Saturday, May 14, 2011

Birth is Boring!

Normal birth, doesn't make good telly - fact!

Someone said earlier today when I was chatting about this subject, that birth language is subjective which I totally agree with. What might be euphoric for one woman could be hellish for another.

That said, I'm struggling to reflect on Ms Swinton’s description of birth being murderous.  Violent, however,  I can associate with. Birth can be violent, both naturally and due to interventions. However, birth can be beautiful and serene.

I also think that women are programmed to find things that make them feel failure whether it's down to thinking their hair is crap, they look fat or they "failed" in their birth and the media plays into this. Every week we're told how we're not feeding our children right, how we should be slim, how we should have curves, how we've lost the art of x, y and z!

My answer is to make birth more normal - let women see "real" birth, let women see birth that doesn't have to be on their backs, but sometimes it is. That birth doesn’t have to be induced, but sometimes it is. That for many women birth takes a long time, not a lot seems to happen externally and won’t make good tv viewing. When I think about the types of births I’ve witnessed on the television, it is always the calm, three pushes and it’s out (supine of course !!) or the emergency or highly medicalised.The births I've witnessed as a doula, however, tend to be incredibly long, consist of making more cups of tea than an army requires, lots of back rubbing and nothing more mind blowing than deciding what position is working best for the current contraction.

Women need to see birth as an every day part of life. It can be (for the most part) amazing and incredible, it can also be scary, and occasionally tragic.

I don't know the media is all to blame, I think women have to take some responsibility too.

Women who have normal (dare I say, boring) births where things just pottered along, don't tend to shout it from the roof tops, those that have more of a dramatic story or had serene and tranquil home births often get their stories out there more because they make for more interesting reading or more controversial discussion.

There is also not the occasion in most girl/woman's life to be a part of birth. Girls don't tend to grow up having witnessed their own mothers giving birth to their siblings. There is no "red tent" where women talk about their boring normal births, thus what we learn is from books, the media and our "louder" friends.    

Birth, for the most part, is hidden away from the public eye, apart from when the media gets it’s juicy paws on it and pimps it up. Even One Born Every Minute spends less time on the normal births than it does on the ones that have an interesting story or a dramatic complication.

Each "side" then tends to draw this debate from the other (bit like the breast vs bottle) that then paints this picture that birth is either callous and degrading or fairy lights and lotus births, which is normally the extreme in both respects. All those births that don't fit either category are not spoken about.

Women need to know that a natural birth will do its own thing. 

This, for one woman, if left alone, may result in no interventions, no epidurals, maybe even no hospital, for another woman this may result in chaotic busyness, lots of noise and people, various implements and possibly surgery. I am still convinced though that many of the latter births could have avoided c section, were an earlier step such as an epidural or an induction avoided, but that's another blog post!

Women need to know that their bodies are designed to birth and they need to know that they can do it and there are things they can do to help themselves. One of those things they can do to help themselves is to surround themselves with people who have had straightforward births and also to believe in themselves.
They also need to know that birth will follow its own course. 

Look outside the window. How many things do you see that are exact and precise straight lines? Okay, now how many of those things are made by Mother nature rather than by man?
My point is that if we try to control something that is, by its very nature, twisted, curved, independent, we are more likely to “fail”. If more women believed in themselves and their sisters before them told their ordinary, boring birth story, less women would be scared, more women would be empowered, more women would be open minded. Less women would feel that they needed to consent to intervention because their birth is long or because their contractions are not regular or having a little rest because they'd know that normal birth can be long, intermittent at times and...boring!

Ms Swinton's comments remind me of a story that I use in classes; a midwife in Pennsylvania works with the Amish community. This means she sees many young primips birthing at home in a community where birth isn’t hidden behind screens. They are incredibly focused and aware and they do believe in their body's ability to birth, however, because they are new to birth, they still feel they can control it. 

One story she tells is of the young mother to be who is sitting upright in bed, pristine clean sheets (white!) and a pressed nightdress. Her birth goes very slowly whilst this young woman doesn’t want to be seen to make a noise or break a sweat. Eventually, many, many hours after she first called the midwife, she gets out of the bed with a large noise, rips off her clothes and within an hour, the baby is born. Once the mother realizes that she is not in control of her birth and she needs to listen to what her body wants her to do and this may be messy or noisy, but that's okay, she births her baby. Ina May Gaskin also talks about this in both Spiritual Midwifery and her latest book, Birth Matters: “Letting your monkey do it” is what she calls it.

So yes, birth can be violent, birth can be beautiful, birth can be messy, it can be very boring for the most part. Birth is subjective. However, those of you who have had “boring births”, please make your stories known too. Women have to know that empowerment isn’t about being in control, it isn’t about being controlled either, it’s about a symbiosis. Working symbiotically with your body and baby and believing that both of you can do it. Sometimes, occasionally, there will be a situation that will require medical help, but for the most part, given time and support, birth is long, hard work, messy and surprisingly boring! 

Spread the word!!!

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