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This week we are thrilled to welcome Laura Fields to the Mother’s Advocate blog to discuss the importance of knowing your options and taking the right childbirth class to ensure a safe and healthy birth.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada recently published a study, which found that women don’t know their options when it comes to childbirth. Many don’t even know they have options. This may be surprising to the general population, but ask any childbirth educator or doula, and they’ll tell you it’s no shock to them.
Another study found that only 11% of women attend a childbirth class while pregnant, and many of those take only the class offered by the hospital. Those classes tend to focus on how women should behave as patients, and less on the risks and benefits of various procedures they may encounter during labor.
It does seem that more women are hiring doulas, and this is great news! However, a doula is not a substitute for a good childbirth class. To have the best and safest birth possible, take a class and hire a doula.
If you think you are prepared for childbirth and don’t need to attend a class, ask yourself if you know these things:
- The stages of labor, how to recognize them and comfort measures for each stage
- How to stay comfortable during labor without drugs
- How to speed-up a slow labor
- How to turn a baby into the best position for birth
- When the best time is to leave for the hospital, if you’re planning a hospital birth
- What to do if you’re unable to make it to your birth place because labor progresses quicker than expected
- How to evaluate whether your birth attendant practices evidence-based medicine
- What questions to ask about any procedure you’re offered to make sure it’s the right choice for you
- How to make the most of a cesarean birth, should you need one
- How to determine if you truly do need a cesarean birth, if it’s offered
- How best to stay low-risk to increase the chances of a safe and uneventful pregnancy and birth
You should also ask yourself if you are fully informed about the risks and benefits of each of these procedures:
- Antibiotics for Group B Strep colonization
- Vaginal exams, both during pregnancy and labor
- Inducing labor
- Stress or non-stress tests
- Augmentation of labor
- Intravenous fluids during labor
- The three types of fetal monitoring, and continuous versus intermittent
- Restricted food or drink during labor
- Lying on your back during labor
- Artificial rupture of membranes
- Epidurals & narcotics for pain management
- Local anesthetic during pushing
- Vacuum or forceps delivery
- Time limits on your pushing stage
- Immediate cord clamping and cutting
- Intramuscular Pitocin following the birth
- Separation from your baby following birth
- Hepatitis B vaccination, vitamin K, erythromycin, PKU testing, and circumcision of the newborn
You should also ask yourself if you understand whether each of these possible occurrences during labor are complications or not, and how they can best be dealt with and/or avoided:
- Being past-due
- Premature rupture of membranes
- Occiput posterior baby
- Breech or transverse baby
- Fast or slow labor
- Reverse dilation
- Arrested labor
- Failure to progress
- Very painful labor
- Cephalopelvic disproportion
- Fetal distress
- Birthing multiples
- Periurethral tears
- Shoulder dystocia
- Failed induction
- Fetal heart decelerations
These are all things that you absolutely should learn about well before your labor begins. What you don’t know can hurt you. Hire a doula, and take a good childbirth class. Don’t become a statistic.
Click here <http://www.babystepsonline.net/classes.htm> for information about Baby Steps childbirth classes.
To imply that the best birth outcomes are a result of positive thinking—or lack of fear—may be true on some levels, but it’s also a gross oversimplification. This week, Mother’s Advocate guest Piper Lovemore discusses the important role of fear in birth.
While it would be somewhat gratifying to place the blame for our current fearful birth culture on reality television, it would also be a misnomer. Certainly popular media images of birth feed into our nation’s tokophobia (fear of childbirth or pregnancy), but they are not entirely to blame. Nor is blame entirely called for.
Fear has a physiological foundation in the body. On the most basic hormonal level, there are only two root emotions: love and fear. Love is associated with the hormone Oxytocin, known for its starring role in orgasm and uterine contractions. Fear releases the hormone Adrenaline, enhancing our speed and agility. These two hormones, followed closely by endorphins, are the most important players in physiological birth process, and their entitlement to that distinction predates even The Learning Channel and Discovery Health.
Yes, physiological fear can be traced back to a time before television, or hospitals, or even doctors for that matter. It stands to reason that a hormonal interplay so ancient is not for naught.
