We’re not in Kansas Anymore

I met with a nurse-midwife this week. (No, the insurance debacle is not fully sorted, but it is smoothing out somewhat.) It was so strange for me as to border on surreal.

You see, every one of my prior pregnancies I have been in the care of a midwife, in the more traditional sense. Oh, we still had insurance to cover the unexpected, and there were unexpected things that called for it. But we were willing pay out of pocket to go above what our insurance would provide in order to see someone who really understood and had patience with what a woman’s body does during childbirth.

Did you know that a woman can go her entire pregnancy and labor without a single pelvic exam and nothing bad would happen? I did. Several pregnancies in fact.

The first thing I was told upon entering the exam room this week was to remove all of my clothes in order to receive a complete physical, pelvic exam and pap smear. Um, no! I’m here for prenatal care and none of these things are necessary, or even especially useful.

See, the birth culture in which I have carried and delivered babies the past decade believes that it is the woman herself who give birth, not the doctors or nurses attending her. They believe that caring for the whole woman during her pregnancy, emotionally as well as physically, helps her to do the job of having a baby. Because it’s she who does the work.

That was obviously not the assumption of the people I encountered this week. First they told me that they could not attend me after my 36th week. I would be immediately transferred to OB care due to the fact that I’ve had a C-section. Never mind that I’ve had two VBACs since then, at home nonetheless, and that the odds of a post Cesarian uterus rupturing are about 1 in 4000. Just to put that in context for you, the odds of dying in a plane crash are about 1 in 1500 and in a car about 1 in 500. Yet, the persistent obstetrical myth that VBACs are dangerous things continues to cloud the judgment of what are otherwise, we hope, rational human beings.

I’m sure my jaw dropped a little when she even mentioned that they check for a narrow pelvis still and make a note that such a woman might have trouble as a result.  I felt like I was stuck in a time warp that transported me back to the 1950s when people still believed such things. I didn’t realize they still thought that way today, given all the evidence to the contrary.

Then they told me, repeatedly, how much the OB’s would dislike my choice to decline pelvic exams. I asked what they would learn exactly from a pelvic exam. Well, what the cervix is doing, so they can tell better about when the baby is going to be born. Seriously, what? How is this in anyway useful or helpful? The baby will come when the baby is ready to come. Knowing the exact day is impossible anyway, unless you are used to, and intend to, induce or bring on labor artificially. It has everything to do with people wanting to schedule their own lives, rather than having the patience to allow birth to happen as it’s meant to, when it’s time to.

My husband was born a month premature and almost died because the doctor attending his mother stripped her membranes during what was supposed to be a routine pelvic exam, without her permission, in order to make sure she delivered early enough for him to go on vacation.

The nurse who admitted my sister ruptured her membranes without permission during the routine admitting exam.

Not to mention the countless numbers of women who had their perineum butchered by an impatient attendant without their knowledge or consent and lived in pain for months or years afterward.

No where in the western world is a woman’s right to make choices about what happens to her own body and her right to informed consent as ignored and trodden upon as in the labor and delivery room.

Did you know that when left alone it’s actually the baby who decides when labor starts?

The cascade of hormones that brings on labor begins with the baby when it’s ready to be born, not the mother. Isn’t that beautiful? I think so.

I’m willing to bet not one single person practicing obstetrics today has ever seen a truly natural childbirth, where the woman does it entirely by herself, and her body is allowed to do what it’s made to do, and respond as it’s meant to respond.

Frankly, the idea of a hospital birth frightens me. No where else have I encountered such blatant and entrenched disrespect for my ability as a woman to labor and give birth on my own than within the obstetrical community.

To hear them talk, they deliver babies, not women. And it’s no wonder, between causing her to doubt entirely her ability to do it, messing with her body every chance they get, and interfering with the entire process, they end up rendering her not only incapable of birthing naturally, but even incapable of controlling her own body thanks to epidurals.

To them I am not a person, I am a vagina attached to a uterus, one that is most likely not able to do what I am biologically equipped to do without their “expert” assistance.

I’ve not spent years of my life observing medicalized births and worst case scenarios. So I couldn’t possibly know more than them about what my body does, and how I labor.

Little was born in a tub of warm water at my in-laws house. The only person who touched me was my husband, who sat in the tub with me holding my head up so I could sleep between contractions without slipping in. When I started to push he, and my MIL and midwife, helped me to my knees, because I asked them to. The midwife shone a flashlight so she could see what was happening. She may have once or twice checked the baby’s heart rate while I lay in the bath. I pushed, and my body labored, and Little slipped out of me and into my arms in the dark and quiet of our family circle, in the most peaceful way imaginable.

That’s something the people I am dealing with this time around do not know or understand. But it’s what I am committed to fighting them for nonetheless.

Thanks embejo for the link to this article. Honoring Body Wisdom

all content © Carrien Blue

13 thoughts on “We’re not in Kansas Anymore

  1. Oh this is near and dear to my heart. How is it possible that obstetrics continues to treat women this way? It is ridiculous! I gave birth to my daughter at a birthing center, a completely natural birth on my own terms, after nine hours of labor. It was the most empowering experience of my entire life. Three months later, my sister gave birth at a hospital. They had stopped her natural labor a few weeks before, although it would have been perfectly safe for her to deliver then. Because the doctor had been up all night delivering another baby and wanted to go home. Then they administered pitocin to force her to go into labor later, and she eventually had to have an emergency c-section because in those few weeks her baby had grown too large and was stuck in the birth canal.

