Saturday, April 25, 2009

Birth: Assuming Control

The word assume has several meanings - three that I want to highlight here:
Assume can mean to take for granted or without proof; suppose. Clearly, this is the definition the well-known quip "assume makes an ass out of u and me" comes from.

Assume can also mean to take upon oneself; undertake, as in assuming responsibility for a task.

And, assume can mean to appropriate; seize; usurp - when a dictator assumes power, for example.
What does this have to do with birth? I was enjoying Anna Quindlen's back-page opinion article a few weeks ago in Newsweek, Dollars and Sense, when that phrase popped out at me and has been stuck in my head ever since. She was discussing how few of us understand the complexities of our financial world,
"the great unspoken issue behind the tanking of the market, the mess in subprime mortgages and the bailout bill is that Americans don't understand the basics of the economy. Faced with financial instruments increasingly arcane and complex and financial institutions increasingly faceless and vast, most outsourced knowledge and responsibility to those they assumed were ethical and responsible. The banker, the broker, the rating agencies: they would look out for us."
As I read this article, I was struck by how this whole article could also apply to birth. And towards the end of the article, she wrote
"Americans have given up understanding much of what passes for daily life . . . But there's also a precedent for assuming control, even of complex issues. Look at the way many Americans deal with health care today compared with a generation ago. Once doctors, like financial managers, were seen as keepers of a mysterious flame and patients as people who should simply do what they were told. Today many more patients think of themselves as partners and work hard to educate themselves about their health and their ailments before having surgery or taking medications."
Is this true, do you think: have American women "assumed control" of birth?

Unfortunately, I see and hear and read many, many more stories about women assuming (first definition) that they have control and many, many more stories about doctors and medwives assuming control (last definition). If I could make only one wish for my clients, it would be for them to assume control (second definition): not to assume that they can control birth, but that they would assume responsibility for making the choices that are right for themselves and their babies, with caring, responsive doctors and midwives to help them.

I want to share a blog with you that I think is absolutely amazing, called Nursing Birth. It's written by a labor & delivery nurse, and she's started a series called "Don't Let This Happen to You" because, as she says, "Throughout my time as a labor and delivery nurse at a large urban hospital in the Northeast, I have mentally tallied up a list of patients and circumstances that make me go “WHAT!?! Are you SERIOUS!? Oh come ON!”

Women need to read these stories and take them seriously. Just like any other aspect of life, don't just assume you're in control: assume control. What does that mean? Learn about birth and think about your options. Interview care providers and visit hospitals and birth centers. Find a good fit. If you find yourself in a situation that is not a good fit, make changes! Find support. Take classes (email me if you're in Maine!). Reflect, discuss, learn, practice what you've learned. Rehearse. Discuss some more. Assume control!

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle

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Blogger NursingBirth said...

Thanks so much for the link!! I am so happy that you are enjoying my blog. I LOVE this post! You write, "Just like any other aspect of life, don't just assume you're in control: assume control" and all I can say is YES! YES! YES!!!!!!! So again, thanks for the link and thanks for this post!


April 25, 2009 at 7:37 PM  

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