For our foremothers it was especially important. In times of danger, the natural hormonal response to fear impacts the body’s ability to suspend the birth process temporarily. Women of ancient civilizations faced birth in environments less stable than our own and the possibility of flight during labor necessitated a means for shutting things down in order to pick up and go.
What is concerning is that this very mechanism which served – and in some areas undoubtedly continues to serve – women has lead our culture toward ever-increasing amount of intervention, causing greater risk despite a more controlled environment.
What we may be overlooking is that the body’s built-in safety mechanisms are still functioning as effectively as ever. It’s our appreciation for these internal signals that has diminished. Women aren’t birthing less efficiently, we are losing the ability to understand the body’s signals..
Sure, there may be less perceived threat in a hospital environment. And many women who choose to birth at home do so because they feel safest there. But because labor loves surrender, because birth functions most smoothly when a woman is able to become powerfully open, any challenge to her vulnerability can trigger adrenaline release.
Sometimes its the orderly coming in to empty the trash, or an unfamiliar face in the birthing team. Often its far more subtle than that.
When we acknowledge the role that fear plays in birth without judgment or shame – or the need to abolish it – we create a space in which we can recognize the gifts that it brings. Fear has the ability to direct our attention toward a particular issue, it can be our teacher; and in a miraculous synchronicity, just as these issues emerge labor may slow to allow us to address them.
Birth has its own magic. The intoxicating hormonal cocktail it creates in the body produces a profound emotional fluidity, which in turn facilitates a unique opportunity for clearing and healing. Fear may psychologically draw out issues needing attention and physiologically create an opportunity for us to address them.
From this perspective a birthing woman who chooses to have faith in—and commitment to—her process may actually be supported in growing through some of her emotional hang ups, rather than being synthetically sped through them. In this way we create a more welcoming emotional environment for her new baby, often grounded in deeper emotional connection with her partner. It can be a truly remarkable transformation.
But you probably won’t see it on television. *
*Or maybe you can… Orgasmic Birth is currently airing on television in the Czech Republic! Could your country be next? Visit http://www.orgasmicbirth.com <http://www.orgasmicbirth.com> for listings and a plethora of inspiration. Piper Lovemore is a mother, an activist, an educator, a doula, and an aspiring midwife. Her first birth was featured in the award winning documentary film Orgasmic Birth. Her next two births took place at home, ‘unassisted’.
She lives in Hawaii with her partner in life, love and Lamaze, Chaz, and their three children, Che’, Plum and Rocket.
This week we are thrilled to feature an excerpt from What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child: A More Natural Approach to Parenting by Susan Markel, M.D with contributions from Linda F. Palmer. Shared sleep has been a popular topic of conversation in the birth and parenting community – learn the benefits of this practice and enter to win one of two copies of the book here:
Probably nowhere do modern Western cultural expectations and the reality of babies’ needs conflict more than in the area of sleeping behavior. Babies and their parents sleep together in approximately 90% of the world’s population. Co-sleeping is simply the “norm” and has for thousands of years. In the U.S., more and more parents are ignoring warnings of “spoiling” their infants and other dire condemnations of the family bed. Instead they are trusting their instincts and are keeping their baby warm and safe at night exactly where nature intended – right next to them. In a poll conducted by Parenting magazine, 42% of parents responded that they share sleep with their infants at least part of the time.
We cannot “spoil” our babies by always responding to their needs. Babies have an inborn need to be touched and held. They enjoy having physical closeness day and night, and this kind of connection is essential for avoiding stress. The previous chapter discussed how being carried in a carrier or sling during the day Meets a baby’s needs for warmth, comfort, and security. This dependence does not diminish when the sun goes down.
Many well-meaning family members, friends, and physicians will suggest practices that foster separation between you and your baby in what are largely misguided attempts to force your child to become independent. Practices such as sleep training, scheduled feeding and “crying it out” only add to your child’s distress. Babies whose cries are soothed quickly, for example, tend to cry less, not more.
Bed Sharing Benefits
Mothers sleep with their children to monitor them and keep them safe, to facilitate breast-feeding, and simply to be near them.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh interviewed caregivers who believe that benefits of bed sharing outweigh concerns and warnings, including those of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Parents identified many benefits of bed sharing:
- Allows both parent and child to sleep better.
