Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Business of Being Born

Before I begin, let me get the inevitable questions out of the way.

Disclaimer 1: NO, I am not pregnant!
Disclaimer 2: NO, I am not trying to get pregnant!

Before you start to cry mother, YES I will give you grandchildren one day.

But right now, I have a very sweet, supportive, fabulous husband that is soon to embark on a very exciting and expensive MBA program, and that will be our baby for the next few years.

Okay? Are we all good? Everyone still buckled in with their seats and tray tables in their full upright and locked positions? Off we go then...

I have always been a spiritual person, intermittently religious, but always spiritual. And I have also always been an extremely inquisitive person, exhausting my family since probably the age of 2 asking every 'why' question a small child could possibly concoct.

And both traits have served me well in my journey thus far. My spirituality has grounded me and given me a purpose and sense that there are forces at work much larger and much more important than me. And my constant questioning has led me to challenge widely-held ideologies and seek truths that make sense within my system of beliefs, not the world's.

While this may seem like a natural process that most humans either do or should go through during their lifetimes, it has been interestingly challenging and painstaking for me. A rule-follower at heart, I have had to stretch and bend and grow tremendously in order to allow myself to question, debunk and eventually toss out "rules" that this world says an American woman should follow.

And I find myself, not surprisingly, at another such moment.

There is a woman in my office who is pregnant. She is just a few years younger than me, and we work very closely together. While we have really only gotten to know one another in the past couple months, I have sensed at times that there is something bigger happening than simply colleagues building their working relationship. Our paths seemed to have crossed quite purposefully... to teach one another, influence each other and ultimately help the other.

And I'm starting to think I was right.

With our best professional smiles and our thickly veiled passions, we have done what the rulebooks say we should do. Work alongside one another. Say good morning and goodbye with a smile and a friendly face. Be pleasant and focused.

But never, never, never, ever, ever, ever really be your true self at work.

Be yourself in the context of your role. Throw your own tasteful sauce on whatever company dish you are representing. But that's as far as it goes.

And like it or not, that has been us. Dutifully working alongside one another trying to be the best office version of ourselves that we could possibly be.

But as life, God and the universe would have it, we have inadvertently oozed a little bit of ourselves into a conversation or two. Me mentioning my healer or my medium on a walk to the parking garage. She mentioning her midwife or her vegetarian beliefs in a car ride back from lunch. And lo and behold we have discovered real people hidden inside our business casual facade.

And I feel like my eyes are opening to a whole new world yet again.

As I mentioned, this woman is pregnant, and she and her husband have opted to deliver their baby with the assistance of a midwife at a birthing center instead of a hospital. For her hospitals have always been a sad, negative place for one reason or another, and she always knew that perhaps this country's idea of traditional childbearing wouldn't be the path she would choose.

So we have talked about this a time or two. She, gracefully and patiently explaining her choice for a natural, intimate experience with her husband and new child; me, loudly and emphatically expressing my bend towards plenty of pain medication and a doctor or three.

And I hadn't really thought much past that until arriving in California to visit my sister. But as we have a habit of doing, our time together thus far has been full of meaty conversation, joint pondering, and sharing of new and thought-provoking ideas. One of which has been this notion of natural childbirth, taking the doctor's agenda out of a woman's birth plan.

As it normally works with my sister, our lives are usually on complete-overlap-mode, and she too had just had an interesting conversation with a girlfriend who gave birth in a hospital in February. When Lacy mentioned a documentary analyzing the truths of hospital births versus midwives, we acted on our impulsive Burns-nature and decided to download the film and do our own research.

So with my good-sport-of-a-husband comfortably perched at my side, the three of us crowded around her 15-inch computer screen and watched The Business of Being Born. Preparing ourselves for what we anticipated to be a moving and controversial presentation of the facts and opinions of hospital birth versus home birth, we all agreed to pause the film throughout, discussing whatever comments, questions or quandaries clouded our minds.

And discuss we did! I wish I had been counting the number of times we stopped the film because I have not seen three more active-watchers of a documentary in my life. Even Brian who is usually rather quiet when I get on a rant about women's issues was actively participating, touched to see husband and wife working as a team to powerfully and intimately bring the life they created into the world together.

It was astounding. Moving. Life changing. Convincing.

Yep, I said it. Convincing.

Before you laugh and say, "oh sweet little Kayla. That's nice that she would think that, but she doesn't know the first thing about natural childbirth. She wouldn't be able to do it. I mean, she's always said she had to bite a wooden spoon growing up to even take out a splinter," let me stop you.

It is my opinion that we've all gotten pretty good at telling women what they can't do in this world. And it seems that birthing their own children has been added to that long list, giving women like me every reason to fear, every reason to think my body isn't capable. But this movie really made me take a step back and examine that notion. As a woman. As a future mother. As a miraculous, capable, life-giving being.

