Monday, October 8, 2007

Midwives do it, too

A recent post by Radical Midwife caused me to re-discuss this:

I have been having difficulty with that show House Of Babies. ( a TV show which chronicles a birth center which specializes in unmedicated births) First I praised it all over my blog, wow wow natural water birth on TV, yay yay. But then I was getting really uncomfortable with how EXTREMELY hands on the staff was. Each birth was EXACTLY the same. Episode after episode: Mom laying backwards in the jacuzzi, sitting on her tailbone, them telling her pushpushpushpushpush stop stop stop stop, pulling on her baby's head, plopping him on onto her chest, talking talking blabbing blabbing all the while she is laboring, joking, chit chatting, teasing her....and then in 3rd stage, there was no reverence, there was cell phone calls and jokes and just LOADS of intervention.This is not respecting the birth process. Not even close! I wonder how many of her clients have excessive perineal damage and excessive bleeding. They don't show that part.

Why do so many midwives act like so many doctors? When will the real need for hands off birth guardians be understood and the void filled all over the country?

Its not about waterbirth versus landbirth, or even unassisted versus attended to me right now. Its just about the huge ball of assumptions that birthing women are IN DANGER, that things WILL GO WRONG, and that just BIRTHING is too risky. The whole thing. Too risky. (insert favorite horror story, aggressive/defensive language, historical examples to fill and fill and fill the mother's mind and personal space and home until she is this enormous ball of fear and concern and passivity and need)

It was hard enough for me to feel mighty and healthy and strong and capable by the end of my pregnancies, to be quite honest. I felt sore and tired and slow and cumbersome and even a bit incapable and vulnerable. I will even shatter the glory-of-pregnancy picture and say that I found it degrading to be all most constantly peeing or trying in vein to wipe myself of get myself dressed. I did not like my pubis symphasis pain and how it hobbled me. I didnt like that I wasnt able to run to the store or clean my house or even sit in regular chairs without my feet sweling up and turning purple. I didnt feel powerful, I felt awful, and I wasn't sleeping, either. Also, it is pretty clear that I wasnt getting any help with my daily activities until 7pm when my husband got home to the filthy home and weepy wife and scraggly kids.

For me, it took serious focused meditation and shutting myself into my bedroom with all my natural and good and loving holistic pregnancy and midwifery books all around me to feel even slightly like a powerful Earth goddess or a giver of golden power. "Suggestible" would be an understatement. If I had a care provider who brought their own mistrust of me and my body and birth to the situation, it didn't take much for me to absorb all those vibes. Yuck.

I think Ina May needs to put out an uplifting audio CD-- or maybe I will!


Andrea said...

We don't have cable so I've only caught a few episodes, not enough to see the thematic patterns develop on that show (though I did notice all women labor in the position that that head midwife once described as best for the women in her own family, which is just odd... she recognizes that it's best for her family, not everybody, but somehow she still insinuates it on all her clients). I totally agree with you, and I wouldn't want to birth in that environment. But, at least it's a start? In the genre of all C-sections all the time birth television? Because really, a smooth, dimly lit homebirth would just not make for good television, and even if it did, it would be a huge leap for women who buy into all the wonderful machinery and doctors saving babies and mamas from themselves to look at a successful homebirth and not think it's just something for flaky hippies.

Also, one more thought -- I saw a woman on the show who had hit a point in labor (flat on her back, granted) where she was moaning and mewing in a weak, whiny voice about how she just couldn't do it. The midwife grabbed her and said, sternly, "Hey! Look at me! No more of this! Get your act together and do this!" Or something like that. Okay, not what I would have wanted from my midwife. But later, they interviewed the woman and she said it was just what she needed to hear at that moment, and she knew she could count on the midwife to be that way. This made me think. I thought a lot in pregnancy how I wanted a midwife like my mom, and indeed the midwife I chose was very gentle and sweet and mostly hands-off like my mom. Maybe there are women who are more comfortable with a bossy midwife because of how their mothers are? And women should birth in a way that makes THEM comfortable, right? Just a thought.

Housefairy said...

I love thinking about the mother as midwife...but there would be some huge limitations for people whose mother is the last person they'd want guiding them in times of crisis, perhaps?

Its true--no doubt-- that House of Babies is the ONLY show of its kind on all of television and it is really really cool and important for regular folks who are channel-surfing to see--whoa!--hello!--a woman birthing without any IV's, and blue gowns, any bed in sight, a moanin and a groanin and naked and pushing out substantial sized infants with no scissors or spotlights in sight, breastfeeding right in the water...

I guess I am jaded from blog-world if I got to the point of critiquing the midwife who runs that birth center. I'd go to hjer in a heartbeat if if was her or the hospital, and I am guessing that she takes insurance, too.


But you got what I was saying. It wasnt unhindered birth, but it was unmedicated and thats cool for TV, certainly.

When I was completely trippin out on pitocin and nubain and stadol during my miserable birth experience with my 2nd baby, all I really needed to avoid a cesarean was for someone to grab my face, sit me up tall, and scream at me JOY! JOY! GET IT TOGETHER! NOW!

Instead I slithered down, down, down into the deepest hole of fear and misery and complete and utter defeat, and when they suggested "probably a section" I felt not one drop of adrenaline or motivation or anything, so deep was my defeat and exhaustion. I really had no idea I was even in labor anymore, and didnt care much if I lived or died, although I didnt think any tangible thoughts like that. I needed a big strong woman or man or someone to splash me and shake me and wake me and it didnt happen.

CreepyUCMama said...

That show really really bothers me, granted I prefer it over baby story etc any day but it just makes me mad. The thought of someone pokin' around in that poor mama and talking like she's not there at the end, just so violating I can't take it.

Kelley said...

It sounds like an interesting show. I'd love to see it, but that's not going to happen without cable around here. I'll just have to go from your descriptions.

You know, a year ago I had no idea there was such a thing as UC. It wasn't until I called Rixa on the phone and was chatting with her towards the end of her pregnancy that she mentioned she was planning a UC. At first I was horrified. Me, who had a homebirth with my very first baby, have wanted one every since, and was devastated when my homebirth with my last baby was snatched away from me at the last second because we lost our insurance! I was completely horrified that she would do such a thing. But then I started to read and became immersed in blogworld, and began to realize that UC is a viable option. Now I really, really want one. My husband is totally not on board, but I really don't want to trust my next, and probably last, birth to a midwife that I haven't seen in action. I never before would have seen anything wrong with this show, but now I abhore the idea of anybody bossing me around and messing with me during labor. The last one went so well that I truly have no fear about the next, and am filled with confidence that my body can absolutely do it. I just hope that my husband will bend because otherwise I may never get the chance to see what my body can do when left entirely to its own devices.

Anonymous said...

Where I practice we have to hand over or transfer care for certain situations that the local health authority deems "beyond our scope" and I can't get into whys and hows but it ultimately means that the ob and nurses have the care transfered to them and I am "allowed" to do a "courtesy catch" (I sound bitter I think) but the way it happens is that the ob shows up and between the staff and him/her there is all this other energy sucking and not in the moment conversation that goes on and it just pisses me off...I am all for having a laugh and a joke but not when new life is coming earthside...if the mom wants to joke great but most are in awe and so am I and I can barely stand the unneeded and extreme waste of energy that goes on. I was lucky where I used to work in England...although it was in a hospital I never had another person in the room with me and the couple unless it was needed...another midwife could be called in at a moments notice if needed but mostly it was just me and the couple and how that rocked!!!sigh, I miss those days. I actually physically shake from the extra energy in the room like I am trying to diffuse it away from the mom and babe. sorry for the rant.. Kelly