- Provides convenience of tending to baby’s needs without getting up.
- Gives comfort to parents who enjoy following the tradition.
- Promotes a strong sense of bonding between parents and their children.
Babies who sleep with their parents remain connected to them throughout the night. When they awaken, they can feel the presence of their parent or hear their parent breathing in the dark. Reassured, they go back to sleep.
Co-Sleeping is the infant and caregiver sleeping within sensory range of each other (within the same room). Bed sharing means that the infant sleeps in the adult bed with at least one parent. A 2005 policy statement by the AAP on sleep environment and the risk of SIDS condemned all bed sharing as unsafe. However, bed sharing is common, and those parents who regularly do so find it to be natural and enjoyable. It is never the bed sharing itself that is unsafe by the way in which it occurs – certain factors are considered to impair safety, such as when a parent’s reaction time is somehow weakened, as it would be by drugs or alcohol. A baby co-sleeping with a smoking parent is also a factor associated with more deaths. Soft mattresses, sofa-sleeping, and fluffy bedding must be avoided.
Despite our society’s reverence for independence and the belief that children will not become independent unless we force them, babies whose early dependency needs are met are more likely to become trusting, emotionally secure, and independent when they are ready.
Human infants need constant attention and contact with other human beings because they are unable to look after themselves. For perhaps millions of years, infants as a matter of course slept next to at least one caregiver, usually the mother, in order to survive. Unlike other mammals, they cannot keep themselves warm, move about, or feed themselves until a relatively long time after birth.
Co-sleeping encourages breast-feeding by making nighttime breast-feeding more convenient, and the combination helps babies fall asleep more easily, especially during their first few months when they wake up in the middle of the night.
The AAP counsels that breast-feeding is an important factor in SIDS prevention and acknowledges that bed sharing facilitates breast-feeding and mother-baby bonding.
The AAP admonition that a breast-feeding infant never sleep in the mothers’ bed appears to be an ironic contradiction that in practice is likely to have an adverse effect on breast-feeding and serve to increase the rate of SIDS. When a baby is nursing frequently during the night, it is much easier for mothers to nurse for a while and then fall back to sleep with their babies. Mothers who have to get out of bed to nurse can be expected to suffer significantly more fatigue getting fully awake to fetch the baby and then putting the baby back to bed after each feed. Breast-feeding in these cases is more likely to be diminished or given up altogether.
Enter to Win A Copy of What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child: A More Natural Approach to Parenting
We realize that you are busy, which is why we have created the Mother’s Advocate e-newsletter. Becoming a newsletter subscriber is easy and is a great way to recieve bi-weekly birth information & articles from Mother’s Advocate.
Become a subscriber before September 5th and you will be entered to win a copy of Susan Markel, MD’s book What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child. In her book Dr. Markel discusses a natural approach to parenting in an age of modern medicine. To subscribe, simply log on to www.mothersadvocate.org and click ‘Sign up for our newsletter!’.
Susan Markel, M.D., is an American Board Certified Pediatrician with extensive experience in newborn care and lactation, as well as all aspects of general pediatric care. As a consultant to parents of children of all ages, from newborn through adolescence, her ability to communicate and empathize has helped many families in times of emotional transition. She has appeared on many live television broadcasts, and she has been invited to speak at parenting conferences world-wide.
Posted in Birth, Birth Interventions, childbirth, childbirth education, doula, home birth, labor and delivery, Labor Support, Midwife, natural childbirth, Uncategorized, tagged birth, childbirth education, childbirth intervetnions, doula, labor, midwife, midwifery, natural birth, natural childbirth, painless childbirth on May 16, 2011 | 1 Comment »
As any pregnant women with a burgeoning belly can attest, there are a preponderance of frightening birth stories out there, and little apparent reluctance in sharing them. Birth is perhaps the one unequivocal commonality we all share; everyone on earth today was born. It is a completely normal physiological process with generations of proof of efficacy and yet many, if not most couples in our culture today approach their births with some degree of fear. And yet, the mere word- BIRTH- seems to have the power to conjure fear in western women. Men, too.
