Blissed Out on Birth, Drunk on Baby Skin

by Asheya on April 30, 2012

Welcome to the Fabulous Hybrid Blog Carnival. Our topic this spring is Change! This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Blog Carnival hosted by The Fabulous Mama Chronicles and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on change in all of its many forms. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


As a consumer advocacy group with the name Mothers of Change, we frequently get asked what it is exactly that we would like to see change in maternity care in Canada?  This kind of question gets me tongue tied and totally amped up, all at once.  There is so much that we are passionate about that it really makes it difficult to know where to start.  For starters, many Canadians feel there is absolutely nothing wrong with our health care system’s approach to childbirth.  Indeed, neither did I until midway through my second pregnancy, when I started reading voraciously about pregnancy and birth in preparation for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).  Slowly I came to realize that while we have excellent survival rates in Canada, women’s and babies’ experience of the birth process, and our physicians’ approach to birth has huge potential for progress.  All of the board members of Mothers of Change are passionate about women, birth, and nurturing the next generation: if birth is the portal to change as an adult from childless to sink or swim, 100%, full speed ahead parenting, it deserves some attention.

What do we want to see change?  We want to see fewer inductions.  We want to see fewer cesareans.  We want to see fewer episiotomies.  We want to see fewer births with the External Fetal Monitor tickety tocking away on low risk women with no medical reason.  We want to see less medication, less technology, less invasion of individual autonomy and personal space, less fear mongering, and and fewer epidurals.

But why?  Who cares how many women use an epidural for pain relief in labour anyways?  Shouldn’t women have access to a medication which is very effective in reducing or eliminating PAIN?  Why do we want fewer cesareans?  What is our problem?!?

Actually, although this is what we frequently wind up saying, what we really mean is so much deeper than all the things we want to reduce or eliminate.  In face what we actually want is to see more.  More support.  More nurses.  More breastfeeding training for maternity staff.  More interest on the part of hospitals in becoming mother and baby friendly.  More beds (BC is notorious for shipping labouring women out of town, even as far as Alberta or Washington because all labour wards in the province are FULL).  More midwives.  More encouragement.  More relationship building.  More cheering of women in labour as they ride their contractions through transition and hit the wall of “I can’t do this anymore,” when they are in fact doing it, and are so close to the end.  More VBACs.  More empowered, blissed out, post birth women who feel awed at what their bodies can do, and whose chances of easily transitioning into lactation are high.  More home births!  More dads catching their babies as care providers coach them.  More water births!  More hospital water births!  This is a proven, cheap, effective way to reduce pain for women in labour, what on earth are we balking for?
More peace.  More dimmed lights.  More intermittent monitoring by hand held doppler.  More movement.  More walking.  More noise!  More birthing noise, unmitigated by medication and uninhibited by anyone.  More birth balls.  More squatting bars.  More hands and knees deliveries.  More furniture in the damn hospital delivery rooms so women have options when it comes to delivering somewhere other than on the bed!  More upright deliveries.  More intact perineums.  More doulas!  This is also a proven, effective, (albeit not cheap) way to reduce pain for women in labour!  More VBA2Cs!  More spontaneous vaginal births!  More doctors willing to do home births!

Birth has a bad rep.  Women fear it.  Men fear it.  Doctors fear it.
Anything could go wrong. 
The pain is supposed to be incredibly bad.
There is so much blood.
I might poop in front of people.
The journey is so intense.
Yes, yes, and yes.  But seriously, what is it we fear so much?  Anything could go wrong, and yet we have a maternity care system in place that is equipped to deal with true emergencies.  In healthy women, these are rare.  The pain is from the work of the uterus doing its job and building up lactic acid in the uterine muscle.  And also from the stretching of the cervix.  Paradoxically, the more a woman relaxes, the closer she is to a sleepy state of consciousness, the better oxygenated her tissues and the less severe the pain.  Our bodies are capable of running long distance races and climbing mountains and hiking weeks-long backpacking trails.  These are major physical feats that include the experience of pain, but so long as nothing goes terribly wrong (like breaking a leg, I suppose), it is possible to finish them, and the sense of pride and accomplishment are unsurpassed.  Except by birth.
PLUS,  you get a baby in the end!  A small miracle, resembling you, full of breath and love and poop.  Sticky, black, meconium poop.  A baby who smells so delicious you won’t ever want to stop sniffing their scalp.

Granted, you get the baby (the best part) in the end regardless of how you deliver and whether you felt empowered or overcome or physically violated or utterly traumatized.  So of course we advocate that if the pain gets overwhelming, you get the epidural.  Because it is so intense, sometimes.  And sometimes for too long.  Or if the baby is in obvious distress, you have a cesarean.  Because safety is paramount.
But we want women to make these decisions because they know the pros and cons, they trust what is happening is true, and because it is the right decision for them, for that birth, at that time.  So often the maternity care system in Canada today tells women what to do, what is best, or what not to do.  Don’t go overdue more than 10 days.  Don’t take the external fetal monitor off.  Don’t go in the tub.  Don’t wait and see.  Don’t trust your own judgement of your dates.  Don’t give birth on the toilet.  Don’t move this way and that way to get an asynclitic baby to turn.  Don’t stay squatting between contractions because I want you to lie down so I can assess you.  Don’t push.  Don’t push.  DON’T PUSH!!!

How about follow your body!  Trust nature’s design.  Or even simply, What do you think?
If more care providers asked women what they think, more women might realize they really do know a thing or two about their own strength and capability and intuition and ability to give birth on their own power.

Essentially, what we want to see change in Canada’s maternity care system is to have doctors ask women more questions, and to sit on their hands more often.  Some midwives, too, although most of them are pretty good at sitting still and supporting well.  We want to see women step up and experience what their bodies are capable of.  And we want everyone, everyone to get very, very drunk on newborn baby smell.  Welcome, babies!  May your entrance into the world be the least frightening and the most loving it can possibly be.  You are delicious. 


 Visit Hybrid Rasta Mama and the Fabulous Mama Chronicles to find out how you can participate in the next Fabulous Hybrid Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. It will be updated by 3:00pm PST on Monday. April 30th:

    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    Hybrid Rasta Mama April 30, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Seriously? They ship laboring mothers out of town? My god I would be pissed if that happened.

    This is a post that speaks to ALL women, not just those in the Canadian birthing system. Women around the world need to advocate for MORE of everything you discuss. Birth used to be just another thing a woman did. Not really a big deal. Now, it is this gigantic “problem.”

    “Birth has a bad rep. Women fear it. Men fear it. Doctors fear it.” You are absolutely correct. We have come to fear the most natural part of the circle of life. EVERY LIVING CREATURE births and most of them do it alone. We forget that the body was designed to do this. But modern medicine stepped in and decided to make us all fear the process. If we all gave birth at home, birth would stop being a business and god forbid that happen.

    I love your call to action mama! It is one that I can support wholeheartedly!

    Thanks for the wonderful post and for participating in our first Carnival!


    dalbrennan April 30, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Great post! The Fear is definitely the first thing that needs to be changed! (that and all those don'ts!) ~ Dawn of Raising Natural Kids


    Rachel @ Lautaret Bohemiet April 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    As always, this was a great post, Mel. I also loved your call to action. I could practically hear you chanting "More doulas! More birthing balls!"

    Great post.


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