My poem about my water birth with Zoodle received this comment from Kristen:
"You know--I never thought you for a 'waterbirth type'. That's awesome though!"
Actually, I had two very different birth experiences. I was induced at 40 weeks with Chickie. When the combination of pitocin and artifical rupture of membranes resulted in sudden, very painful contractions, I had an epidural. It worked well, and I had a joyful birth without much pain.
With Zoodle, my prenatal care and the birth were at a midwife-staffed out-of-hospital birthing center. I took Bradley childbirth courses. Zoodle was born in the warm water of a birthing tub, and there was a lot of pain--but less than there would have been if I hadn't had a skilled doula and that soothing water. It was an amazing, joyful, satisfying experience.
Both labors were short--just under 5 hours for my induced labor with Chickie, and just over 5 hours for my labor with Zoodle. Both births were beautiful and meaningful. Both babies were wonderfully healthy. My recovery was okay with both.
So I don't think that medicated, hospital births are evil. I was, however, deeply affected by my unmedicated experience, and by the environment in which I gave birth that second time. Here are some of my thoughts about birth in 21st-century America, based on my experiences.
I don't think that women who choose medicated births, or women who need C-Sections, should be made to feel that they are somehow less worthy than those who go the medicated route. One of the reasons I thought I could get through an unmedicated birth was because I knew my labor had been so short the first time and probably would be the second time too. Who's to say how I would have reacted to a long, extra-hard labor? Every birth is different, and every mother is different too. All I truly know is my experience.
We shouldn't do away with obstetricians and hospital maternity wards. There are plenty of instances in which C-Sections save the lives of women and babies. Also, with my first pregnancy, knowing I had pain relief available helped me get past my fear of childbirth. But women who have low-risk pregnancies should have safe, out-of-hospital options available.
I wish that our society treated birth as a more natural process, as something that doesn't need to be feared. We'd need fewer medical interventions if that was the case. And we could rest easy, knowing that when the interventions were truly necessary, they'd be readily available, either at the hospital where the birth takes place, or nearby for mothers who labor at home or at a birthing center.
I think women should be treated more as mothers and less as patients after giving birth, as long as Mommy and Baby are both healthy. One of the most meaningful parts of my experience two years ago was the environment created by the birthing center staff. We stayed there about seven hours after the birth. The midwife and assistant did all the important medical stuff (taking vitals, weighing Zoodle, helping with breastfeeding, etc.), but I got the feeling that their top priority was to help me, The Engineer, and Zoodle to bond. We were encouraged to all lay in bed together to rest. It was quiet, serene, and peaceful. It was entirely different than a hospital environment, and those hours were a priceless time at the beginning of my relationship with my son. How I wish more hospitals could create that type of environment for families that have just added a tiny new member!
Whether there's an epidural or not, whether the baby is pushed out by the mom or pulled out through an incision, every birth is beautiful and life-changing. When mothers believe that, fear can start to fall by the wayside. When care providers remember that, they can help create an experience that feels truly miraculous.