So where does it come from? In previous generations, women had a healthy reverence for the intensity of birth. Compared to women today, they were much more familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of labor, but had a very limited understanding of why some women survived child labor and others did not. First time mothers also struggled to grasp how something that looked so intense, would feel.
With technological advances, antibacterial soap and more prevalent hand washing, the possibility of death has become as remote as our direct experiences with childbirth. Very few people actually experience a birth other than their own, but we are inundated with conflicting and scary representations of birth. Thus, we fear what we think we know. Our collective understanding has shifted from a very real concern for life and safety to a second-hand anxiety.
A woman has merely to suspect pregnancy, and suddenly find herself overwhelmed with information — from ‘reality’ birth on numerous television programs and its more humorous Hollywood caricature, to an endless stream of products and contraptions marketed to parturient women claiming to ease, soothe, simplify, (read: correct) her birthing process. Taken separately, each of these influences has the potential to undermine a woman’s confidence in her inherent capabilities; the cumulative effect can corrode it entirely. It is in the absence of this confidence that fear absolutely thrives!
But, how do we heal this pervasive cultural influence?
The simplest answer is that the antidote to fear is faith. It matters not wherein the faith is placed; be it a Most High entity, or basic physiological science, it simply boils down to how deeply a woman believes in her ability to give birth to her child. Whether she borrows her faith from a greater spiritual practice and views her experience as merely an extension of this greater understanding, or whether she simply studies the facts of the body’s process in labor and the statistical likelihood of safe delivery and is duly assuaged by belief in her own body’s capabilities, a woman coming to the experience with a trust fortified in fundamental understanding is much more likely to have a successful birth. She’ll enjoy her birth more.
Happy birthing is completely subjective, but it’s probably safe to say that not spending the entire experience in terror is more pleasurable — and more conducive to surrender, which is critical. Armed with a fundamental belief that birth can be achieved or that whatever takes place will lend to a higher purpose, a woman can more fully give herself to the process. This is the shift of faith. The entire spectrum of variables — prenatal care model, childbirth education methodology, labor support, etc — cannot overcome the significance of the role that sheer faith plays in the labor experience.
So perhaps the most important preparation for birthing is bolstering faith; cultivating a sense of independent, sustainable trust. Of course, we must also embrace fear as part of the gift, in that it teaches us how to better connect to and prepare for the process and we can also participate in a paradigm supportive of birth (choosing the best support team possible) – but these things cannot supplant a woman’s core beliefs. Only she has the power to choose faith.
In time, each woman empowered by her a pleasurable birth experience contributes to a shift in the collective consciousness — gradually reframing fear. Every woman within herself, and all women within their communities. Men, too.
Piper Sunshine Lovemore is a Certified Doula, Organic Birth participant and consultant, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, Placenta Encapsulation provider and all-around natural childbirth advocate. Her core belief is that an informed experience is empowering, no matter the particular outcome. To that end, her goal is to educate and support families through their birth experience primarily through reconnecting them with their own embodied wisdom. Piper believes deeply in the importance of community and the richness of a diverse support network. She strives to nurture her community by organizing and attending activities with her family in her free time. She and her partner, Chaz, live in Hawaii with their three children: Che’ Pax, Plum and Rocket, and they look forward to expanding their family further. Take a moment to be inspired by Orgasmic Birth. Watch the trailer… www.orgasmicbirth.com.
Posted in Birth, childbirth, doula, home birth, labor and delivery, Labor Support, Midwife, Uncategorized, tagged birth, childbirth, doula, easy birth, midwife, natural birth, natural chilbirth, simple birth on May 2, 2011 | 6 Comments »
Michel Odent, MD, is known as the French obstetrician who introduced the concept of birthing pools and home-like birthing rooms to hospitals. He has published 21 books over his career, including The Scientification of Love, The Farmer and the Obstetrician, and The Cesarean. This week, Dr. Odent shares his personal insight about creating an ideal birth environment.
The best advice for an easy birth is for the parents to have nobody around except for an experienced mother figure, a midwife and a doula. We have to re-discover what is simple. Privacy matters during labor.
