*trigger warning* birth trauma
I’m sure, by now, you have heard me use the term “undisturbed birth.” It has been scientifically proven time and time again that when women are left alone to birth their babies, there are less negative outcomes. In most cases, the very scary and traumatic events that happen during birth (the ones you see in movies, and the ones you’ve heard from your mom and sister) are actually caused by some other outside force, energy, or intervention. Most times, those scary births are simply caused because they took place in a hospital.. the very place that is supposed to make you feel safe and cared for.
Before you jump up and down yelling at me about how birth is inherently dangerous and women have been dying in childbirth left and right before modern medicine, understand that these are myths that have been disproven. Scare tactics have to be swept away now that we know better. When you know better, you DO better. Another disclaimer: I am not demonizing medical professionals or hospitals! Western medicine is a miracle for when things go WRONG. When there is trauma, disease, or you see red flags, hospitals are there for you. My husband, mother, close friends and myself are medical professionals. These workers want nothing but the best for you, but are constrained by a broken system. It is a system designed to minimize liability, produce “good patients,” make $$$$ and crank people in and out at a rapid pace.
OK, now that we’re on the same page (or in the same book)…
Imagine how every single mammal on this planet gives birth. Cats, dogs, giraffes, pigs, and horses all birth their babies without doubting their ability to do so. They don’t choose the sunny bay window, the open plain, or the middle of the crowded sidewalk to birth their young. Across the board, you will see mammals escape to dim, cavelike, cozy, warm, solitary places to labor and deliver their little ones. Why? The promise of safety. All of the hormones required to birth safely, bearably and efficiently are flowing when mother feels safe. She is not being watched, timed, pressured, confronted, pinched, penetrated, or tethered. When these stifling things happen, the hormones HALT. Hormones are birth. As a matter of fact, birth can not happen without them. Humans are the only species that routinely and willingly birth in captivity. We are the ONLY ones who feel outside validation and assistance are required to do this “terrifying” thing. Our ability to birth effectively relies on our ability to come into our own power and demand to be undisturbed unless a true emergency arrises.
The “cascade of interventions” has been studied extensively. It is not my opinion, it is fact. The cascade looks something like this:
Mom has been laboring at home, pacing the floor, packing last minute items, and is nervous, but so excited to be in labor. Her partner is running around the house, also packing, calling family, and calling the doctor to let him know that “we’re in labor.” Although the contractions are manageable at home, they decide to get to the hospital, because they don’t know what they are doing, and should be surrounded by people who can deliver this baby. So they drive to the hospital, with mom getting increasingly nervous because her pain worsens with every passing minute and, damn, we still have 20 minutes to go, and if I have my baby in the car it will die. Thanking God above, they reach the hospital and check in with a cold clerk who offers no comfort or empathy for laboring mom. Mom is told to sit in a wheelchair, because she is a patient now and shouldn’t be walking (despite the extreme discomfort of pressure on her rectum, and squishing the baby in her birth canal.) They reach the labor space, and the lights are bright, the nurses are understaffed and hustling ass all over the place, the beeps are loud and concerning, and the smells are sterile and rancid at the same time. Mom has an IV placed, and a continuous fetal monitor strapped to her swollen abdomen. She can’t eat to fuel the marathon she is currently running, or drink to hydrate without swelling up. Mom can’t move around freely anymore, and she is told to stay in the bed so they can keep an eye on the baby’s heart rate. This is all getting a bit scary and stressful, but it must be for a good reason. Ah, THIS, is safety.
“False.” -Dwight Schrute
This is not safety. The second mom was sentenced to her wheelchair, and treated as a sick and helpless patient, her hormones halted. Something in her primitive brain said, I don’t feel right, and this isn’t safe. The bright lights told her brain that “predators can see you, and you can not birth here right now. Find a dark corner, and find it fast.” As a society we have forgotten these biological laws.
Laboring mom gets a cervical exam to determine how far along she is. Yikes, only 4 cm. “Thats ok, we’ll check back in an hour or 2, and we’ll see how you’re doing!” After an hour of laboring in this bright, noisy environment, with multiple interruptions from staff for questioning and chatting, mom is checked again. “You’re still at 4 cm, and you’re just not progressing. We can give you a little Pit (pitocin is synthetic oxytocin) to get things moving along. Everyone agrees, and now her contractions are HARD. They are abruptly longer, stronger, sharper and more intense than before, and the pain becomes too much to bear. She needs an epidural. She feels defeated, and weak, but is looking forward to relief. With the pain meds, she feels relief and can rest. Now her blood pressure starts to drop because of the epidural, and oxygenation of the baby is now compromised. Baby shows decelerations on the monitor and is in distress. Its time for an emergency C-section. Mom and Dad are thanking their lucky stars that they were in the hospital for this birth. The doctor saved their baby’s life.
This scenario is so common that its scary. One intervention causes the next, which causes the next complication, and at the end of it all, the medical team gets the credit for a job well done. Epidurals make it much more probable that there will be a prolonged 3rd stage of labor (pushing stage), instrumental delivery (vacuum or forceps) and C-section. Mom is more likely to have perineal tearing, or an episiotomy, low blood pressure, nausea and dizziness. The pitocin has interrupted mom’s natural release of oxytocin (the love hormone) that bonds the pair and acts as instant pain relief and euphoria immediately post partum. Again, don’t get offended here. I was born via C-section and my mom loves me. This isn’t a judgement, or an opinion, it is science. In a routine hospital birth today, babies are immediately taken away from their mothers to be assessed, weighed, stripped of their hormone saturated amniotic fluid and blood, hatted so parents can not breathe in the sweet scent of their newborns, and have goop dropped into their eyes so they can no longer see and imprint with mom or dad. Guess what gets really hard when post partum hormones are interrupted. You guessed it. Breastfeeding.
Do you see how many topics have to be covered to fully explain uninterrupted birth? We’ll go deeper into all of these topics, but for now I just want you to know that you have CHOICES! The decision is always yours! You can choose birth in a hospital and have a beautiful birth, as long as you feel safe, respected and in control. You can choose a provider who will respect your wishes to remain undisturbed. You can choose a birth center that is connected to a hospital with midwives. You can choose to birth at home with a midwife who is trained to spot red flags from a mile away. You can choose to birth freely, surrounded by loved ones and the moon. Whatever you choose, know that no provider can tell you what you MUST do, or that they will or will not LET you do certain things.
We are meant to surrender to the process of bringing our babies into our arms, to believe in our innate power to do so, to not fear “pain.” We have been conditioned to believe that we, as women, are frail and delicate creatures to be protected and cared for. There is a more powerful truth that lies within us all. We just have to collectively recognize it, and have no fear. YOU’VE GOT THIS.