This has been on my heart a good bit lately. I hope it will that not only encourage, but also empower the belief that indeed your body was designed not only to grow a baby but to birth a baby. The design is not broken.
For the mothers who birthed through c-section: your body works. You birthed, recovered, and cared for newborn while recovering from surgery. You are so strong.
Dear Mama and Supporters of Mamas,
About birth – The design is not broken.
Medicalized birth can give a very subtle, covert message to women that the design of birth is broken. It is much more powerful than many women preparing to give birth realize. It can send the message:
Women and babies need to be saved from labor and birth.
It often begins with this statistic: 32% of women give birth through c-section* in the United States. Because of this and other subtle messages, the expectant mother’s mind is filled with the lingering doubt – Will my body be able to birth a baby?
One of the other sources of this message happens with vaginal checks during pregnancy and labor. After vaginal checks, a woman receives one number:
Centimeters of dilation
When her body has not dilated, she hears it is not working. If her body is dilating, she hears labor is about to start. When labor doesn’t start soon, she hears her body is not working. Neither of these are true, but that is what she hears.
There is no medical or evidence based reason to have a vaginal check for dilation.
This procedure involve risks such as increasing risk of infection and accidental premature rupture of your membranes AND it is extremely uncomfortable especially during labor. Vaginal exams may be important to you, but it is up to you. Remember, it is just a number.
Sometimes labor is treated as something that women need to be rescued from instead of as something that has a design and that works best when the design is allowed to work. For instance, contractions have a work to do. There is a hormonal dance that also has work to do. Because of the covert belief that birth fails, we discount the work of natural labor hormones (we interfere through medications), and we treat contractions as too difficult, but ….
What if we believed it is not about the pain of labor, but it’s about the power of giving birth?
Let’s apply this to a different scenario: knee replacement. We know after surgery an artificial knee needs physical therapy in order to work. With physical therapy restores a good bit of mobility. But, pain accompanies mobility gain.
What if instead of encouraging the patient to work through the hard and painful therapy, we treated them as we do women in labor?
What if we treated the patient as needing to be rescued through intervention from the hard work and pain of physical therapy? What would they lose? What do they gain from working through it? Is it just a physical gain?
The point is women and babies are losing much by our treating birth as broken. Pregnancy, labor, and birth are not just about getting a baby to the outside. It is about growing a mother. It’s about allowing all of the parts of the design to do their work – much of which prepares the baby to live on the outside and empowers the mother in her mothering and in her confidence to make decisions for her baby.
Believing in the design of birth matters because mothering matters.
Giving the message that 32% of women can’t give birth , or that women can’t give birth without lots of help in the form of interventions hurts mothers. It not only undermines their trust in their body’s ability to give birth, but it also undermines their trust in their ability to mother.
We want what is best for our mothers and for their babies. We must move from fear driven care back to believing in the design.
ACOG has recently issued guidelines confirming low risk mothers are best cared for by limited use of interventions. These guidelines reaffirm faith that birth is indeed a good design, and it works best when trusted and supported.
The design – birth is not broken. It never has been.
We can do better. It’s starts with trusting the design and trusting mothers.
*When c-section and interventions are needed, we are grateful for them. But, this happens too often. According to WHO, c-section rate should not exceed 10%-15%.