During the twentieth century, many schools of childbirth were based on theories that today are unacceptable. We make things so complicated. I learned this with my very fist experience of childbirth as a medical student in 1953. At that time, a midwife had nothing to “do”. She was spending her life knitting – knitting while waiting for the baby, knitting while there was no woman in labor – she had nothing else to “do”, and in that respect I realized the value of this tradition and attitude.
At Cambridge University, some scientist explored the physiological responses to repetitive tasks. As an example of a repetitive task, they studied knitting. When you are doing a repetitive task like knitting you reduce your level of adrenaline and that’s the key for an easy birth – when the level of adrenaline of the midwife is low, it’s contagious. This helps the woman in labor to be in a state of relaxation and the birth is easier.
And today, I’m still learning what is simple. I have been attending homebirths accompanied by a doula. Yes, I am a doctor, but this doula is the mother of four children. I generally stay in the kitchen keeping the man busy, the baby’s father. Finding topics of conversation, different things to do – leaving the two women together in another part of the house.
The doula does most of the work. She has an incredible capacity to remain silent – to keep her mouth closed – and that’s how I’m re-learning again what is simple. I have come to understand – again and again – that the best possible environment for an easy birth is when there is nobody around the parents but an experienced midwife, doula, and experienced mother figure who can remain silent.
How did you ensure birth went according to your plan?
Posted in Birth, childbirth, childbirth education, home birth, labor and delivery, natural childbirth, Uncategorized, tagged Abby Epstein, birth, birth experience, birth interventions, childbirth, home birth, labor, natural childbirth, painful birth experience, Ricki Lake, traumatic birth experience on April 11, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
This week, we are thrilled to feature the voices of two leading birth advocates, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. The below interview features Ricki and Abby as they speak to overcoming traumatic past birth experiences.
It is so important that women are able to have safe, empowering births in whatever manner they feel best suits their needs and the needs of their babies. Having a traumatic or less than ideal birth experience can affect a new mother in a variety of ways, such as impeding her ability to bond and breastfeed, contributing to post-partum depression or lowering her confidence.
So many women have come to us to share their birth stories. Many have shared some rather distressing first births where they were given a cascade of interventions that ended in unnecessary Cesareans. It’s getting more and more common for women to go into a hospital setting, be given some sort of interventions, such as Pitocin or Cervadil, to speed up the process of labor. The problem is that if a woman is given one intervention, the chances of them needing another intervention for some reason or another will vastly increase.
We hope to empower women who have had traumatic or less than ideal previous birth experiences to overcome them by digging down deep and doing the research necessary to prepare for a more positive, gratifying and gentle subsequent birth.
Ricki: Although I wouldn’t classify my first birth as traumatic, because a lot of things went right, I was able to give birth vaginally and I had a lot of skin-to-skin contact with my baby right away. I had a beautiful healthy baby when all was said and done, but there were definite reasons why I chose to do my second birth completely differently. In retrospect, I had a lot of interventions that I really hadn’t needed the first time around, like Pitocin and regular cervical checks. I got to thinking about whether or not these types of routine interventions were really necessary. When I became pregnant with my second baby, I had done a ton of research and decided to have a water birth at home with a midwife. I trusted my body. My second birth was so gentle. Completely different from the first.
Abby: Although my first birth (an emergency C-section) was traumatic, I never felt that my baby and I were in any danger or that my birth team couldn’t handle the situation. I surrendered to the birth my baby needed, and I never felt disappointed. When I became pregnant again, I chose to stick with the same practitioner whom I trusted and I was able to have a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). I can’t say that my VBAC itself was a transformative or healing experience for me – it was a difficult birth for me and my son. But immediately after the birth — I was empowered to realize that I was made of stronger and tougher stuff than I knew. And I have really felt the benefits from the VBAC over the first year of my son’s life as we have been able to bond and breastfeed in a more gratifying way that I was able to do after my first birth.
We truly hope that our stories encourage mothers to listen to their hearts and trust their bodies, so that they can heal from traumatic past experiences and have the birth that is best for them and their babies. Our biggest suggestion for overcoming previously traumatic birth experiences and preparing for your next birth is to do the research and decide what kind of birth is best for you and your baby. Be at peace with your decision and surrender to the birth, even if things don’t go as planned. Trust your body and your baby.