A large part of film looks at the medical agenda versus the body's physical needs. It puts into question a billion dollar industry that intervenes in a natural process in order to schedule, guide and ultimately control a process that is sufficiently managed by a woman's internal clock and amazingly completed by a loving cocktail of hormones and a powerful rhythm of physical contractions. It does not rule out the very important role of monitoring both baby and mother throughout the pregnancy, but it does call to question the idea of major surgery as necessary for childbirth and the rampant use of synthetic hormones and chemical pain killers to mimic a process the body knows better than even the most skilled of physicians.

Before I go on, let me say that I have long known that my purpose on this earth was and is twofold: 1) Reach and positively impact people through my writing. 2) Empower and support women.

So I feel like I would be absolutely remiss if I did not use my love of writing to reach out to women on this topic. Believe it or not, I'm not advocating one way or the other for the actual birth plan. I'm advocating for education.

We are all different, uniquely crafted human beings, so I don't venture to say that my opinion, my way is the best way for everyone. But as a woman I can say that we are strong beyond even our own comprehension. And if we started believing in our own strength, appreciating the life-giving abilities we are blessed with, we might find an empowered, beautiful woman hiding inside.

I know for me that meeting and working with this woman was no accident. And watching that film with my husband and my sister was not either.

Just as The Feminine Mystique was introduced into my life at just the right moment. And Carole Zoom burst into my world when I needed her most.

I am on a surprising, sometimes painful, unapologetic journey towards enlightenment and empowerment. I am trying to come to terms with my own power and beauty as a woman so that I can then devote the rest of my life to helping other women find theirs.

And this film, this series of events, was completely life changing.

So let the debates begin! I choose my heart, my instinct, my truth. My message is that you should be free to choose yours as well.


Mary said...

I must first clear something up.. It's actually been since you were about 1!!! I am almost willing to believe that you were born asking, "Why?" LOL

Seriously though, this is an incredible post! I love it that you and Lacy are sharing your love via such intimate and interesting topics. While I don't really have comments on the debate of natural childbirth, I do have something to say about finding what's right for you in life. I feel that I have quite frequently bucked the "norm" of what women should do. I seem to follow the rules now more just save energy. But, my mind hasn't changed. I am still seeking what's right for me in life on a regular basis. And what's incredibly interesting.. as we seek what's right for us, our minds open and accept those that aren't like us. We somehow begin to morph into these people that stop judging and start figuring out to love people just because. We don't always have to agree with someones ideas or beliefs. But, it sure does make the world a better place when we are able to love without limits and just enjoy people for what they and learn.

Hope this makes sense.

lacy said...

Well said Aunt Mary. I have so much to add on this topic and plan to do a future blog posting on it but at the moment my brain is on quality time overload. We've covered so many topics this weekend that I am losing the ability to articulate. But this post was AMAZING! She nails it each and every time out of the gate!

Tammie said...

I am all for questions and choices! However, having experienced childbirth without the drugs with Joshua, I informed my OBGYN when I was 2 weeks pregnant with Bryce that, "I want the epidural this time!". Both of my boys were born about 12 hours after my water broke at home. Both a little over 9 pounds. Joshua, who I had no drugs with had a lower Apgar immediately after birth because when he started coming out, they did not have time to get the cord off of his neck (he was blue), but they unwrapped it from Bryce's neck (it was around his neck twice) and he came out screaming mad. (Born with autism, did not like change in atmosphere.)
Being in the Medical field and having a best friend that is a Respiratory Therapist who takes care of babies who have various illnesses and birth defects is too much information. When you know too many things that can go wrong, and so many hospitals have birthing centers that have homey atmospheres, I would feel I was risking too much to not be in a hospital. Women and babies both still die in childbirth and immediately after from complications, even in hospitals. I know a woman who almost hemmorhagged to death after her third child (Natural birth in the birthing center), and they had to do an emergency hysterectomy to save her life. If she had not been in the hospital, she would have died, because she barely made it as it is. I know these things are rare, but I am not a risk taker when it comes to things like that. Just make sure that your doctor is clear on what you want, and if they are not, find another doctor who is more open to you desires. While I advocate having choices, I guess I would try to sway people to choose giving birth in a hospital. Especially people I care about.

Tara said...

Before I read your blog I knew I was exactly for doctors and pain killers and all the billion dollar industry!!LOL But having read it I am boggled with unsureness(If thats a word!!) I have had 2 children both with a c-section. Not by choice the doctors tolded me with my 1st child that she was to big to go down the birth canal. And if I risked natural birth then they might have to brake her collar bones to get her out. That scared the shit out of me so of course I did it. The funny thing was that she was only 8lbs and 8oz. My grandmother gave birth to a 10lb. baby! Your blog has really made me question what I will do when we try for our third( I pormised my husband another try for the boy!!LOL) I am diffently the kind of women who never thought I was capable of having a baby naturally with no drugs but now I could really see myself doing it. My body is designed to take on that mission! Thank you so much!

