Thursday, April 5, 2007

Homebirth Saftey

Article taken from Compleat Mother

Each year in America, approximately 1% of the births occur in home settings. In Illinois in 1992, 1,218 families filed birth certificates that reflected a homebirth. Approximately one-third of the births occurred to Black families. Wisconsin had 591 recorded homebirths for the same year of which 22 were to Black families. 1 It is probable that many more Illinois homebirths actually took place but weren't recorded due to a discriminatory birth registration practice that places the responsibility for registering midwife-attended homebirths on the parents and requires a different mechanism than is used for any other occurring births.One measure of the safety of birth place is infant mortality, specifically, neonatal deaths within the first 28 days. According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 19,098 neonatal deaths for 1990 for babies born in a hospital. For those babies born at home, there were 260 newborn deaths. Infant mortality is figured as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. The death rate for babies born in the hospital was 5.6 and for those born at home was 11.1, which would seem to indicate that a hospital is a better bet for a baby's survival. However, when the homebirth statistics are further broken down into who attended the birth, the picture changes dramatically. Direct Entry Midwives had the best outcomes with a death rate of 1.9 compared to CNM-attended births (2.9) or physicians -- D.O.'s (15.1) or M.D.'s (24.7). 2History Until 1900, homebirth was the place of birth for most every American. In fact, over 90% of those alive on earth today were born at home! Hospital or institutional birth is a relatively new occurance which began to gain in popularity during the 1920's due to physician promotion and the increased use of the automobile. As is the case today, it is a much more economic use of a physician's time to attend patients in a single place. There is also an economic incentive since a physician can attend to more than one patient at a time in the hospital and other, less important helpers can attend to the more mundane tasks of birthing. Part of this shift in birthplace must be attributed to the propaganda denouncing midwives which took place during this same time. With their economic and organized power, physician groups were able to legislatively increase hospital births by eliminating those who still attended homebirths -- by eliminating the midwife. From the 1930's through the 1960's state after state changed their laws to either restrict the practice of midwifery or wipe out the legal practice entirely. Yet no valid study then or to date has proven planned homebirth to be less safe than hospital birth. StudiesMany studies have been done in an attempt to prove that hospitals are the safest place to birth. Some of the earlier ones included all births which took place out of the hospital regardless of the gestational age or planned place of delivery. Those studies included miscarriages which took place at home as well as precipitous births and births that were unattended. To be valid, a study must compare equals and change only one item. Lewis Mehl did this when he matched 2,092 women and compared their birth outcomes. The result was that homebirth with a trained attendant was safer than a hospital birth. What does "safer" mean?Most families do not want to know the statistical odds of having a good outcome, they want to know more concretely exactly how a homebirth will be safer. Many studies address this by listing criteria and comparing the results. For example, Lewis Mehl's study listed the percentage of mothers with various complications:
Read the rest of the Article Here

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Estastic Birth By Sarah J. Buckley

I think this is a great article that shows why birth is such a sexual event.

