Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What If?

In an email on a list I read, the fabulously wise childbirth educator and doula, Joni Nichols, recommends that pregnant women "Choose a care provider who is congruent with the kind of birth you want. Everyone talks about the 'work' of labor. The real 'work' is the election of the caregiver".

And I read a terrific blog entry by Monica Dux this week, "Homework is the Mother of Prevention". Here is an excerpt:
"There seems to be a widespread culture of passivity when it comes to labour. Many expecting mothers do dedicate an enormous amount of time and effort to preparation, yet, in my experience, there are just as many who refuse to do adequate homework, preferring to sit back and see how things develop. It's not that these women are unsure about what sort of labour they'd like to have (almost always an uncomplicated vaginal delivery). They've simply decided that "waiting and seeing" is the only realistic approach. Why bother committing to a detailed birth plan when it will probably go wrong anyway? Perhaps other wait-and-seers are simply in denial, preferring not to think about an experience that is understandably terrifying. The end result is that they approach the business of labour with less preparation than they would bring to buying a new car."
It's a great post, and I highly suggest clicking the link to read it!

Many pregnant women, and their partners, spend a certain amount of time "preparing" for their new baby's arrival - especially if it is their first baby. There are the clothes to buy; the car seat and the stroller and the crib to pick out and set up and figure out; the fun yet overwhelming task of registering at various stores and websites. The room needs to be painted... decorated... organized. Feeding and diapering and bathing supplies. Toys.

What if most women put a fraction of the energy that they dedicate to amassing and arranging baby stuff into choosing a care provider and place to give birth, and discussing their options with that care provider? What if women talked - offered each other important, real information - about care providers and birth places - like we give each other useful information about our favorite baby toy or supply? Why don't more women stay away from A Baby Story and other birth dramas that are unrealistic and emergency-filled?

I think there would be big changes in birth if women insisted on accurate information about care providers and birth in general, especially if they shared what they learned with each other.

If women had access to information about doctors Cesarean birth rates AND information about the risks of Cesarean births, I think we would see changes. If women knew the benefits of laboring (and/or birthing) in water AND which birth places had labor and birth tubs, I think we would see changes. If women had accurate information about CPM midwives and homebirth, I think we would see changes.

Unfortunately, at this point, what I see are lots of inaccuracies - about the safety of homebirth, for example, or about the risks of Cesarean births. There are lots of barriers to making informed choices about doctors and hospitals: inaccurate information; vague answers; insurance issues. I think that for many women, it's just psychologically easier to do what "everyone" else does - to use the same care provider, at the same hospital, to read What to Expect When You're Expecting and watch A Baby Story on television.

Preparing to bring baby home is very exciting - thinking about dressing her or getting his room ready can be a lot of fun. This type of preparation, and the daydreams of snuggling that sweet little baby, are obviously important and wonderful.

But just as important is the responsibility to learn about care provider and birth place options... and then using what we learn to interview doctors and midwives and visit hospitals and birth centers. This work may not be as appealing. It may sometimes be challenging or uncomfortable. But in the long run, the time spent choosing a care provider is going to be a lot more influential in our lives as new parents than choosing a nursery theme or picking out a going-home outfit.

What do you think could change the balance of how women prepare for birth? I'm hoping The Birth Survey will help: results of the surveys are due out nationwide in Spring 2009. I can't wait to read about women's experiences in Central Maine and to be able to offer this resource to clients.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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