Strapped to a machine, deprived of control

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... the miracle of birth for British women
Survey shows that mothers' dreams of holistic experience end in hospital shock
I grew up thinking of Britain as the haven of midwifery care and home birth, but I think that has been passed on to the Netherlands. However, the health care system in the Netherlands has its own negative issues, particularly in the care of the dying and of the handicapped.
If I ever have the time to delve deeply into it, I want to work on applying the Holy Father's Theology of the Body to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting issues. Maybe after I retire I can pursue a doctorate in theology.......


I'd rather have a baby in the UK than here: home birth is viewed as a woman's right there (even though few take advantage of it), midwifery care is the norm, 38% epidural rate, lower C-section rate, more relaxed prenatal care...

When I was pregnant with my middle son (born in Scotland), they never weighed me once. What a shock after the US focus on "how much have you gained NOW?" My GP was appalled to hear that we have universal GTTs here, even for women with no risk factors. The malpractice culture here makes it harder to develop an atmosphere of trust, I think.

I had a wonderful midwife-attended birth there, in the Normal Delivery Unit of the hospital (love that name!). No formula samples or advertising anywhere, no separation from my baby except when I asked someone to hold him while I showered. Aaah, I'm making myself nostalgic.

It's not idyllic but it's pretty different from the US.

Alicea, I think your idea of writing a philosophy of childbirth etc based on JPII's theology of the body is stunningly wonderful.

Are you sure no one has done it? It is one of those things which seems obvious once someone thinks of it.

If you wait too long to retire, I might steal your idea.

Or, could you use a collaborator?

Susan Peterson

ps...Unless Alicea is your midwife, or some few like her....if you want a holistic birth, stay home. And Alicea will probably admit she can't completely avoid the effects of the hospital environment or policies.

I just had my baby here in the UK. While it is definitely different than the US, I was a bit disappointed.

In some aspects, the midwives are very "midwifey". In others, they are very medical or mainstream. I asked my midwife about leg cramps and she recommended a bag of crisps (potato chips) and tonic water (which contains quinine--or something like it, which is what they would prescribe if necessary) each night. I did like the idea of munching on a bag of chips and smiling while I said, "Midwife's orders!!!"

It seems to me that if everything is going along and there aren't any problems, even minor ones, they are very non-medical. When I did have a problem or two, they went straight for mainstream/medical solutions. Not that potato chips need a prescription, but I kind of think that "eat more bananas" or "use a bit more salt on your food" would have been a healthier alternative! That kind of surprised me, but my friend mused that perhaps it's because midwife care *is* mainstream here.

They were also surprised that I'd done most of my births without medical pain relief. They bring "gas and air", aka laughing gas, to homebirths. I told them I wouldn't need it during labor, but might enjoy a hit or two afterwards! They were amazed.

I also drew the short straw for the actual birth. It happened at night and I got the on-call midwives, whom I'd never met before. I know that the private midwife I had in the US would have been at my birth no matter when it happened. I guess that's more a difference betweeen private and NHS! The primary midwife just didn't seem to have her head in the game. I was minutes from delivering and she was searching for a pen and an apron. In between contractions, I turned to her and said (as kindly as I could!), "Would you like to just wear something of my husband's over your clothes??" I later found out that she seems to be at the end of her career. She's a single mom of two...a teen and ten yr old and the on-call lifestyle just is too difficult for her to juggle. So I got someone who doesn't like her job anymore.

It was something of a bummer, but my best girlfriend was here with me and we've had quite a few chuckles about the whole thing.

While most people were surprised that we were planning a homebirth, they weren't shocked and they didn't say anything awful.

Overall, the *system* is much better. Like Jamie said, it's not idyllic but it's definitely different.

Jamie, I just weighed myself the swimming pool. I only was weighed once during my pregnancy at an appointment. There was no "before and after" comparison with my weight. I"m glad, too...I think I put on quite a bit with this one!! I've got more-than-one-but-a-bit-less-than-two stone to lose before I reach that ideal weight. *This* time, it's gonna happen so I can avoid the terrible back problems I had. I want to be *fit* again!


Alicia, this article got me thinking....just about everything you read about homebirth has a strong focus on "being in control". Do you really think that that's a major aspect of homebirth (and good hospital birth)?

It seems to me that understanding and accepting that you are *not* in control is what is so freeing and satisfying. It also is what helps to keep labor rolling.

Do all these articles just talk about control because American women love that word?

