Thursday, January 17, 2008

If Grandma can do it, so can you. Birth that is.

So the idea that women just aren't the same these days and no longer able to spontaneously go into labor or birth in our society has been bounding around in my head for weeks spurned by re-reading an inspiring story written by a local doula. I have read this story many times and each time I am struck by the power in it. As I initially sat down to write this blog a week or so ago, I thought I really need to include this writing so I spoke with the author Gina P. She graciously gave me permission to use the story knowing it would be forever in cyber space. I have chosen to edit down the story a bit to retain more privacy and am abbreviating the name as requested. Please enjoy.

Grandma C

"... She was born in 1911, and contracted polio as a child, leaving her with a hunched back and a contracted pelvis. ...Her first son was born in 1931. He was a large baby, but she welcomed that in a time when babies often died. Large meant healthy. Her second son was born in 1939, another large boy, and again healthy. In 1945, she was going through menopause and found a mass in her abdomen. She had exploratory surgery to find the mass and remove it, but when my mom was found in her uterus, she was stitched back up and pleased to carry a baby to full term. My mom was born vaginally after this surgery, a footling breech. Again, her contracted pelvis, small stature, and psychological barriers were no problem, and she had an otherwise uncomplicated birth with this baby! She lived to be 92.

When I see or hear about the inherent disbelief that babies can be born for whatever reason, I tend to think about my Grandma C. She really had the odds stacked against her in many ways throughout her life, but having babies was never a problem for her. She didn't know any better than to just give birth. It makes me cry to see how some (most?) women feel about their uterus, pelvis, cervix, and vagina. And how this is perpetuated. Grandma C. was shamed by society to keep even the normal processes like menstruation a secret from anyone (unfortunately, even my mom), but she gave birth because it was her job as a wife and mother. And if it wasn't a problem for her, I wonder how many of the problems that are discussed with other women nowadays are true. I wonder how much of her hard work keeping house and tending older children helped her to give birth. At the end of her life, Grandma C. was ridden with dementia, and she would tell a few stories over and over again. I listened each time as she would tell of life on the farm as a young girl and how much of a burden she had to carry. But giving birth was something she felt she did pretty well.

About the author: Gina is a birth doula and childbirth educator in Colorado who strives to help prevent primary cesareans and to support all women who want a VBAC. Viva la revolucion!

By today's standards would this strong, capable and physically imperfect woman be "allowed" to just birth? The disturbing truth is NO she likely wouldn't. She would almost assuredly be told she couldn't ever birth children, that she is far too physically broken, and if she did carry a pregnancy to term that she must have a cesarean to safely deliver a healthy baby and mother.

By no one telling her she couldn't do it, she just did it. She knew it was one of her jobs in life. A usual expectation. I would venture to guess it wasn't easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

I will echo Gina and question, how much of what women are led to believe today is not based in truth? How many women are led down the path of fear to induction, medication, instrumental delivery or cesarean because they are being told over and over they cannot or should not labor and birth normally? Too small, too skinny, too fat, too young, too old, too scarred, too imperfect, too overdue.....This is not true. We need to stop believing that we inherently cannot.

Plain and simple fear instilling care, induction, augmentation, continuous monitoring, epidurals, cesareans and everything that goes with them - places low risk women and babies into a category of high risk, lessening the ability to JUST DO IT. Even truly high risk moms and babies are being hindered, but that is a note for another day.

Labor can be tough, it can be blissful, painful, orgasmic, you name it. It is anything and everything. My hope is that women will stop believing these lies and again start believing that it is something women are meant for, a normal expectation.

Be encouraged by Grandma C and all those like her. My heartfelt thank you to Gina for allowing me to inspire others with her writing.


Desirre Andrews CCCE, LCCE, CLD, CLE

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