Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Business of Being Born

So I am probably the last crunchy-momma-with-young-babies to see this movie, but I finally watched The Business of Being Born last night. It's not that I haven't been wanting to see it, it's just that we don't have a Netflix account anymore and I just noticed it at our local video store last week. Anyhow, I watched the much discussed movie and am glad I finally know what the buzz is all about.

On the DVD cover it says "A Must-See Movie For Every Parent-to-Be" and I do agree with that statement. The main jist of the documentary is how normal, healthy births have become over-medicalized in the United States and this puts risks to the baby and mother. While I knew most of the information in this movie from my own research into birthing, I appreciated the format it was presented and the stories of the families in the film.

When I was pregnant with Aidan, I had no doubt in my mind that I'd get an epidural. I thought that I wouldn't be able to handle the pain of labor and that epidurals were safe and not a risk to myself or baby. I had a friend due close to the time I was and she said she wanted to try to go drug-free. I thought she was crazy to want to put herself through that pain. She didn't have support for her decision and did get an epidural and seemed fine with that.

Then it was my turn. I went into labor on my own, two days before my due date, got to the hospital about 3 cms dilated and had an epidural in place within 5 hours of starting labor. I didn't have any complications from the epi and peacefully labored and delivered our first son after a 10 hour labor. Never had Pitocin, but did get my bag of waters ruptured by the OB. When the placenta didn't immediately deliver, the OB said it was a serious complication, he re-dosed my epidural, then manually removed it- a very painful process. I was led to believe that he HAD to do this because it wasn't detaching by itself and if he didn't get it out asap I'd be headed to the OR for a surgical removal. All of this happened within the first 45 minutes of my son's life. I didn't get to hold him, he wasn't laid on my stomach after delivery, I didn't get to nurse right away. I was scared, crying and in pain.

Years later, after reading about the natural birthing process, I learned that it is normal for placentas to take some time to deliver. They don't all come out right away. Some may not come out for 4 hours or more, yet the mother is fine. Had I been under the care of a midwife, she probably would of given me more time to deliver the placenta. She would of had my son start breastfeeding right away so that my contractions would pick up stronger and expel the placenta. She would of given my body a chance to do what it is made to do.

When I was pregnant with Sean, the hospital I delivered at did not offer epidurals. They offered a one-dose intrathecal injection of pain medication near the end of labor that is supposed to help with the pain during the final stages of dilatation and transition. Luckily, I had a very fast labor and by the time the anesthiologist showed up to offer the intrathecal I was close to being ready to push. I panicked, didn't trust my body and didn't know what type of pain-relief he was offering. I consented to the injection, but before it offered any relief I could feel Sean's head descending through my pelvis. He was born within 10 minutes of receiving the intrathecal. I remember being so pissed that I had it done, it didn't help me when I was at the peak of pain, I felt every bit of my labor and delivery, and it cost us an extra $500! What a rip!

After educating myself more about natural birth, I was determined to have our last child drug free and was able to do so. Yes, labor is painful, but it's the only productive pain you can have. I am so proud in myself for trusting my body and experiencing this rite of passage the way nature intended. It's an amazing process and an empowering event.

The Business of Being Born addresses how woman are being removed from this natural process and how one intervention in labor snowballs into another. While I agree that it can be difficult to find an OB supportive of a natural birth and a hospital that doesn't pressure a mother to accept it's routine interventions, I'm glad that there are still some OBs out there that do encourage women to have the birth experience they want. Not all communities have midwifes available, or if they do not all offer home births.

I would of loved to home birth Eleanor, and felt confident that I could of been successful in that setting and had a healthy birth & baby. I just didn't feel comfortable doing it without the support of a midwife as none are available where we live. I would love to see that change. I'd love to see birth centers within one hour's drive for everyone and home birth midwives available to those that want it. Even though each of my births and babies had "high-risk" situations, I still support the idea of midwives for mothers that are not high-risk.

I think that as women are waiting until they are older to birth now, hopefully they are also becoming more educated about birthing and request the least-restrictive birth experience they can have. I hate to see elective c-sections rise. The so called "Too Posh to Push" trend.

At the end of the film, to paraphrase what one of the researchers they interviewed said, "what happens to monkeys that have c-section births? They reject their young. They don't get the hormone combination and rush that occurs at the moment of natural birth so they have no attachment to their child. How are we to expect women who are denied this same combination of mothering, love and protection hormones to attach to their child?"


Jennifer said...

Wow! It's awesome to hear of someone else who's a proponent for natural childbirth. I had both of my boys naturally, although in the hospital. Everyone thought I was crazy. However, I was able to breastfeed both boys just after birth and I felt pretty good and could walk around after that. Both times, a nurse commented to me later in the day that I was the healthiest patient on the floor. I doubt it's a coincidence!

jennifergg said...

oh this is so interesting to me...thanks for writing about it. i sometimes feel sad when i think of how messed up my kids' births were, but then i try to remember we all made it here, and we seem to be doing okay...


jane said...

I loved the film too and think all moms to be should see it. Information is power :)

SunflowerMom said...

Jennifer (Elliot's Nest)- yes, it is amazing how strong and alert you feel after a natural birth. I think that's what made me fear c-sections so much- I wouldn't want to have to go through the recovery period.

Jennifererg- Aww, I'm sorry you didn't get to have happy births. I do agree that when it is needed, the medical assistance is good to have. The filmaker was pg during the making of the movie and actually ended up going into preterm labor & had an emergency c-section after laboring at home. Her little guy was just under 4 lbs.

Jane- you will always be one of my birthing heros!!