Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Business of Being Born

I don't know how others feel about their pregnancy and birth experiences, but I definitely have opinions about mine. I've had three natural births in three different settings. Marina was born in a hospital, Chase in a birthing center, and Sierra was born at home. My first birth was the only one I felt like I had no control over. I didn't want a hospital birth. Having grown up with frequent trips to the emergency room and the occasional hospital stay, I did not have a positive view of hospitals. They were for sick people. But because of my asthma history and what is termed "an untried pelvis," I was not allowed to use a birth center that first time. I was upset, but because I was young and not good at speaking up for my rights, I did what I was told. That first labor was 25 hours. I refused pain medications in spite of intense labor (my brother and sister could hear me screaming in the waiting room) and gave birth to my beautiful, lively, healthy Marina...who was promptly taken from me to clean her up and check her for every little thing. I think I had the best hospital birth I could ask for, but that was not saying much. A month later we also got a bill from the anesthesiologist because our insurance wouldn't pay for something we didn't use. Hospitals keep an anesthesiologist on standby in the maternity ward, which just means he's on the floor. There were 5 other births the night Marina was born, so I'm sure he wasn't waiting for me.

I find it remarkable that all talk of a woman's right to choose revolves around whether or not she wants to have an abortion. If you are happily pregnant and simply want to have your baby in a particular way--with a midwife, in a birth center or at home--you are forced to jump through hoops, possibly pay out of pocket for services, and have to hope you aren't categorized as high risk. After all is said in done, you might still end up with a doctor who bullies or manipulates you into doing things their way. I was satisfied with Marina's birth until I was pregnant with Chase and a rush of memories brought home one simple fact--I did not want to have another baby in a hospital. Honestly, I enjoyed Chase birth in the Birth Cottage the best, but when I returned to my midwife 5 years later and pregnant with Sierra, the birth center had been closed. The hospital had opened a new maternity wing and decided that the Birth Cottage did not make enough money for them. Chase's midwife was the one who suggested a home birth, but she wasn't able to do it because she had to sign a contract with the hospital agreeing that she would not do home births.

Which brings me to the point of this tirade. A documentary is being released in January called "The Business of Being Born." It's produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein, who incidentally became pregnant during the filming of the documentary. However you feel about your own birth experiences, I believe every woman deserves a chance to experience birth as she chooses. I told another blogger recently that I look at the birth experience as others look at extreme sports. It hurts like h*ll, and you know you're going to be sore afterward, but reaching that finish line, that goal, makes it all worth the effort.

If you are interested, there is a movie trailer on the website.


appleleaf said...

It's a fascinating topic and I'll be watching out for that documentary. The idea of a home birth always sounded so cosy to me, but alas, it would've been impossible for me. My 2 boys' heads were wider than my pelvic bones! But having had one natural birth, and she was my hardest, I take my hat off to you, going through all that 3 times with minimal pain relief.

Inner Elder said...

Looking back, I agree. The Birth Cottage was the easiest birthing experience, not only for you but for those who love you. I've always said that I would rather go through labor myself that watch my daughters go through it. When you decided to have the home birth, I almost secretly arranged to have an ambulance parked down the street, just in case! Anyway, it all worked out and I agree with what you say about choice.

Love, MOm

B&B said...

You are amazing! And once again, so right! Women just don't even begin to realize how much our choices are controlled. My first doctor sent me to birth classes then once the time came refused me the use of all those lessons!

You raise a valid point and one that scares me as I listen to the political debates. It won't be long before women will lose the right to wear pants and go to work if you listen to some of them. And no, I'm not mentioning names.

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