Friday, February 22, 2013

The Birthing Right

I was fortunate enough to be with my sister during the delivery of both her babies, and was able to help coach her through the pushing of her second. I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life - mostly because she's such a tiny girl and I didn't know how it would physically possible for her to push out an actual infant. I thought about her first baby's head crowing and then the doctor's saying "hmm... yeah, sorry folks, but that's as far as she's gonna go."

Me holding my niece Lyla, 2007
The day we brought her home from the hospital

But my sister did an amazing job, and she has two beautiful babies to show for it (who are now 4 and 6), but I will never forget those days, and what it was like to be around the hospital staff. I don't know how some women do it - just show up at the hospital and let them run the show. I would be terrified! Some of the nurses are just so amazing and kind, and others (like in any profession) are demanding and angry and have no empathy.

They see a young girl in the hospital and automatically assume that girl is incompetent; when breastfeeding is difficult the first or second time around, they shove formula at her (or send her home with it later). I'm sure it's some marketing scheme by Nestle or Similac (I can't remember which one we were sent home with) to give hospitals free cans of formula and push them on new mothers who are going through so much already. (Plus, who doesn't like getting free stuff?).

It's extremely frustrating for me to see. It's as if we're expected to put all of our trust in our medical system. I think that's the scariest thing I've ever written. Our whole medical system is so backwards to begin with: We have the government funding symptom palliation instead of prevention and health awareness; covering prescription drugs and not supplements. It's terrifying to think of women being vulnerable (I don't know many women who can deliver their own baby) and need support, and medical doctors and nurses act like they're the most knowledgeable and powerful people in the world.

Why not educate these women and present them with choices instead of just forcing them into a decision they're unsure of (for example, getting an epidural). That's the one thing I really picked up on at the hospital with my sister - I felt like we were always judged, or when my sister asked a question, it was like they were scolding parents, treating her like a child.

The Birth House by Ami McKay has become one of my favourite novels. It's so interesting how women gave birth before the medical system snaked it's way in with stirrups and Twilight Sleep; And also how they were able to convince women of their methods, meanwhile, completely removing women from their own birthing experience.

So I have decided to start my journey in Doula training, so that I can offer that support to women and help talk about the choices that they get to make regarding their birth. My training will begin in late March and I'm expected to attend 3 births as part of the certification. I think it will be an amazing opportunity to empower women, to offer support and to witness the joy childbirth.