Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Birth plans...

When I first started reading about “birth plans”, I rolled my eyes a little and thought, ‘Ugh! Another indicator of how our society misses the mark.’ I thought these women were a little presumptuous in writing down their 'plan of events’, wanting to control everything.

You see, whether you believe it to be God’s or nature's plan, things go like this: labor starts, cervix dilates, mom pushes, and baby comes out. The rest is just (uncontrollable) details. That’s just the way it’s going to go down.

Unless, it doesn’t… I wrote about Ely's birth here, but didn't really go into the core of the "problem". A couple days after she was born, I sobbed to R, "If my body can't complete the most basic act of motherhood: giving birth, maybe I’m not cut out to be a mom." (This self doubt really hurt, not only because I doubted my ability to care for my sweet baby girl, but because I've always known I wanted children. In fact, that is the only thing that I have ever been SURE I wanted.)

R reassured me that I, and my body, were made for this motherhood thing and filled in with the parenting duties while my hormones settled a little. The feeling subsided slowly. I credit establishing a successful nursing relationship with helping soothe these wounds. You could say nursing, and even “extended” nursing was my own personal “bu-ya! I can TOO do this! My body WAS meant for motherhood”. (I'd guess that has at least a small bit to do with why we're still at it.)

In an effort to understand what had happened and heal, I read about other women who'd had similar experiences. I talked to friends. Overwhelmingly, women with unplanned c-sections were regretful of the way "it had all gone down". The personal acceptance processes ranged from almost immediate to prolonged mourning of their birthing experience.

I think the latter is probably confusing to women who haven’t suffered an unplanned c-section. What does it matter what “door” the baby comes out? Logically, it shouldn’t. Unfortunately, logic has very little to do with the birthing process.

I’d suggest that giving birth is, at its core the most animal thing we do as “civilized” human beings. There are cultural norms surrounding eating and sex, but there are no such rules about growing and birthing a baby. (If you’ve ever seen a video of a natural birth, the “sound track” is quite animal-like. I think we can all agree on that.) Our bodies are pre-programmed to do it and societal norms have very little influence on whether we can complete the task successfully (except for the against-gravity position that most hospitals put you in, which is arguably a “societal norm”).

Did you know that some mammal mothers who do not feel their baby come through her birth canal does not recognize their young? Maybe my feelings of self-doubt after my c-section weren’t illogical. Maybe they were animal. There’s a whole hormonal sequence that I missed. It came later, in the form of oxytocin, but those first few days were pretty painful (emotionally).

And so, I’ve concluded that birth plans ARE an indicator of how our society misses the mark, but not in the way I originally thought. Birth plans are women's desperate attempt to reclaim the birthing process, to ask others to support us in what our bodies know how to do naturally.

Of course, there are times when I thank God obstetricians exist. They are necessary, without a doubt, but living in a country where the Cesarean rate is 40%, I think it's time they back off a little bit and let us and our babies do what our bodies we were meant to. Unless mom or baby are in danger (or simply want to do it another way), I think we, as a society, would benefit from letting things "go down" the way they were meant to.

1 comment:

  1. Modern medicine would have you believe that most women's bodies are "lemons" and need help from dr. to delivery a baby. This simply is not true. What happens is that one intervention leads to another which leads to another and then of course you need the dr's help. Skilled midwives can deliver breech babies vaginally with no problems. There is a very good book called Spiritual Midwifery and another called Ina May's Guide to Childbirth that talk all about how the woman needs to be in the right setting, with the right people and the right support to correctly "open up" to get the baby out. I highly recommend them. I am currently reading them because I really hope to have baby #2 naturally, fingers crossed!!!