Thursday, February 14, 2008


I'm shocked, shocked I say - posting for the third day in a row!

Anyway, it's V-Day, and I feel the urge to get a bit political. Not political like presidential elections, but birth politics, which I'm up to my ears in these days. V-Day is about countering violence towards women... and if a doctor playing the "bad mommy" card to get a laboring woman to do something she doesn't want to do isn't violent and abusive, I don't know what is.

I say this coming from a background of abuse - not physical, thankfully, "merely" verbal and emotional. I feel lucky, because I feel like of all the members of my family, I probably got off with the least exposure to the situation... but that doesn't mean I am not still deeply scarred and affected by it. It also means I know abuses when I see them, and am angered on a deep, frustrated level. However it makes me extremely happy to know I got myself into a profession where I can help mitigate some of the birth abuse I encounter - and I didn't even realize it when I signed on!

I finally got to see "The Business Of Being Born" last night. This is Ricki Lake's documentary about hospital birth vs. home birth, and it is very powerful. I really want to own it, when I can afford such things. I've heard it criticized for being skewed, or "fringy", or just in bad taste for showing video from Ms Lake's own home birth where she happens to be naked because she's in her tub giving birth. Hello, most birthing women end up naked! Now, you could accuse me of having a skewed perspective on this issue that's so near to my heart, but honestly, I don't think it's possible not to be skewed to one side or the other. To me, either you actually look at the evidence, and say, oh yeah, huh, home birth really is safer for most pregnancies, and then decide what's best for you and your situation, or you shut your eyes to the evidence and fall in line with "doctor knows best".

This post has been brewing in my head since early last week when the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a formal statement decrying homebirth, in which they not only play the "bad mommy" card, but use untruths in so doing. I'm not very good at being articulate with this kind of thing; I mostly tend to froth at the mouth incoherently, and then fall into a frustrated silence because I can't clearly speak about the things I know intuitively are just wrong. Fortunately, not everyone out there is as bad about this as I am. Rixa, an excellently articulate researcher and unassisted homebirth advocate (although she also recognizes that that's not for everyone), has a lovely response to the statement here, and a list of other people's responses here.

One thing that strikes me very deeply about the research and who knows it is that midwives and doulas all know the research, and can generally render it into easily understood language, while OB/Gyns, even those in favor of more "mother friendly" procedures tend to hem and haw and say not much of anything while trying to obfuscate clearly spoken facts. There are a number of beautiful examples of this in Ms. Lake's documentary, but it's even more striking when you get to listen to midwives and OBs together, answering the same questions. I had the chance to do so after the showing last night, and I was just blown away at the differences. I came away feeling that I would not want to be in the primary care of the OB who spoke on the panel, despite feeling that she's probably pretty good at her job. I'd much rather have the homebirth midwife who spoke for my primary care, and go to the OB if (and only if) things went sideways.

So where do I fall into this for my prenatal care and birthing plans? Well, I'm lucky. Although my insurance won't cover a home birth (and actually very few insurance companies do, although possibly more in this area than most others, the Pacific Northwest is pretty awesome that way), it does allow me to go to the only Mother Friendly hospital in the state, a mere 45 or so (depending on traffic) minute drive away. I have a wonderful CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife - RNs who go on to complete a Master's program in midwifery) who not only knows what doulas are, but loves them, and respects that I am a doula myself and want to birth as naturally as possible. I haven't toured the birth center yet, but I understand that Barbara Harper had a hand in its design and construction.

I just wish all moms had it so lucky.


Taoknitter said...

Great post! You are amazing... xoxoxo

My sister went with midwives who worked at the hospital. Loved the midwives and even the woman ob, all of who eventually (after 36 hours) had to whack my BIL upside the head and tell him the baby just was NOT going to come this way no matter how much he stamped his feet.

Insurance would not do midwives for me...I had idiots for the first one. Wished I'd had those midwives.

You get extra karma for being a doula. :)

Anonymous said...

YES yes yes!!!

I feel way too strongly about this subject to comment coherently, so I'll just repeat...

YEs yes yes!!

pacalaga said...

Hi there - I saw your comment on Norma's post regarding blogspot's inability to give you emails, and I thought I'd let you know about Haloscan - it's a little bloggy thing that you download to your template and it sends you emails of your comments with the commenter's address in it, so you can reply directly. Be forewarned, though, that if you use it, it will wipe out all your past blogspot-entered comments. Even knowing that, I still like the feature a lot.