23 years ago I gave birth to my first baby - and I say without equivocation or doubt that it was one of the worst experiences of my life. It changed me mentally, physically and spiritually, and although good came from it ( a beautiful son who I love with my whole heart) the memories of it are not good ones.
As I posted here before:
The weeks after that I walked around convinced that everything that happened to me was absolutely necessary, and if I hadn't been in a hospital one of us might have died, blah blah blah. I had bought into the whole hospital/ modern medicine birth model. Then one day I was pushing my baby through the grocery store and I saw a book on the book rack called A Good Birth, A Safe Birth : Choosing and Having the Childbirth Experience You Want.
I started flipping through the book and just happened to find a paragraph on how epidurals slow down labor! Suddenly I had a lot more questions. I bought the book, went home and read it cover to cover, and then had a good cry. I felt betrayed and taken advantage of.
What I learned was that because I had not educated myself well about the birth process and how normal birth should work and because in retrospect the hospital classes really prepared me more to be a compliant patient than a birthing woman, when I got into tough situations, I had to defer the decision making process to others. Because I didn't really know my choices, I didn't have any. I also learned that informed consent was very subjective.
That experience made me start questioning everything in my life. It was those questions that made me switch from Democrat to Republican to just conservative in the early 1990s. Questioning lead me to homeschool my kids. And questioning the faith I was born into, really looking at it with a "prove it" kind of attitude, lead me back into my Catholic faith.
For YEARS afterward I was rather militant in trying to help other women to avoid the bad experience that happened to me. It wasn't hard to find kindred spirits at La Leche League meetings and in my I-CAN group. I know that I helped at least one friend avoid unnecessary interventions and have her babies her way by sharing my experience and then acting as her doula for all of her births. But other than that, the experience and knowledge I gained over the years has pretty much gone untapped.
I know of four pregnant ladies right now - little girls that I watched grow up, who are pregnant now. I have politely and discretely sent them this link and this one and then waited to see if there would be any questions or any other ways I could offer support.
The silence. was. deafening.
and now they are starting to go into labor - or probably more correct to say, they are stepping onto the conveyor belt that is birth in this country. I full expect I'll be hearing about their C-sections and all of the other complications shortly and frankly I find it annoying. There's a reason women still complain about equality in this country - it's because we don't even look to each other for help and support.
In the meantime I'm setting all of my FB notices to Special Announcements Only. I don't want to read the gory details and think go myself of how it all could have been avoided. And I plan to do all I can to educate my daughters and hopefully my sons about birth - the good, the bad and the political.
I have often thought that all of my experiences (C-section, hospital VBAC, two home births, still birth, emergency C-section and transfer to hospital, and scheduled C-section) were for a reason. That reason might just be to help my own immediate family and anyone who wanders onto this blog.