"For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, women have listened with rapt attention to other women telling the story of birth: what it feels like, how it progresses and what can happen.
In that regard, nothing has changed. Pregnant women still yearn to hear the truth about the transformation of their bodies and the mystical event that is birth. In fact, they are as curious as ever! But what used to be an intimate conversation between a women and her doctor or midwife, or a woman and her female family members, has become a much larger, more scrambled conversation."
— Sheri Menelli
Excerpted from "Positive Birth Stories," Midwifery Today, Issue 84
A beautiful thing one of my doula clients told me today that many women she knows, her husband, and even her mother have been telling her that they think her birth is going to go well, and that it will be smooth and easy. What a refreshing change from what most pregnant women hear, which is "well, we'll see. I was planning a natural birth too until
How could our birth culture change just by this simple shift in consciousness? Instead of regaling the expectant mother with stories that only inspire fear, to simply say "I believe in you. I trust your body to give birth." Studies have shown that birth outcomes by having a doula simply sitting in a chair in the room, doing nothing fancy. Could it bit that having another woman there inspires that much trust and confidence in the birthing mother?
Currently most pregnant women learn about birth from the media, the sensational, line-in-the sand drawing media. The debates rage on about scheduled cesareans for those "too posh to push", drawing quotes and attention from those few physicians who feel an elective cesarean at 38 weeks is safest for everyone. The media bickers about everything from epidurals to homebirths, to VBAC and everything in between. These debates are chosen based how good the sound byte is, not usually because there's any compelling reason to be discussing it. Long before women in America get pregnant they have seen countless birth "emergencies" played out on sitcoms, where the expectant mother races off to the hospital just moments after her water breaks in a public place (a phenomenon that occurs less than 14% of the time, by the way.) Most women of childbearing age today are daughters of mothers who experienced the beginning of the wave of technological birth that has yet to peak. We are daughters of cesareans, spinals, Demerol, episiotomies, enemas, and some even of twilight sleep. Is it any wonder we don't draw much power from the stories of our mothers?
I imagine a world in which little girls and boys grow up hearing stories about the beauty and magic and power of birth. When they can listen to their birth story and want to hear it again and again because their mother recalls it with a smile. I want the fabric of our culture to change, where we stop the stories of horror and encourage women with positivity. Where children have an understanding that by and large, birth is a normal and physiological event, and that yes, sometimes things don't go as planned and every once in a while we need the trained hands of a surgical specialist. This is the world in which I want my daughters to grow. They will hear their birth stories as many times as they care to listen, and I hope they will see the work I do as important and special. Most of all, I want more for their possible future births than what the system offers the vast majority of American women today.