In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done.
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

Tao Te Ching

Friday, March 11, 2011

What Birthing has Taught Me

In my personal birth experience, I learned that the right education and true support can make the difference between a passive, mainstream I'll-do-whatever-you-say birth and an active, empowering I-am-strong-and-capable-of-deciding-everything-for-myselfbirth. I switched practices when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant because I didn't want to be on the baby-conveyor-belt that the mainstream maternity system puts all of us on.

I wanted individual care with a person I knew would be at my birth and who cared about me and wanted to listen to me and really discuss all of my concerns with me. I wanted someone I could trust during my birth so I didn't have to wonder what was going to happen and if a suggestion was really in my best interest or was just because of some medical convenience.

What made this change? I went to a birth meeting in town and was told by a few of the women there (childbirth educators and doulas) that I could do what I wanted, that this was my birth and my body and I could change practitioners if I wanted to. I was on Medicaid and thought I was trapped with the public health department's program, but I wasn't. Medicaid covers a lot of midwives and OBs. I switched and only looked back to see how amazingly different my birth experience would have been if I hadn't done what I did. I also hired a doula and invited my mother and sister to attend my birth (along with my wonderully supportive husband).

I had an unmedicated, active hospital birth with my wonderful midwife and all the other support people I mentioned above and I don't think I could have done it without hearing a few people telling me that I needed to take control and own this experience because it's not something I will experience often and it's something that will change my life forever.

I'm now a labor doula and I'm working on my childbirth educator certification. That's how much my childbirth experience affected me.

As a childbirth professional, I've learned a lot as well. I've learned that the place and people you surround yourself with at birth can be the difference between a natural birth and a cesarean for having a pelvis that's "too small." I've learned that location and attendants can mean the difference between an epidural and a natural birth. I've learned that some hospital childbirth classes are pretty good and some are horribly awful (call and see if the teacher is certified to teach).

I've learned that good education and support make for better experiences, even if the events take turns you didn't want or expect. I've learned that hospitals and doctors do not always have our best interests in mind, even if they have them in their hearts, and you might end up with a "problem" that isn't a problem or a procedure that isn't necessary but may affect you for the rest of your life. I've learned that informed decision making only happens when we ask questions until all our doubts and surmises are fully addressed AND the people answering our questions give their answers based on verifiable evidence, not just hear-say or hunches.

I've learned that a lot of women feel like they are broken - that their bodies just can't do birth, at least not naturally. I've also learned that this is often because they weren't given enough support, enough time, enough education, enough power, enough freedom of movement and freedom in general, not because their bodies are broken. The World Health Organization states that cesarean section rates should never rise above 10-15% (even for developing nations) because above this number, women and babies suffer more than they do when birthing vaginally, even when they need assistance there. The national American cesarean rate is over 30%. It's not because women are broken. It's because women lack support, time, education, power, and freedom in many birth locations and with many medical attendants.

For instance, homebirth midwives have an average cesarean section rate of 2-4%. Now this is for low-risk women, but aren't most of us low-risk women? There are hospitals in the US with 50% cesarean section rates. Isn't there something wrong with this picture? Women who are given 12 hours to birth their babies after their water has broken are at risk because people are doing vaginal exams! Women whose waters break months prior to their due dates are not induced and given 12 hours to have their babies! No, they're put on bedrest and there are no vaginal exams because that increases their risk of infection. Hmmm... Moms who are induced at 39 or 40 weeks for their first babies are being induced a full 1-2 weeks before the average first-time mother would naturally go into labor!

To be sure, doctors and hospitals are wonderful to have when women are in high-risk situations or when the rare low-risk birth needs intervention, but with studies showing that low-risk women giving birth are safer in their homes than in a hospital, isn't there something wrong with the way mainstream birth culture addresses birth?

I've learned a lot about myself and about birth in since I had my first baby two March's ago and I'm still learning. Now I'm starting to plan for baby #2, who is due sometime in late July-early August. I'm planning a homebirth this time, and not because I had a bad experience in the hospital - I didn't - but because it's statistically safer for me and my baby than a hospital birth and my last birth proved to me that I am powerful and capable and intelligent enough to make this decision for myself. Go figure.

I am a Colorado Springs doula and childbirth educator who is passionate about supporting women and families. If you are interested in learning more about my business, visit

Christina Rochette