of anyone present, is hormonally receptive to those suggestions. This initiates the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. Labor becomes hard or even dangerous for woman and child.

It is more important that we honor and respect the birthing space of the laboring woman and her most basic, primal needs as a mammal than to use her as a test subject for our own reassurance and education.

There are other ways we will be able to give ourselves a proper education on birth and physiology in order to ascertain in what capacity we may be of assistance to birthing women. Like the saying goes, “reading is fundamental”. I urge people to read, read, read, and learn everything they possibly can about true physiological, natural birth and the actual needs of a birthing woman in labor.

Privacy is one very basic and simple method of providing safety in the birth space of a well-prepared woman. We live in a culture, though, where the most basic methods of prevention are overlooked in favor of the most technical hands-on repairs we can put our logical minds to. But, what if we could avoid those dilemmas?

For example– Instead of relying on knowledge of which massage, drug, or herb will treat a post partum hemorrhage, what about understanding the seemingly invisible causes? The brain-body connection has a lot to do with our most commonly feared childbirth complications, and yet our culture does precious little to recognize and avoid creating the issues to begin with. We must look to the interconnectedness of our systems, hormonal responses to environment and stimuli, etc. If we were to know the birth process from an unhindered, natural, physiological perspective, know the stages of labor through all non-intrusive signs, and respect the mother’s primal birth space needs, our shopping lists and interference levels would dramatically decrease. Healthy, normal births would be the result.

I have noticed that there are many UCers or those researching UC are preoccupied with the fix-it methods, though. They read almost exclusively midwifery and obstetrics texts (if they read at all), they focus on which tools or drugs or herbs can be used in a pinch to solve a dilemma or crisis. In the process, we are neglecting the very root of why freebirth is so important– the undisturbed aspect of birth only it can provide. When we more fully grasp what is primal and physiological, our tools and medicines become more and more useless and unnecessary. This is  such a worthy goal! To lose sight of that and to attempt to mimic health care professionals in all regards in many ways defeats the purpose. We aren’t trying to take over their work, we are trying to transcend their methods.

In other words… If I wanted a medical approach to my care, I would hire a medical professional. But, I digress. Because I associate onlooking with interference, I have touched upon the issue of hands-on as relating to eyes-on. Getting back on track–

For anyone questioning if they could handle the pressure of attending births for a living, I would strongly advise they find their confidence elsewhere than at a woman’s freebirth. I would suggest educating oneself to the utmost of one’s abilities, reading books like the ones quoted here (as opposed to a lot of the more mainstream, feel-good, interference-happy “natural birth” literature). I would recommend reading things which are very pro-unassisted childbirth, where lack of attendants is understood and encouraged on a scientific level, because this will provide technical and biological knowledge and a foundation for what makes this birth safe. That is knowledge that would become confidence-instilling for anyone of the right composition to attend women.

Even starting as a trusted doula for attended births of people you are personally close with (at home or in hospital) can give one an idea of their own abilities. Anything… anything to avoid adding hindrance to what could otherwise be an undisturbed birth. This would be one of the gravest insults to natural birth and the natural birthing woman. The needs of a woman in birth are more important than any education we hope to glean from their experience for our own gain.

In order to properly care for a woman, we must first be able to put her needs above our own wants. Anyone unwilling to do that already has the answer to their own question– they are not prepared to attend her. Let us not behave the way that doctors have which caused us to leave the hospital environment in the first place.

“Every woman is different, and so are her needs in childbirth,” you might say. Yes and no. Psychologically every woman is different. The complex thought processes that make up our personalities and make us especially human varies. On the primal level, however, all of our needs are the same.

We are all mammals, we have built-in instincts designed to protect ourselves and the species. We do not deny our other needs as “individual”– whether a woman needs food, water, oxygen, sleep, and shelter is not up for debate based on her individuality. We all require these things as our physiology dictates. As mammals, we have physiological and hormonal reactions to childbirth events and our environment– even over the subtlest of things– that may go unrecognized or misunderstood to the untrained eye. Since it is the primal nature which gives birth, not who we are psychologically, it is the primal which we should be careful to honor!

What a woman chooses is her right, but it sometimes becomes a battle of what she is willing to partake in on the psychological level versus her most primitive instincts. I would not want to battle with the instincts, personally. You cannot reason with them.

