A pregnancy is a tender and impressionable time for a mother-to-be. How she is met for the first time by her care-giver may influence how she views herself, and the beliefs she develops towards giving birth. As a child-birth educator, I often encounter fear in mothers-to-be. This fear can stem from the lack of knowledge of thebirth process, horror stories told by well meaning friends, bad memories from previous birth experiences, or by their care-giver's lack of trust and faith in the natural process of birth.
The First Impression
In choosing the conventional birthing route, picture this: you walk into an office, routine health questions are asked. You are then asked to take off your clothes and put on a little jonny-gown, then you wait in a cold and sterile room for your care-giver. Little conversation takes place, often there is no time spent on your thoughts and hopes.
A mother is regarded more like a vehicle being maintained, an auto coming in for its check-up. "How's the water, oil, what are the read-outs?" This is far from the warmth and support needed at this time.
Then there are the tests...genetic - "to make sure that everything is OK". Of course you have a choice, but there is always a small fear that things may "not be OK" and, as they are strongly recommended, (very little is said regarding risk to the baby) the mother goes along with them.
Then comes the waiting period. Once there was a period of waiting and nurturing, now there is waiting and fearing just when the mother and father should be full of confidence and hope, absorbing themselves in positive thoughts of their unborn child.
At the time of labor and birth, the mother is connected to machines. The laboring woman needs someone to support her in her altered state, removed from the world, but all eyes are looking to the machines. Then there are the drugs that affect the mother's conscious state. Most women looking forward to the birth process feel intuitively that it is a natural thing. But if the woman is unable to get the support needed to cope with her labor, she may succumb to drugs for relief and comfort. The wonderful option of the pain-killer is tempting. However, there is a "side-effect" to drugs - mentally they and physically the mother can't be as involved in the birth process because she can't feel her body. Mothers that are medicated may be too groggy to hold, nurture and bond with the baby after birth. The baby may have a difficult time breathing, have poor muscle tone, may not be able to suck and nurse, also the drug may cause jaundice.
"There is no drug, either by prescription or over the counter which taken by the child-bearing woman, has ever been proven safe for the unborn child."...The American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Drugs.
Of course we do not wish to say that all tests, machines and drugs are wrong, because they do have their rightful place in emergency situations. The benefits must always be looked at, and outweigh the risk.
The ideal would be to have the child at home, but this is often not possible. Wherever the birth takes place, the relation to the caregiver is the most important aspect. The right care-giver , who enters into one's life for such a brief span will always be remembered with gratitude.
Women today often come up against a wall of modern technology. While it has saved lives, and given hopes that would never have been, it can also create a cold and lonely avenue for birth. As a woman, we must reclaim our birth rights, replacing fear with knowledge, worry with hope, and anxiety with trust in our body's ability to give birth.