Tuesday, August 9, 2011

When I Talk About ...

When I talk about and encourage birthing at home, it is not because I am crazy or anti-hospital for those that need it. It is because too many women end up unnecessarily having to heal from a major incision (both cesarean and episiotomy) , and too many babies are put at risk by the drugs and intervention commonly used in the hospital. That is fact, not opinion. For low-risk women, more complications occur in the hospital than they do at home. That is fact, not opinion. The maternity ward is the only space in the hospital where healthy, strong people willingly go to complete a physiological event in their life … surrounded by the sick, wounded, and dying. For low-risk women, you and your baby are at higher risk of developing a life-threatening infection in the hospital, or suffer the consequences of a severe medical error, than you are of having a life-threatening complication that cannot be handled at home. A recent study in Emerging Infectious Diseases found that hospital-acquired infections are the sixth leading cause of death nationally . An average of 195,000 people in the USA died due to potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors in each of the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to a study of 37 million patient records that was released by HealthGrades. At least 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented. I talk about these things because women walk away from the often traumatic hospital birth believing that it was their body that failed them and their baby – and sometimes put their baby at risk – rather than the very practices that are common in the hospital. Nearly all of the complication-ridden, scary hospital birth stories that I hear of were avoidable. They included misinformation, or outright lies, by their care provider followed by intervention in the physiologic process. Their body never failed them or their baby. Their care provider and the medical system did.

When I talk about keeping your sons whole, it is not because I have never been in the position to believe this to be best. In fact, one of my sons is circumcised. I talk about it because no one did so when we were in that position. No one encouraged us to look into the research that shows the risks – not only of death, but of permanent injury and disfigurement. No one encouraged us to do some Biblical research to find that for Christians, not only is circumcision not required, it is spoken against by Paul. No one provoked the thought process of circumcision being a irreversible, permanent alteration of someone else's body … even though that body “belongs” to us, so to speak. I often hear people say that circumcision is a personal decision for each parent. The one thing that is lost in this is that the baby has no choice in something that is done, rather brutally, to his body. He has no power to say no. He will only have to live with the results (and possible complications) for the rest of his life. For some men, this includes sexual dysfunction. God created the foreskin for a reason. It is not without function, it is not without purpose.

When I talk about breastfeeding being one of the most important choices you can make for your baby, that is fact, not opinion. Breast milk is literally the only perfect substance for your baby for the first year of his life. Baby needs nothing else in that first year to grow, develop, and be happy. Breast milk is the only substance that a baby's digestive system can efficiently break down. Babies are literally hardwired to breastfeed. They know how to get to the breast without anyone putting them there. They know how to nurse without anyone showing them how. This is especially true when a mother has given her baby the gift of a physiologic birth – no drugs or interruption in the bonding process immediately following birth. When I talk about breastfeeding it is not because I am being judgmental of those women who don't, it is because every baby has a birthright to breastfeed, and many are deprived of this right. Breast milk is not only a complete nutrition, it also completes the baby's immune system with antibodies that will help shield baby from illness. It is a powerful healing agent – capable of wiping out eye infections, ear infections, diaper rash, and even acne. Breastfeeding your baby helps protect against SIDS, reduces the risk of childhood obesity, raises IQ levels, and increases both jaw and eye health. And let's face it ladies – we lactate for a reason. It is our God-given super ability. It should be used, if nothing else but for the health of our children.

When I talk about co-sleeping, it is not because I am afraid a predator will come and snatch away baby if he is in the other room. It is because studies have shown that co-sleeping (even if just in the same room) reduces the rates of SIDS, aids nighttime feedings, and makes baby feel more secure. A baby spends 10 months inside of his mother, listening to the beating of her heart, the sound of her breathing and her voice, and is comforted knowing that she is there. Imagine going from this place of comfort and security, to being isolated from the one being you trust to keep you safe. Here's where I get controversial : I find it cruel to put baby in another room. A baby should, at the very least, be allowed the security of being in the same room with mom and dad. Hearing the familiar sounds, and knowing that they are right there in case of need. The best advice that I can give new parents is to put the money into a savings account that they would have spent on a nursery. Baby doesn't need a nursery – baby needs you. They are very simple that way, it is us adults that make it much more complicated than it needs to be.

When I talk about baby wearing, it is not because I am a hippie – though I do not take offense to this. Ha! It is because baby feels the most safe and secure when in the arms of someone who loves him. Instead of being constantly buckled into a car seat, baby can be up on your chest, listening to you breathe, your heart beat, and your voice. As baby gets older, he can see everything that you see. He can be at eye-level with people, allowed to interact. Baby also stays content much longer through a shopping trip, walk, or even housework. It has also been shown that babies who are worn rather than placed in a seat have much fewer incidences of skull deformities. Some babies who are commonly placed in a seat end up needing to wear a corrective helmet due to the flattening of the back of the skull. I also cringe and feel twinges in my back and arms when I see moms toting around the heavy car seat with baby buckled in. With the right carrier, you won't feel pain, and baby will be content. It really is about making things easier for mom, and making baby feel the most loved and secure!

When I talk about any of these things, I am not being judgmental. Do I get sad when I think about what is done to babies unknowingly by well-meaning parents? Every day. It seems that parents do more research about the type of car seat, stroller, crib, and accessories to buy than they do about the things that matter most. I would love to see this change. I was once that mom, so I understand. It is easy to do, because these are the things that our society values. Research the “things”, hand the responsibility of childbirth and baby rearing to your Obstetrician and Pediatrician. Don't feel bad if you choose drugs, don't feel bad if you choose formula. Don't feel bad if you choose to place your baby in another room upon returning home from the hospital. Don't feel bad if you choose to displace your child's needs in order to maintain yours. Our society places very little importance on what is vital to health and happiness in the little beings that we are given responsibility of. It places more importance on the happiness of adults. It is no coincidence that the doctors who tell you that there is nothing wrong with choosing drugs in childbirth, are paid by the very pharmaceutical companies who supply them. It is no coincidence that the ads that tell you not to feel guilty about choosing not to breastfeed are funded by the mutli-billion dollar formula industry. Our society is not fueled by the importance of mother-baby bonding as it should be. And women fall prey to this – sometimes happily – every single day.

My question is, at what cost?


Kate said...

I pretty much agree with you 100% about everything. Too often I feel that people would rather I keep my mouth shut than be subject to their own intense feelings of being judged just because I question the status quo. You decide whatever you want but don't do it without all the proper information! Look at all sides of something without you judging my side as being wrong just because its not main stream. Typical normal is not right just because everyone is doing it. Thanks for saying it so much better than I could.

Laura said...

Yes!! :) I was once that mom too... sometimes it's amazing what will shock you out of complacency, but once you start questioning the system, it's hard to stop. By the way, I've been called a hippie too. And I'm not, really, but I guess it looks that way! ha!

Bobbi said...

I LOVE this post! As a doula, this is what I wish I could say to every client without offending.
Thanks for saying it. : )

Bobbi said...

I LOVE this post!
As a doula, this is what I wish I could say to all my clients, without offending them.
Thank you for saying it all and saying it so well. : )