So, even if a woman planning a homebirth or freebirth is gracious enough to invite someone to her birth as an observer or onlooker, this does not mean it will not in some way have a negative impact on her birth. A woman would be unfair to herself to promise someone that she would be comfortable with their presence (and it would be unfair for the onlooker to accept, with that knowledge). The primal need for privacy and the intuition of the laboring woman will strongly overtake most conscious psychological desires she has to be sharing, educational, brave, outgoing, or accommodating. Even a peaceful, knowledgeable, and experienced freebirther may find such an invitation to be a naive and inhibiting undertaking in hindsight. Whether it becomes merely a nuisance or precipitates a crisis, the would-be birth attendant must ask themselves, “is it worth it?”

Anyone considering UC for themselves should likewise acknowledge and honor their deepest needs in childbirth and respect the science of the process. This is the way you give yourself the best, safest chance at the healthiest birth.





A Perfect Birth! Freebirth After Previous Induction & Epidural (Guest Post: Birth Story)

6 12 2013

The following is a guest post from a first-time UC-er (unassisted childbirth). She has had one previous birth, with medical assistance (epidural and induction). She was joined by her supportive husband and older daughter. Names* have been changed.

Sorry for lack of times in the story. it was all too quick for me to check the clock. The whole thing was only 3 hours.

I woke up around 4:30 am Saturday morning having some stomach pain. This was not an unusual occurrence as I have been waking up in the middle of the night like that for weeks. Usually once I emptied my bladder I felt better. My husband heard me get up and asked if I was ok. I said I don’t know. He said are you in labor? I said if I am then this won’t take long because there wasn’t much breaks between the pain at all.

I went to the bathroom and closed myself up in their alone. I was trying to figure out if I was in labor or what was going on. I felt like I had a stomach virus, I was on the toilet with diarrhea 3 or 4 times. The pains didn’t come in measurable waves at that moment. My husband says he knew I was in labor lol. So I started to try and clean up the bathroom a bit. If it was labor I wanted to be able to birth in a clean bathroom lol. So I threw a load of laundry in, cleaned the toilet and lastly cleaned the bathtub. All this was quite difficult to do because i had to stop and breath through the contractions. The contractions were now coming in definite waves and there wasn’t much time in between. It went too quick to actually time it. I would say maybe two min a part. I filled the bathtub. My husband kept checking on me and I said I was fine.

I asked him to bring the laptop in and put on a CD my friend Rowan* gave me at my Blessingway. I had previously listened to it about a week prior and I liked the sound. It was beautiful and meditative. He put the music on for me, and lit some candles. He only came in the bathroom and spoke to me between contractions. I liked that he gave me my space. I didn’t need him there I could get in the zone better by myself and he picked up on that. He told me to call him if I need him.

He said he was going to run up to 711 and buy eggs and bacon, lol. Him and Sloan* were hungry, haha. She woke up and was very excited. I asked him to buy me two coconut waters when he came back I was in the bathtub laboring. He brought in my drink.

The contractions were intense, but in my head I never referred to them as “pain” and I never let fear creep into my zone. I just listened to my body and moved around with whatever position felt natural. I was mostly hands and knees. At the point that I got in the bathtub is when I switched from concentrated breathing through the contractions ( which is what I did though out the bathroom cleaning and prepping ) at that point I started moaning through. I honestly didn’t think I would moan like that but it really did help. I remember other friends telling me to try and keep the moaning at a low octave , so I did …

My back started hurting so I drained some of the water and turned the shower on instead to let the water run down my back: it felt nice. But standing was so intense. I just told myself the gravity would help and to just do it. Once it became too much to continue standing I let the bathtub fill up again and got back down. I have a standard tub so it was small but the water still felt good. The water started to get cold so I hopped out of the tub it was hard to move from place to place.

I asked Tony* to get me the birthing ball. I leaned on that for a bit, I was on my knees leaning over the ball. I rocked back and forth moaning. The rocking was good. All I can say is contractions were intense and yes I guess painful, but I kept thinking back to my induction, where there was no break in between the pain, there was no peak, it just felt like my body was being torn in half. So compared to that this was nice. Yes i got the epidural eventually but I still remember being confined to the bed and the machines and the pain. I liked how I could tell that the peak was reached and the sensations started to decrease from there. The breaks in between even tho short were heaven and made it bearable.

