Monday, January 01, 2007

A Good Birth

A friend gave birth to her fist child on Saturday. Her due date had been December 26, and she started calling the hospital first thing on the morning of the 27th, hoping they’d have a free bed so she could be induced. There was no health reason for her induction; she was simply ready for the baby to be here. Finally, she and her husband went to the hospital on the morning of the 30th, and the pitocin was started at noon. Her OB broke her water around 4pm, and the anesthesiologist administered the epidural. She was pushing by 6:30, and her 8 ½ pound son was born just before 7pm. By all accounts the baby was perfect, and mom looked less like she’d just had a baby and more like she was headed out for dinner. Everyone was happy. This was a good birth for her: relatively painless, and at just the moment she wanted it to happen.

Confession time. I’m disappointed in her birth. How awful is that?! She’s happy and healthy and the baby is beautiful. I should be 100% overjoyed for them. But I’m not.

This birth doesn’t exactly fit with Lamaze’s Six Care Practices for Normal Birth. Labor didn’t begin on its own, routine interventions were not avoided, and although I wasn’t there, I assume freedom of movement was inhibited by all the wires and medication lines. I’d bet money a non-supine position was not used for pushing. Her husband offered continuous support, and I can only hope the baby wasn’t taken away for too long after he was born.

It seems that for every mainstream birth gone wrong, there’s one like this where the intervention cascade flows perfectly. So I’m thinking, when this eventually comes up in my childbirth classes, how can I discuss it? More confessions: it pisses me off when women rely unnecessarily on the medical model of birth, and I tend to view successful mainstream hospital births as crisis-narrowly-averted. I want to be sure I can keep these feelings in check. At this point in my learning process, I don’t think it’s right to allow my personal bias toward unmedicated birth to dictate my answers to class questions. As I said in my previous blog post, I want the facts to speak for themselves.

It all comes back to informed choice. While my greatest hope is that women who attend my classes will choose normal birth, my goal should be that they will make the best choice for themselves based on all the facts.

Peace to you in 2007!


  1. Amy,

    Thank you for posting your thoughts! I recently had a bitterly disappointing experience when a good friend decided to just lie down and let the medical machine take her birth from her in a very non-medically necessary repeat cesarean. She wanted a VBAC until her kind, gently, well-meaning doctor told her that he could not offer her one. She did not ask questions, she did not think about finding another doctor who would help her. She just said, "Okay." When she told me of her decision, I privately broke down and sobbed. My anger was directed not only at the climate for maternity care in this country, and the doctors who feed the system, but I found myself bitterly disappointed in my friend. I don't understand why so many women are unwilling to take a stand. I believe my greatest challenge as a childbirth educator will be suppressing my strongly-held bias against the medical model of birth.

    By the way, I'm starting my student teaching (at the hospital where my friend had her first c-section) on Monday. Wish me luck. I'm not so afraid of teaching as I am of being in that infernal hospital.

  2. All we can do is give information. The mom has to choose to empower herself with it.

    I of course say this and believe it on one level, but in my heart it hurts when women make choices like this. She was lucky and it turned out ok, but we know it what it could have led to.

    I feel worse for those women who don't have information and their careproviders scare them into unnecessary interventions... they don't even know. That is worse somehow!