Ecstatic birth - nature’s hormonal blueprint for labor
© Dr Sarah J Buckley 2005
This article has been previously published in Mothering Magazine, issue 111, March-April 2002, and in Byron Child, issue 5, March 2003. This version updated March 2005.
This material has been further expanded as“Undisturbed Birth: Mother Nature’s hormonal blueprint for safety, ease and ecstasy” available in Sarah’s upcoming book, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: The wisdom and science of gentle choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
Giving birth in ecstasy: This is our birthright and our body’s intent. Mother Nature, in her wisdom, prescribes birthing hormones that take us outside (ec) our usual state (stasis), so that we can be transformed on every level as we enter motherhood.
This exquisite hormonal orchestration unfolds optimally when birth is undisturbed, enhancing safety for both mother and baby. Science is also increasingly discovering what we realise as mothers - that our way of birth affects us life-long, both mother and baby, and that an ecstatic birth -- a birth that takes us beyond our self -- is the gift of a life-time.
Four major hormonal systems are active during labor and birth. These involve oxytocin, the hormone of love; endorphins, hormones of pleasure and transcendence; adrenaline and noradrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine), hormones of excitement; and prolactin, the mothering hormone. These systems are common to all mammals and originate deep in our mammalian or middle brain.
For birth to proceed optimally, this part of the brain must take precedence over the neocortex, or rational brain. This shift can be helped by an atmosphere of quiet and privacy with, for example, dim lighting and little conversation, and no expectation of rationality from the laboring woman. Under such conditions a woman intuitively will choose the movements, sounds, breathing, and positions that will birth her baby most easily. This is her genetic and hormonal blueprint.
All of these systems are adversely affected by current birth practices. Hospital environments and routines are not generally conducive to the shift in consciousness that giving birth naturally requires. A woman’s hormonal physiology is further disturbed by practices such as induction, the use of pain killers and epidurals, cesarean surgery, and separation of mother and baby after birth.
Hormones in Birth
Perhaps the best-known birth hormone is oxytocin, the hormone of love, which is secreted during sexual activity, male and female orgasm, birth, and breastfeeding. Oxytocin engenders feelings of love and altruism; as Michel Odent says, “Whatever the facet of love we consider, oxytocin is involved.”1
Oxytocin is made in the hypothalamus, deep in our brains, and stored in the posterior pituitary, the master gland, from where it is released in pulses. It is a crucial hormone in reproduction and mediates what have been called the ejection reflexes: the sperm ejection reflex with male orgasm (and the corresponding sperm introjection reflex with female orgasm); the fetal ejection reflex at birth (a phrase coined by Odent for the powerful contractions at the end of an undisturbed labor, which birth the baby quickly and easily2); and, postpartum, the placental ejection reflex and the milk ejection, or let-down reflex, in breastfeeding.
As well as reaching peak levels in each of these situations, oxytocin is secreted in large amounts in pregnancy, when it acts to enhance nutrient absorption, reduce stress, and conserve energy by making us more sleepy.3 Oxytocin also causes the rhythmic uterine contractions of labor, and levels peak at birth through stimulation of stretch receptors in a woman’s lower vagina as the baby descends.4The high levels continue after birth, culminating with the birth of the placenta, and then gradually subside.5
The baby also has been producing increasing amounts of oxytocin during labor;6 7 so, in the minutes after birth, both mother and baby are bathed in an ecstatic cocktail of hormones. At this time ongoing oxytocin production is enhanced by skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact and by the baby’s first attempts at suckling.8 Good levels of oxytocin will also protect against postpartum hemorrhage by ensuring good uterine contractions.
In breastfeeding, oxytocin mediates the let-down reflex and is released in pulses as the baby suckles. During the months and years of lactation, oxytocin continues to act to keep the mother relaxed and well nourished. Oxytocin expert and researcher Professor Kerstin Uvnas Moberg calls it ‘…a very efficient anti-stress system, which prevents a lot of disease later on.’3 In her study, mothers who breastfed for more than seven weeks were calmer,when their babies were six months old, than mothers who did notbreastfeed.
Outside its role in reproduction, oxytocin is secreted in other situations of love and altruism, for example, sharing a meal.9 Researchers have implicated malfunctions of the oxytocin system in conditions such as schizophrenia,10 autism,11 cardiovascular disease,12 and drug dependency,13 and have suggested that oxytocin may mediate the antidepressant effect of drugs such as Prozac.14
As a naturally occurring opiate, beta-endorphin has properties similar to pethidine (meperidine, Demerol), morphine, and heroin, and has been shown to work on the same receptors of the brain. Like oxytocin, beta-endorphin is secreted from the pituitary gland, and high levels are present during sex, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.
Beta-endorphin is also a stress hormone, released under conditions of duress and pain, when it acts as an analgesic and, like other stress hormones, suppresses the immune system. This effect may be important in preventing a pregnant mother’s immune system from acting against her baby, whose genetic material is foreign to hers.
Like the addictive opiates, beta-endorphin induces feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and dependency or, with a partner, mutual dependency. Beta-endorphin levels are high in pregnancy and increase throughout labor,15 when levels of beta-endorphin and corticotrophin (another stress hormone) reach those found in male endurance athletes during maximal exercise on a treadmill.16 Such high levels help the laboring woman to transmute pain and enter the altered state of consciousness that characterizes an undisturbed birth.
Beta-endorphin has complex and incompletely understood relationships with other hormonal systems.17 In labor, high levels will inhibit oxytocin release. It makes sense that when pain or stress levels are very high, contractions will slow, thus ‘…rationing labor according to both physiological and psychological stress.’18
Beta-endorphin also facilitates the release of prolactin during labor;19 prolactin prepares the mother’s breasts for lactation and is thought to be important in preparing the baby’s lungs and heat-regulating systems for life outside the womb.20 21
Beta-endorphin is also important in breastfeeding. Levels peak in the mother at 20 minutes,22 and beta-endorphin is also present in breast milk,23 inducing a pleasurable mutual dependency for both mother and baby in their ongoing relationship.
Fight-or-Flight Hormones
The hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine) are also known as the fight-or-flight hormones, or, collectively, as catecholamines (CAs). They are secreted from the adrenal gland above the kidney in response to stresses such as fright, anxiety, hunger or cold, as well as excitement, when they activate the sympathetic nervous system for fight or flight.
In the first stage of labor, high CA levels inhibit oxytocin production, therefore slowing or inhibiting labor. CAs also act to reduce blood flow to the uterus and placenta, and therefore to the baby. This makes sense for mammals birthing in the wild, where the presence of danger would activate this fight or flight response, inhibiting labor and diverting blood to the major muscle groups so that the mother can flee to safety. In humans, high levels of CAs have been associated with longer labor and adverse fetal heart rate patterns (an indication of stress to the baby).24