At this point I told Tony to get the bed ready. So he made the bed. Protecting underneath with plastic. Sloan helped move my drinks in there, I would have to haul ass to the bedroom. My house is tiny but there was so little time in between contractions. So once one was done, I got up and went to the bed. My lovely husband had more candles lit the bedroom cleaned up and ready and my music. I got up on my bed, hands and knees and this is where it got bad. I think transition. My back hurt a lot so Tony massaged it for a while, he also put massage oil and peppermint oil on it. This felt good during contractions. Sloan fetched the heating pad and we used that on my back too. Sloanie was so much help she got towels and stuff too. I started to whimper and whine and drop a few f bombs. And then apologized. Tony laughed.

I was talking to myself and told myself to get it together. Tried to keep deep growling moans, thought that was better then me starting to Cry. I begged my body for a break, because I wasn’t getting much of a break any longer. Tony ran and got the large pads we got to lay under me. I told him I didn’t know if I should push or what. I was afraid of pushing too soon because I know that can cause a cervical lip, but Tony said I think your pretty close babe, try to push. I still didn’t quite feel an urge, but it hurt so bad that I didn’t know what else to do. At this point I started saying “it hurts, it hurts” LoL. ” I’m crazy for wanting to do this!” Then I just started pushing. And then my water my broke. That was kinda my confirmation of like ok it’s time. So I began pushing and holy hell it hurt. I was definitely screaming.

I knew I had to push harder but I knew I was going to poop lol. Tony was like its ok, he had those pads under me, he was very encouraging, and told me I was doing great and to go ahead and push. I would say a few pushes and she was down there. I started to feel the ring of fire. And Tony and Sloan screamed they could see her head. I was like yeah, I know!!!! Haha. I was scared to push her out it hurt so bad. So she went back in a little, and then I pushed a little , I did this a few times. I told myself that it was good to do it that way anyways I wouldn’t tear. Finally I got the balls to push her head out.

Tony didn’t see a cord. I had to wait for the next wave to come because it felt I was going to need to really try to get the body out. So I waited for a wave, took a deep breath and pushed with all my might and the rest of her body came out. Tony picked her up and handed me her through my legs, he said its a girl!!

She was perfectly pink , let out a cry and starting breathing right away, so I was not worried. We just were looking at her and admiring her in front of us.

Tony asked about the placenta and I said I wanted to try right away, I gave a good push and out it came. Inspected. Looked whole. Sloanie got warm towels from dryer, Tony sterilized the scissors and string. When the cord was done pulsing , we tied and I cut. I tried to breastfeed right away but she wouldn’t, so I went to go clean myself up. I didn’t bleed a lot on the bed. But into the bathroom, throughout my shower and after I kept bleeding, thin red blood.

I was starting to worry even tho I didn’t feel faint or weird, I took two doses of anti hemorrhage tincture my lovely friend Miette* made me, then I made my way back in to be with my girl. Tony cleaned up the mess real quick as I gazed at our little girl. Beata Fayruz Fikru* was born at 7:20 am. Unfortunately the scale I got keeps giving me different readings but she averaged 9 lbs. still haven’t bothered to measure her length lol.

It was literally a perfect birth, exactly how I imagined it. Tony worked perfectly together with me. I was so worried that I should have him do more reading or tell him how to be there for me but ultimately I knew that we knew each other well enough, I knew he would be great. I love him so much. He never doubted me or had any fear from the moment I mentioned unassisted. His faith in me carries me through always

—————————————————————————————-

To learn more about the following subjects that were involved in this birth story, please see the following links! -Elizabeth

Pushing and Knowing When/If/How to Push

Pushing For First Time Moms, by Gloria Lemay, Midwife Thinking
Birth is better left alone and pushing should be at the mother’s cues.

Don’t Push the River, It Flows by Itself, by Laura Shanley (an excerpt from her classic book Unassisted Childbirth), Peaceful Parenting
It is more a matter of “allowing” it to happen rather than “making” it happen.

Pushing: leave it to the experts, Midwife Thinking
A birthing woman is the expert regarding when and how she pushes.

