Sunday, April 3, 2016

What Birth Can Be

I was introduced to Whapio Diane Bartlett's Holistic Stages of Labor by Gena Kirby, at one of her workshops. It has changed the way I view a birthing family. It broke down the stages eloquently. There are no numbered stages, no medical jargon, no one size fits all signs of each stage. It shows labor and birth as a process beyond earthly limits. It shows how natural, untamed, and powerful birth can be, which is not a view of birth that our society typically sees. It depicts a process in which the mother, father, and baby know what to do. It proves that the bond that conceived the baby will bring the baby into this world. You can read about the stages here:

After reading Bartlett's understanding of the birthing process, I was interested in looking at how birth perceptions have changed.

Depictions of birth throughout time has changed drastically in the last century and a half. Birthing women used to be viewed as strong and powerful, knowing what to do when the time came for her baby to enter the world.

Many times these women would be supported by other women and strong men but they were still trusting their bodies, babies, and instincts to birth.

But as the medical profession stepped in, birth came to be known as this:

Please note that the mother is almost completely absent from sight in this photo.

While she the mother is pictured in this photo, she is in a position that is known to be non-conducive for labor. Making it harder on both the mother and baby. The only one advantaged by this is the medical team.

Birth is now synonomous with frightening looking tools that are largely used when women are given medical interventions or are in positions that make pushing non-conducive.

Again, in these next two images the mother is not the focal point. The doctors are the saviors, delivering the babies to the new parents.

The images of birth show how our societal perceptions have changed. Birth became something to be intervened with, a process not to be trusted. It became a profession to "deliver" babies, handing them to the mother as a gift that is being bestowed upon them by you,  instead of viewing it as a process that the family is in control of. Consequently, mothers became wary, they became compliant, the natural processes became suppressed by interventions and advice from medical professionals. Fathers were absent from the birth.  And when they were finally included in the birth space, it was as an observer of their partner's "suffering" of labor; standing back, unable to help in the procedures being performed.

Thankfully a revolution has started. One in which the power of birth is being brought to light.

Modern birth can look like this:

Or this:

Or this:

Birth is a natural process. It can need intervention when medically necessary. But however the outcome, it cannot be denied that the mother, father, and baby hold an intrinsic power. The process does not need to be broken down into well defined stages, labeled with medical jargon. The process is not something that the mother is suffering from, in which she needs to be saved. The process needs to be understood as a natural, cosmic occurrence. This process, when it is respected, leads to the start of a powerful, wonderful journey for the new family.

Witnessing a New Family Forming: My Changed Perspective on Birth and Doula Work

I became a doula after personally witnessing the misogyny of birth and how it affects women and their new babies. I came into this role hoping to empower women and improve the outcome of their births so that they could have a better start and relationship with their new baby. But in this quest I was leaving out one very important piece: the partner. Without them, the family is not complete.

Birth is not just about the mom and baby. Birth is about the new family that is being formed. After attending a rebozo workshop with Gena Kirby, my whole perspective on doula work has changed. I realize I must step back and provide the means for the father to support the mother and in turn help facilitate a better pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period for all.

I admit, my weak point was involving the partner. As women, we love to mother, we love to nurture. I selfishly wanted to be that person that the mother turned to when she needed comfort and reassurance. There is a certain high I got by feeling needed. But Gena's workshop made me realize that I can never replace the partner. The bond between the partner and mother is what conceived the baby and what is needed to bring the baby into the world. I came to realize, I do not want my clients to think that they cannot birth without me. I want them to realize that they were grateful I was there but that I was just a catalyst for something that already existed within them. I simply showed them how to deepen their relationship so that they could do what is instinct to birth their baby together.

I am excited to bring this new knowledge to my clients. I want them to know I value the partner and their irreplaceable role during the whole process. I will now use time during the prenatal visits to share with couples ways in which they can bond during pregnancy that can be brought into the birth space. By engaging in these relaxation techniques throughout pregnancy, the intimacy and stress relief can be easily transferred to labor and birth. This ensures that labor and birth is not just something the mother experiences but one that the partner is an necessary part of.

I am humbled to be a birth worker. I am humbled to be invited to witness such a powerful moment in a family's life. And I am humbled to have met Gena. She opened my eyes to what birth can be, an extension of love between two people that extends far beyond the birth space. I am truly blessed to be a doula.