After an undisturbed labor, however, when the moment of birth is imminent, these hormones act in a different way. There is a sudden increase in CA levels, especially noradrenaline, which activates the fetal ejection reflex. The mother experiences a sudden rush of energy; she will be upright and alert, with a dry mouth and shallow breathing and perhaps the urge to grasp something. She may express fear, anger, or excitement, and the CA rush will cause several very strong contractions, which will birth the baby quickly and easily.25
Some birth attendants have made good use of this reflex when a woman is having difficulties in the second stage of labor. For example, one anthropologist working with an indigenous Canadian tribe recorded that when a woman was having difficulty in birth, the young people of the village would gather together to help. They would suddenly and unexpectedly shout out close to her, with the shock triggering her fetal ejection reflex and a quick birth.2
After the birth, the mother’s CA levels drop steeply. A warm atmosphere is important; a new mother is very sensitive to temperature and if she cools down significantly, the cold stress will keep her CA levels high, inhibiting her natural oxytocin release and therefore increasing her risk of postpartum hemorrhage.26
Noradrenaline, as part of the ecstatic cocktail, is also implicated in instinctive mothering behavior. Mice bred to be deficient in noradrenaline will not care for their young after birth unless noradrenaline is injected back into their system.27
For the baby also, birth is an exciting and stressful event, reflected in high CA levels. These assist the baby during birth by protecting against the effects of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and subsequent acidosis.28 High CA levels at birth ensure that the baby is wide-eyed and alert at first contact with the mother. The baby’s CA levels also drop rapidly after an undisturbed birth, being soothed by contact with the mother.
Known as the mothering hormone, prolactin is the major hormone of breast milk synthesis and breastfeeding. Levels of prolactin increase in pregnancy, although milk production is inhibited hormonally until the placenta is delivered. Levels decrease during labor but then rise steeply at the end of labor and peak with birth.
Prolactin is a hormone of submission or surrender--in primate troops, the dominant male has the lowest prolactin level--and produces some degree of anxiety. In the breastfeeding relationship these effects activate the mother’s vigilance and help her to put her baby’s needs first.29
Prolactin has been associated with nurturance from fathers as well as mothers, earning the additional label “The hormone of paternity”30. New fathers with higher prolactin levels more responsive to their babies’ cries.31 Animal studies show that prolactin release is also increased by carrying infants32.
The baby also produces prolactin in pregnancy, and high levels are found in amniotic fluid, secreted by the baby’s membranes as well as the mother’s uterine lining.33 Prolactin is also secreted into breastmilk, at least in the rat. 34 According to one researcher,“… there is evidence that prolactin plays an important role in the development and maturation of the neonatal [newborn] neuroendocrine [brain-hormone] system.”35
Undisturbed Birth
Undisturbed birth is exceedingly rare in our culture, which reflects our ignorance of its importance. Two factors that disturb birth in all mammals are firstly being in an unfamiliar place and secondly the presence of an observer. Feelings of safety and privacy thus seem to be fundamental. Yet the entire system of Western obstetrics is devoted to observing pregnant and birthing women, by both people and machines, and when birth isn’t going smoothly, obstetricians respond with yet more intense observation. It is indeed amazing that any woman can give birth under such conditions.
Some writers have observed that, for a laboring woman,having a babyhas a lot of parallels with making a baby: the same hormones, the same parts of the body, the same sounds, and the same needs for feelings of safety and privacy. How would it be to attempt to make love in the conditions under which we expect women to give birth?
When I gave birth to my fourth baby, Maia Rose, I arranged a situation where I felt very private, safe and undisturbed, and had my easiest and most ecstatic labor and birth: one-and-a half hours with an unexpectedly breech baby. I believe that this birth proceeded optimally because of this lack of disturbance, and because of my freedom to follow my own instincts.
Undisturbed birth is possible in a variety of settings, but must always involve a feeling of emotional security for the birthing woman. A familiar and supportive companion, such as a midwife or doula, can play an important role in creating and protecting a private space for the laboring woman, especially in a hospital setting.
Impact of Drugs and Procedures
Induction and Augmentation
In Australia in 2002, approximately 26 percent of women had an induction of labor, and another 19 percent have an augmentation--stimulation or speeding up of labor—through either artificial rupture of membranes or with synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin, Syntocinon).In the US in 2004, 53 percent of women reported that they had Pitocin administered in labor to strengthen or speed up contractions.36
Synthetic oxytocin administered in labor does not act like the body’s own oxytocin. First, Pitocin-induced contractions are different from natural contractions, and these differences can have significant effects on the baby. For example, waves can occur almost on top of each other when too high a dose of Pitocin is given, and it also causes the resting tone of the uterus to increase.37
Such over-stimulation (hyperstimulation) can deprive the baby from the necessary supplies of blood and oxygen, and so produce abnormal FHR patterns, fetal distress (leading to caesarean section), and even uterine rupture.38
Birth activist Doris Haire describes the effects of Pitocin on the baby:
The situation is analogous to holding an infant under the surface of the water, allowing the infant to come to the surface to gasp for air, but not to breathe.39
These effects may be partly due to the high blood levels of oxytocin that are reached when a woman labors with Pitocin. Theobald calculated that, at average levels used for induction or augmentation/acceleration, a woman’s oxytocin levels will be 130 to 570 times higher than she would naturally produce in labor.40 Direct measurements do not concur, but blood oxytocin levels are difficult to measure.41 Other researchers have suggested that continuous administration of this drug by iv infusion, which is very different to its natural pulsatile release, may also account for some of these problems.42
Second, oxytocin, synthetic or not, cannot cross from the body to the brain through the blood-brain barrier. This means that Pitocin, introduced into the body by injection or drip, does not act as the hormone of love. However, it can interfere with oxytocin’s natural effects. For example, we know that women with Pitocin infusions are at higher risk of major bleeding after the birth43 44 and that, in this situation, the uterus actually loses oxytocin receptors and so becomes unresponsive to the postpartum oxytocin peak that prevents bleeding.45 But we do not know the psychological effects of interference with the natural oxytocin that nature prescribes for all mammalian species.
As for the baby, ‘Many experts believe that through participating in this initiation of his own birth, the fetus may be training himself to secrete his own love hormone.’29 Michel Odent speaks passionately about our society’s deficits in our capacity to love self and others, and he traces these problems back to the time around birth, particularly to interference with the oxytocin system.
Read The Rest of the Article Here

