I am the mother of two children. One hospital born with a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) and another home-born with a CPM (Certified Professional Midwife). Both births were beautiful, amazing, miraculous experiences that brought forth equally healthy and plump babies.
I care about midwifery in North Carolina as much as I care about breathing.
To get straight to the point, because of my experiences within the birthing community I have heard lots of birth stories. I attend regular monthly meetings with other moms, doulas, midwives and the like where we gather to share experiences and support one another. I also attend births as a DOULA. Over this period of time I have had conversations with literally hundreds of women and have heard their stories of their labors and births in every setting with every type of care provider. Birth is unique to each woman. None of us gives birth like another woman. The kind of care that we each need is unique. We all feel safe in different settings surrounded by different people on our team. I have heard and witnessed the most intimate of details involving individual experiences and I hold them close to my heart, the good and the bad. I want to share every word and moment of power that women pull out of them when they labor and birth, but of course I won’t. I have made the choice to do this work and to keep the details to myself because it is the right thing to do, it’s never my story to share. But I will say that I have heard the stories of women who have given birth and been diagnosed with PTSD(post traumatic stress disorder), post partum depression and use words like “assault” and “rape” when describing their experiences. Women who have sought professional help and support because of the way they were treated when they were BRINGING FORTH A CHILD. More and more women are coming forward to share how they felt forced, bullied and coerced into medical interventions, that they were never given a reason as to why they were needed. Being told that they were not “allowed” to move freely, denied food and nourishment during labor, having their water broken without their consent or knowledge until after the fact. I have actually seen a mom hooked up to Pitocin immediately following an epidural WITHOUT HER CONSENT, then when I asked the care provider why that was necessary, she responded with “what’s the point, she’s had one intervention already”. Women who say loud and clear ” I DO NOT GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO _________” or “PLEASE STOP” and being completely IGNORED by her care provider or nurse and being examined or given an unwanted episiotomy, while screaming, anyway. Babies taken away from mothers directly after birth and given drugs or medications or having other procedures that did not have parental consent, in fact most of the time they have already asked for those specific procedures to not be given or delayed. I am not talking about moments where the mother is incapable of making an informed decision either, those moments where care providers need to be on their feet and handle a situation that could be life threatening, we are not talking about life saving interventions. We are talking about the countless women in the communities around this state expressing a dissatisfaction with the care they received and being, at best, brushed off and at worst being shamed or made to feel like it’s their fault for wanting a certain kind of birth. This is not some extreme end or only happening in NC. This is happening in hospitals all over the country. This is real. This has to stop. No matter the birth choice or the care provider, women should never use the words abuse, assault, bully, or rape when they are describing the moments that their children were brought into this world.
More and more women are choosing to give birth outside of the hospitals with a different type of care provider. CNM’s can still attend women at home, but guess what? Our laws restrict their practice as well, leaving only 4 certified nurse midwives who attend women in their homes. The Certified Professional Midwife is a qualified and capable provider who is specifically trained to provide safe care outside of the hospital.
Women in North Carolina are traveling across state lines to give birth with Certified Professional Midwives or they are going “underground” to seek out illegal care. This is all so surreal. How can a CPM go from legal, insurance excepting, respected health care professional in 28 other states and come into mine and be a criminal? That just doesn’t make any sense. MIDWIFERY IS NOT A CRIME!
Home birth is not for everyone and all midwives are not perfect. Licensing Certified Professional Midwives will not “fix” our broken maternity care system. But it is part of the solution. It’s a step that we can take in the right direction. It is something that the birthing families in NC are choosing more and more. They have a right to safe and legal out of hospital care with the provider they choose. END OF STORY.
It is our right as human beings, as mothers, to be supported and trusted to make choices involving our health and reproductive rights and choices about the care that our children receive. INCLUDING INFORMED CONSENT AND REFUSAL.
So what can you do you ask.
- Become a member of North Carolina Friends of Midwives immediately and find them on facebook and respond accordingly to all calls to action.
- Consider becoming a DOULA or BIRTH ADVOCATE
- Get involved with your birthing community
Time is of the essence here in NC. We need all the help and support we can get.
