The Business of Being Born

by Nola

I watched The Business of Being Born last night.  Every woman that is pregnant or may become pregnant should see this documentary.  Seriously.  Here is an excellent article on the film.

What this documentary is NOT about is suggesting all births should be done at home in a pool of water.  It is also NOT about saying there is no place for C-sections.  What it IS about is having truly informed consent about your own birthing experience.

CS and I went through lamaze classes and initially intended to have a vaginal delivery with all the drugs legally allowed.  Then through the course, I began to realize that those drugs, though sometimes necessary, are very serious and can themselves have permanent devastating effects to mother and/or baby.

So then CS and I (really the decision was mine) decided to go natural and try NOT to have the pain meds (epidural, etc.) unless I was truly NEEDING them.

Then we discovered Sun was breech and my placenta was “old” and there was NO WAY my pregnancy would go 40 weeks safely.  So a C-section was planned for 3 weeks before my official due date.  And two weeks before that, my water broke and my doctor performed a C-section six hours later.  Not emergency.  But still horrifying.

I WAS NOT prepared for having my arms strapped down like Jesus on the cross.  I WAS NOT prepared for the nurses counting scalpels and sponges to be sure all were accounted for once I was sewn up.  I WAS NOT prepared to have the Spinal without having my husband present to comfort me.  I WAS NOT prepared for the continous shaking I encoutered from the anesthesia.  I was never so scared in all my life.  And I WAS NOT prepared not to have Sun placed on my chest but instead whisked away for five hours before I would hold her for the first time.

But do not get me wrong, Sun’s birth went just as planned and as well as to be expected.  From being wheeled into and out of the OR, it lasted 20 minutes.

And a lot of what I was not prepared for was because I didn’t ask more questions.  I, honestly, chose to pretend Sun would arrive like a pizza–quick and effortless.  I refused to prepare myself for major surgery whilst wide awake.

The Business of Being Born highlights shocking statistics–in America, in 1900 more than 95% of births were at home.  By 1955, less than 1% were done at home and that statistic remains the same now.  In European countries, 1/3 (30%!) of births are currently done at home.  And yet the infant mortality rate is HIGHER in America than these same European countries.  What’s going on here?

It seems as though there are several things going on:

  1. OBs are trained surgeons.  “Normal” pregnancies don’t warrant an OB. So, to make themselves necessary, they “require” the birth to be in a hospital.
  2. Once in a hospital, that hospital wants mothers in and out of the birthing rooms ASAP.  So, if that birth doesn’t come soon enough, start the pitocin to induce labor.  Pitocin makes the contractions more painful.  Because it is more painful, now comes the epidural.  When enough time has passed and still no delivery, because you’ve started all these drugs, mother is now exhausted and baby is in potential trauma.  Time for an episiotomy or forceps.  Or, time for a C-section.
  3. Doctors and insurers realize that patients think C-sections under the above scenario was “necessary” and are less likely to sue.
  4. C-sections have become a status symbol among Hollywood (ala Brittany Spears and Posh Spice).

The point that got to me is that women have been conditioned to believe they cannot manage birthing their babies any longer without intervention.  And those that decide to do home births are considered granola-hippies.  Doctors and insurers (mainly of the male variety) facilitate this low opinion women have of their abilities because it is easier for THEM and means in the end more money earned by the doctor and less risk of lawsuits by the insurers.

Why isn’t this about the mother?  The baby?  Why aren’t mothers and feminists all over this issue?  If a mother fully understands the manipulation and reasoning of her doctor and insurer and decides she wants a C section, that is her choice.  But I will tell you, you tell your typical doctor you want a natural birth or a home birth, and he (or she) will try to talk you out of it.  And it disturbs me that this talking out of is NOT likely to be for your best interest.

Another statistic, doctors across the board think home births are “bad,” but almost NONE of them have attended one to know what the real experience is.

It’s clear I have a lot to say on this topic.  And this post is long enough so I am stopping here.  GO WATCH THIS FILM and give me your thoughts.

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