And… please stay tuned for our soon-to-be released “More Business of Being Born,” a four part DVD series that will feature midwife Ina May Gaskin, Vaginal Birth After Cesarean, and tons of amazing celebrity interviews, including Gisele Bundchen, actress Molly Ringwald, actress Alyson Hannigan and musician Alanis Morrisette! Please join us on MyBestBirth.com to stay up to date.
Have you had a traumatic birth experience that was difficult to overcome? How did you come to celebrate the miracle of birth?
2010 — our blog’s birth year — has been very rewarding and inspiring, and we owe it all to the dedicated birth advocates and audience in our midst. Since our debut in April, we’ve featured the likes of Suzanne Arms, Ricki Lake, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Ina May Gaskin, Robbie Davis-Floyd, and many, many more inspirational and awe-inspiring supporters of safe and healthy birth.
Here’s what we have in store for 2011 …
Upcoming Guest Bloggers
On Jan. 3, 2011 we’ll kick-off the New Year with a series on childbirth after sexual assault, featuring moving posts by Katie Wise and Mickey Sperlich. If you or someone you know is interested in being considered as a guest blogger, please write to email@example.com.
Introducing Mother’s Advocate Community Discussions
Beginning on Jan. 10, 2011, we will host a series of discussion questions — alternated bi-weekly with our guest blog posts. We look forward to hearing your voice — the wisdom of everyday practitioners, parents and the networks that support them — and building a dialogue together. We envision that the insights and stories submitted to discussions will inspire each of us in new ways and create an even stronger, more empowering online community. For more information, please visit our Community Discussions page.
Social Media “Mom”entum
More than 1,300 parents and birth advocates have joined our social media communities this year, and that number is growing daily! If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter (by simply sending us the word at firstname.lastname@example.org), and join us on Facebook and Twitter. We will continue to use social media and e-mail newsletters to inform you about news and resources for safe and healthy birth.
Best wishes for a blessed and joyful holiday season — we’ll see you on January 3rd!
Mother’s Advocate supports a woman’s right to give birth upright, instead of in a flat-lying position, as it’s much easier and more healthy for both mom and her baby. This week, Jill Arnold, founder of TheUnnecesarean.com, invites us to learn from Latin American activism for women’s birth rights — the fight for “El Parto Vertical,”or vertical birth.
In recent years, a variety of organizations, coalitions and advocacy groups in Latin American countries — spanning from Mexico to Argentina — have worked to confront the rampant overuse of unnecessary and unwanted obstetric interventions, while improving labor conditions and accessibility for women.
In Venezuela, women are faced with 80 percent cesarean rates in private clinics or 30 percent in public hospitals. Women who are permitted to give birth vaginally often experience the routine use of a forced lithotomy or supine position (laying on the back with knees bent, positioned above the hips, and spread apart through the use of stirrups). In reaction, the Organic Law on the Right of Women to Be Free from Violence, enacted in Venezuela in 2007, includes forced supine position as “obstetric violence,” alongside episiotomies and unnecessary cesarean sections.
The demand for vertical births is also growing in neighboring Ecuador and Peru. Peruvian-based activists in the Sociedad Peruana de Estimulacion Prenatal y Postnatal (SPEPP) argue that allowing women to labor in the position of their choice is a human rights issue. Their Facebook page, A FAVOR DEL PARTO HUMANIZADO!! – PARTO VERTICAL!!, currently boasts more than 2,200 members. According to obstetrician Pedro Luna of Ecuador, “Horizontal birth is an occidental practice brought by the conquistadors with zero medical logic.”
Indeed, supine position is not native to Latin America, and indigenous women are often reluctant and feel violated by the hospital birth process. A recent video by UN in Action explains, “For indigenous peoples, giving birth is a private and intimate family ritual. Midwives and family members are always there to give support and comfort. Modern medicine is not only unfamiliar, but also frightening.” Marta Mendoza Parissi, the former director of the Instituto Veracruzano de las Mujeres in Mexico, calls for an end to this kind of obstetric violence — stating that failure to respect the customs and traditions of indigenous women to give birth in a vertical or squatting position is in violation of the 2007 General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence (Spanish).
