Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I went to a great event put on by our local Maternal Wellness Center last week. There was a showing of my friend Nicolle's short film entitled "Roar" and a poetry reading by local poet Arielle Greenberg. After the performance there was a panel of midwives and mothers who discussed choices in birth and answered audience questions.

I went, because even though we did not have a natural birth, I am a great supporter of natural birth whenever possible. The puzzle of how much of the difficulty of our first year was related to the challenges of our birth is something that can never be unraveled. It is pointless to try. Our experience was our experience, it was necessary and I would not trade what I have learned for the natural birth I thought I would have.

I was curious about how I would feel watching a mother give birth naturally. I wondered if it would make me sad to think of what I had "missed." But the truth is, I was proud of both of us. I was proud of the power of women to adapt to whatever their birth brings and take lessons from it.

It was disturbing to learn that birth choices for women are being limited. I was shocked to hear that in some states midwives are illegal. While a homebirth is not something that I would choose for myself, I strongly believe that it should be possible for those who wish to make that choice.

I also learned that it has been decided that in Maine, midwives do not have to be licensed. We need to license our hairdressers but not the women who assist us in bringing life into the world?

There are so many changes going on in medicine right now. To hear that maternity care is considered a "special service" is insane to me. What mixed messages we are sending to our mothers. On the one hand we will not license your midwife to help you with a birth at home, and on the other we reserve the right to eliminate your ability to give birth in a hospital if it is not financially advantageous to us. How did we get here?

I thought that the best comment of the evening was by a midwife named Holly. She said that she supported women along the full spectrum of birth experience. What she wanted was for women to be educated about their choices so that they could make conscious, educated choices about their births. I absolutely agree. This is a bit more difficult than it seems however.

While midwives often feel that doctors overemphasize the medicalization of birth, doctors often feel that midwives under emphasize the dangers of giving birth. Knowing firsthand how much our emergency birth has colored our feelings about birth in general, I can only imagine how repeatedly seeing dangerous birth situations must skew a doctor's view. In the same vein, if you have seen hundreds of women give birth naturally that also skews the midwife's perspective toward natural birth.

None of us is "right."

I look forward to the day when Maternal Wellness Centers present panels that include the voice of doctors and when panels of obstetricians welcome the voices of midwives. Until then, the burden falls to pregnant mothers to educate themselves knowing that at every turn the experts have their own biases, and perhaps necessarily, perhaps unfortunately, their own agendas.

To see the film short "Roar" by Nicolle Littrell (15 minutes or so) click on the title of this post. You will be watching a live natural birth with all the sounds that go with it.

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