Birth in the United States is said to be in crisis. Our cesarean rate is sky high with our national average being over 32% in 2008 and in areas it reaches over 50%. Being induced (artificially starting labor) and giving birth with an epidural is the cultural norm for most in our society. Women today have a greater chance of dying during childbirth than her mother and grandmother did. Yet we spend more money on birth than most industrialized nations, use more technology and 99% of our births occur in the hospital. This all sounds like we should be the best, right? Wrong. Mother nature has created us, women, to give birth. We are literally made for it. Technology doesn’t give birth, we do. Now I’m not saying that all women who wish to have children are ready to give birth unassisted, at home in the bathtub with lit candles and sage burning in the background. Although that does sound nice. But there are things that we all can do to empower our births and become informed health care consumers. These aren’t in any specific order as I believe they are all equally important.
1. Find out who your local midwives/OB’s are and meet with them.
The midwifery model of care holds a high standard in maternity care. Unfortunately midwives aren’t available in all parts of the U.S. so when looking for a care provider ask lots of questions. Find someone that meets the needs of you and your family. Don’t hesitate to shop around. Even if it’s near the end of your pregnancy. It’s crucial that you feel 100% supported by your provider. If you are dissatisfied with the care you have been receiving let the appropriate people know. You are the consumer. Nothing will ever change unless we facilitate change.
2. Take childbirth classes.
“An informed woman is a powerful one.” A wise woman midwife.
A few well known childbirth classes are The Bradley Method, Lamaze, IBWP (formally known as ALACE). They will usually cost $200-$400 depending on your location and which one you choose but it’s well worth it. Most of us spend that much money on cribs, clothes and car seats by the time the baby comes. The confidence and connections you develop are priceless.
3. Become involved with your birth community.
Not to say that you can’t have a baby if you don’t have community but there’s so much to be said for having women who have experienced what you are experiencing being there when you need them. Find your local birth circles or La Leche League meetings and go to a few. It’s a great way to become informed and feel support during your transition into motherhood. Other moms love to share their own stories of triumph and empowerment, but also a place to process some of the realities of birth and new parenthood that aren’t talked about in open spaces.
4. Hire a doula.
A doula can offer emotional and physical support to you and your family. They typically attend anything from home births to planned C-sections. They can be an invaluable part of your support team and truly be a guide through your own empowering experience. Check out my blog post on Doulas here.
5. Take good care of yourself.
Eat well. Be well. Eat fresh, whole foods at home. Visit local farmer’s markets and produce stands. Become a part of a CSA. Drink LOTS of clean water and herbal teas. And for goodness sake, take a good, whole foods based prenatal vitamin.
6. Get fresh air everyday.
Go for long walks outside and bring plenty of water.
7. Join a prenatal exercise class.
Yoga, bellydance, pilates… the choices are endless, really. Not only does this provide exercise but can also alleviate some of the pain and discomforts associated with pregnancy. Check with your OB or Midwife before starting a new exercise regimen.
8. Meditate. Visualize. Relax. Let your mind rest.
Find a place that you can visit when are feeling the intense rush of your labor. Do it often so that you get into the habit of it. Start and end with a deep cleansing breath.
9. Rally your support team.
Be sure that the people who will be with you during the time of your birth are on the same page as you with what you want. Emotions from others on your team can effect the laboring women, whether they are positive or negative. So talk about your wishes and needs for labor openly with your support team, have them come with you to your appointments if you feel comfortable with that. Doulas can be invited too!
10. Create a birth plan.
A birth plan is a useful tool to let your care providers and support team know what your expectations are for your birth. It can cover a broad range of topics from dimmed lights, to pain meds to how your baby is cared for in the post-partum period after the birth.
11. READ, READ and READ some more.
In addition to taking childbirth education classes it is a good idea to read books that highlight the positive aspects of a normal birth. Books like Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Sheila Kitzenger and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by midwife Ina May Gaskin. This sort of literature puts birth in a very positive light. It informs us that birth is to be respected and functions best when it is in the most natural and simple of forms.
12. TRUST BIRTH.
Trust your body. Know that every women before you has stood where you stand. Be grateful for the miracle you are assisting and receiving.