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Birth as a Sexual Event

Taken from "The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth" By Laurie Morgan
"Privacy Matters"
John's loving presence was important to my opening up for the baby because by then we were both aware of the sensuality surrounding birth. Creating this child was an intimate act of love between the two of us, and birthing in a loving way simply and naturally completed that act. As a result of healing from past sexual abuse achieved through faith, I was much more able to open up during this labor than I had been during my first. I had become able to make my vagina wet and open by fantasizing about making love to my husband -- something I hadn't been able to do before -- so I found visualizing having sex during labor naturally helpful.
John and I both welcomed the idea of actually having sex during labor, but I happened to be focused elsewhere at the time. We knew that besides relaxing and bonding the couple, the man's semen naturally ripens the cervix in the same way that the "gel" (which a good friend of mine researched and found out is actually made from PIG sperm!) inserted unceremoniously into the vagina by obstetricians does. In any case, I had enjoyed masturbating frequently in the days preceding this one and found even solo orgasm to be a safe, appropriate, and pleasurable way to encourage strong, productive contractions. Laboring in the environment of my own home was absolutely crucial to accepting and expressing these beneficial feelings.
When contractions got really strong, I made myself a little nest of pillows to lean on at the end of our spare bed, and told John that I wanted him to call my friend to come. When she arrived about an hour later, I was still in the living room, concentrating on opening up and relaxing my pelvic muscles. I had an overwhelming feeling that if I relaxed enough, the baby would come out too fast. That feeling was affirmed every time I stood up, when gravity would cause the downward pressure to increase unbearably.
When my friend arrived she set to preparing homemade chicken soup in the kitchen, so I went to my bedroom to spend some time alone. For some reason it felt incredibly appropriate to crawl the whole way to the bedroom on my hands and knees, and so, as ridiculous as it may seem I did. In the meantime, Christiana entertained herself and visited the bedroom off and on, tenderly lavishing hugs and kisses on me. Despite dire warnings that labor would frighten her from people who didn't understand that she was like a soul mate to me, I actually delighted in cuddling and playing with her.
It�s important to clarify here, that inviting a close friend to my birth was just what I needed to do at the time. It was one last vestige of my previous dependency on outsiders for my birthing strength, in a sense. But I have learned a lot the hard way from the experience that I want to pass on. Many people have remarked after reading this birth story in its original form, that having a friend's reassuring presence during labor and birth appears to be a "happy medium" between more interventive midwifery or obstetrical care and the full responsibility of couples birth, but I can't disagree more. Yes, this birth turned out beautifully at the time, but there were a number of significant drawbacks to this one compromise that aren't obvious on the surface. They all surround the fact that birth is a profoundly private, sexual event. Period.
I believe that God made birth and sex amazing and powerful, and usually our bodies overcome the breaches in privacy that are so common today; sometimes gracefully, sometimes not. But just as the physical act of having sex can be done publicly, but truly making love cannot, in order to have a truly uncomplicated, unhindered, pleasurable birth, spectators cannot be involved. Don't get me wrong, at the time my friend was respectful and did her best to blend in with the furniture, but looking back, I can see how even this small intrusion left me feeling like an stranger in my own home.
People today pay a lot of lip service to the idea that women should birth and labor where they are most comfortable. This is good in and of itself, but what most people tend to ignore is the fact that we are never truly comfortable with anyone besides our mates staring at our most private parts and witnessing our bodily functions! All this is to say that I don't plan on ever inviting friends to attend me in labor again in the future, and I highly recommend against it to others. It's pointless to second guess my past now, but next time I will definitely feel free to labor in whatever part of my home I'm truly most comfortable in, and my husband and I will be as intimate as the mood truly strikes us.

