by Aleksandra Evanguelidi, LM, CPM
This past weekend, my staff and I worked one of the those baby expos, the high end kind where interior decorators solicited customers for the coolest baby nurseries and the next new baby drink cup was brought to market. We were there to educate parents about their options for natural birth and to share with them some of the classes and services The Sanctuary offers. I was fascinated at how much attention was given to the fabrics and color palates for the baby’s room, but when it came to the actual prenatal care and delivery of these new beings, most women were disinterested, uneducated, or completely disempowered by their birth experience. I was deeply saddened to hear story after story from women whom either felt that they were robbed of something so profound in their childbirth experience or to hear other women talk about just wanting it to be over, take it out of me, or how they just wanted to schedule their cesarean birth so that they didn’t have to experience the pain of labor. As a birth activist I feel compelled to speak -- give me a soapbox and I will roar!
My dear sisters, I understand your fear. I can empathize with you so deeply. The idea of going through hours and hours (possibly days) of rhythmic pain, being all hooked up to monitors and an IV, made to dress up in those horrible gowns, not being able to eat or drink, all while there is a spotlight on your nether region while you poop as you push your baby out as a man/woman in scrubs you have spent a total of an hour with your whole pregnancy yells at you to push harder and that you’re not doing it right-really, I wouldn’t want to do that either. In fact, being knocked out seems like a far better option to me.
But what if all the images plastered in movies and television shows about birth were a lie? What if we have been bamboozled to think that birth is dangerous and that we need drugs to get through it? What I can tell you now is that drama sells. You never hear in the news, “all planes landed safely today.” However, it seems in episode after episode, there is a great sigh of relief as in the climax moment, the baby/mother’s life is spared and thank god for technology and cesarean births! Phew! And, truly, thank god for that option. As a licensed midwife and primary care provider, I am utterly grateful for the use of the medical technology when it is needed. But for the other 95% of births, it isn’t. And for a country that is spending twice per capita on every pregnant woman as compared to any other industrialized nation, with statistics as poor as ours for maternal and infant mortality, we are doing something terribly wrong here.
So, here I am on my soapbox and I feel desperate to share something with you because I am not sure where else you are going to get this information. I hope to speak to that part of you that seeks to know and understand the deeper meanings in life.
Being pregnant is both extraordinary and exhausting. Your body may feel invaded and disfigured, your hormones take a ride on a seesaw of colossal proportion, and you feel so utterly unlike who you knew yourself to be that you feel like a stranger to even yourself. Simultaneously, you are embarking on a journey of female evolution-you are here, expressing what it is to be fully a woman, like a caterpillar reaching its liquefaction stage in the chrysalis before becoming a butterfly. And although I haven’t had the fortune to discuss this with any butterflies, I bet it hurts like hell to bust through the cocoon and spread those wings for the first time. Women -- this experience of birth is not so unlike the butterfly's’ journey. It is the quintessential experience into womanhood. To conceive, to grow another human being inside your body, is nothing short of miraculous. And the birth, the birth is the piece de resistance. It is the hour (or hours) of your life in which you have the greatest opportunity to experience what it is to be alive. It is for you, the marathon for which all of life has prepared you for and for which will prepare you for the job of being a mother. The hormones that flood over you, your baby, and anyone in the room awake enough to experience the majesty of those moments are precious beyond words. They are designed to bond you to each other for life, and have the capacity to heal us on profound levels. Certainly, this “love cocktail” as Michel O’dent likes to say, is far more accessible inside an environment that supports your birth plan and that allows you the freedom to birth your baby as you choose with little or no intervention, such as a birth center or in a home birth with midwives. This is not the time to disconnect yourself from the privilege of your full expression into womanhood. Indulge yourself in the opportunity to experience all that you can from your perinatal journey. You will be left with such an extraordinary sense of yourself, no other life experience can even compare.
photo: alexandra defurio