Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Safe Spectrum

I know I talk alot about the "continuum of reproductive rights". This spectrum of individual choice is one of the tenants of my beliefs about woman's health. I also believe that we have great privilege as American women. Certainly, not everything is perfect- Cesarean rates are still too high, maternity leaves are too short and there are states still attempting to curtail access to birth control and abortion. But the breadth, quality and legality of our choices enable us to be safer and more empowered than the majority of the world's women.

Yesterday, due to a post on A Midwife's Tale I learned of yet another style of birth, freebirth. I had heard of women here and there expressing interest in such a thing but did not realize that it was a full blown moment. As neutral as I try to be, this one really pushes the limits of my compassion and flexibility. As a recent situation has shown, attempting to birth at home, unaided by a birth professional, is dangerous.

I understand that women have been traumatized in certain birth settings and situations, and certainly, an unnecessary c-section deserves angry feelings and grief for the loss of the intended birth experience. But to express the same sort of violent obstinacy ("my way or the highway") in opposition to the medical community does no good to anyone.

Birth happens unassisted, all the time, all over the world. But maternal and infant morality is a global tragedy that is deserving of the attention and resources of the UN (MDG5). These women don't have access to basic obstetrical skills and technology that would keep them and their babies safe. Birth is usual a very normal physiological process but just like anything, even walking across the street, there are risks involved.

One final thought: birth is the start of parenting. The strength and confidence that a woman can gain from her birthing experience gives her momentum for her job as a mother. An unassisted birth seems to set the foundation for irresponsible parenting.

What are some of your thoughts about the practice of free birth?


maria said...

Wow, where to start? I guess with the question whether you really want to know or not?
Your mind seems made up. Yet from your post I don't get the feeling you have looked deeply into UC at all.
You write:
"As a recent situation has shown, attempting to birth at home, unaided by a birth professional, is dangerous."
Can I laugh out loud here?
What do you know about this birth that makes you think that the birth has anything to do with the death of this baby? Countless babies are stillborn each year and in only 40% of the cases do they ever find out what happened. Of course stillbirth is going to happen to UC-ers as well.
Shame on you and everyone who says see UC is dangerous, this baby is proof. Many babies die in hospitals too. No one ever questions those as harshly.

Anonymous said...

"As a recent situation has shown, attempting to birth at home, unaided by a birth professional, is dangerous."

Yes, and as shows sometimes birthing in the hospital is dangerous too.

The thing about UC is that it isn't a choice to be made lightly. It incorporates an INCREDIBLE amount of responsibility for self. The mother becomes the expert.

As someone else already pointed out, sometimes death is unavoidable. But UCers wouldn't be so heartless as to point fingers and say it was the grieving mother's fault.

We should be standing beside her as fellow mothers. Shoulder to shoulder as she has lost her child. That is not easy for anyone, and despite differences in ideology we should be able to stand together in mourning.

Anonymous said...

as this shows.

sorry. HTML kicked my butt there.

Ciarin said...

i-am-a-mama, I would love to hear more about how the mother becomes expert? (and I don't mean this sarcastically - I really am curious how the mother becomes expert). When I was having babies (prior to becoming a midwife...or even a nurse) I read many things to educate myself on normal and natural childbirth. I could see myself becoming educated but not expert though.

kymmy said...

I see freebirth only as dangerous as any birth. I think it comes down to how the birthing mother feels. Stress is never good, is it?
That is why fb was safer for me.

free2bme said...

I stumbled across your blog today and until reading your opinions of unassisted birth, I found your blog quite refreshing. My first thought is that no healthy pregnant woman or any other mammal needs an "expert". It is unfortunate that the world is full of people who have managed to convince the vast majority of women that we are not qualified to conceive, know that we are pregnant, experience pregnancy, birth our babies, and properly nourish them after birth without "expert" opinions. I have attended a large number of births as a doula and a student midwife & after many of our births I have honestly said to myself "I can't believe she hired a midwife, she would have been just fine without us". My dog just gave birth to 6 perfectly healthy puppies, alone and unassisted. Why on earth could a woman not birth one single baby on her own...she would instinctively know exactly how to birth her baby

free2bme said...

Oh & BTW I feel like Unassisted Childbirth is the option that reflects the highest level of responsibility on the mother's is by no means an irresponsible decision

Kate Zondervan said...

Hello Everyone,
First of all, I wanted to thank each of you for taking the time to comment on my blog. I think it is important to have a safe space to respectfully discuss a variety of opinions and experience. One of my goals in the writing of this blog is that it be a "learning tool" for both myself and my reading community. I don’t consider myself to be an expert but, for me, that is one of the best things about blogging- the exploration that one is able to undertake.
Now onto UC. I am deeply saddened by the loss of Janet's baby and about her previous experience that caused her to have so much distrust of her medical community. The loss of a child is devastating, no matter what the circumstances. I wish the family strength during what I'm sure is a difficult and painful grieving process.
I hold an unwavering commitment to a woman's informed decision to choose what is best for herself. I have a deep and profound respect for birth. I do agree that UC is the highest degree of responsibility that a woman can take up herself. But, I do have serious concerns that that responsibility might be too great for many people.
I hear those of you who have said that hospitals can be equally dangerous- I have never been anti-home birth on this blog (nor have I been anti-hospital, every birth deserves the space that makes the most sense, for both the well-being and health of mother and baby). But, what I do take issue with is the hard stance that seems to have stemmed from this discussion (I've seen it on other blog comments, too). Birth is never predictable. Period. Women and men need to be flexible and be prepared for any unexpected occurrence.
Ultimately, birth is about 2 things: the beginning of motherhood and the beginning of a new life. It's imperative that we find a balance in which we ensure that the mother feels empowered while we also take steps to ensure that every child being born is born as safely as possible.