Monday, February 16, 2015

The 4 Pages in "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" That Left Me Frustrated

A dear friend gave me three books to read that helped her as she prepared for the birth of their second daughter over two years ago. Now that I'm the same boat I was anxious to feel better equipped for this birth than I was with Beans, so I was thankful to receive them. I dived in to "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" right away. 
Her credentials are pretty impressive (check out her website for more information on this renowned midwife). She has many published books, has attended more than 1200 births from beginning to end, she lectures to other midwives and has even been invited to speak at medical schools, and most impressive yet is that a method devised to deal with a feared childbirth complication was named after her and is now taught to medical professionals around the world. (source) There are so many reasons to trust what she has to say about childbirth.  

And it took only four pages in her book to frustrate me and leave me feeling elated all at once. I am not "broken" despite what the doctors made me believe.

The chapter titled, "The Wrong Environment Can Stall or Reverse Labor" (more precisely pages 138-141) gave reason to my feelings precisely. It's hard to condense Ina May's words and I'd honestly like to give you what she stated in its entirety, but I'll try to sum it up instead... 

Before I do, I'll give you my favorite quote from the section which will help you understand my summation:
The problem is that doctors today often assume that something mysterious and unidentified has gone wrong with labor or that the woman's body is somehow "inadequate" - what I call the "woman's body as a lemon" assumption. For a variety of reasons, a lot of women have also come to believe that nature made a serious mistake with their bodies. This belief has become so strong in many that they give in to pharmaceutical or surgical treatments when patience and recognition of the normality and harmlessness of the situation would make for better health for them and their babies and less surgery and technological intervention in birth. Most women need encouragement and companionship more than they need drugs. 
Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.” (p. 141-142)
She began this section with one simple fact: that birth requires a "maximum degree of relaxation". Ina May and her midwife partners witnessed on many different occasions (and gave specific stories of such instances) where as soon as relaxation was lost, labor stopped or reversed. She dived into medical textbooks and interviewed other medical professionals to determine what was said about this phenomena and what she found shocked me. Doctors from the 1800's -1900's wrote about it in their medical textbooks, but recent textbooks deny its existence. Most doctor's today do not believe that the cervix was truly open to the stated centimeters, in other words, they do not trust in the midwife's ability to check openings appropriately and choose to believe that something "mysterious and unidentified has gone wrong with labor" or that the woman's body is now somehow "inadequate" instead. Ina May quoted six different doctors from the 19th century who witnessed this phenomena first hand and wrote about it in medical textbooks with advice on what to do and why. 

Here's the underlying piece to this puzzle and why it fit my feelings precisely: most doctors during this time period knew that an unwelcome or upsetting presence could stall labor. AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED TO ME. There's a few things you need to understand about my doctor and anesthesiologist with Brielle's birth: my doctor wanted me to have an epidural in the worst way and was not on par with my wanting a no-med/intervention free birth and she made that quite clear with her mini temper tantrums as she stomped out of the room stating (not facing me), "You're not any less of a mother if you have an epidural." I know that. I believe that. But it was not my choice, for many reasons. Secondly, I had a few playlists that helped me focus on something other than contractions and the moment my anesthesiologist entered the room (after giving in to my doctor's wishes) he growled, "Turn that crap off." It was not at all the environment I had envisioned or the encouragement I had hoped to receive from the medical community. (They were pieces I left out of Brielle's Birth Story because despite the callousness of the doctors that attended her birth, it was an unforgettable experience that changed my life forever. It was in her story and the happenings afterwards that forced me to have an eternal perspective on life and understand God's sovereignty, so I am truly thankful for it.) What leaves me irked is the lack of humility from the doctors I've encountered.  

Reading her findings made me irritated, writing that paragraph has made me angry. Doctors, do you understand the power you have to heal, discourage, encourage, manipulate and truly hinder or help your patients?

It's truly unfortunate that American women share more horrific stories of childbirth than beautiful positive ones. I desperately want a positive med-free, intervention-free experience and I really, really want encouragement and support for that decision. Sadly we spend more time comparing and judging one another than offering what Ina May has found to be most successful: encouragement and companionship.

Which is why I love sharing birth stories occasionally here, there's no better way to encourage one another. If you are interested in sharing yours, leave a comment and I'd love to get in contact with you!

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