A woman is safest giving birth where she feels safest... By Laurie Morgan
A woman is safest giving birth where she feels safest... or so "they" say. But are they right? An increasing number of well informed mothers-to-be don't think so. Why? Because slowly the fact is being exposed that women and their families are routinely misinformed, or not informed at all, of the hazards of popular childbirth practices. Doctors, midwives, media, literature, friends, and family of expectant parents consistently send the same firm message: pregnancy and childbirth require and benefit from expert supervision and assistance.
What a small but growing group of lay women are realizing and beginning to publicize is that "assisting" birth itself -- whether medically or in a more "alternative" fashion - is usually far from beneficial, and hardly ever necessary. The thrust of this emerging movement should not be confused with such so-called "natural" childbirth trends as Lamaze, or the recent call for a reduction in cesarean rates, both of which ignore the root problem of institutionalized birth and rob individuals of choices through forced conformity to artificial standards. Instead, this far more respectful, more empowering movement's primary goal is to help women to liberate themselves to give birth to their children in safety and pleasure. Through the sharing of unrestricted information between peers, more and more families are finding out about, and choosing one simple option that can render all others obsolete: unassisted childbirth.
Unfortunately, because of the widespread fear of childbirth that has become entrenched in our society, it is necessary at this point for me to beg some readers to suppress their initial objections to this uncommon idea for just one moment. The fact is, millions of women across the world are giving birth unassisted already; most of them just don't know it. Until very recently, childbirth was always an involuntary process that the healthy female body performed automatically. Even today, there is no way to truly facilitate the process of birth itself without the overt use of instruments and drugs. Surgeons can cut babies out of wombs, and midwives can even rob women of the glory of catching their own babies themselves, but just as the miraculous force that forms an infant within the womb does its job perfectly without help, so does that same force faithfully push the baby out at just the right time when it is allowed to do so.
Before you begin to compose a fiery editorial to rescue me from my apparent naivete', allow me to share with you, one simple but profound revelation that two glorious unassisted births brought to me: childbirth is not dangerous. Life itself is dangerous it's true, and sometimes unfortunate things happen to perfectly good people. But just as healthy people would not take up residence in a hospital for fear of dying, it is insane to approach childbirth - a normal, healthy function of the female anatomy - with the focus on pre-empting disaster.
Our normal bodily functions are absolutely not made safer by monitoring and interference. Even the mere observation, or subtlest alterations, of childbirth processes have the potential to adversely affect the intricate organic symphony that plays out best in privacy and security. But childbirth itself - when it is naturally free from obstruction -- is as trustworthy as breathing. Eventually we all must come to terms with our human frailty, but the fact that tragedies exist must not be accepted as an excuse for the blind application of unnecessary "safety measures" that actually cause harm. Giving birth unassisted is a responsible, safe thing to do for all but the microscopic percentage of women that have such serious medical conditions as to make even everyday activities a challenge.
How safe would it be to breathe -- one of our most basic bodily functions -- with fingers or tubes and wires stuck down our throats? Emergency "medicine" has proven that it is possible to do this clearly undesirable thing. Likewise, childbirth is so reliable that it often proceeds very well despite serious insults and hindrances. But who in their right mind would freely choose artificial breathing over the real thing? If one were falsely convinced that "assisted breathing" were the most reliable way to ensure survival, one might be afraid to live without breathing tubes and monitoring wires, just as many women are afraid to give birth in the comfort and sanctity of their own homes today. But being convinced of a lie does not mean that breathing that way would actually be safer for healthy people. Attended childbirth is not safer for the majority of families either.
So what is wrong with attended birth "just to be safe?" If you've participated in any discussion of different childbirth practices recently you have probably heard or spouted some version of the slogan many times, "What matters in childbirth is the outcome of a healthy mom and baby." The implication being that any route to that outcome is acceptable or even good. This idea that "healthy" physical bodies is rightly of primary concern to birth attendants and their clients is almost universally accepted in mainstream circles. Surprisingly, the same assumption even goes largely unchallenged in the so-called "alternative" world of midwife attended homebirth.
What fails to be addressed often enough by anyone -- if ever -- is the inseparable connection between the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sensual, sexual, and social components of childbirth. The solitary element of truth in that popular mantra "a woman is safest giving birth where she feels safest" is being ignored: If a woman is not comfortable, her birth is not safe, and no sane person is comfortable having an intimate and profoundly life-altering bodily function occur with spectators and interference.
Most people honestly seem to think that providing the appearance of respect for women's choices -- however hazardous -- is more important than the impact of the actual choices themselves. No sane person would agree that all that matters in sex is that a penis enters a vagina, for instance. Giving birth is a fundamental element of a woman's sexuality too. So, it is clear that such goal-oriented attitudes are just as inappropriate when applied to the complexity of the human spirit, emotions, mind, and body that are all deeply affected by childbirth. But our collective histories of more than 20 years of mothers subjugating their birth instincts to medical rape has made it very difficult for many women to question status quo.
For anyone to really understand the potential harm in modern childbirth practices and make positive changes, we each have to move beyond knee-jerk defensive feelings brought up by such an appropriately emotional topic. To effectively encourage the necessary change, birth attendants, educators, and peers must neither be coddling nor condescending to childbearing women. We "mere mothers" are smart. Not only that, but by sheer virtue of our anatomies, women are the preeminent experts of our own bodily functions. Having previously been discouraged from taking up that role does not change the facts: women are created able to give birth without any assistance at all. We mustn't be afraid to shout this truth from the mountain tops. If women can be trusted to care for their bodies during pregnancy and then to nurture their offspring until maturity, women can surely be trusted to make the right choices in childbirth, even if that means choosing to give birth unsupervised.
It's simply logical that when pregnant women and the people they choose to have support them through childbirth are not fully informed, many women will feel safe where they are not actually safe. So, as it turns out, the over-used euphemism in question here is worse than false, it is out-right dangerous. Thousands of women, babies, and their families are literally robbed of safe, pleasurable childbirth experiences every day by modern pregnancy and childbirth practices -- both medical and alternative in nature. And more than that, thousands of women are placing their own lives, and the lives of their infants, into something far more risky than their own loving hands: they are resting their futures in the hands of well meaning professionals who know no more about childbirth as nature created it than a rock.
Probably these words are highly offensive to both professional birth attendants and almost anyone that has ever hired one, and that's fine by me. In my opinion, outrage is a healthy and necessary reaction to a problem that has harmed too many women, babies, and their families for far too long. Birth attendants and childbearing women alike would do well to take a critical look at what I, and many similarly empowered and inspired mothers have to say.