Cervical Lips (Pushing With/Against)

Pushing: leave it to the experts, Midwife Thinking
The most common reason for telling a women not to push is that her cervix is not fully dilated.

The Anterior Cervical Lip: how to ruin a perfectly good birth, Midwife Thinking
Telling women to push or not to push is cultural, it is not based on physiology or research… It does not require management and is best left undetected.”

What You Don’t Know About Your Cervix Can Ruin Your Birth, Birthologie
Not everyone dilates to 10 cm when their body is ready to expel the baby, and you dilate in an ellipse, not a circle.

At some point in labour almost every woman will have an anterior lip (meaning the top of the cervix isn’t completely dilated) because this is the last part of the cervix to be pulled up over the baby’s head.”





Responsibility in Birth: What it Does & Doesn’t Mean

28 09 2012

“I’m taking responsibility for my body and birth now.”

So, you’re having a home birth or a UC (unassisted childbirth, freebirth). You’ve said adios to the medical model and the conventional hospital birth via OB.

“I take full responsibility now.” Has that sentiment been misunderstood? What does and doesn’t it mean? While I can’t speak for everyone, I know that in speaking for myself I will be echoing the voices of many.

It does mean:

  • I’m done letting other people make choices about my body or baby to our detriment.
  • I see the fallacy in mainstream literature which has been filtered and misinforming.
  • I know that Science and Medicine do not always align.
  • I know that doctors are not always right.
  • I, therefore, see the need to educate myself on a point of view contrary to those who may be incorrect.
  • I will recognize that no one cares about me and my baby like I do.
  • I understand that even doctors/midwives with hearts of gold and my best interests at heart are capable of being misinformed or indoctrinated into systems which lie.
  • I know that I contain in me maternal wisdom that cannot be learned by professionals while in college or in practice, and I honor that.
  • I will listen to my intuition in pregnancy and birth; if something doesn’t sit right with me and I ignore it, I know that only I could be responsible for the outcome.
  • I admit the illusory nature of being “under someone’s care”. By giving over my body and health to another individual, however well-trained or well-meaning, I mistakenly believed to have opted out of learning how to manage my own health and have taken a child’s role in my own health. I am not an infant and childbirth doesn’t have to be a surgical procedure, so I will take care of myself.
  • I fully accept the reality that I am the true authority over my life. I am truly the first and sole protector of my baby, as we are connected in a way that can only be felt personally to be best understood. I can no longer deny that I am in the driver’s seat and pass the buck to someone else, who may make the wrong move.
  • I trust myself. I am in tune with my body and intuition, and baby.
  • I recognize that others do sometimes make the wrong moves, and that a lot of that time, they are just doing their best. It is not always their fault, but I reject their best.
  • I accept my best instead.


It doesn’t mean:

  • I’m fully aware of the fact that I’m risking my baby’s life and that if they die, it was all because of me.
  • If the tragic occurs, it is automatically my fault, even if the tragedy were unavoidable.
  • There is no such thing as unavoidable tragedies.
  • All baby or mother deaths or injuries were “meant to be”.
  • I will be at liberty to blame everyone else for whatever happens, immediately revoking my own authority upon bad outcome.
  • Everything magical is automatically promised to me.
  • God loves me so much and my trust in “Him” is so great, that my baby and I would never die in birth.
  • I’m just going to listen to and surround myself with certain people and get sucked in by everything they say, and take their words for everything.
  • I’m not going to prepare in any way, mentally, physically, or educationally. I’m just going to leave it all up to God and accept whatever outcome “He” provides.
  • Medicine and C-sections are never necessary in birth, and I will avoid them at all costs.
  • I have no idea how birth works, natural birth just sounds really cool.
  • I have no emergency plans in place. That’s how I roll.
  • All’s well that ends well!

Being responsible means that you open up your eyes and you take in the various truths from whatever direction. They aren’t always nice or convenient, and sometimes they rock and shake your world views. Being a mature and evolving adult means having to accept that, and adapt.

If you cannot accept your role in a bad outcome when you made choices that had an obvious negative affect on your birth, that is not responsibility. If you were not totally helpless and you knew something was wrong, you had the responsibility to act on it. If you were just ignorant as to what to do, it is your responsibility to rectify that so that it doesn’t happen again.


