I don’t know about you, but ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a “Mom”. I think I was like many little girls when I answered the question of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “A Mom!” When I got a little older, I changed my answer to things such as an artist, a librarian, a doctor, a lawyer, a judge and a nurse. The latter became my profession of choice. I never lost that desire though to marry a wonderful man, and have little children of my own.
During my nursing career, I worked with a wide array of patients. I worked with everyone from children with cancer, to women having babies. I went into nursing school thinking that I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse, but I thought it was too intense to start there. I decided to start in pediatric oncology, and then switched to L&D after a couple of years. It did not turn out to be the dream job I thought it would be.
As a child, I was blessed to be able to witness the births of my three sisters and my brother. I was given the opportunity to cut the umbilical cords of my little brother Thomas (I was in the 1st grade then) and my little sister Hannah (I was in the 5th grade then). My siblings and I were all born in birth centers with midwives so the perception I had of L&D was based on that. In nursing school, I had a short rotation through that department, but it wasn’t enough to show me it’s true colors.
Women in our society tend to view labor and childbirth as a horrible, painful experience that needs to be numbed completely. I do not believe it is an event that women look forward to because it is feared so much. After I became a nurse, and read all of the so called “facts” regarding medical interventions and pain relief measures like the epidural, I couldn’t understand for the life of me why any woman would choose to go natural like my mother did. In my mind, people don’t have root canals without anesthesia, so why on earth would you push a big ol‘ baby out of your little ol‘ vagina without an epidural? It made now sense to me. I was fully prepared to have my baby in a hospital, and even went as far as getting a job at the hospital I thought I would deliver at so I could get to know the doctors and nurses and feel more comfortable about delivering there.
But then everything changed…I got pregnant.
I don’t remember what exactly prompted my change of thinking. All I remember is sitting on the couch in our apartment, with the laptop on my lap. I was about 6 weeks pregnant, and I started researching birth centers. I have no idea why. The Women’s Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, NC popped up on my screen. I browsed through the site and found that the director there was the very midwife who had delivered me when I was born. I told Mike that I was thinking about not having our baby in a hospital, I thought perhaps a birth center would be the better choice. He was a little confused at my change of mind, but he was supportive in whatever I wanted to do. After that, the scales fell off my eyes. I began to see the side effects of epidurals. I began to see how the labor slowed down, how the mother often experienced a significant drop in blood pressure that effected the fetal heart rate. I was able to witness with complete and total clarity how doctors put patients on timetables to fit their own personal schedules. It amazed and horrified me how women walked into the doors at the first sign of labor (or not) and put not only their life, but the life of the baby as well, in the hands of the doctor. Many of these women did not ask any questions, they just did what they were told. They were in labor, completely uneducated and totally scared.
Why does it have to be this way? Why are American women so afraid of giving birth? Sure, there are many things that can go wrong (and FYI…when I’m blogging…I’m talking about healthy and normal pregnancies. I do believe fully that high risk pregnancies belong in hospitals, so don’t even go there). In general though, pregnancy is not a disease, it’s not a health problem and it’s not something that needs to be treated as an illness.
I believe that when a woman doesn’t educate herself about pregnancy and childbirth, she is making one of the biggest mistakes that she could possibly make. A large majority of us are built to have babies…our bodies can handle it. Yes there are some with a small or malformed pelvis who could not have a baby vaginally, but that isn’t the truth for most of us. It is a miracle that our bodies can carry and sustain a beautiful growing little baby, and then our bodies know how to deliver it. Many OB’s act like if they weren’t there, then there is no possible way that the woman could deliver a baby. I think this is a “god complex” that a large number ofOB’s have. They act as if we’re not smart enough, and that our bodies are incapable of giving birth if they’re not standing there, dressed head to toe in hospital scrubs, waiting to “catch” the baby. Doctors don’t deliver babies…mothers do. All the docs do is catch.