*I have seen this warning all over the internet, so I’ll include it here, just in case. I suppose the following could trigger some birth trauma for some women. Take caution.*
Well. I have to admit that I regret having written about my Doubts About Doulas. As I mentioned several times in the comments section of the original post, I don’t live or work in the paradigm of hospital birth. I would like to just forget about the whole thing, get on with my birth-anarchy and leave the doulas to their doula-ing, but considering the minor brouhaha the post has created, I feel the need to respond (and to defend myself, I suppose). Also, I have received so many additional comments on “Doubts About Doulas”, that I really can’t answer them all individually, so please consider the following my response, and to everyone who wrote: Thank you, genuinely.
First of all, I just want to point out that everything I write here on Bauhauswife is completely biased, utterly opinionated, totally one-sided, fully emotional, and based on my own life experience. It’s all about me, folks. Furthermore, I am not a “birth worker”, and I do not consider myself to be part of the “birth community” (at one point I did, but this hasn’t been the case for many years). I don’t have any affiliation with any institution, and I am loyal only to myself, and to the right of all women to do and say, whatever the heck they want when it comes to birth. A friend of mine commented on one of the facebook threads that erupted as a result of this post, stating that I was once certified by DONA–absolutely not the case. For the record, I would never associate myself with that organization, as I don’t hold it in very high esteem. I did train as a doula/birth attendant with Gloria Lemay, 12 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first son. Gloria has remained a friend and a mentor since then, and she attended the births of my first two children.
Several of the women who commented on “Doubts About Doulas” online clearly didn’t read the article, because they referred to the correlation I made between doulas and the high rate of c-section–which in fact I never made. Actually, in the original post, I explicitly stated the opposite. Again: I do NOT “blame” doulas for the current state of childbirth, I do NOT think doulas are bad people. I am not against doulas. I just don’t personally find a lot of value in what doulas offer. I do NOT dispute that the stats show that the rate of c-sections and possibly even interventions, is lower when a doula is present. I am simply stating that for me, the fact that doulas can help to avoid surgery, or minimize interventions, just isn’t enough for me.
A few of the responding doulas explained that a doula’s role is to help women feel better about their experiences, and that doulas help women to educate themselves when it comes to choices during childbirth. Well, ok. This may well be what many women want. And so, this is good. It’s just not what *I* want, or need. When I was pregnant at age 19, I read every single piece of material I could find on pregnancy and childbirth. I did not need any help in becoming educated, and now, when most of everything relevant to birth (including peer-reviewed scientific studies) is available online, I’m not sure I understand why most women might feel that a doula could help them become educated in order that they might make an informed decision. The last time I checked, DONA’s doula certification course consisted of 3 days’ worth of class-time, and the cost of fees to the organization. Huh? Am I the only person who feels that it is strange that anyone would think that a 3 day doula course would give someone the basis for advising another woman on how to find information or draw conclusions or make informed decisions in regards to one of the most important events of her life??
My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at the hospital. The *moment* I left the hospital, I decided that I would never be giving birth there again, and that no one would ever assume any authority over my body during the birth process. But at the same time, I knew I needed to find someone who could offer me guidance, because nowhere in popular culture were there any representations of the kind of birth I wanted to have. Even Ina May Gaskin’s midwives were far too interventionist in their approach. I made a decision that I was going to be giving birth without anyone telling me what to do or “managing” my experience in any way, and I went out to find someone who would help me get there.
The woman who guided me through my first and second births, both at home, respected me enough to give me her opinion on the various procedures and tests available throughout pregnancy (rather than deferring clear answers and pointing me to a physician, rather than claiming that opinions are “outside the scope of practice”), and who respected me enough to tell me that under no circumstances was anyone going to even suggest that my baby should be hurried out of the womb, for example, or that the likelihood that I would need a c-section was so minute as to hardly even be a considering, and that she would sit with me for as long as it took for my baby to decide to emerge. When, after 30+ hours of full-on birth process, and 6 hours of pushing, my little boy was born into the water, I was changed.
I just cannot believe that there are people out there who seem to sincerely believe that I should maybe keep quiet about my view of hospital birth as horrifying and demoralizing. I just can’t buy the idea that women are so delicate that they should be protected from the idea that the majority of c-sections are an unnecessary brutalization that often robs them of the highest bliss on earth. Preposterous. Please understand: It is never my intention to hurt anyone, and it pains me when I hear that what I have written has triggered negative feelings. But neither I, nor anyone has the power to “make” another person feel a certain way. I am entirely at peace with my birth experiences, and totally confident that I have made the right choices for myself. It is for this reason that no one could possibly “make” me feel bad about my beautiful births, no matter how hard they try. And let me tell you, I have received a *barrage* of hideous, abusive commentary surrounding my homebirths, none of which have bothered me in the least.
For those women who feel fantastic about their surgical births, this is wonderful. I am sincerely happy for you. But if hearing about my conviction that most women are fully able to give birth naturally upsets you, and triggers the feeling that you have been robbed of an experience you wish you had had, maybe you *don’t* need a doula to sit there and help you feel empowered in regards to your c-section. Maybe you need to get really really angry about it. Maybe you need to take someone to task. Maybe not. But for *me*, after my hospital trauma occurred, the last thing I wanted or needed was a rationalization of what happened.
