Thursday, July 15, 2010

"ideal" is not the ideal

Today on the Motherlode blog, Lisa Belkin talks about "ideal" births, and how they are soo overrated. "The point is not to have “a birth” but to have a baby," she writes to a reader. If that means c-section, epidurals, "non-natural" birth, so be it, she writes.


I am so tired of the "you just want a spa-treatment" attitude towards women who want a "natural" birth. Perhaps some women choose to eschew epidurals to get little gold stars in someone's playbook, but my concerns were far more primal: I wanted to avoid a c-section, major surgery, uterine scars, and an increased risk of death. I wanted to protect my uterus against possibly fatal adhesions for future pregnancies, problems with fertility, increased risk of ectopic pregnancies, and increased risk to future children during birth.

A friend of mine recently gave birth to her third baby. Her first was severely premature; her second induced. Both labors were far from "ideal"--the second, especially, was horrific. Her third, however, was just what she wanted: she went into labor naturally, got to the hospital on time, and labored for a while without drugs. Then she asked for an epidural and got one--but it wore off in time for her to push. She felt supported by hospital staff. Throughout, a good friend of hers stood by her side, encouraged her, coached her, and told her she could do it (this friend, by the way, had one home birth under her belt, and is a personal trainer; a pretty good combination for an impromptu doula).

I am so happy for her. I couldn't care less about her getting an epidural or not--it wouldn't have been my choice, but it worked well for her. What makes me so happy for her was she had support in her labor, and she had choices. She felt comfortable with them, and comfortable with her caregivers.

Contrast this story with another friend, who birthed at the same hospital. She had done extensive preparation--classes, reading, etc--but when the big day came, she didn't know the midwife on call, and didn't feel comfortable with her. When her labor stalled, and an OB came in, she felt waves of condescencion rolling towards her. She ended with a c-section. What breaks my heart about this birth is not just a c-section that wasn't "ideal", but how alone she felt during a raw, exposed experience. Why is it even possible that a first-time mother (and father) can be meeting their birth attendant for the first time? For her not to have someone there with her throughout her labor? (Sure, her husband was a partner, but it was his first time experiencing labor, too) This is most women's reality, and it's absolutely appalling to me.

"Ideal" is hardly the point. I just want women to have a voice, to be able to trust their caregivers, and to be treated as equal partners, not as blips on a monitor watched by someone in another room.

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