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.