Carmen said...

I have a lot to say on this topic as well. And I am all for education. I think it is really important that women are informed prior to going into labor and being in the hospital.

With my first child, I had and epidural and I believe that because I couldn't feel when to push, my daughter was in the birth canal for longer than she would have been if I could feel it. She had trouble breathing and had to be in an oxygen tent for a bit. She was fine, but it was a scare for us.

With my second child, I educated myself, hired a doula and planned for a natural, non-medicated birth. I wrote a birth plan and went over it with the hospital and my midwife.

I'm still amazed that I did it. Talk about a sense of accomplishment.

If I were to ever have another child, I'm not sure what course I would take, but I would ensure that I was making well informed decisions and not just do what ever the doctor says.

Tammie said...

I could not feel to push with the epidural either. The L&D RN just told me when to push, I did, then she said, "That was good, could you feel that?" I said, "No. I can't feel a thing. Just tell me when to push. Please don't turn off my epidural!" The memory of drug-free labor with my first son is why my boys are nine years apart.

katy said...

Hi there!
Every woman who has given birth has a different story and a different (often strong) set of opinions, you'll find.

While I was pregnant, I read every pregnancy/labor/birth book in existence. There are (in my opinion) an unfortunate number of books out there written by angry, cynical women who were unhappy with their birthing experiences. And while I repect the freedom we have in this country to publish our opinions on any matter, these books proved harmful to my spirit. I became scared about everything you can think of -- which is no way to live!! I heard all about the "evil" medical profession with its agenda, and the "evil" doctors with their agendas, and the "evil" pharmaceutical companies with their agendas, and on and on and on. I began to feel like if I didn't choose a homebirth in my bathtub with no drugs and only meditation to get me through -- that I was somehow doing a disservice to myself and my child.

In the end, I had to put those books away and follow my heart. My heart told me to trust my wonderful doctor, trust the state of the art hospital we'd chosen to give birth in, and trust my body to know what it needed. I advocated for myself just fine in that environment -- I never felt like I was pressured into anything I didn't want. I labored to about 7.5 centimeters naturally and then decided I wanted the epidural for the rest. I was given a very low dose (which I requested and had talked about with my doctor for months, demanding that I not lose feeling entirely.) I still felt everything -- just the edge of the pain was knocked off a bit. No one had to tell me to push.

In the long run (this is only my opinion), I think it's good to do your research and understand all the options available and all the aspects of what you might experience. But each woman has to follow her heart and listen to her body. I never doubted that I could have finished without the epidural -- but I am pleased with the choice I made because it helped me feel more confident those last few hours.

The key is to learn how to advocate for yourself. Other than that, a successful birth is one in which mom and baby both make it through with their health. Birthing center, tub, or hospital -- everyone has the right to choose that place that feels most comfortable to them. It is just as wrong to be made to feel guilty for birthing in a hospital, as to be made guilty for birthing at home.

(Sorry this is so long. I could probably go on for days about this!)

Kier's Serendipity said...

And sometimes you just do not have a choice about it. You have to respect that even your body has limitations even though your mind may not. I did not have a choice. After several conversations with my beloved doctor (and she truly is beloved in my family), we were all rooting for a "normal/traditional vaginal" delivery, but then there are times when your body just rules and say, "No way, isn't going to happen." Then you rely on people who have had much more education than I could ever dream of, calling the shots. While my body did not get to a point where we were in an emergency state, it could have very easily and all I know is that I wanted the best for my baby and me. After all the complications with my body leading up to the big day, the C-Section is the one thing that did go smoothly...and it was not planned.

Katy and my beloved doctor is absolutely correct--a successful delivery is when baby and mommy are healthy. That is the most important objective in the whole entire process.

The best advice I could give anyone is to find a doctor that you trust implicitly--he/she will be honest with you every step of the way.

lacy said...

What I love is that the conversations and opinions are out there--- we are all thinking about it. I think that there is a missing of the point though. . . this is a conversation about our reactions to a documentary (not our opinion on how it should be done and certainly NOT judgment on how someone's birth process was). I am super excited to get my blog posting together and then one day when we have kids I will post a look at my experience but for now... for me it is just about my reaction to the film.

over and out from the airport. : )

Marizee said...

Thanks so much for all your thoughts, experiences and opinions! This has been by far the most emotional, controversial blog to date and I think its great. I don't have kids yet so your words and experiences are invaluable to me. It is amazing to hear the responses of so many great mothers who are amazing women. I know my decision will involve a multitude of factors but I am so thankful for each of your perspectives.

Tammie said...

I did see the film over a year ago. I have to admit that I do not remember it like it was yesterday, but I recall the overall content and the tone.