How would you describe yourself: mother, birth activist, cultural and medical anthropologist specializing in the anthropology of reproduction
1. What change(s) do you want to see in birth?
I want to see midwives attending the majority of births, under the woman-centered midwifery model of care, with obs reserved for those 15% or so of cases in which their skills are truly needed. Midwife-attended births in homes and birth centers would be fully and freely available. In my vision, women would not even be admitted to the hospital until they are a full 5 cm dilated, so that early labor can take its own course and time. Except in rare cases, labors would never be induced before 42 weeks. No interventions would be routinely used, and any use of interventions would be evidence-based. Women giving birth in hospitals would eat and drink at will and move about freely with one-on-one doula support, and support from the other companions of their choice. Women could choose epidurals if they wish, after 5 cm. Upright positions for labor and birth would be the norm. Normal babies would never be separated from their mothers, nor would viable preemies–they would receive full-on kangaroo care. Breastfeeding would be supported and encouraged, formula would not be available but breastmilk from other mothers would be. That’s the short version!
2. What people/places/philosophies/things do you envision being some of the catalysts in birth change?
A massive paradigm shift from the technocratic to the humanistic and holistic (midwifery) models, brought about by individual practitioners making that shift and implementing it in practice as a model for others. The most fundamental change needs to take place in the education of ob/gyns. I envision that the various obs in the US who have already made the paradigm shift will take leadership in changing ob education. The evidence that they are doing almost everything wrong in their treatment of normal labor and birth is very clear.
3. What is the first thing that needs to change with how the average person views natural birth? What are your ideas (big and small) to help this change?
- We need to make a cultural shift towards appreciating women’s valor, bravery, and courage in birthgiving and celebrate them as we celebrate our soldiers for their courage, so that giving birth normally can become a rite of passage culturally recognized as brave and empowering.
- Women need to be educated in the physiology of normal birth and the techniques (such as doula massage techniques), people (midwives and doulas), and technologies that support that normal physiology (such as birthing balls, chairs, and stools, wall ladders, floor mats and futons, ropes from the ceiling, birthing tubs and how to use them).
4. What is the best advice you would give a pregnant mama who is looking into her birth choices?
- Watch The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth. Read their accompanying books. Do not read What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and Our Bodies, Our Babies. Read the information on Childbirth Connections’ website and on MANA’s Mothers Naturally site. Talk with other women who have had positive birthing experiences. Interview midwives and doulas. Make fully informed choices, and hire a doula and a midwife!
5. If you could give a few words of advice to all the women (even those not pregnant) that haven’t found their voices yet, what would it be?
“You are a child of the universe, you have a right to be here” and a right to be heard!
6. What encouraging advice would you give anybody in birth (mama or any birth worker) when faced with that seems like the present “doom and gloom” situation?
First, eat if you’re hungry and drink if you’re thirsty, and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Leap out of the bed, strip off the monitor, open the windows, put on a CD, and dance wildly and happily! In other words, change your attitude, change the energy!!
7. What do you think “We” can do to help women find their truth, their trust and their responsibility in birth?
I think “we”–many thousands of us–are doing our best. We are writing articles, books, and blogs. We are lobbying legislators for better laws. We are monitoring every study that comes out and supporting it if it’s good and if it’s not, pointing out very specifically what’s wrong with it and widely disseminating that information. We are educating women. We need to put a great deal more work into educating doctors! They are not bad guys, they are just not trained at all in how to support the normal physiology of birth. We need to re-educate most of them, with grace, charm, and a sense of fun so as not to antagonize them, and we need to get into medical schools and work to educate obs-in-training in the physiology of normal birth and their appropriate roles from the get-go.