Taken from "The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth'' By Laurie Morgan
Sex and Birth, Pain and Complications
The inherent sexual nature of birth quite clearly makes birthing with attendants undesirable. Imagine how a woman feels when she is really turned on and open to being sexually "penetrated". That same feeling of total relaxation and lubrication of the vaginal walls experienced in healthy sex is the absolute most conducive environment to allowing any baby to slide gently and easily into the world. It is quite possible that no woman who actually desires an attended birth can fully fathom the truth of my example, however. I believe this is due, at least in large part, to the widespread sexual abuse endured, especially here in America. Women who have been sexually trespassed once, usually find themselves also raped of the ability to experience total relaxation and pleasure in any sexual act. Consequently, I believe that the sensuality and sexuality of birth has been robbed from almost all women who have not yet healed emotionally from past sexual abuse.
This serves as an explanation for the over-acceptance of medical management of birth as well. Many American women are simply continuing a long cycle of abuse, as is common of many victims. The widely recognized psychological pattern of the abused daughter who grows up and marries a wife beater is a clear example. Many of us do something comparably bizarre by inviting people to violate us in the birth process: the birth attendant. Once a woman is victimized it takes a great revelation or move of God for a woman to take back her own power and not place herself in the victim role again. An interesting example of this phenomena is the fact, as reported in the book Silent Knife by Nancy Wainer Cohen, that twenty-five percent of women who undergo cesarean section will be sterilized within two months of the birth. This is a shocking statistic, especially when you consider that it neglects to include all the vasectomies that are also performed after a surgical birth.
The trouble is, I don't think I've met a woman yet who hasn't been molested in some way, somehow by the time she reaches her twenties. The fact that we are taught to believe that much of it is all normal and necessary victimizes us even more. When I mention sexual molestation, most people imagine the kind that occurs in many children's homes, but in truth, many of us allow perfect strangers to violate us and our children under the guise of modern medicine every day.
The pattern begins at birth. Americans as a society regularly accept genital mutilation of baby boys in the form of circumcision, or at least forceful retraction of the foreskins of those who remain intact. Both of the sexes are also subjected to anal penetration with thermometers as a routine, and many milder forms of non-consensual manipulation of the infant�s body. For many women, molestation moves again into the professional realm around puberty when we are instructed by our own parents to submit to doctors and gynecologists under the guise of "check ups". They scrape around inside our private parts for pap smears, poke around our vaginas and anuses and touch girls' bare chests, all for various �preventative� reasons.
Later in life we surrender dutifully to fittings for birth control devices, and big machines squashing and irradiating our breasts to monitor their health, because so many of us have been discouraged to protect our own breasts and our daughters� through ecological breastfeeding. When viewed with a keen eye, it's all very obviously perverted. There is simply a natural progression from the acceptance of these procedures to the medicalization of the ultimate expression of our sexual selves; conception, pregnancy, labor, and birth.
Regardless of whether a woman experiences her labor as sexual, it is simply inherently so. Nature necessitates that we create children through sex, and babies are birthed through our sex organs. Disassociating one's spirit from the sex act itself, while possible, is not healthy. In fact, denial of the sexual side of birth can very easily cause some women to experience the intense sensations of birth as pain, all by itself. Before the birth of my first daughter, I had rarely been able to experience painless intercourse. My vaginal muscles were just too tight. I was able to orgasm alone, but not with a partner. I knew that my inability to relax was "all in my head" as they say, but was at a loss as to how to change. This was another reason my first birth was so terrifyingly painful and my perineum tore.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why Choose a Homebirth?
Wow, I can think of sooooooo many reasons! Most people automatically think that the hospital is the best place to have a baby. Give some thought to the reasons listed below before you automatically assign yourself to a hospital birth.
No chance of bringing home someone else's baby.
No chance of having someone steal your baby while in the hospital.
No chance of having someone else nurse your baby.
No chance of having your baby being given formula when you want only breast milk.
No chance of being separated from your newborn.
No chance of exposing your newborn to a hospital born virus, or unknown bacterial infection.
No chance of exposing yourself to a hospital born virus, or unknown bacterial infection.
No chance of you receiving an episiotomy.
No chance of getting an infection in the episiotomy stitches.
No chance of ripping out the episiotomy stitches when having your first BM.
No chance of being confined to a bed during your labor.
No chance of being left alone during your labor, unless you want to be.
No chance of having your children excluded during this important time in your life.
No chance of getting an IV in your arm.
No chance of the nurse blowing the vain as she puts in the IV.
No chance of getting the wrong drug in your IV.
No chance of getting experimental/off label drugs during your labor.
No chance of getting a unknown/nasty care provider at the time of labor.
No chance of medical students or residents doing unnecessary procedures because they need the training.
No chance of getting an unwanted circumcision for your son.
No chance of getting an unwanted vaccination for your newborn.
No chance of getting an uncomfortable continuous fetal monitoring.
No chance of getting unwanted drugs during your labor.
No chance of laying in an uncomfortable bed.
No chance of laying flat on your back during the birth.
No chance of having your legs strapped down into stirrups.
No chance of having unbearable cramps in your legs because you cannot move them.
No chance of having the umbilical cord to your baby cut early.
No chance of enduring the noise of a typical hospital after the birth.
No chance of enduring unpopular or against your diet hospital food.
No chance of being cohered into a Cesarean.
No chance of having an anesthesia reaction, and the dangers that goes with it.
No chance of having your doctor cut your baby during a Cesarean.
No chance of having your doctor cut your intestines during a Cesarean.
No chance of having your doctor cut your bladder during a Cesarean.
No chance of getting an infection in the Cesarean incision.
No chance of having your doctor leaving something inside after a Cesarean.
No chance of having to endure Cesarean incision pain after the birth.
No chance of having your care provider or hospital refusing to do a VBAC.
No chance of having to get up in the middle of the night to go to the hospital.
No chance of having to endure a bumpy/uncomfortable ride in the car.
No chance of not making it to the hospital.
No chance of enduring a painful pelvic exam to determine "pelvic size".
No chance of hearing "I think that your baby is too big, pelvis too small, etc".
Your Doctor views birth as a potential disaster.
Your Doctor will do whatever he has to to maintain his licence/insurance-You are secondary.
Your Doctor will put limits on the length of your pregnancy.
Your Doctor will want to induce you, if you pass those dates.
Most inductions are failures if you are not close to your baby's REAL date.
Your Doctor is "banking" that your induction will be a failure.
Your Doctor has financial incentives to do MORE procedures.
Your Doctor likes to maintain DAYTIME obstetrics.
Your Doctor can make double the money for doing a Cesarean, and he can be done in 1 hour.
Your Doctor does not like late night births, he has office visits tomorrow.
Your Midwife views birth as a normal function of a women's body.
Your Midwife only attends normal births, that is her specialty.
Your Midwife will always do your prenatal care.
Your Midwife will listen to your needs and fears.
Your Midwife is available 24/7 to answer your questions.
Your Midwife will honor your birth plan.
Your Midwife doesn't do quicky office visits.
Your Midwife has no financial incentives to do extra procedures.
At home, you can labor in the position of your choice.
At home, you can labor and birth in your choice of clothes.
At home, you will not have an IV in your arm.
At home, you can go to the bathroom without asking someone.
At home, you can lay down or stand up without asking someone.
At home, you can eat or drink if you choose to.
At home, your young children can be with you, if you chose.
At home, you can make and control your own labor and birthing environment.
At home, your labor coach is the same familiar person that gave you prenatal care.
At home, the baby catcher can be anyone that you want.
At home, you can birth your baby in the position of your choice.
At home, you can birth your baby in a dark room if you choose to.
At home, you can have the people that YOU want at your birth.
At home, the baby's cord will not be cut until it stops pulsing.
At home, your baby will be left by your side after the birth.
At home, you can nurse your baby right after the birth.
At home, you will not be given "pit" to hasten the delivery of the placenta.
At home, your postpartum caregiver will be the same as before, your Midwife.
Can you think of any other reasons?
It has never been scientifically proven that the hospital is a safer place than home for a woman who has had an uncomplicated pregnancy to have her baby. Studies of planned home births in developed countries with women who have had uncomplicated pregnancies have shown sickness and death rates for mother and baby equal to or better than hospital birth statistics for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
Come back to the long standing tradition of giving birth in YOUR home, with your family by your side. You will be very proud of yourself if you do.

