A couple of days ago, we made it out on quite a long walk through the field behind our house (although not too far into the woods), despite the snowstorm which was lusty, but accompanied by relatively warm temperatures. After being outside, we hung out in our converted barn/studio. It feels like I have been trying to finish the drywall and crack-filling forever, but we’re almost there. We have been so fortunate in having this space over the winter, because our house is tiny, and it really is challenging to be outside for a significant amount of time when the cold reaches those dangerous extremes. A large portion of our homeschool routine has taken place in the studio lately, and we generally always do our dancing and singing and music practice here. I am keen to get it painted so I can start teaching Pilates classes, and at this point it is looking like the earliest class might be June…which is ok.
This coming Wednesday, the 27th, I’ll be participating in what will be the first of what will hopefully become weekly “Trust Birth” meetings in the Fredericton area (last Wednesday of every month, at the Nirvana Yoga & Wellness Centre). I am looking forward to this meeting, but once again I am concerned about how to approach a “free and open and non-judgemental discussion of the multitude of options available to birthing women in New Brunswick.” Because like the great Carla Hartley, I am sick and tired of having to pretend for the sake of political correctness and “sensitivity” that all birth choices and options are equal. And I am really sick and tired of hearing from other women who are angry at me, or threatened by me, for standing up for women and babies.
Women deserve to be told the truth about pregnancy and birth: that birth is safe–as safe as life gets–and that interference is dangerous. Women deserve to be encouraged (if need be) to take on the full authority of their birth experience. Women deserve to be told that their bodies are powerful, and that they are capable–as capable as all the other mammals in the world, who have existed for millennia. Women deserve to know that homebirth and freebirth and unassisted birth and traditional birth-attendant care are all reasonable, viable and legitimate. Women deserve to know the real cost of the most common interventions and of surgical birth: the disruption of that delicate and vital hormonal web, the pain and suffering and long recovery, the often long-term physical effects including damage to the bladder and other organs, the effects that anaesthetics and analgesics have on their babies, the postpartum depression that is all-too common among so many women.
Babies deserve to grow inside their mother’s bodies without the invasion of needles, high-frequency sound-waves, or forcible extraction except in the most dire and rare of circumstances. At birth, babies deserve spontaneous gentle emergence, free from the painful and shocking assault of a bulb syringe down their throat, or hands pulling, twisting, urging. Newborn babies deserve the warm wet intimacy of their mothers’ skin, and they deserve the full flood of blood from their intact umbilical cords. Babies deserve to be left on their mothers bodies and to never be moved or touched by another person for many days: not gloved hands, not to be laid naked and crying on a scale, not to be measured or inspected. Babies deserve their mothers’ milk.
Pregnancy and birth are not medical experiences. They are normal, physiological life passages, like losing one’s baby teeth, or sexuality. Birth occasionally becomes a medical event just as walking to the grocery store occasionally becomes a medical event. But we all must know that when birth does become medical, that delicate and unutterably complex dance of hormones and waves and energies that nature has perfected, is disrupted and thrown off kilter, with very serious, very heartbreaking results.
I don’t simply believe that birth at home is safe. I believe that birth at home is *safest*. We are animals, and like all animals, it is extremely difficult to give birth under any kind of stress or duress. The moment a woman enters the hospital, she is put in an almost impossible position of inferiority to the wishes of the staff, and to procedures and standards and technologies that are “offered” in that institution.
Not only do I know that birth at home is safe, but I believe (increasingly, if this is even possible) that hospitals are very dangerous places for pregnant mothers and babies. From the moment women step through the door of the hospital, almost every procedure and every interaction with the “professionals” (who know absolutely nothing about what normal birth looks like) goes against science, evidence, reason, sanity, nature, and the *genius* process of birth.
It is so disturbing to me, the prevalence with which women use the language of bondage and obedience to describe their relationship with their so-called caregivers. My doctor “let” me push for 3 hours. I “had” to be induced. I was told I “needed” another ultrasound. I hear stories of women whose choice to decline pelvic exams during the hospital birth process was met with the threat of legal action. I hear frequently of women whose babies are separated from them at birth, still, now, in 2013.
With horrifying frequency, I see my sisters being lied to, discouraged, coerced and assaulted in labour delivery rooms, day after day after day, year after year, generation after generation.
I have been asked with great frequency, throughout each of my pregnancies, Aren’t you scared of giving birth at home? What if something goes wrong?
But my question for other pregnant women is, What is it about the hospital that makes you feel safe? Because the number of women and babies who embark on new life and new motherhood maimed, traumatized, cut, and depressed, is at epidemic proportions. And yet, this trauma is so ingrained and normalized in our culture that it’s unrecognizable to most as the real travesty of human rights that I am so passionately sure that it is.
There is just no need for this. I hope that in my lifetime, I will see the issue of the abuse of women and babies during the birth process come to the fore as one of the primary feminist issues of our time. Because when the people I love get hurt, it not only breaks my heart, but it makes me really angry, and primed for change. I am really ready for change.