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.