Taken from

Good Homebirth books and websites

* Available at Durango Public Library
Suggested Reading:*Unassisted Childbirth By Laura ShanleyUnassisted Homebirth: An Act of Love By Lynn GriesmerObstetric Myths versus Research Realities By Henci GoerGentle Birth, Gentle Mothering By Sarah J Buckley*Immaculate Deception II By Suzanne ArmsSilent Knife, Open Season By Nancy CohenHard Labor By Susan L. Diamond
Birth as an American Rite of Passage By Robbie Davis Floyd
Pleasurable Husband and Wife Childbirth By Marylin A. Moran
A Woman in Residence By Michelle Harrison M.D
Silent Knife and Open Season By Nancy Cohen
Outrageous Practices By Leslie Laurence
The Menopause Industry By Sandra Coney
Male Practice By Robest S. Mendelsohn
Heart Failure By Michael Greger
The Farmer and the Obstetrician By Michael Odent M.D *The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth By Laurie Morgan
*The Thinking Women's Guide to a Better Birth By Henci Goer
Childbirth without Fear By Dick Grantly Read
101 Reasons not to have your Baby in a Hospital By Jock Doubleday
(You can find it at
Great Articles and Websites
Induced and Seduced: The Dangers of Cytotec By Ina May Gaskin
The Hidden Risks of Epidurals By Sarah J. Buckley M.D
Ultrasounds: A Cause for Concern By Sarah J. Buckley M.D
Homebirth: As Safe as Birth Gets on
(A great article about fear and it's relation to pain)
(Paper by Michael Odent)
"There is something wrong with a society that insists on making a complicated, expensive medical emergency out of a normal physiological function primitive women have been doing by themselves for centuries"... Cathi Cogle
Millions of Years of Evolution Can’t Be Wrong

My Husband Calls Me “The Stephen King of Birth…”

