This is How To Respect Women & Create an Empowered Birth Culture

This is How To Respect Women & Create an Empowered Birth Culture #naturalbirth #childbirth #women

As a modern feminist, former history student, and huge advocate of womens’ rights I have to say it makes me a bit sad when I read about the huge numbers of women who have resigned themselves to a painful birth.  Our society as a whole is oppressing women, keeping a thumb pressed firmly down on them, by reframing what could be the MOST empowering experience of a woman’s life and making it into some horrible and painful ordeal.

What I really wish is that the women (and men) of the world, could reframe birth and truly think of it as the amazing, intense, life giving & altering, hugely empowering, mysterious experience that it is.  If we stop thinking about pain and trauma we can let go of obsessions with pharmaceutical births and all their associated complications and risks.

For instance, epidurals (to relieve PAIN!) come with a staggering number of possible complications:

  • blood pressure dropping,
  • labour slowing
  • increased risk of needing caesarean
  • increase in maternal body temperature with associated increase in baby’s heart rate which could be interpreted as a sign of fetal distress,
  • and MANY others.

(Reference: Birth International. Epidurals – real risks for mothers and babies).

And that is just one form of medicalized birth.  The cornucopia of pharmaceutical choices doctors have in terms of ‘managing labour’ is staggering, and with these choices comes an equally staggering number of risks and side effects.

Once we let go of pain and our obsessive focus on relieving it, natural births then become an easy extension of our cultural confidence in womens’ ability to birth, and birthing women (and their wishes) can be taken seriously.

No longer will womens’ ability to ‘tolerate the pain’ of labour be the central idea propelling her birth, but the entire experience will be allowed to unfold and progress at the pace that is perfect for her body, and we can welcome the natural highs and lows that happen in normal labours.  I can only hope that one day society realizes that this process has been figured out over thousands and thousands of years and tinkering with the details so extensively is kind of pointless.

If we just let birth happen, guess what? IT WILL!

If we start focusing on the AMAZING things that are happening to us, and surround ourselves with positivity we can experience labour and birth as a transformative, truly transcendent experience.  We can create the empowered birth culture we want to be immersed in and toss aside the pain-centric birth culture of the past.

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Based on my interpretation of research on ancient civilizations (particularly research on Catal Hoyuk in modern day Turkey: refer to here & here for details on what I’m talking about), I believe that for most of human history birth was celebrated for the life-giving mystery that it is and women were revered and respected for their strength and ability to capably bring forth life.  Let’s bring back that reverence and give our bodies and the experience the respect that they both deserve.  Let’s celebrate this wonderful, miraculous thing we get to do by bringing new little lives into this world!

What I want to say to women everywhere who are seeking a natural birth experience:



 You are POWERFUL!

You have the ability to birth, and your gorgeous baby will be the sweetest REWARD!

You can ENJOY the intensity and thrill of birth!

Your body already KNOWS what to do, have CONFIDENCE in this innate ability!

You are a GODDESS!



 Do you think we can change our birth culture?  What else needs to be done?  Share with us in the comments below!


 

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  • Michelle

    I wholeheartedly agree with what you said. But, let’s face it, our society has relief for “all kinds of pain,” don’t even get me started. Either way, yes, women need to be reminded that it was “the female” that God gave the ability to bear children, so WE can do it and do it without anything if that is what we choose.

    • Yes, we sure can do it! It is amazing what the human body is capable of. I didn’t actively push at all with my second, that radically changed my perception of birth!

  • Yes! Oh yes! Birth culture needs to seriously be shifted from the focus on fearing the “unknown” and the ‘pain’ of birth. Pregnancy and labor are really some of the ultimate sources and extensions of love and the human experience. When we attempt to alter it in unnatural ways unnecessarily, we end up with all kinds of issues/complications and a further perpetuation of the fear and ‘pain’.

    Recently, a few women and I have linked up to join with the National Perinatal Task Force in an attempt to further help change the perception of birth, as well as increase the health and wellness of mothers/babies.

    • You are so right, we need to be focusing on all the love involved in these processes too!

      Sounds like you are supporting a worthy cause! I will have to check out the National Perinatal Task Force!

      • Based out of Florida and a midwife there, JJ, the task force is all about protecting the health of women/babies. Becoming an Ambassador is pretty simple and can go as far as one wants.

        Our small group of 4 women (so far) have a goal to create a network of Perinatal Safe Spots in a 3 city area (we each live in a different city lol), along with some other ideas!

        In other words, Definitely check NPTF out! 🙂

  • I had doulas with both of my births. Both doulas said the same thing… take “pain” out of the birth vocabulary. I used laughing gas briefly in my first birth and found it got in the way but I loved the TENS machine. I didn’t use anything with my second birth… tried the TENS machine and hated it.

    I wouldn’t describe my labours as painful… they were beautiful.

    I avoid medication in everyday life… so this was refreshing to read.

    Thanks for sharing.
    xoxo

    • I tried the TENS with my first birth too and hated it. I was like GET THAT THING OFF ME! lol I enjoyed the laughing gas both times, it was nice to be able to relax a bit between contractions.

