by Ana P. Markel, founder of BINI Birth
In listening to mothers share their tales, stories and achievements during mother’s groups and discussions at BINI, I often find myself contemplating and wondering what defines how a woman feels about her birth.
Quite often I am asked if I keep statistics of what percentage of women that take my childbirth workshops have unmediated births. Not only I do not keep such statistics but quite honestly, that is definitely not the focus of the workshops or the reason I became an educator.
If I was to keep any sort of statistics about the workshops and classes I host it would definitely be about birth satisfaction rather than epidural stats. It is far more important in my opinion how a woman is treated, heard, validated than if she chose medication or not.
A woman that enters motherhood with the feeling and sense that she did the very best she could during labor and birth, making conscious decisions and being supported is definitely going to feel more adequate and confident to nourish and care for her baby.
A woman that enters motherhood feeling that she did not make the right decisions, or worst, that others made decision for her will feel less confident to care for her baby.
To be living in 2013 in a metropolitan city and to deny conscious choice of medication to women is no different than to deny women with the option of a homebirth. If we are truly open to choices in childbirth we have to acknowledge and respect a woman that chooses medications either because she cannot cope with labor or because medical interventions became necessary.
There is a big difference though from a woman that chooses medication for herself or is part of the decision making process during her labor when medications are being considered than to a woman that is misled to choose medication or a medical intervention by manipulative conversations that make her feel that she has no choice without risking her baby’s health.
I had a client once who was a very successful executive, she was in her 40’s: a strong, smart and confident woman. She was somewhat curious about natural birth but not entirely committed. Her husband on the other side, was a very natural minded man. He also did most of the talking during our meetings. They took a hypnosis for childbirth course and prepared the best they could for the birth.
We spent early labor at their home and the mother labored well. The father was very hands on and supportive. As soon as we arrived in the hospital, she asked for an epidural but he talked her out of it. Two hours later she mentioned it again. He convinced her to use the shower for comfort, which she did. As soon as she came out of the shower she asked for an epidural for the third time- this time she grabbed my face with both hands and looked deep in my eyes and said: “Ana, I am doing this for the wrong reasons… I want my f…ing epidural”.
It was such a profound, deep request. It was a moment beyond my preferences, ideas or beliefs about birth. At the moment there was a very mature, strong and empowered woman voicing loudly what she wanted for her birth. I looked at him, offered a gentle smile and whispered “This is her birth, and she is clear of her needs” and he surrendered. She had her epidural and the birth progressed into a gentle medicated birth.
As much as any doula loves to watch a natural, physiological birth, there was so much honesty, strength and yes, empowerment in this woman’s voice being heard loud and clear.
Penny Simkin, DONA International founder and one of my mentors, always says: “She always has a reason for it.” Th reason may not be clear to a doula, clinical staff or even a partner of her reasons for wanting or not wanting a procedure, treatment or medication. We have to always respect the fact that we may not know the deep story and root of her fears. By respectfully assuming that women have their reasons for specific choices, we allow for her to be the protagonist in her birth story.
Unlike the story, I have also witnessed women having epidurals because instead of being able to use showers, walking or swaying to manage their pain, they were forced to stay in bed during their labors. Sadly, I’ve also witnessed women being made to feel as if they are too loud or acting too “primal” during labor. A very simple comment, even as a harmless joke, can completely take away the woman’s ability to cope with her labor.
Michel Odent often says that when we feel observed we tend to observe ourselves. Physiological birth is raw and private. If a woman is made feel inadequate in how she copes with her labor, especially by the people she sees as experts, her coping will probably fly out the window. These are sad reasons to choose medications.
The new childbirth movement is moving forward with compassion, kindness, acceptance and awareness. Informed consent, conscious choices and mostly childbirth education to prepare someone about their choices, responsibilities and rights will give women tools to decide what are the best choices for her in her labor, birth and postpartum period.
We cannot divide women by who had an epidural and who did not. We are far past that silly discussion. New mothers need to feel cared, validated and supported.
The focus should be how women are treated and how that care will affect her role as a mother.
All women deserve to leave their births, with medication or not, cesarean or vaginal, feeling happy, confident and knowing that she made the best decisions for her situation.
Here is what we can’t control in labor:
- When the baby will come
- How long labor will last
- How a woman will cope with labor
- The final outcome
Here is what we can control in labor:
- Who cares for the mother
- Where she gives birth at
- Who she wants with her
- How she is treated
Women in labor deserve privacy, a calm and peaceful atmosphere to labor in whatever fashion she wants, freedom to cope with labor without feeling observed, caring and loving people around them (preferable not too many) and mostly to feel safe. As any other mammalians, women birth better where they feel safest.
Image Credit: vitamindcouncil.org