Hope for the Future
The Mexican Secretaría de Salud (Department of Health) created a department in 2002 to shift existing paradigms in health care with regards to traditional medicine, particularly among Mexico’s diverse mestizo and indigenous populations. The department’s director, Alejandro Almaguer González, was quoted in June 2010 touting the benefits of vertical birth, and praising a vertical midwifery practice in Coetzala, Puebla, which won a quality award in 2007 for its zero maternal mortality rate. Almaguer González claims that vertical birth in hospitals could help reduce maternal mortality, as 80 percent of maternal deaths occur in indigenous and rural populations, often as a result of resistance to medical care.
Whether established as an option to provide indigenous women with culturally-sensitive choices in a hospital, or because coerced positions for perceived obstetric benefit are considered to be an act of violence against women, “parto vertical” has become a rallying cry in recent years in two hemispheres – inspiring new ways of thinking about and advocating for upright birth.
Jill Arnold is the founder of TheUnnecesarean.com, a patient advocacy blog that focuses on the overuse of the cesarean section, informed consent and transparency in maternity care.
What position did you birth your baby in, and why? Did your care provider support your decision and pushing wishes?
Posted in childbirth, childbirth education, natural childbirth, Uncategorized, tagged becoming a mother, birth, birth advocacy, birth experience, BOLD, childbirth, childbirth preparation, delivery, Karen Brody, labor, pregnancy, women's health, Your Body Rocks on November 22, 2010 | 2 Comments »
Karen Brody, brilliant playwright, birth activist and mother of two, gives us a glimpse into her stirring play, birth movement and ‘My Body Rocks Project’ in this week’s blog. We’re excited to present her empowering voice and ventures that are undoubtedly making an impact.
MA: Your journey began with the play, ‘Birth,’ evolved to the BOLD movement, and has led to The My Body Rocks Project. Can you tell me a little bit about each, and how they evolved from one to the other?
KB: I became a mother in 1999, with my first son, Jacob. I had been a writer for the last 10 years, and when I was pregnant with him, I was going to take a break from it. My next project was going to be my son. I had a very profound birth experience with midwives in Little Rock, Ark. — it was a home birth, and it went very well. I was in tune to, and very much in power with my body, and had a lot of clarity about what I wanted. I didn’t know anything about the politics, what the birth culture was, or that women were going into the hospital with their eyes halfway or completely closed, until I sat on the playground with my son. Moms would tell me their birth stories, and I was horrified about how many (educated) women were having bad birth experiences.
I began to interview women about their birth experiences, and thought I’d write a book about it, or at least a magazine article. I was very close to writing a magazine article about it, when the editor told me that her senior editor has stopped the article because he said, “We’ve done childbirth,” which seemed completely inaccurate to me. So, I decided that I was going to write about it definitely, then I just started feeling it as a play. A book wasn’t going to have the impact I wanted, and I wanted to put women’s voices front and center — the experts and statistics were there, but what wasn’t were women. I wanted to put mothers’ voices center-stage.
I wrote the play, ‘Birth’ from the interviews, and it had a really positive response, but not only from the birth community — I realized it was a movement. The stories were really so poignant. Storytelling is such a powerful medium — the impact stays with the audience. I wanted people to go in with one frame of mind, and come out thinking more deeply about birth.
I put ‘Birth’ out in 2006 on Labor Day weekend, for whatever community wanted to produce it. Some 20-odd locations produced multiple shows over the 4-day weekend — it was all over the world, from India to Bozeman, Mont. to Seattle. My goal was to raise awareness and money for maternal care, and BOLD (Birth on Labor Day) has brought in more than $250,000. Everyday, it astounds me how many people are using the play to rally their local community to raise awareness, and to hear mothers’ voices. The power women have in a good birth experience is a moment in the life that they can take, and a make into a forever power center within.
