Saturday, March 27, 2010

If I could do it all over again Part 1: Preparing for Childbirth

I've learned so much from becoming a mother and my blog is somewhat of a catalog of that learning. Since I posted my review of Birth as an American Rite of Passage, I've been thinking about what I know now that I wish I had known before Willem was born. So much of it comes from what I wish I had read. I have often thought that if someone had told me that I could come away from giving birth traumatized by having to fight for an unmedicated birth, I wouldn't have believed them. I would have needed to read the right books to be fully convinced. I think I've now found a reading list that would have convinced me if I were to have read them while I was pregnant the first time.

Birth as an American Rite of Passage by Robbie Davis-Floyd
This has been a very influential book for me. Framing the obstetric culture in terms of technology over nature was a very helpful framework for me to see the potential battle that birth can be between a mother and hospital workers. If I had read the book while pregnant the first time, I would have know that I was in the wholistic camp, believing that a woman's body is capable of working properly to birth a baby. Viewing birth as a rite of passage also likely would have illuminated the spiritual aspect of birth in a way might have compelled me to view the upcoming event as a spiritual event as well. The women stories in the book also very clearly describe common hospital practices that upon reading, I would have known I wanted to avoid. Homebirth was clearly shown by the mothers stories to be one of the only viable ways of really avoiding those practices.

Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger
The strength of this book comes from the cross-cultural descriptions of birth practices, as well as covering the history of childbirth. Kitzinger places the natural process of birth as the foundation of the book and so when describing the migration from homebirth to hospital, it becomes very clear to the reader how unnecessary a hospital birth is in the majority of births while respecting their usefulness is certain situations. As a first time mother, I had had no exposure to the cultural context of hospital birth. I believe, like circumcision, if I had known the history behind the practice, I would not have been accepting to engage in it. This book also highlights the spiritual and emotional aspects of birth, which as I've said, would be very helpful for me.

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block
While Rediscovery Birth examines the history of the way childbirth has been handled across societies, Pushed examines the current issues confronting childbearing women in our society. Like Birth as an American Rite of Passage, I believe I would have clearly seen the incongruent care being given to childbearing women and how that can lead to avoidable harms. Block gives a sense of the whole picture that comprises all the parts of maternity care and how each part in interrelated from hospital administration to insurance companies, malpractice lawyers, midwives and law-makers. I feel that the book shows very convincing how women can be painted into a corner when it comes to making decisions for birth. As it was so extensively researched with up to date information, I believe I would have been very convinced by Block's reporting.

Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J. Buckley
Buckley describes the biology of childbirth and describes very well the type of environment needed to allow the process to occur most successfully. I feel that her presentation of the physiology defines why privacy, familiarity and no intervention is so important in childbirth.

From this book, I also would have learned the whys of babywearing and been introduced to the concept of elimination communication, which I may have been intrigued enough to try it as soon as Willem was born.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
If I could have read one book on how to cope with and prepare for the physical sensations of childbirth, this would have been it. It would have been very helpful for me to know about "the sphincter rule," the value of cuddling and "smooching" during labor, "horse lips" and maintaining a relaxed mouth and throat. The Hypnobirthing preparation I did do during my first pregnancy was helpful in learning how to relax and breathe but I feel that Ina May's Guide covers that very well, with more applicable information for the continuous motion often helpful during labor.

Also the normalcy of home and out of hospital would have been reinforced and added to how convinced I would have been to avoid the hospital.

A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer
Not only is this book convincing for why common obstetric practices should not be routinely employed, it also works to prepare a woman who may need to have a hospital birth for whatever reason. I think through reading this book in conjunction with the others, my confidence in my knowledge of what I want to avoid would have been bolstered and I also would have been prepared to deal with the hospital if I had needed to.

If I had read all of these books relating to childbirth during my pregnancy (or before), I still would have needed to convey the information to my husband. He is more difficult to convince than I am when it comes to information that it outside of cultural norms or claims to be scientific in anyway. Like I found between my pregnancies, he did learn a great deal from the times when I stopped reading and couldn't help but tell him about the frustrating, funny, interesting fact that I had just learned. That strategy went a long way, but it did come to a point where he told me to stop talking about birth (more because it reminded him of the trauma he experienced from Willem's birth). Because of his limited time as a graduate student, I would have needed to pick one source of information on childbirth to share with him.

The Business of Being Born produced by Rikki Lake and Abby Epstein
This documentary provides a DVD format and covers all of the main points of the books I've listed. Its animation of the "technocracy's cascade of interventions" is useful in the quick way it describes the drawbacks of hospital birth. The history of hospital birth provides enough information to see just how money driven, patriarchal and unjust hospital birth's origins are.

My husband has seen the documentary and though he was convinced by the information regarding what is wrong with the hospital based maternity care system, he still was not completely convinced about a homebirth. HIs preference would be to fix the hospital system so unmedicated birth is the norm, but I think even he realizes that is not going to happen in time for births in our family. He accepted the homebirth option because he didn't see a better way, in the moment, that I was comfortable with. I think this is what is called "opting-out." Even still, I'm not sure whether he would have been convinced regarding homebirth without first witnessing the down-right abuse I experienced in the hospital giving birth to our first child.

All of the books, and the DVD, I discussed in this post are available on the amazon associates store that I posted at the bottom on my blog. There's reading list widgets for blogs or there's shopping directly from a blog, I chose the latter--saves time for the reader. That's also my explanation for why I didn't link individually to each item or post pictures, its all there, just below the post.

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