Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hospital Birth: The Miracle Made Mundane

Yesterday, (that was Tuesday) you'll notice I didn't post. That's because a friend extended the most amazing privilage of allowing my presence during the birth of her first child. She was amazing!

Her mom, like many moms today, had all three of her children by Casearean. She was nervous for her daughter and hopeful, too. She wanted very much for her child to have a different experience than she had.

The daughter, like her mom was very nervous. She worried about the baby's size. She worried that something was wrong with her. She wasn't sure if she could do it. She did it and she overcame unbelievable odds to do so.

First, she was scheduled for induction because she was a week "late." Late. On whose schedule? The baby weighed just over six pounds. That hardly qualifies as a monsterous post-date baby. So the mom was told to be at the hospital at 5:00 a.m. Who sleeps the night before such a huge event? No one. She slept poorly and was told to not eat.

Second, when she arrived at the hospital her water was broken (which puts a timeline in place). She was hooked up to an I.V. and given Pitocin. This creates much more intense contractions.

Third, every ten minutes (and this is not an exageration) she was prodded about an epidural.

Finally, after being strapped to her bed eventually submitting to the epidural, and labor not progressing (suprise!) she was told that she would have a C-section by 7p.m.

This woman is in her early 20s, is healthy and absolutely fit. There is no reason for a C-section, besides the doctor's convenience.

Anyway, after moving to her side the baby moved down and she was ready to push at 7:00 p.m. Three pushes later she had her baby and a second degree laceration because the doctor didn't protect her perineum. Six tiny pounds.

After the birth, the baby was shot, had goop rubbed in her eyes, and received an aggressive bath with a scrubber better suited to a horse just returned from a workout. Unbelievable.

Not quite barbaric, the whole ordeal was one clinical, dehumanizing experience strung to another clinical dehumanizing experience. It's as if birth is no more engaging than an ameoba dividing in a petri dish.

The underlying emotion? Fear. Fear that the baby will be too big. Fear that the pelvis will be too small. Fear that the labor will take too long. Fear of an infection. Fear of pain. Fear of death. Fear of lawsuits. Fear of failure. Fear of outside the norm experiences. Fear of being/doing different. Fear everywhere.

And at the center of all this is a woman birthing her first, maybe only, child. She will remember this moment, this day for the rest of her life in exquisite detail. She will remember through the haze of a hormonal magnifying glass.

The child, vulnerable and new, will be imprinted. Cold, harsh, hard hands versues warm, comforting, soft hands. Separation. Anxiety. Sensitivity to mom. Worry.

The doctor will finish his notes. He will go home. He will wake up tomorrow. This birth will be forgotten and filed in the archives of the mundane.

Miracle? Hardly. Procedures and paperwork.

Well, it's miraculous for the mom and the grandma and the baby. It was miraculous to me. The spirit of this woman and child to perform (and it is a performance that better be on cue) perfectly in the face of such duanting odds, that's a miracle in itself.

Why is this typical American birth okay to women? Why do educated, intelligent women submit to such backward life-limiting routines? Why do other women, part of the "system", foist this experience on other women? Why don't women turn to more traditional methods, supported by other women, during birth, the most feminine and empowering experiences? Why do doctors ignore the overwhelming research and put a baby in a warmer instead of initiating skin-to-skin contact? Why do doctors act as if it is no big deal to cut or allow a woman to tear when it can have such serious, long-term reprucusions on her sexuality? Why is the lithotomy position still used when loads of research shows that it is more difficult for the mom and bad for the baby? Why do nurses still encourage moms to force their legs back during pushing when it is unnecessary? Why is everyone so afraid of pain?

The birthing rooms look better, but it is putting a pretty dress on the same old pig. Out-moded methods, debunked by research, still hold mythical status in the birthing suites of the new millenium. Like sacred rites at a mysogynous temple, women are treated like meat instead of the miraculous baby makers they are.

It seems that if everyone detatches and makes the whole process mechanized and clinical than we can ignore the profound mystical implications of a birthing woman. She is a vessel for God's creation. She is powerful. She is beautiful. She is vulnerable. She embodies the miraculous.

Seeing that tiny creature born blew me away. What a great God! No creation of man can diminish that truth. Birth is a miracle.

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