This is where The My Body Rocks Project comes in. I want to help women feel their personal power — in their own lives, in their families, in their communities, and of course, in the world. I help women get to that place through movement, performance and storytelling, and yoga nidra, an ancient yogic sleep technique that’s really a guided meditation as you sleep. The My Body Rocks Project comes from a character in ‘Birth,’ Amanda, who knew she was in power and that her body rocked as she gave birth. She kept chanting, “My body rocks.” When you know your body rocks, your authentic voice shines. You know your options and keep your eyes wide open.
MA: You interviewed more than 100 women to collect stories for your play, ‘Birth.’ What did you learn from those women that surprised or motivated you?
KB: Well, I think I learned a lot. There was a lot more coercion of pregnant and birthing women than I had suspected, and it was very subtle. Many of these women interpreted something a professional said in a negative way — whether it was meant that way or not — and it heavily influenced the women in their birth experiences. I learned that words matter — what we say when a woman is giving birth can influence a woman so much. I also learned that it’s important to keep a birth space intimate and positive, and affirm that a woman can do it. The women who brought that into their birth rooms could achieve what they wanted to achieve. They set the intention, which made it possible.
I also found it so beautiful to hear women talk about how transformative a good birth experience was — until then, I don’t think I had really analyzed my own birth experience much. I knew it was great, but hadn’t thought about how transformational it was. For a woman to have the birth she wanted was transformational and very important.
MA: Why is it important to empower women to share their birth stories?
KB: Well, I think it’s critical that others share their birth stories for a couple of reasons. One is sisterhood. Certainly all mothers are different, but we are all mothers, and if we don’t connect on this level of being mothers, it’s very lonely — we need the sisterhood. Also, to have your birth story witnessed is so profound. I’m finding it so much in the BOLD Red Tents, and then in The My Body Rocks Project workshops. Women thank each other so much for listening to their stories. They need a place, especially because we have such a high percentage of women who experience birth trauma. We need to have a safe place for women to tell their birth stories, so they feel witnessed and honored.
MA: How does The My Body Rocks Project prepare women for birth, both physically and emotionally?
KB: Well, we’re not a childbirth education organization, although I do think it’s a form childbirth of education. We don’t do kegels, but certainly do a lot of movement to prepare for good births. We also help women prepare spiritually and emotionally by ‘walking through birth baggage.’ A character in ‘Birth,’ Jillian walked through her birth baggage, and got to a place where she was in power at the end of the play. That’s what I’m trying to get women to do before they have a baby for the first time, or if they had an experience that wasn’t what they wanted it to be the first time. We need to be empowered to know who (and what) we want at our birth, who (and what) we don’t want, and to know the truth of our body, voice and actions. That’s the mantra of the project — we experience it in the body, give it a voice through storytelling — whatever comes out, a word, a dance — then we commit to an action by the end of the session. It really is magic, because when a woman does the work, she has an opportunity to really be in her power, in a way that is so different than where she was at before.
MA: How have your two births inspired your activism?
KB: I think it was good to have more than one birth, because I said, “This is how I give birth,” then I had another birth and said, “That’s not how I do it at all!” My first birth had a very long pushing period — just over two hours — and my son did swallow meconium, so there was some concern. My other labor was very short, but much more painful. I had horrible back pain, but he came out in about eight minutes when I actually went to push. I experienced a really different pushing stage — I was in a different place.
These two experiences made me feel very connected to women — to mothers in particular — and made me realize how miraculous this moment is, how important it is to believe birth is normal, that women should always be respected when giving birth, and that we must, we must, we must know that our bodies rock. When these things happen, women can have a pleasurable birth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a world of women giving birth in pleasure?
Karen Brody is a writer, activist and mother of two boys. Her critically-acclaimed play about childbirth in America, ‘Birth,’ and BOLD Red Tent storytelling circles are seen by thousands of people worldwide every year as part of BOLD, an arts-based global movement raising awareness and money to improve maternity care for mothers. Brody is the founder and Artistic Director of BOLD. In 2010, Brody founded The My Body Rocks Project, with the mission to help mothers connect with their bodies, voices, and then take action. She teaches workshops around the world and has a private guided meditation practice, focused on helping mothers. Karen can be contacted at: Karen@mybodyrocksproject.com.
We would love to start a community dialogue that empowers women to embrace their bodies, so please share with us: How does your body rock?