Many of the critical responses to my post focused on my use of the term “cyborg birth”. Some interpreted this term as nastiness on my part, and a direct reference to surgical birth, but in fact I was simply pointing to the parts of birth that have been appropriated by machines (foetal monitoring, ultrasound, doppler use, forceps, vacuum, prosta gels, induction, etc). This was not intended as an insult (although of course we are all free to interpret as we see fit). The word “cyborg”, literally means “a human being for whom certain biological or physiological processes are aided or taken over by machine”. This *does* apply to hospital birth, in so many instances. And in fact, I first came across the idea that many births in the hospital are “cyborg births” in the work of Robbie Davis Floyd, whose brilliant articles on the rituals of hospital birth in North America are stark, illuminating, and in my view, real (I should have given due credit in the previous post, I fully admit). It is a rather a rather shocking description of conventional birth, but one that bears examination, I think.
The reason I go on and on and on about natural birth is NOT so that I can make other women feel bad (not my intention at all), and it is not because I feel superior or “noble”. The reason I talk about homebirth and natural birth to the extent that I do, is because I have a profound belief in the genius of *all* women’s bodies. I have a profound belief that, barring the most unusual of circumstances, we are almost *all* capable of giving birth without the institution, without doctors, without structure, without “stages”, without potentially harmful pain medications, without having our babies taken from us, without being cut. It chills me to think of what might have happened to me had I not sought care outside the world of the hospital, or regulated midwifery, or registered doulas: I would never have been “allowed” to stay pregnant until 43 weeks.
I wrote my post, “Doubts About Doulas” because weekly, I encounter women who have had disappointing and traumatic births, despite having hired doulas. And equally often, I meet doulas who pull me aside during gatherings, or who send me emails, and who tell me that they feel like all of their aspirations to help women have great births haven’t come to much, and they continually attend births that end up with the cascade of interventions. I receive emails and messages *every day* from women who read my opinionated words on birth and being, and who tell me that what I have to say rings true for them. I hear from women all the time who tell me that my words have changed the way they think and feel about birth, for the better.
Of course there are women who are thrilled with the service their doula provided for them. And this is great. And maybe over time, things will change. But I don’t see a lot of change myself, and I don’t think change is really going to come from women joining in on a patriarchal system, in a role that is, by their own admission, support, rather than advocacy (for the most part? for some doulas? Some of the doulas who hated my post argued that they are not advocates. Other doulas who hated my post argued that they *are* advocates. I’m still confused by this “scope of practice” business. Hm.)
And once again, I have been accused of being judgemental. Well, I am judgemental. I am highly highly judgemental of the practices that occur in hospital births, doula-attended births and births attended by midwives. I am extremely judgemental when it comes to the regulation of midwifery, and I am even more judgemental when it comes to what babies are subjected to in the hospital. And get a load of this: I urge ALL women who are pregnant, or who think they might ever consider pregnancy, childbirth or parenting, to become highly judgemental of what goes on in the hospital. I urge women to become judgmental of the standards of midwifery care. Heck, I urge women to become highly judgmental of all of the institutions and systems that underpin contemporary life, and in particular, those systems that govern (or don’t govern) our reproductive selves.
What I will NOT EVER do, however, is judge individual women for their choices, their fears, their experiences, their blogs or for who they are. We are all on our own path, and my path has led me to the conclusions and thoughts and feelings that I write about in this space. I *know* that all mothers make the choices that they do, because they feel in their hearts (and minds) that they are doing the right thing for their children. I respect this.
I am simply speaking my mind, and voicing my truth, as I have always done, and I will continue to do so, as respectfully as I can. And as always, I cannot accept responsibility for the fact that you may not like what I have to say.
It is utterly ridiculous to me that I would ever be accused of “idealizing” myself (as one blogger wrote about my post). I don’t have to “idealize” myself, or my experiences, I am just…myself. Honestly, how the hell could anyone watch Felix’s birth video, and suggest that I am idealizing anything about who I am, or the way I give birth…(ha!). Yes, I do find that suggestion laughable. But I do idealize birth, and I encourage *every* woman to go out and discover what her ideal birth looks like, and then find a way to make it happen. Why shouldn’t we be idealistic when it comes to birth? Birth can be *blissful* and magical for you, too. Why shouldn’t we be too noble for the kind of treatment most receive in a hospital setting? I am, unapologetically, far too noble for hospital birth. So are you. But if the status quo represents your heart’s desire, and you are looking for a fairly conventional hospital birth experience, with a few less interventions that usual, and you hope to maybe avoid an epidural and a c-section, Hire a Registered Doula! If you want to give birth like a fierce animal, wild with woman power, screaming with the night spirits, deep in your own head and heart, without anyone presuming any authority over the experience other than yourself, then the standard birth experience–in which doulas play a part–is probably not the right path for you.