Sunday, September 11, 2011

Birthing Choices and Perceptions of Choice

A review of:
The Ties that Bind
How Belief Creates Birth Realities
by Kim Wildner
In the article published by Midwifery Today, "The Ties that Bind," Kim Wildner is talking about how one’s belief in birth, choices, and what is actually capable of happening will no doubt affect the choices one will make, even so far as to what choices that person perceives are available. She discusses 3 women who were convinced they could not refuse interventions, could not seek out other health/birth care providers, and that they had, “no other choice” in the matter, when in fact there were, they just weren’t prepared to make those choices.

This is a common occurrence in our culture. From early on, as children, we are taught to submit to doctors, that doctors know best and that to ask questions was disrespectful. After all, they are the ones who went to college and they know what is right for you. We teach our children to sit still and be quiet and it is not a big deal, they are professionals, it doesn’t matter if it hurts, it is what is best for them and they will thank us later. While there are certainly times when a child needs to cooperate and there is no way they can possibly understand that sometimes things are going to hurt for a good reason and you still need to do it (like setting a broken bone or pulling an abscessed tooth or a life saving procedure) it is our duty to make sure they are comfortable and informed and respected through the entire ordeal, allowing them room to breathe and time to consider and prepare for what is going to happen. From my own experiences I can testify that this type of treatment is an exception, not the rule, when children have been “cared for” by medical professionals. Because of this tacit rule, people grow up thinking they just have to submit, no matter what, for anything, under the guise of a doctor’s prescription. This has inevitably created generations of disempowered people willing to “shut up and take it” out of fear and “respect” to their perceived authority.

Women, in general, are afraid to tell someone NO. They are afraid they will be in trouble, that they will hurt the feelings of this person who they believe is trying to help them, who they want to trust and believe that they mean the best. They are afraid that the authorities will see them as negligent and God forbid something happen because she said NO, she will be demonized for not listening to the advice of the Doctors. Even when presented with cold hard facts that dispute the doctors’ advice, many women are so unconfident that they don’t understand what the choices are. They are not willing to risk all the “what ifs” thrown at them throughout their lives by family, friends and other medical professionals. It is easier to go with the flow, easier to be victimized, easier to complain than to fight and stand up and change the way we are “cared for” by the medical establishment.

Furthermore, in our culture, to be a boat rocker, to be a whistle blower, to stand up for yourself is such a minority position, it is hard to relate to your friends and family, to tell your story and to be able to be proud of your accomplishment without being chastised for “causing a scene.” They ask you, “why don’t you just listen to your doctor?” And anything you say to defend your actions is ushered away as not as important as the safety of medical advice or technology. You are perceived as a rebel, with a problem for authority, or you are attention seeking… People frown upon the strength of others in these situations because it makes them have to be responsible for the decisions they made that allowed them to be victimized, they have to look at themselves and wonder, “what if I had said no to that pitocin/epidural/ vaginal exam/AROM?”

People do this after the baby is born as well, they believe nothing is wrong with their babies when they hit all the milestones that their pediatricians’ chart shows them, but they still can’t figure out why the child has problems digesting their food, sleeping, or leaving the room. They don’t understand why they won’t stop crying and still wet the bed at 5 years old. Why they aren’t gaining weight or are gaining too much, why years later they have teenagers with severe depression and anxiety disorders, who are not attached to their families and can’t hold a decent friendship with anyone around them. As these children grow into adults, they have a hard time maintaining relationships or jobs, they get into drinking and drugs, they are thrill seekers or hermits and the parents wonder why, they did everything by the book and this person they brought into the world has never been able to adjust according the ideas they thought were supposed to happen. They couldn’t possibly look back at the decision that they made that built the foundation of their child’s psyche, that shaped the way their emotional brain would develop, their digestive system, their immune systems… How many people have to suffer through mental and physical illnesses that are undiagnosable before people start looking at how this person’s brain and body were formed and introduced to life?

Even scarier to me is that women who find the courage to seek another provider or refuse to go to the hospital for birthing only conquer the one step of the fear of saying no, they still have to conquer the fear that something is going to happen that will put them or their baby in harm’s way. They now have to manage all the scary things inside their heads that they have had preached to them their whole lives about how dangerous natural birth is, how painful it is going to be, how they are bound to suffer and they have to believe in themselves. How many women who find the empowerment and encouragement from their family to home birth, still go into it believing they are going to experience the most excruciating pain imaginable and have never even thought about the idea that birth can be pleasurable? As someone who was a victim of their own mind, I can tell you, I went into my first home birth expecting pain and misery and every single sensation I felt I perceived was pain and reacted accordingly. When I went into my 2nd home birth with a clear head and more experience and knowledge of pleasurable birth, I didn’t experience an ounce of pain because I stopped expecting it at every contraction. My mind set made the biggest difference in the world. Belief, perception, stories, ideas, experience, education, knowledge, understanding…. All of these things play a part in how a woman will choose to experience her birthing process and each is as important as the latter.

We all have choices and as the article says, we have more information at the click of a button, ready for our consumption, several sides to a story to figure out and weigh in with, than in any other time in history. It is a privilege to live in the technological world we live in and we have all paid a hefty price for this knowledge, years of research, years of doing things that were not the best of options to prove that they were not, millions of hours of electricity and resources spent on this knowledge. To not use it is the biggest waste of resource our planet has ever seen, to allow the continuation of industrialized birthing in low risk mothers because a doctor or insurance company is not willing to take the risk or live off the money they make and does not want to go out of business or stop driving expensive cars is unacceptable. We need to stop dramatizing the birthing experience and start normalizing it. We need to share stories, we need to call our grandmothers and talk to them and ask questions about what they now of their grandmothers, we need to find the truth, reach out to each other support each other and take birth back from the cult of misinformation meant to scare the daylights out of you so you submit to an even scarier ordeal.

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