    I cannot comprehend how the medical community justifies treating women this way!!

  2. Wow, and this was a midwife!? (OK, a nurse midwife, but still!) I am shocked. Must you birth in a hospital?? I have had a midwife for all three pregnancies (em, four if you count my miscarriage) and two of my children were born out of the hospital. I loved it and would not like the hospital idea either!

    Have you heard of free birth? I heard about that only recently and it might work out for you.

  3. I have had four babies, the last two at home. I am passionate about natural birth. It really doesn't take a great deal of research to discover how the excessive use of interventions complicate birth. I'm also a nurse, and completely appreciate modern medicine. The specialised interventions are wonderful for saving lives in extenuating circumstances, but should never be used routinely.
    I really hope you get the birth experience you want….I'm lucky that here in NZ the vast majority of women use free midwifery care for their entire pregnancies and most never need to see an OB/GYN.
    My last child was born unassisted…I didn't choose that per se, we were planning a midwife to attend his birth at home but it went faster than expected, and he arrived before she arrived. I had a dear friend with me and my husband lifted our child onto my chest. No exams, no interference. I was free to move and do whatever I wanted. I was never in fear. Was the most incredibly beautiful and empowering experiences of my life.

  4. Beautifully written. As someone who has groin nerve damage from an episiotomy gone wrong (that they didn't even tell me they were doing!), i agree with you.Not every women needs an extreme at home bathtub birth or anything to still allow their bodies to function normally and as God intended. Take charge in the hospital, make your birth plan, get their doctor and nurse on board. Its not like the choice is either 1) at home unassisted in the tub with a midwife or 2) doctor medically doing everything and cutting and abusing you. There is a happy medium where you can still be in charge and let you baby come naturally!.
    And as to why women still think they need to have a c-section for ALL their births after having one for a valid medical reason…i can't understand why they don't realize that was disproved years ago! And why "schedule" a birth and force the baby and take away the amazing power of your body and baby just so it is convenient to pick the day. Are you kidding me!!

  5. Ugh! Are you going to stick with them?! You're going to be transferred to an OB at 36 weeks…? Seriously, especially after the experience in birthing you've had, I don't know how you can take it. Hit the ground running, I say. YUCK.

    It's giving me the willies.

  6. Erin-Exactly. Thanks for the the article.

    Chantelle-I don't think I realized that you had nerve damage. I knew it was really painful for you, but didn't realize there were long terms effects too. I'm sorry.

    You are right a woman shouldn't have to decide to birth at home alone in order to avoid having her body interfered with. Yet I have not witnessed one single hospital birth where the staff were content to leave well enough alone. The training to check and examine and monitor is so ingrained that they don't know what to do with themselves otherwise.

  7. loved reading this.

    i have yet to give birth to a child myself, but have witnessed both of my sister, erin's (who you know from bed&bread) labors and births. as well as some research on my own, i'm amazed at all of the options out there that don't include a hospital and/or feet in stirrups! i hope one day to be able to allow my body to do what it's meant to, with only as much medical assistance as i NEED.

    thanks for shedding more light on this subject and some of the common myths floating around. i hope the rest of your pregnancy goes exactly as you wish!

  8. Wow. I had my first 'hands-off' experience with birth when my third was born. It was a night and day difference from my previous two births.

    I sure hope that they will work with you to give you the birth you want. While my two hospital births were heavily managed (one out of necessity – a true emergency and the other because I was a first time mom and didn't know any better), I've had a couple of friends who have been blessed by a wonderful, relatively hands-off hospital birth experience.

  9. I feel you so completely! I've had all four of mine at home in water with a lay midwife. I always joke and say that should I have to birth in a hospital, I'd lock myself and my husband in the bathroom and labor quietly, emerging with a baby in arms. 😉

    I really wouldn't know what to do with a medically managed birth. I don't know what circumstances have brought you to birth in a hospital, but perhaps a very strong doula by your side may be helpful in protecting your rights and bullying away pokey nurses and whatnot.

    ~Fearless Mamma

    (signing in under my husband's google account… I don't have one, nor any of the other comment options. =)

  10. I really, really hope that you can find an alternative health care provider, because this just does not sound good. I am familiar with good hospital situations, but every time I hear a story about a doctor stripping membranes or breaking a woman's water without her consent I want to make sure that I am in the middle of the woods should I ever give birth!

  11. OK so I heard about this idea that may or may not help you. Do most of your laboring at home and only go to the hospital at the very END of your labor, just before you are ready to push that baby out. This way you get to labor YOUR way, and are not at the hospital during the labor time for them to, eh, "encourage" the interventions that you don't want. They barely have time to sign you in before they have to deal with delivery!! Anyway good luck with whatever you decide.

  12. loved reading this.

    i have yet to give birth to a child myself, but have witnessed both of my sister, erin's (who you know from bed&bread) labors and births. as well as some research on my own, i'm amazed at all of the options out there that don't include a hospital and/or feet in stirrups! i hope one day to be able to allow my body to do what it's meant to, with only as much medical assistance as i NEED.

    thanks for shedding more light on this subject and some of the common myths floating around. i hope the rest of your pregnancy goes exactly as you wish!

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