If you can understand that this universe is a mysterious place and that life is sometimes full of senseless suffering of which sometimes truly no one is to blame, you may not only have responsibility for yourself, you may also possess tremendous grace. Not every tragedy is explainable.

I’m known for recommending homebirth and UC to any and everyone, but it comes with a catch:  first, you must be balanced. Everyone can prepare, and UC or homebirth can be for almost everyone. However, if you go into it without the appropriate intellectual or spiritual fortitude, it could be a recipe for disaster. If one is psychologically unwell or ill-prepared beforehand, and doesn’t have their ideas of what their responsibilities truly are firmly in place, the hospital may actually be their best bet. You’ll still be responsible for choosing the means, but trusting another may be more suitable for your state.

The good news:  you don’t have to start there. You don’t have to accept that. A severely out of shape person may be unfit to run a marathon today, but with training and in the right time, they become able. Get right in the head if your heart is set on homebirth. Meditate, read, learn, grow, and you’ll be ready to understand what your responsibilities are and embrace them happily.





Medicine Vs. Midwifery: Divide & Conquer

7 06 2012

The stage:  North Carolina.

The background: Women have just lost the opportunity to birth legally with midwife attendants at home.

The scene:  One midwife, CNM Deb O’Connell, shuts her doors. It’s a sad day for women of her state, she laments. With no doctor to back her practice, she is moving on. But what you may not know is that Deb did this to herself.


Deb is associated with an infamous retired OB who spends her days blogging about how stupid homebirth is. Deb is a member of a group that proudly claims they are fed up with natural birth. And Deb chased down loss mother Michelle on my page just to dig into her about her own homebirth loss, and her peaceful attitude toward it, because it really irked the hell out of her clique friends.

Before I go any further, this is not a post to pick on Deb. I’ve seen that happen for others already at the hands of Deb and her friends, and I think it’s ugly and it sucks. I certainly don’t want to be mean or unfair, but I also think it’s something I should talk about, so I’ll try to do it as civilly as I can. If you want to understand the political climate of birth today, you have to discuss the players, who they align with, and what they profess to believe. I’ll be accused of picking on her, or delivering a low blow, but I promise I will be kinder than I’ve seen them extend to others. Unfortunately, the group I mention often lays mercilessly into anyone they disagree with, but the moment a single one of their own comes under scrutiny or criticism, suddenly they become the morality police. All things considered, I assure you this is not about retribution. I’m examining something I find peculiar and shedding light on what is really going on here. That’s my intent.

I understand that the internet gives most of us a disconnect from who we speak to plus an extra set of balls, but care should be exercised with our words, particularly by professionals who are supposed to have sensitivity and compassion. I think sometimes tone is misunderstood, too. Let me apologize in advance, in case I misunderstood anyone’s words or intent, and I welcome the opportunity to be corrected.

North Carolina recently lost a number of babies during homebirths, I understand. This caused alarm and attentiveness in the medical community. Although, they were itching for a reason; the Board of Medicine was reportedly seeking reports of homebirth horror stories. Just days before her own birth, Michelle’s midwife dismissed herself from Michelle’s care, resulting in a horrifying birth— repeat C-section hospital experience she felt forced to endure.

Michelle has had both CNMs and CPMs. These are two classifications of midwifery. The first requires one to have nurse training first. It is arguably more “educated”. Some consider it only more medicalized, and thus less desirable. The latter requires independent midwifery training, typically lasting several years. Different states vary in their requirements for that credential, and some people consider the credential a joke. Others are thankful for the option to use someone who is more naturalistic, holistic, and not a “medwife”. To each her own. Due diligence, follow your instinct, and all that jazz.

Now this is the part where I remind you that I am not even a “fan” of midwives. Why? Read my book and you’ll see why. My most horrific birth was under the care of homebirth midwives. But I’ll tell you what I am a fan of:  choice. Just because I want every woman to be spared of the horror that I felt in my second birth does NOT give me the right to crusade against removing a woman’s right to birth with a midwife– ANY classification of midwife– if she so chooses.  I have the right to tell my story, to have a Facebook page and a book explaining my point of view, and let women make their own choices from there. What you do with that is up to you. Either I move you or I don’t. Either you believe me or you don’t. I’d be taking it too far and wasting my time if I picketed against midwives or hospitals. So, although I’m not promoting midwife use at all (CNM, CPM, at home, or in hospital), I sure find myself defending them all the damn time against staunch anti- groups.

