Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wait, wait! I didn't complete my thought process...

My last post was misunderstood on two counts, so I want to rectify what I actually conveyed with what I intended to convey...
When I said midwifery and breastfeeding became lost arts, I meant 'became' in the past tense. In the seventies our moms changed a LOT of the previously hypermedicalized birthing practices. They started requesting that their husbands be present at their deliveries, and invloved in labour, prenatal, and postnatal care. A significant number of women in our mothers' generation reclaimed the lost art of breastfeeding, and passed this down to their daughters. I think the leftover residue of having 'lost' the art of breastfeeding for a generation in our grandmothers' era is that when we encounter problems with breastfeeding, our mothers are generally not well equipped to help us. Likely also, some of the stigma of breastfeeding in public has part of its root in the 'loss' of breastfeeding for a generation? Or perhaps not, for this could be a 'gift' from the Victorian era that has not entirely disappeared yet.
I, myself, never encountered negative looks, comments, or body language with regards to my breastfeeding (not from strangers anyways; just from family), but I know that some women do.
Also, the art of midwifery, while banned in Canada until the recent past, has made a significant, healthy comeback and most communities now offer this service to women who would like to have that choice. Midwives do 75% of their deliveries in hospital and work in conjunction with hospital staff to provide supportive and positive care for women delivering their babies, and good postpartum care.
Women DO NOT deliver on their backs with feet in stirrups, hands tied down anymore. I apologize that I was not clear about this~this was the practice in our grandmothers' generation but is no longer practiced anywhere that I'm aware of. I think I assumed most of my readers would know this and hence be inside my head enough to make the jump from "this used to happen" to "then things changed to the way they are now"...I think I got caught up in the responsive parenting vein of my post and forgot to finish my thoughts...
The pendulum tends to swing back and forth: in the past, birthing babies was solely a feminine domain, attended by midwives and supported by women in the community. Then the pendulum swung towards births that were attended by doctors and highly medicalized. Then it swung back towards non medicated, doctor assisted births, with much involvement by husbands and much more choice on the part of women. I think we are on the cusp of another potential swing back towards over intervention, over medicalization...of course, there is the potential that this will not happen and we will be able to continue on a more baby friendly, mother friendly vein.
I am a strong supporter of in hospital births and know that many beautiful moments happen on maternity wards every day! As a medical person I tend to err on the side of critcizing my own field, but I would like to defend my belief in the medical system and in the joys and miracles present every day in the field of obstetrics.
I think that we need to guard this area of medicine very carefully because birth is a natural process, and can be an empowering and joyful experience for women instead of a fearful or overwhelmingly negative one. Our society uses negative and fearful language to discuss the birthing process and I know a fair number of women, myself included, who did not have empowering experiences during the delivery process, which then affirms the belief that the birthing process is largely negative and disempowering.
Perhaps this is an issue of a lack of self education? I know that I educated myself on pregnancy, and a little bit on labour and delivery, but not nearly enough. And I pretty much knew nothing about taking care of a baby, beyond the fact that I wanted to breastfeed. If 'we' negative birth experiencers had been more proactive about educating ourselves on this area of our health, likely we would have had more empowering, positive experiences. I think the medical community could meet us halfway by focusing on ways to continue current obstetrical trends in baby friendly and mother friendly directions, creating the best possible environment for a positive birth experience to happen.


Ms. Dragonfly said...

This certainly clears everything up. It's funny sometimes I post/comment and I know exactly what I mean but sometimes my readers don't make the leap with me as well. And no worries, I forgive you for being a bible thumper.

nancy said...

I'll add my 2 cents worth here! After working in Maternity for 35 years I have seen many trends come and go. Probably the most exciting development in recent years is the legalization of midwifrey in our province (by the way, 40% of our miwife deliveries are home births). Most of the positive changes in the past 30 years have been client driven - as in mothers and fathers insisting on changes that inhance the birth experience for new families. In the 1970's women embraced the idea that their bodies were incredibley able to give birth in an unmedicated, natural fashion. Breastfeeding rates have soared since then and we are slowly relearning this art.
I disagree that we are on the cusp of a swing away from natural chilbirth - I would say we are already well down that splippery slope. Medical interventions saves lives of both mothers and babies. But when we apply these same interventions with healthy normal births(as opposed to high risk births)we create stresses to both mom and babe that push them into the high risk catigory. BC has a C-section rate of 30-40% and unmedicated births with no interventions are rare. Breastfeeding initiation rates are great but early weaning and a reliance on pumping and giving bottles are on the up-swing. I would chalenge this generation of younge families to once again demand change! Some of these recent negative changes come fron the medical field but many are requested by mothers - reflecting our current culture.
Sara, your experience is the exception overall though I see a slow increase in the demand for midwife assisted births.
One sad(in my opinion) result of our intervention orientated hospital birth trend is the reactive "unassisted home birth" movement now developing. To ensure a mother controlled empowering birth parents are chosing to have no trained assistance - as in no miwife/doctor/nurse. This puts both mother and baby at un-necessary risk as obsterical emergencies, though rare, can develop rapidly and be catastrophic.
So there are the rantings of an almost retired old maternity nurse who came of age in the hippy make love not war 1970's era!
I'm proud that the next generation in our extended family is prepared to buck the system when necessary, become informed/educated in order to provide nurturing environments for themselves and thier children. And hey, I think you are both incredibley engaged, attached, intuitive moms!