      Glad you liked the post! xo

      • Monica Geglio

        Wow- both of you are very impressive! I’ve never even heard of someone using laughing gas during labor! I was nervous to get a cavity filled during my pregnancy bc I usually get laughing gas… You two are inspiring! <3

  • Jennifer Schon

    I’ve had almost every kind of birth with eight babies – C-section, epidural, homebirth, water birth. I had wonderful midwives for all of my births, and it really helped with the outcomes (especially since they’ve helped me have 7 vbacs). All I want to say is that the most amazing feelings afterwards came with my unmedicated births. There is something about knowing your body just performed this amazing act of pushing a baby out after working through some incredible pain. I’ve only had one birth that I would classify as pain-free, and it was one of my homebirths. I don’t know why it was that way, but it was. Anyway, you raise some good points about empowering women to give birth the way their bodies were designed to do it.

    • I had two very different births, the first was very traumatic and the second was incredible though the details on paper are pretty close to the same the experiences were completely different! For me the biggest difference was the rush of hormones after the birth. During the traumatic birth I did not have that effect. I never thought it was possible until I had my second, I was on cloud 9! Probably the seed that helped me write this post was me learning from experience that amazing births are totally possible.

  • Tanya M

    Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday Linkup and hope you join us again this weekend! Pinning to our linkup board.

  • Stopping by from Spotlight Saturday.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as “we have to stop believing that it will hurt and then it won’t hurt.” (Having had 5 children I think I can safely say that.)

    Another reason to possibly rethink the epidural: sometimes it doesn’t work! I’ve had various epidural experiences, from “I truly didn’t feel a thing” to “only worked on one side so pretty useless.”

    With baby #4, my epidural dispensed too much medication and numbed me almost up to my neck. I felt really loopy and out of it holding my baby for the first time. 🙁 After that experience I decided to do it naturally the next time – but since God has a sense of humor, I had placenta previa with #5 which means automatic C-section.

  • I’m about two weeks(ish) away from having my first, and it’s always discouraging when friends or family try to “warn” me of how much pain it’s going to be, how awful childbirth is, how I won’t be able to get through it without an epidural, etc. Maybe I’m just super stubborn, but I take their warnings as a challenge. Not because I don’t believe I’ll have a pain-free birth, but because I know I’m a strong woman with a strong body that is capable of doing what it was made to do. And I can do this!

  • I have a few mixed feelings here. I had an epidural with all four of my boys. I don’t regret it. It helped me relax, and not focus on every painful contraction. However, I do see the beauty in a natural birth. I have heard women describe their experiences as truly wonderful and spiritual. I am a firm believer in doing what works for you. At the end of the day, if all roads lead to the same beautiful blessing, I say do what makes you comfortable. Great post. Thanks for sharing! #shinebloghop

  • Jann Olson

    I had 5 births and only had an epidural with one of them, but had a block with 2. Must say that the epidural worked very well. I had my children quickly, so labor was hard but not bad. But for those who are in labor for hours I think it would be very difficult. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

  • Aim

    I am all for empowering women and the birth experience, which is why I disagree with some of what is said here. Some women can’t labour and birth naturally for a various number of reasons. Lumping all women into the category where they CAN do it, makes the women who actually can’t quite vulnerable and contributes to women feeling like a failure and experiencing disappointment during their birth story. If you have a healthy mama and baby then there should be only happiness and pride, no matter what the journey entailed. Saying all women can do it really mutes the uniqueness of women and the amazing fact that because of our medical advancements, women who, in the dawn of time, would have died during child birth or would have been considered baren can now have babies and have a healthy experience! Many women do simply choose medication when it may not be absolutely required for the experience but they also should not feel guilty or like they “gave in” or “failed” as a strong woman. Sometimes unmedicated labour and deliveries can be extremely traumatic and I can say from experience that it isn’t because the woman had the wrong frame of mind about birthing. Everyone experiences pain and the birthing process in their own way and for some women, despite their best intentions and strong will, they end up needing some medication to help the experience remain positive. The trauma of a horribly painful unmedicated delivery can last longer than just in the delivery room and we are very lucky as a society that we don’t need to associate the birth of our child with a negative experience. We have options just as unique as the women that we are!
    I can say on several occasions I have seen women battling through pain and contractions, unable to relax because of their unique, subjective response to pain… Only to find that they are not dilating despite their strength. I have seen some women in this case, choose an epidural and finally get some relief, their body relaxes and they dilate and deliver quickly. A quick note on epidurals as well is that many hospitals are now offering “patient controlled” epidurals! Talk about empowerment! You literally have complete control over the amount of medication you receive and when you reiceve it through your epidural! You get a slow, mild continuous rate and then you push a button when you want more medication. Or you don’t push the button and you feel as much of the experience as you want but while also allowing your body to relax. The days of being frozen from the neck down are becoming a distant, rare occurrence.. Patient controlled epidurals are allowing women to have relief but also have the natural feel of the contractions and pressure to push out their babies when the time comes. Pressure is also a key word in the world of epidurals, as it is something that they are not good at getting rid of. Which is a great thing for women to feel that pressure to push against to progress positively with pushing their baby out!
    All in all, I just want us to see the birthing experience as positive no matter what path you have chosen or the path that has been chosen for you. Don’t feel like a failure if you have a condition that requires you to have an epidural or even a c-section, because it is incredible that you get to experience pregnancy and childbirth, no matter what life has dealt you. Be proud! Have whatever medication or none! Do what works for you as a woman, just as you will as a mother! Those around you who love you will support and respect you for the courage it takes to make these difficult decisions that are yours!

  • What a powerful piece! I whole heartedly agree with everything you’ve said here. I had the birth I felt I could only dream of and it was totally and completely possible. Younger me felt I would totally go immediate epidermal or scheduled c-section because I was fearful of pain but once I did some research and took a pre-natal yoga with a doula, I felt so confident and truly empowered to have the birth I knew I wanted.