You could say the removal of legal homebirth midwifery was a “win” for me, the UC “evangelist”. More appropriate would be to say it’s a win for the infamous retired OB. Although neither one of us promotes the use of homebirth midwives, one main difference between she and I is that I strongly feel that loss of choice and options is not the way to keep people safe. The best way to keep people safe is to provide them as many safe and healthy and legal options as possible, try to put the information out there, hope they educate themselves, and let them make their own choices. Neither Amy nor I can make anyone feel what we feel. And it is about feeling, not fact. When you break things down enough, the line between fact and opinion becomes really blurry (after all), doesn’t it? Forcing anyone into anything is more likely to lead to true recklessness and rebellion, panic, illegal and less safe means, etc. Eradicating any form of midwifery then is, in my opinion, foolish.

So, Deb and Amy and all their closest internet friends storm the web talking about the dangers of homebirth, how natural birth ain’t all that, and make fun of people who are “anti-science” (read: not automatically faithful of and loyal to pharmacy, technology, and medicine— in other words, questioners), yet now there is an upset because Deb in particular is forced to close her doors. After I’ve seen the way she has treated women, I would think this is actually a positive that she is no longer in a position to serve. To me, the utter lack of respect I have seen from those with the title of midwife, doula, nurse, grief mentor, or doctor leaves me in indignant disbelief.  Those people don’t need to be “serving” women, if that’s what you call serving. But to not put 2 and 2 together and figure out that one’s own attitude led to one’s own downfall is beyond me!

A lot of generalities and assumptions are flying around, and they are really only divisive. CPMs are shitty. Homebirth is stupid and reckless. Michelle’s loss was preventable. CNMs are good. I think it’s obvious after seeing what happened in North Carolina that when you sweepingly say that one type or one practice is unsafe, you’re condemning a hell of a lot of people you know nothing about. Stillbirths happen, tragic births happen, but we already know that. It doesn’t change the fact that people deserve the right to choose their birth, anyway. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not. Deb is a CNM and doesn’t approve of CPMs from a professional or ideological standpoint. That’s fine, she’s entitled to that, and I don’t care about that. Amy believes that all homebirth is stupid and reckless. She’s entitled to that, and I don’t care about that. Forcing your beliefs, your ideology, on others is what I care about. What I care about is the intense rallying I keep seeing against either homebirth, natural birth, or CPM birth. When you rally your support behind people who are so against the removal of a choice, do not be so surprised when your own goes, too. When you play with fire, expect to be burned. Duh!

To Deb O’Connell, formerly of Carrboro Midwifery, she probably feels that the baby got thrown out with the bathwater. Her buddy Amy, who thinks homebirth is for morons, I can only assume feels North Carolina finally got something right. Then again, she also feels that gays are selfish to parent and that women should stay with men who beat them (for the children!) or they are selfish, so I don’t know why anyone puts much stock in her “professional” 1990s OB opinion. It’s slanted, anti-woman, and frankly, passé.

Let me let you in on a little secret… most normal, average women choosing a midwife have no real preference or concern over which letters follow their names. I know I didn’t even know the difference when I first started with midwives. What I cared about was that I could tell they were professional, compassionate, and a good fit for my family. I had to think they deserved my trust and respect, and a lot of that is instinctive (believing whether or not you can count on someone). I can tell right away if someone is unprofessional or lacking education. It’s part of the reason I dumped a new set of midwives on pregnancy #3 (ironically, they were CNMs). It doesn’t matter whether I was right or wrong to choose the midwives I did (that’s on MY head, anyway), because how I felt about my births has nothing to do with their midwife classification. It was about me, Elizabeth, the person, and who they were as people. Letters after a name cannot tell you whether someone is competent, caring, or respectful. That can only be ascertained on an individual basis. Michelle realized that, too, about her loss, and she has been hounded about it ever since (by this group).

