Tonight I had a chance to sit and talk with my husband’s 87 year-old grandmother (Mom-mom) about her birth experiences. She had seven children between the years 1949-1968. Whew, you go momma!
For all of her babies, she went to the hospital and they knocked her out completely with general anesthesia. Obviously, she lacked the ability to push, so they were all pulled out via forceps. Her husband waited in the waiting room. Her youngest baby (1968) was over 8lbs and was born blue because they had trouble getting him out. He spent a few scary days in an incubator.
It is frightening to read about this period of labor and delivery. Many women were completely traumatized and humiliated. Fathers were excluded, and laboring women didn’t know they had a choice. Often they didn’t. The natural birth movement hadn’t gained momentum where Mom-mom was giving birth.
Fortunately, Mom-mom has an indifferent attitude about the births. She says, “I would just wake up and say, ‘what did I have?'” When I asked her if she would have wanted it differently, she shrugs and says, “That’s just how it was back then.” But I can’t help but feel like she was cheated out of something very important.
Reflecting on my own birth, it saddens me that she missed the moment her babies were born. She didn’t get to see them naked, covered in vernix, take their first breath or hear their first cry. She woke up (who knows how long later) and was handed a swaddled baby- here you go, another girl.
To top it off, doctors had parents convinced that “formula” (if you can even call it that) was superior to breastmilk. All of Mom-moms babies were formula fed. Check out this 1950’s commercial on YouTube.
Nothing like a nice can of carnation sugar to jump start a newborn’s immune system! Yummy!
Obviously, in 2013, we know better. We know that breast is best, and formula has come a long, long way. We know that women need to be alert and help push. But honestly, how much better is birth these days?
A trademark of 1950s birth was convenience and coercion. But those two words still apply, and women need to be informed. There are too many doctors who perform c-sections out of convenience. These surgeries are not without risk! If you are pregnant, you need to know these risks.
Doctors may say, “Your hips are too small,” or, “your baby is too big to fit,” before you are even in labor. No doctor can look at you and know these things. If your doctor says that to you, it’s time to switch care providers.
Ladies, we have the privilege of the Internet now, so please do your L&D research. You should know what continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EMF) is, and if it is something you need, want, or don’t want. It’s your choice. I chose intermittent. You should know the risks of getting an epidural. Do you want an IV or a hep-lock? Will you be allowed to eat and drink during labor? You should know your doctor’s and hospital’s c-section rate. Under what circumstances do you consent to an episiotomy?
It’s your choice if you want to decline the routine Hepatitis B vaccine at birth. You should be researching that, as well as the vitamin K injection, delayed cord clamping, and erythromycin eye ointment. You should know why these are standard at birth and if they are right for your baby.
Please don’t let things just happen to your body and your baby. Birth trauma is real and it happens every day. Yes, thank God we have skilled OB’s who perform safe c-sections because this saves lives. It’s okay if you have a c-section, I just want you to actually need or want it. All too often the natural birth process is being meddled with unnecessarily with Pitocin inductions and conveniently scheduled c-sections. If you have to have a c-section you still can request things- please don’t tie my hands down and push the curtain down when you pull my baby out.
Be informed, write a birth plan, and choose your care provider carefully. You may not get the exact birth you’re hoping for, but if you do all these things, you’ll greatly increase your chances of it. Your body, your baby, your choice.