As I mentioned, Nae and I went to see a special benefit screening of "The Business of Being Born."  While I had expected to learn a thing or two, it was absolutely earth-shattering.  While they presented facts about our nation’s staggering Cesarean rate, they showed several normal births – home births.  Why is it that as soon as you put the words "home" and "birth" together, people freak out?  What do you think women have been doing up until the last hundred years or so?

          What angers me the most is that our country ranks 36th in infant mortality in the developed world.  We also rank behind 30 developed countries for maternal mortality.  If our maternity care truly focused on what was best for mother and baby, how could those numbers reflect that centered care?  Japanese and European mothers are 70% attended by midwives and they’re maternal and fetal death rates are lower than ours.  Fewer than 8% of American mothers have midwives, and 1% have a home birth.  Clearly, there is a problem with our model of maternity care.

          Why has birth become a medical event, rather than a day of celebrated birth?  While there are deliveries that are truly medical emergencies, if they occurred in 1 in 3 women, do you really think the planet would be as populated as it is?  Do you think 1 in 3 mothers in undeveloped countries dies during childbirth?  If birth had to take place in a sterile, brightly-lit environment to be safe, how is that we have made it this far?

          I am not a home birth advocate.  I am not anti-hospital birth.  I am pro-birth.  I am a proponent of informed consent.  Sending a mother home with 12+ pages to fill out that basically says, "You can let me die but do anything and everything to save my baby," is not okay, nor does it really constitute informed consent.  Scare tactics are not okay.  Telling someone that a C-section is just as safe and more convenient than a vaginal birth is an outright lie.  Our country has no law that says that hospitals have to report their rates of maternal and fetal death.  In England, if a women dies within a year of childbirth, until another cause can be found, it is assumed to be as a result of childbirth.  It is required by law that hospitals report all these deaths, as well as fetal deaths.  How accurate do your think their statistics are compared to ours – ours which, again, are not mandatory?  What so many women don’t realize is that a c-section is a major abdominal surgery.  The recovery process that follows a vaginal delivery is a natural process – your body will give you cues to help you heal properly.  In a C-section, it is a medical, surgical recovery.  There are sutures or staples to keep an incision closed.  What part of that sounds better than an opening your body already has that was designed to deliver a baby?

         

        The World Health Organization recommends a C-section rate of 10 to 15%.  The average in the U.S. is 29.1%, with Virginia’s average being slightly higher than the national average at 30.3%.  Why does birth have to be about convenience and schedules?  What happened to letting your body and your baby tell the world when they are ready?  Half of all mothers in the U.S. experience some degree of post-partum depression.  For that one thing, we rank number 1 – we have the highest percentage in the world.  We spend more on maternity care than any other country in the world, and yet overall, we rank among the worst.  What’s wrong with that picture? 

 

          I am not a person who believes that C-section is evil or should never be done.  Even "The Business of Being Born" depicts a very serious situation in which a baby probably would not have made it without a cesarean.  What struck me the most was that that baby’s birth started as a home birth.  Long before it got to a dangerous point, the midwife transported the mother to the hospital.  There was no, "You failed!"  There was only joy at the birth of a child.  Isn’t that what birth should be about?  Shouldn’t we as people, as mothers and fathers, be celebrating the hard but incredible work that is bringing a baby into the world?  Shouldn’t we as people, as mothers and fathers, want to experience that cocktail of love that comes flooding into our bodies immediately after the birth of a child?  Shouldn’t we as people, as mothers and fathers, want to make people feel confident and prepared for their child’s birth, rather than fearful and full of dread?  Why is that we can have parties to celebrate every year our child is alive, but not have an all out shindig the day they first come into the world?

          As consumers, it is our job to know about the products we are buying.  That includes our medical care.  Why spend $15,000 to $20,000, or $30,000+ in cases of C-section, to deliver a baby when you could spend $3,500 to $10,000?  Why wouldn’t insurance companies jump at that?  Why aren’t we screaming for maternity care, superior care, to be covered by our insurance companies?  Why aren’t insurance companies screaming for more midwives to care for their female patients?

          As a mother, I will always remember my midwives.  I can’t explain the wave of emotion that sweeps over me each and every time I see one of those three women that cared for me during my two pregnancies.  When I got to talk to Blair last night, I almost cried.  I just couldn’t thank her enough for making the memories about the birth of my sons something I will always cherish, never fear, and always be willing to share.  When I realized that three years ago, Blair was catching my baby, and here we were, talking and in the same room, I just got chills.  How many women know anything about the people that deliver their babies?  How many women could have lunch with the person that delivered their child?  How many women can say the person that delivered their baby knows their first name, and knows the name(s) of their child(ren)?  With a midwife, you get all that.  With all that comes an indescribable peace; you are enveloped by a sense of security and well-being that allows your body to truly let go and do what it needs to do both for yourself and your baby.  What could be better than that?  Why have we taken that away from so many mothers?

*Sources: Birth Matters, Virginia, Henci Goer’s The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, Carolyn Keefe, CDC 2005 Report, and Ina May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Birth.

**I could write about this all day, but am cutting myself off before I get out of control.  I am not angry at women, nor do I blame any woman for their choices in childbirth, as long as they are educated decisions that she is comfortable with.  I am angry that our country is not mother-friendly and that this doesn’t seem to bother too many people.  This goes beyond just mothers.  This affects us all and no one should sit quietly while mothers are robbed of their childbirth experience(s).

   

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