“Your body is not a lemon. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose and water buffalos. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”
— Ina May Gaskin
Every birth has the potential for transformation, and every person should have the opportunity to have an empowering birth experience. Too often, in the modern American medical system, our mental and emotional well being are overlooked during birth. The care provider’s main focus, as it should be, is on the physical well being of the birthing parent and infant, and many times they are too distracted to attend to a parent’s personal wishes. We are too busy to realize how integral emotional well being is in the birth process, and often rely on synthetic hormones and invasive practices which may be unnecessary intervention on behalf of the clock. Informed consent is only listed in the fine print and rarely discussed in depth during the time of intervention. We are given the reasoning that it is merely standard procedure and expected to go with the flow of hospital practices. While there is such a wealth of information on the subject of birth, the thought of sifting through it all can be daunting. There are so many options, so many possibilities. I find it eye-opening when I try and grasp the understanding that every birth for every person is different from ALL other births.
I have had two experiences with birth in our modern medical system. The first was when I was in my early twenties. I was a young, newly married and broke college student, and since I was no longer eligible to piggyback on my parents’ medical insurance policy, I was pushed through the Medicaid system. I was given basic care, and I use the term “care” loosely. That was my first experience of being minimized to a number. I miscarried at nineteen weeks. I was devastated. The pain of suffering and loss was excruciating. The doctor on call treated me as if I was a waste of time, something that wasn’t worth her effort or compassion. My family stood by in horror, not knowing what to do other than follow the doctor’s orders, shocked at her lack of empathy. My postpartum visit came along and I was somehow given a sales pitch for an antidepressant without the doctor even asking me how I was feeling. I left that experience traumatized and full of questions.
My second pregnancy was nine years later. I was clear from the very beginning that I wanted as little medical intervention as possible during labor. I researched day and night and ultimately decided on low intervention care at a birth center with a midwife. My sweet husband was supportive of every choice I made, and went above and beyond to support me through the experience. I took a comprehensive childbirth education course and the more research I did, the more fascinated I became by the female body, and the more passionate I became about helping my peers who were experiencing pregnancy to see all of the amazing possibilities of childbirth; and perhaps more importantly, to believe in themselves and their bodies.
We decided not to hire a doula since I planned to have the continuous support of my mother and sweet husband during labor. I had compiled so much information, I knew what I wanted, and I was as prepared as I could be with my stack of books and evidence based research. It took the experience of childbirth for me to realize the importance of a doula, even when you have ALL the support. I couldn’t have asked for a better team. We all worked tirelessly, around the clock until we finally met our beautiful baby girl, born after 17 hours of active labor (and many more previous hours of prodromal labor). She was 7lbs 15oz of pure magical beauty. My life was changed forever.
My passion about the entire pregnancy and childbirth experience only grew with time. I had initially assumed it would diminish as I moved into a new chapter of my life, but I experienced an unfolding of the opposite scenario. I found myself encouraging my peers to educate and advocate for themselves, to require a client-centered care experience from their providers, to really see what a powerful experience birth can be when given proper support.
My belief is that every person deserves the opportunity to have their desired birth. Whatever the vision, I believe we all need to educate ourselves about our bodies, about interventions and what they mean for comfort, mobility and health. Every person should go into their birth feeling empowered to bring a child into this world, knowing all options and understanding the depth of each option. I believe, as birthing parents this is just as much our duty as it is our right. There is something magical that happens at birth. We can choose to lean into that magic and learn something from it. Two years after the birth of my daughter I stepped forward and made it my mission to encourage and support parents and their families through this miraculous journey into parenthood. It was one of the best and most rewarding decisions I’ve ever made.