Tuesday, March 2, 2010
1:33 PM | Edit Post
Who is the Expert?
(a guest-blog by Laura Fields)
(a guest-blog by Laura Fields)
I’m a natural childbirth educator, and my career goal is to put myself out of business. My hope is for a society where women are in tune to their instincts about pregnancy and birth, feel confident that they can give birth safely, and know that when the time comes, they will know just what to do, without fear or anxiety.
In our culture, women are desperate for guidance. We will see a doctor or midwife (in most cases, a rotating team of them) an average of 14 times during pregnancy, more than twice as many times as women in Japan where infant mortality is lower and natural birth rates are much higher. We want someone, an expert, to tell us that everything is okay, and to guide us and tell us what to do.
Over the course of my first pregnancy and birth, childbirth education and labor assistant training, several years of teaching and six very different births attended as a doula, I realized a very important truth that most of us are missing and will continue to miss: we are the experts.
We are women. We are friends, daughters, sisters, mothers. We are smart, and strong, and competent. We are connected to our babies, both during pregnancy and after birth, in ways no one else could ever be. We can take care of ourselves and our babies in ways other people cannot. We can consciously connect to our babies during pregnancy and know that everything is okay. If we have peace, we can tune into our bodies and, without a single intervention, needle, monitor, or drug, give our babies safe passage from our bodies into the world.
We’ve been sold a bill of goods, and if we keep buying we will continue to pay a high price. We have been convinced that other people know what’s best for us. We’ve been told our whole lives that medical training is more important than our instinctive wisdom about our bodies. Though most women will say that pregnancy is not a disease and birth is not a procedure, most of us will live an entirely different experience with our own pregnancies, being poked and prodded and tested half to death. Most of us will have highly medicalized births, feeling as if we and our babies are on the verge of tragedy at all times.
We pay a high price for our lack of faith in ourselves, and our babies pay as well. We gauge our pregnancies by testing. Ultrasounds, AFPs, amniocentesis, gestational diabetes, group B strep. These medical terms are common knowledge among pregnant women, though few of us really understand the possible repercussions of all this testing. We go through our pregnancies knowing that if our baby doesn’t decide to come by a certain, randomly assigned date, we will either have to induce or face the wrath of the doctor by refusing.
Almost one third of women will have their babies surgically taken from them, unnecessarily at least 80% of the time. A third of women who give birth vaginally will have irreparable, permanent damage done by unnecessary surgery performed on their perineums, usually because their doctors just don’t want to wait anymore. We say “Pregnancy is not a disease. Birth is not a medical condition.” Then why do we accept IVs and heparin locks for a normal, low-risk birth? Why do we accept being hooked to a machine for 20 minutes out of every hour, when such machine has been proven to do absolutely no good, and is useful only in lawsuits
against doctors and hospitals? Why do we smile and obey when we’re told we can have only clear fluids even when our labors might stretch to the 24 hour mark and beyond? We say one thing, but we live another.
Women planning to give birth without pain medication, in the way that we were naturally created to do, are ridiculed. We are told over and over by men and women alike that we cannot possibly do it and we are insane for wanting to try. Often our doctors, whom we are paying to provide a service, laugh at the very idea of wanting a birth without drugs. Most women planning a natural birth have researched carefully, and understand the risks of the various drugs that are given during labor. But still, we are often treated as fringe-dwelling lunatics simply for wanting to be an active participant in our babies’ birthdays.
Why does our society view women as weak, stupid, and incapable of making smart decisions for ourselves and our babies? Why are we so willing to accept things being done to us and our babies that are useless at best and dangerous at worst, just because “it’s the way we do things?”
It’s time for the madness to stop. Women are not weak. We are not stupid. When we take the time to connect to ourselves and our babies, we are capable of making the absolute best decisions for our pregnancies, labors, and births. Natural birth can be difficult, but many things worth doing in life are not easy. It’s time we started taking offense to those who would sabatoge our efforts and undermine our incredible inner strength. It’s time for us to realize that we’re tough and capable and we know what’s best for ourselves and our babies.
About the Author:
Laura is a childbirth educator near Atlanta, GA, and the mom of two girls, ages 5 and 3. She is an advocate for natural birth, breastfeeding, and natural parenting. You can read her blog at www.babystepsonline.net
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