Today on facebook a longtime friend posted seeing a very “scary” thing on TV last night. The “scary” thing she saw, which she wrote was like something out of “The Exorcist”, was a water birth.
Having had three children naturally (without the benefit of a water birth) and without drugs – my first response was to feel enormously saddened. I wanted to say to my friend, “it is not your fault. I understand why you are scared, why you are afraid of natural birth. You have every right to be, actually.”
We, as expectant mothers, cannot strive to attain some kind of vision of birth that we cannot see. Meaning – there are few women who give birth naturally – and so (naturally) we have few examples of how to give birth. Who are those women that will lead by example – to encourage other women – to praise the wonders of birth? To tell women that you were made for this – your body is amazingly strong, equipped, capable, of giving birth.
I once heard a mothers rights advocate and author say, “most ob/gyns have never even seen birth (natural, unmedicated). In fact, they probably would not know what to do if they had to attend one.” This is great food for thought. But back to the story –
Then, I paused for a moment before responding with this:
Birth can be beautiful if women had better support from hospitals and health care professionals and were fully informed of their choices (and actually were allowed to make them). I had three wonderful natural births (and I’m a very small person) – but I also had fantastic support and knew what my rights were. If women were empowered and fully informed about their birth choices (aka if women were in charge) – birth would be much different than it is experienced in America today.
In 2009, I started this blog for supporting mothers after listening to many women, my own family included, speak of birth and their birth experience with fear, sadness, or regret.
My heart goes out to every woman who has had a bad birth experience. Birth does not have to be that way. I know, because birth was not a horrible or scary experience for me. Birth is beautiful, wonderful, and transforming – when it is experienced with the proper support and care.
However, America has some of the worst birth statistics in the world. We are ranked alongside some third world countries in infant mortality. Why?
What is astounding is that the US ranks a lowly 50th on the World Health Organization’s measure of global maternal mortality. In other words, 49 other countries have figured out how to better care for women throughout pregnancy and birth so that more of them survive the process. It’s true that the US spends more dollars on health care than any other country, but we don’t have the positive outcomes you’d expect in correlation. Many pregnant women never get prenatal care, or only get it well into their pregnancies. The latest data show that 17 out of 100,000 American women die from pregnancy-related conditions. With 50 million uninsured, health care is beyond the reach of millions of expectant mothers. In fact, the US rate of maternal mortality has been going up since 1987, when we hit a low of 6.6 deaths per 100,000 deliveries, and continues to climb. It has more than doubled in the past 24 years. The good news is that maternal deaths are preventable in most cases. Experts say that with appropriate care, the US rate could be reduced to 3 out of 100,000.
Women can have a better birth experience in America. We can start by demanding better maternity care and birth care. We can start by being a proactive, not passive recipient, of medical care. We can start by getting informed and knowing our rights.
To quote Valerie Young again, “We deserve better. Push back against the status quo. We have a stake in the future, for we will live there with and through our children. How the future deals with us is up to us right now. Creation is what we do. Every single day women remake the face of the world. We have every right and every reason to make it a face that will smile back at us.”
Until we have safer, better birth in America – you can find me here blogging to support and help mothers get the birth (and body) they want.