As a doula, probably the most common thing I’ve noticed among expecting moms (especially first time moms – including myself, 16 years ago) is how much women truly DON’T know about the process of natural childbirth. Sometimes, we think we do, or at least we think we’ve prepared ourselves for the big event. Unfortunately for most of us, we’ve been led astray by the very well marketed childbirth books on the shelves at major bookstore chains that don’t promote confidence in the natural birth process, by the entertaining television shows of dramatic birth experiences, and even by our closest friends and relatives who can’t wait to share their birth story (and all of the ‘unusual’ events that might surround it). Let’s face it, shows that describe women giving birth in their bathrooms to babies they weren’t expecting can captivate our minds, pregnant or not. And we’ve all heard the story from someone close to us whose birth surely was the longest labor on record and the hospital staff who rescued her from the tragic suffering. It’s no wonder the epidural rate in hospitals is over 90 percent.
New mothers looking for doula support usually contact me around the time they are entering their third trimester. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to provide prenatal support earlier in the pregnancy. Some of my most favorite doula experiences were with mothers who hired me during their first trimester. I felt privileged to have been able to share lots of information and resources I didn’t normally have enough time to provide. In these cases, this extra time for teaching made all of the difference in the birth outcomes. Can you imagine if this information was available to all women (and men) before becoming pregnant? How would we view childbirth if we came into it with some background knowledge that didn’t originate from our friends or TV?
Most doulas with children of their own will probably admit to having shared a birth video or two with their family and probably have a library of birth books, a model of a pelvis, and numerous posters of the birth process within view. Our children have probably seen a photo of a placenta and know that breast milk is the healthiest food for a newborn. My six year-old has bounced across my office on a birth ball more times than I care to count and my ten year-old (a boy) knows the “Welcoming Baby” belly dance and that keeping mom upright helps to ease the baby down during birth. How is it that our children are more knowledgeable than grown adults who are preparing for one of the biggest events in their lives? The children had access to, and learned honest information early, before the media and social influences could make an impact. For more on this topic, read my post “Beyond ‘The Talk’ – Educating a Younger Generation” http://momandlittleme.blogspot.com/2011/01/beyond-talk-educating-younger.html
As part of my doula/childbirth educator practice and as an expectation (and dedication) to my midwifery training, I’ve committed myself to educating a younger generation on natural childbirth and breastfeeding. My vision of an entire generation of future health care providers and administrators, law makers, insurance representatives, parents, teachers, (fill in any other profession here) who have all come to expect that birth is a natural process of life and not one that needs to be medically managed is what I imagine as the answer for a nation who needs better maternity outcomes and breastfeeding expectations. Children and young adults who have the opportunity to learn the same information that my children (and the children of other birth professionals) have learned about the process of natural birth will become confident adults who trust in their body; adults who respect themselves and one another; and parents who provide the best start to life for their newborn based on research rather than Hollywood or malpractice insurance guidelines.
While testing these new waters, my work begins with small groups of young women and their mothers who are interested in learning about the miraculous, perfect design of their body in an age appropriate, real time manner. The six Healthy Birth Practices written by Lamaze International are simple steps to providing women with confidence to birth their babies that can also be adapted to a younger audience. When younger women learn to appreciate their primal ability to give birth naturally, they will confidently approach motherhood and make choices that improve their safety and satisfaction during their childbearing years.
As this content is further fined tuned, I hope to offer workshops and webinars, and hopefully adapting the information into the health curriculum of many school districts. I see a lifetime of work ahead of me, but it will be one that I will look back on with pride.