Arrive in pain. Sign papers. Strip down to a thin little gown. Hook you up to machines that beep loudly and irritatingly so. Stab you in the arm with a needle for an I.V. because you can’t eat for 8+ hours and they need to make sure they can give you drugs at a moment’s notice. Stay in bed. Do not get up unless you ask permission. Vaginal exams that can potentially introduce infection (as if the contractions were not painful enough). A swarm of people you don’t know witnessing you in your most vulnerable state. Lay on your back. Open your legs. Put them on stirrups. They push the pitocin because you’re not going fast enough, cue the intensity of your contractions skyrocketing. Person you’ve never met before is between your legs, giving you orders on how to deliver this child. Push on command. The inaudible sound of scissors unnecessarily cutting a perineum. Push on command in a room full of spectators wishing you’d hurry up and give birth already. Pull baby out. Suction its mouth and nose upon arrival. Cut the cord prematurely. Show you what the baby looks like. Take the baby away to be weighed, poked, prodded. At some point, sign more paperwork while you’re trying to breastfeed.Welcome to motherhood.
Currently, this scene is incredibly common in many hospitals across the world. From my experience, there are varying levels of how intense this plays out to be. After the 5 births I have attended as a doula, I made a decision to never give birth in a hospital ever in my life unless it was a dire emergency. Hospitals have never been one of my favorite places in the world. how can it be? It is full of sick and dying people. Why on earth would i want to give birth in an environment like that? Furthermore, Why do I want my child to come into the world so violently?
It is hard to have ‘birth’ and ‘violence’ in the same sentence and yet, in a country where it’s more dangerous to give birth than in 49 other countries, the violence and death is real. African-American women are at almost four times greater risk than Caucasian women. A safe pregnancy is a human right for every woman regardless of race or income. From my experience, this disproportional rate of risk for African-American women grows to include all and any marginalized women in this country. On a similar scale, the infant mortality rate for marginalized women in the United States is just as despicable. I often pose the question: what message are we sending future generations by bringing them into the world like this? What is happening around the world to birthing mothers is nothing short of mental and physical coercion and abuse.
The hospital staff can be offensive, pushy, mean, violent even. I have heard of obstetricians scare mothers into procedures that are unnecessary. This is an abuse of power to reach what sinister end? To be done with a birth so that a doctor can go play golf? Mind you, I’ve been at a birth for 12+ hours, I can understand the desire for it to be over, yet I am aware that it’s not about me, it’s about the woman and the child. Not only has the world forgotten that, it is also in many instances more concerned with how much money can be made off the birth. A cesarean section, pitocin, an epidural and all other interventions are things that add up on a hospital bill. Furthermore, just thinking about a C-section makes me cringe. In an emergency situation, they are absolutely important but other than that, it is violent. To cut someone up for no reason is unacceptable.
We are the only mammals that choose to give birth in such a public and often disempowering way. the rest of the animal kingdom tends to be very private when they give birth. We have been convinced that home birth is dangerous and that the only safe way to give birth is in a hospital, which is only an idea that is younger than the history of women giving birth in the world. The secret to why many women end up feeling safer in a hospital is due to the underlying notion that a woman’s body is dangerous, and therefore, childbirth is dangerous. It too may as well be a sickness that should be monitored and controlled.
Furthermore, to whisk the baby away for any reason after birth can cause more damage than many of us are aware of. Skin to skin contact is not just a luxury or a new trendy thing to do – it is one of the single most important experiences for a mother and her child. On a physiological level, the baby’s temperature is more stable and more normal because the mother’s own body can regulate this. The baby’s natural habitat is its mother’s body, so naturally the baby’s heart and breathing rate are also more stable, as it is accustomed to its mother’s rhythm. Something else I learned along the way is that skin to skin contact allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother. This coupled with breastfeeding, are essential to building the baby’s immunity. In contrast, a baby’s skin and digestive system in an incubator is susceptible to bacteria that is foreign and possibly harmful in the long run.
Lastly, babies are incredibly impressionable. It has felt everything their mother has felt for 9 months before experiencing a hospital birth. If the adults in the room are in a state of panic, anxiety and fear, what are the implications for how this child’s life is set up to be? For adults, anxiety has been normalized. For a baby, the hormones that shoot through you when you are anxious can prove to be toxic. Once a child is separated from their mother, they are in a state of anxiety. This can only set the stage for a traumatic life, which is what we are being born into in the world. I know I can cover much more in this post but I wanted to find a way to drive the point home that we are coming into the world violently, and this must end.