So, most natural birthers really do not worry nor care what classification their caregiver falls under. Both credentials come with immersing education. Yet, a war is being manufactured pitting CPM against CNM. The real war is big medicine versus midwifery. A common tactic in any war is divide and conquer. You pit them against one another and let them do the work of unraveling themselves. “A house divided against itself will fall.” And so, now when the inevitable happens– a loss of all types of (legal) homebirth midwifery– why were any involved foolish enough to believe they were exempt from the chopping block? Didn’t they recognize that this was the goal all along? I argue that midwives are being played like pawns, and this is the result. They’ve had to struggle so long to be viewed as professionals in their own right, and now their weakness is being used against them. It’s pitiful.

Know your real enemy, because if you aren’t careful, next time it could be you losing your rights. So, North Carolina, I am so terribly sorry for your removal of legal choice. I know that in some regards, you were done a favor… someone(s) who was misrepresenting herself and aligning with people who are enemies of choice is taken out of the equation. However, so was everything else. Now it’s a doc, UC, or a renegade midwife. Which will you choose?

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t waste your time, Elizabeth.”… So I put it all in a delightful blog! 🙂
CLICK this image to sign this petition: North Carolina Medical Board: Allow Physicians to continue supervising homebirth CNMs in NC

 





Outsmarting the Dragon

13 09 2011

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.





A Midwife With the Right Idea

1 09 2011

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.





Tackling the Newbie Q: “COULD You Freebirth?”

18 07 2011

Allow me to be blunt. Of course you could. Anybody could. Let’s be clear– birth isn’t something that requires permission of a man in a white coat. Birth just happens. If you relax your body and mind, it can happen quite gracefully. Most women try desperately to stave off birth until Mr. Dr. White Coat can green-light them, but he is not the magical birth fairy,  his presence does not automatically sanction your labor or save the day, and in fact may be detrimental. (In general:) You were never in any danger, but you increase your risk of this when you add more dimensions, more complications, to the essentially simplistic birth process. This is a mental and physical panic you will cause yourself (perhaps without knowing), and the surgeon will be happy to make himself useful and do what surgeons do best– medically manipulate using drugs and instruments.

Don’t need that? Not an emergency? Welcome to Freebirth.

It’s called “free” not because it doesn’t cost you anything (which is nice, too), but because you are doing it on your own. It’s a liberation. Liberation from a system. A system which is fairly new in our society, is founded on misogyny and business acumen (#1 reason to go to hospitals today in the US), and does not have your best interests at heart.

The very position they have you deliver in is an illustration of this. They aren’t doing these things for you, they are doing it for them. And, it is hurting women and babies every day.

Need examples? Here are a few from one of my favorite sites (myobsaidwhat.com). I want you to keep in mind that this is common stuff happening to women every day.

In fact, you probably have your own examples, if you’ve ever been pregnant. (Feel free to share them if you like.)

Unless you are having an honest to God emergency (which are rare, mind you), ask yourself– do you really need a hospital or a doctor? Or will childbirth happen with or without their say so? Hospitals and doctors are for sick people. Obstetricians are surgeons; surgeons perform surgery. Pregnancy is not an illness, and labor is not a complex procedure. It is an act of nature, or God, if you will.

I know a lot of women feel strongly that they need to deliver in a hospital “just in case”, but how much of that is conditioning? The conditioning being, that is, that it is almost inevitable that we will need outside help from some authority figure. Are we experiencing our own form of being “institutionalized”? I urge women to start seriously considering if this is our reality today.

It’s a false sense of security, seeing as how most interventions and just medical presence in general is a hindrance on normal physiological birth. It interferes with your primal state and puts your body in a panic mode, stalling or prolonging labor and creating more pain. That’s just the way of childbirth, naturally. We never get taught this, however. We only get taught to walk into the hospital and put it all in someone else’s hands. Then if something goes wrong, we don’t have to be held responsible. Seldom do we know that walking in the door was the first thing to cause a series of bad events, and the catalyst for possible crisis in any birth situation. Losing your responsibility is an illusion, and a doctor being your savior is an illusion and a false sense of security, in an environment that your primal and birthing mind feels more endangered within.

We stay at home because we want to play it safe. Know where the real dangers lie. De-condition your mind. Free birth from a freed mind.

We turn to UC, many of us, after learning the hard way. I myself have had 2 managed births, and 1 freebirth. We wish you could learn from our experiences. We honor our knowing. We have awakened. Honor your knowing.