Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reclaiming the Birth Experience

Yesterday,I viewed a surprisingly poignant and jarring film about birth in the USA. Ricki Lake is the executive producer, which made me skeptical going into it, but the powerful images and footage of the birth experiences in the film speak for themselves. Afterwards there was a panel discussion, led by four midwives. I was moved by their dedication to women and their right to a non-medicalized birth. US women have become indoctrinated in the modern medical mindset which tells us that normal, healthy birth is something to be manipulated, numbed, and scheduled.

According to the movie, the US has the second highest rate of infant mortality among developed nations. In Europe and Japan, roughly 75% of births are attended by midwives, compared to only 2% in the US. In effect, by imposing the norm of medical intervention, pitocin drips, epidurals, and a skyrocketing rate of elective C-Sections, women are being robbed of one of the most unique and powerful of human experiences.

I remember being in labor with my boys, and amidst the increasing length and pain of the contractions I doubted my ability to give birth naturally. My midwife reminded me that I could, and she held my hand and she encouraged me. I was scared and distraught. When the miraculous moment came and my baby was born, the incredible flood of relief and triumph I felt was unlike anything I had ever felt before. The natural oxytocin that flooded my brain as my body responded freely and naturally to the birth, helped to bond me with my newborn, to love him and feed him and warm him. I would have bonded with him anyway, but I would have missed that feeling, and I think that feeling is important.

I know that not every woman can experience natural birth for a variety of reasons, but we are doing our sisters, daughters, our men, and ourselves an injustice by habitually accepting the notion that a healthy, normal birth is not compromised by medical interventions of a billion dollar birth industry. It is. I am grateful for the availability of high-level medical care. Doctors can perform miraculous life-saving interventions, but when they are not called for, get them out of the birth room.


At the end of the movie, the film-maker is transported to the hospital during labor after her midwife determines that her baby is presenting as breach. She has an emergency C-Section and mother and baby pull through.

Here is a link to the movie trailer. It will be publicly released on DVD this month.


Holly said...

Thanks for this post! I feel very strongly about this issue, and I would love to see this film. I wrote something about this last summer after reading an article about NJ's c-section rate reaching 47% at our local hospital! And also inspired by the movie 'Knocked Up' (believe it or not!). Here's a link to the post:

Holly said...

it looks like the entire link didn't copy - there should be an html after the last dot...