"The more civilized the people,
the more the pain of labor appears to become intensified."
–Grantly Dick-Read, M.D.
Childbirth Without Fear
The childbearing year is a thirteen month year: the two months before conception, the nine months of pregnancy, and the two months following the birth. The childbearing is a time of adjustments and fierce emotions. The childbearing year touches every season.
Wise Woman Herbal for The Childbearing Year
"Most women in this culture have been led to believe they are incapable of delivering their own babies. Even most feminists, who look back in horror to the days when women were told they must rely on others (generally men) for their emotional and financial support, still do not hesitate in labor to turn themselves over to a person of "authority". The notion that women are self-reliant, independent, competent human beings has not, at this point in time, has not been fully applied to the act of giving birth. Childbirth–an event that should ideally reinforce a woman's sense of power and autonomy–has now become a painful, dangerous ordeal that often ends up reinforcing the belief she is indeed a helpless, dependent child herself."
OBSTETRICIAN: n., from obstare–to stand in the way
–Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
"I was struck by the casual, comfortable movements of the women laboring in their kitchen and giving birth among the quilts. Having based much of my assessment of myself as a practitioner on my ability to respond swiftly and accurately to emergency situations, I was undone by the infrequency of the need for me to display my masterly strokes. Birth appeared to be another animal out in the country. Labors were shorter than I was accustomed to. Pain appeared to be less severe. Cuts and tears fewer. Hemorrhage controllable. Babies did not need my suctioning devices or my tubes pressed down their throats; they gurgled when they were born and began to breathe. Their mothers took them to their breasts and nursed without much complication. If problems did arise anytime during a birth, most of them appeared to resolve themselves in short order. I had an eerie sense of unreality. The births had not only power, but grace and simplicity." (Armstrong and Feldman 1990:30)
(relating births in an Amish Community)
–Midwife Penny Armstrong
A Wise Birth
"The Western woman, for the most part,
does not believe this inner self exists.
Even if it does, she has little faith in
its ability to help her in childbirth.
Therefore she turns herself over to
the medical profession, and that is
where the problem begins."
""Safety" is the disguise worn by technocratic ideology. The real issue in the home versus hospital debate is not safety but the conflict between radically opposed systems of value and belief." (David-Floyd 1992:184)
“A pregnant woman is like a beautiful flowering tree, but take care when it comes time for the harvest that you do not shake or bruise the tree, for in doing so, you may harm both the tree and its fruit.”
"Tatje-Broussard began studying the concept of pushing
after an older friend of hers shared her story of a medicated
flat-on-your back birth twenty years earlier. The friend had
been given general anesthesia, which had rendered her
unconscious through most of her labor;
but she woke up in time to see her daughter's head emerging.
Quickly she called to the nurses who were playing cards at a nearby table.
Tatje-Broussard wondered, if women were able to give birth easily while unconscious,
why must they exert tremendous effort while awake?
She found that, up until the 1920's, women were not instructed to push
during the second phase of labor.
(The second stage is the time between the full dilation of the cervix and
the delivery of the baby.) Around the 1920's, doctors "determined" that the
second stage was dangerous to the unborn baby.
Pushing, they hoped, would get the baby out faster.
At one time, mothers were even told to begin pushing at the onset of labor."
(On the birth of her second child)
"I wanted to give birth as opposed to being delivered!"
"A woman feels the initial stages of labor and makes no comment, leaves the village quietly when birth seems imminent–taking along, if necessary, a young child–walks a few hundred yards, finds an area in the shade, clears it, arranges a soft bed of leaves, and gives birth, while squatting or lying on her side– on her own. Unusual even for other hunters and gatherers, solo birth for !Kung San women is nevertheless an ideal: 35% of women attain it by their third birth and the majority do on subsequent births. Showing no fear and not screaming out, they believe enhances the ease and safety of delivery." (Eaton, Shostak, and Konner 1988:240)
(relates a typical birth in a !Kung San village in Africa's Kalahari Desert)
–S. Boyd Eaton
The Paleolithic Prescription
"Culture has been doing its best to destroy the safety and beauty of normal childbirth for many generations. It has tried hard to demonstrate the wonders of science upon the greatest miracle of nature. It has failed to understand the simplicity of truth and unhesitatingly introduced the complexity of falsehood." (Dick-Read 1959:284)
Only with trust, faith, and support can the woman allow the birth experience to enlighten and empower her.
"Childbirth is painful"
is a good example of a belief that most
people unquestioningly accept as a fact.
It is so thoroughly ingrained in the minds of most Westerners that,
in almost all cases, it is indeed painful.
Women expect it to be painful,
prepare themselves for the pain,
and consequently experience it as painful."
"Treating normal labors as though they were complicated can become a self-fulfilling prophecy."
"There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don't ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it."
"The best way to avoid a cesarean is to stay out of the hospital."
–Brooke Sanders Purves
"Wise woman healing teaches the importance of excellent nutrition during pregnancy, understanding that your form your child and yourself from the nourishment you receive in the forty weeks of pregnancy. Excellent nutrition includes pure water, controlled breath, abundant light, loving and respectful relationships, beauty and harmony in daily life, positive, joyous thoughts, and vital foodstuffs."
Wise Woman Herbal for The Childbearing Year
"A study of interactions between women and obstetricians offers an explanation. It described three levels of increasing power imbalance: In the first, you fight and lose; in the second you don't fight because you know you can't win. However, in the highest level of power differential, your preferences are so manipulated that you act against your own interests, but you are content. Elective repeat cesarean exemplifies that highest level."
Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
"No other natural bodily function is painful and childbirth should not be an exception."
"Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth as well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body."
— Ina May Gaskin
Ina May's Guide To Childbirth
“Let us initiate our daughters into the beauty and mystery of being strong and confident women who claim their right to give birth and raise their children with dignity, power, love, and joy.”
The wisdom and compassion a woman can intuitively experience in childbirth can make her a source of healing and understanding for other women.
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