This is Empowered Birth Awareness Week. I heard about it on Facebook (which is a source of many intriguing things I might not have heard about otherwise) and decided to help spread the word. What is empowered birth? Basically it’s the notion that moms and families should be the ones to make decisions about how to give birth, not hospitals or doctors or other organizations. This doesn’t mean rejecting the use of medical assistance for birth, but rather using it as a tool that we access when it is necessary.
Believe me, I appreciate the availability of Western medicine. My firstborn, my son, who just turned 15, was delivered by emergency c-section. When I was pregnant with him, Quester and I carefully researched all our options. We decided to give birth in the hospital, with the help of a nurse-midwife. We wanted a natural labor, without medication, and we had other ideas that we felt were helpful, such as playing music we chose, having a friend who is a massage therapist on hand, and the like. We created a birth plan and shared it with our nurse-midwife and the local hospital (we lived in central Maine at the time). Yet due to the large size of Tristan’s head, and the fact that he was posterior, he got stuck. He was delivered on a Friday night, well Saturday technically, because it was 2:31am when he finally emerged into the world.
A couple years later, I became pregnant with my daughter. We were now living in southern Maine, and contacted two nurse-midwives with a respected practice in Portland. I had done more reading, and knew I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean). The nurse-midwives confirmed that the reasons for the Cesarean were particular to that situation. They also, when I told them my son’s birth story, opened my eyes to becoming even more empowered. During the long labor I was having, and despite my birth plan, one of the nurses had several times offered me pain medication. At the time, I was very focused, and just said “no thanks.” But when I told the story, the two nurse-midwives turned to look at each other in shock. “That’s SO unethical!” one of them breathed. Offering pain drugs to a mother who’s in the vulnerable space of intense labor, I could now see, was indeed not a very empowering thing to do.
These two nurse-midwives were wonderful throughout my pregnancy, and helped me deal with the emotional as well as practical notion of waiting for my daughter to be born. She was a week overdue, and they calmly reassured me that she would be born when she was ready. The birth itself, again in a hospital, was smooth and as easy as possible. I felt very supported, and was able to do much of my labor at home. My daughter too was posterior for a while, but with the support of my midwife, I relaxed about it, and my daughter turned all on her own, about an hour before she was born. When she at last emerged, I recall being surprised when they put her on my belly. “Wow, she’s really here!” I felt really powerful and strong, being able to deliver her naturally after my previous experience.
Whether you decide on a hospital birth, doctors, midwives, doulas, or doing it all on your own at home, I think the key to empowered birth is making your own decisions. Do the research, listen to your intuition, check with trusted advisers, and have a backup plan. And then think about the lineage of mothers throughout the ages, trusting their bodies, giving birth as part of the natural order of our humanity. Choose what works best for you and your family, and many blessings to you!
If you want to learn more, check out this link.