I think the reason that homebirths can go as well as they do is that you don't have to try to control. Control is the enemy of birth in so many ways. One needs to be able to co-operate with, not control, the experience. It is like the difference between NFP and hormonal contraception - one works within the way God designed our bodies, the other imposes an artificial cycle and rhythm upon it.
It is possible to have a good birth in the hospital and it is possible to have a technological nightmare birth at home - I ve seen it both ways. In the end, I think that the attitudes and behaviours of all involved make the biggest difference. A fetal monitor can be a wonderful and helpful tool, or it can be a prison cell. A birthing tub can be freeing or it can be imprisoning.
One of the best hospital births I attended was a young couple who came in praying and singing in tongues. The other nurses (this was in my L&D RN days) wanted to medicate her to shut her up, so I offered to take them as my patients (traded the epidural/pit induction couple) and took them off to the corner birthing room, away from every one else. We prayed together, sang together, I called in the midwife only as needed, and she had a great short and easy labor. And one of the worst home births I attended (as the midwife's assistant/nurse) was of a Scientology couple in the Hollywood Hills, where the midwife took in a portable EFM and continuously monitored the labor, kept giving herbs to accelerate the labor, did AROM at 4 cm, and threatened to transport if mom wouldn't push harder (after only 30 minutes second stage). I've known docs who had the midwife philosophy, and vice versa. And the american system of "you get who is on call" can really put a crimp in things, for sure.

Now here is a topic close to my heart. I have had 7 midwife assisted births, and while I think it's the best I have to choose from in my area, it's still so medicalized. Now, the actual births are pretty hands off, but the prenatal care drives me up a tree. All the weighing, blood draws, etc. I refuse everything I can get away with, but now they tell me Strep B culture is required, or they could refuse to let your baby out of the hospital for 2-3 days. AARRGGHHH. I couldn't imagine having to fight, and leave AMA at a precious time like that. SO I complied. I swear I didn't go back for the post-partum visit because of the weigh in and the birth control talk. I couldn't bear it. Just couldn't. I will probably post about this soon, as just thinking about is has my blood boiling again. Must get closure =)

I meant to add I always feel like a strong, healthy pregnant woman until I go to my prenatal visits. Then I feel I am ill. I try to fight this mental shift, but just the fact I am 38 and had 7 babies puts me in their high risk catagory, and I am treated as if i am sick. UUUGGGHHH. Yes, must definately post about this soon.

Well, I'm probably not going to be able to make a prudent decision for homebirth attempt #2 and VBAC attempt #2. And one of the things I think makes me feel more at peace with the idea of probably having to go the hospital route with #3 -- even though the VBAC thing feels even more "now or never" after 2 c/s -- is the idea that neither I nor the hospital staff ultimately control my labor and the baby's birth. I couldn't force a great birth by not interfering (and of course we did choose intervention when things truly became risky,) and they can't force a bad one by wanting to interfere. Something like that, anyway. (I am not just choosing any old provider and hospital as if "whatever will be will be" regardless of my actions, but you know what I mean, maybe?)

How interesting to read all these posts from experienced birthers! I'm having my first child in March, and I chose a home birth (here in the US). I don't regret moving here from Canada, but the timing is poor, since midwifery care, even for a home birth, is now covered by OHIP in Ontario - and here in MIchigan we're on our own. But my midwives are great - definately low intervention, natural remedy, holistic types by philosophy, but with a good history of transferring when it was necessary.
It is definately an alternative thing to do here in NA - especially for a first child. A lot of people have expressed concern since "you don't know what it'll be like - what if y can't hack it?" But I erally don't want strangers and machines around me when I bring this baby into the world.
Re: the Home Birth/Breastfeeding/NFP/Theology of the Body connection - You may be on to something. It al seems to go together to me. Janet Smith mused to me a couple of weeks ago about the possibility of a connection between formula feeding and the spread of contraception use in the US. She thought that perhaps when women became disconnected from their bodies (and started having more babies closer together as a side effect) contraception became more tempting and the Church's teaching were seen as more burdensome. Medicalise one thing and you medicalise everything, I guess. I may have to post more thoughts about this on my blog. ;-)

Oops, I meant homebirth is not likely to seem a prudent choice for birth #3 and VBAC attempt #2. Not homebirth attempt #2, of course...

Kate, good for you for being willing to consider homebirth for a first birth! We also chose homebirth for our first, and I am so glad we did.

Alicia, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the connections between theo of body and pregnancy/parenting. I was thinking someone should write a book on Catholic Attachment Parenting, and then I found Greg Popcak's Parenting with Grace and the Mothering With Grace boards. But I think the TOTB must have a special light for birth and parenting. That contraception/formula connection seems sensible, too. MyDomesticChurch recently quoted a poem that I loved, about the relationship between a child and the parents' marital act. It seemed to illustrate how a family is the natural accompaniment to a married couple, not a detraction or distraction, and that the marital act is not hidden because it is something dirty, but rather something special, and while it is appropriate to veil it from our children, it also means something profound to them--their very life :)


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