My Husband Calls Me “The Stephen King of Birth…”
By Jill McDanal
Because I scare the living hell out of people. I have had an unassisted homebirth, and plan on doing it again! Scary? I don’t think so. Sit back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “Do I really want to read this?” I will warn you, this is not for the ‘mainstreamers’ who have stumbled upon this site out of curiosity. This is very much bashing the medical establishment (doctors, nurses, and medwives) in general for stealing birth away from the women it belongs to. This was written for ME and for the thousands of women out there like me, but who are too afraid of the repercussions of what they say, in the form of snubs from doctors, nurses, friends, and family. I have been told by many in the mainstream that I am opinionated (really?), uneducated (got a bachelor’s degree, am a medical researcher, certified childbirth educator, professional labor assistant, wife, mom of three ages 2, 3, and 5 unassisted birther and I am published author - pretty impressive, huh?) I have been told I should censor my cussy mouth (from the South, remember?) and I can’t appreciate others opinions (which is true ONLY if you are into bashing mine.) So with that said, if any of this bothers you, better hit your back button NOW!
Okay, you stayed – very brave of you indeed. You are probably wondering “What started her down this path?” Well my friend, my fist birth was a nightmarish experience, and I got mad. I am sick and tired of seeing women suffer because somebody (usually a MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL) knows better than they do. I don’t write to appease the gods of the medical establishment and I don’t try to “reason “ with them, no reasoning with that bunch – just give them a study with contrived “scientific facts”, forget common sense, and see what they come up with. Bullshit mostly. Take a look at their recommendations for VBAC. They want those mothers to be in hospitals, babe with INTERNAL monitor, they need to palpate the scar, and moms need epidurals, just in case. Not to mention they want to blow these babes out untimely with drugs like CYTOTEC – good Lord, don’t get me started on Cytotec – it is a derivation from pig semen (or so I hear tell) and it is CONTRAINDICATED in pregnant women. Searle, the manufacturer of it has a boxed WARNING at the beginning of the listing in the PDR telling ob’s NOT to use it in pregnant women – it CAUSES uterine rupture. (Good reason to stay safe at home, they can’t get you there!) I am so damn sick and tired of a doctor thinking he knows better than God!!!! Babies know when they are supposed to be born. It is not like they have this little calendar when they are conceived and the sperm and egg get together and say – “40 weeks, that will be on Thursday, January 10 at 10:02 pm, well, that is when we will get born” Give me a break!
I am sick and tired of listening to women who have been butchered time and time again sitting around giving everyone the “poor me…, my doctor says…, the nurses say…, my husband says…, my friends say…” with all due respect – BULLSHIT – If, for some reason, you feel violated, raped, abused, or cut up like a Thanksgiving Day turkey, and you find yourself heading down that path again, the answer is EASY, Leave. Run!!! Don’t walk! Don’t pass Go! Don’t collect $200! Do NOT do it again. Once is too much for anyone to feel that they have been cast on the “mercy” of the gods of modern medicine. Ladies, take responsibility for your body and your babe and your birth!!!!!! It matters not what others think of your choices, you are the one who will ultimately have to live with the outcome (and just maybe, the consequences) of your decision.
Read the rest of the article here
taken from

Births as a BM


Imagine if you will that about a hundred years ago, people began having great difficulties having bowel movements (BM for short). It all came about because of some very unhealthy lifestyles. People weren’t eating correctly because they were desperately trying to be thin and beautiful. They had malnutrition and took a lot of pills and other drugs to help them become and stay thin. People were so concerned with looking good that they put their health aside to get there.

As a result of this lifestyle, many people had a terrible time having BMs. Some people even died. Something had to be done to save these folks. So instead of changing their lifestyles, people flocked to the doctors to have their problem fixed. The problem became so prevalent that people became fearful of having BMs. Everyone dreaded going to the bathroom because of all the horror stories of pain and death. This normal, natural bodily function was labeled dangerous and hazardous and needed to be monitored and controlled to save lives.

Over time, it became the “norm” to go the hospital whenever someone had to have a BM so that doctors could monitor the process and intervene if they needed to. This continued through the years and is still practiced today. An onslaught of new life-saving technology and machinery was invented for us in aiding people to have a BM. It has become such a common practice to go to the hospital to have a BM that people have become uninformed. They don’t trust their own bodies to have a BM on their own. People are scared to have a BM that having one anywhere besides a hospital is considered irresponsible, dangerous and risky. Even though the old, unhealthy lifestyles, which caused the problem in the first place, are no longer practiced, having BMs is no longer considered a normal event. Even the healthiest of people go to the hospital to have BMs out of fear that something might happen. They go “just in case”.

So, you have to have a BM and even though you are a healthy man and having a BM is a normal, natural physiological function that your body was designed to do, we go to the hospital. We grab the hospital bag and head out the door in a hurry. During the car ride you get very tense because the cramps are coming on strong and you can’t get comfortable. You try breathing through them but this only helps a little with all the stop and go traffic and bumps in the road. Not to mention that you just wish you could be at home and have privacy. Upon arrival at the hospital, you are wheeled up to a room and instructed to put on a gown with nothing else on (it has a large opening in the back which will show you rear end if you get up and walk anywhere). You are told to lie down so that a nurse can examine you. Then a strange female nurse comes in and explains that she is going to have to insert 2 fingers into your rectum to check the progress of your feces. You obviously feel humiliated because someone you don’t know has just touched a very private and personal part of you.

Then the nurse straps a monitor to your belly to measure the severity of your cramps and stick an iv in your arm. This is very distracting and makes the pain of the cramps even worse. Soon, your cramps become stronger and you are getting very uncomfortable. At this point, the nurses change shifts and new nurse comes in. She says she needs to check you again since it’s been awhile and you don’t seem to be making any progress. She inserts 2 fingers again and shakes her head from side-to-side and gives you a very disapproving look. You have not made any progress. You want to try so badly to relax so you can make progress but with the IV, the strangers, the fingers in your rectum and the negative attitudes of the staff, there are just too many distractions and you can’t. By now your cramps are very painful and it takes all you’ve got to just stay on top of them.

The hospital team decides to insert a wire up your anus to determine if, indeed, your cramps are as bad as you say they are. They again insert 2 fingers to check the dilation and fecal decent. They tell you that if you don’t make any progress in the next 30 minutes, they may have to cut the feces out. This causes you to be even more tense and you have a hard time trying to relax just knowing what may happen if you can’t push it out yourself. After another hour of laying in bed, the female doctor comes in and does yet another exam with 2 fingers because he says he wants to be sure the nurses were doing it right. He feels it is time for you to begin to push. So you are in bed, flat on your back with your feet up in stirrups trying to have a BM and pushing with all your might while the strange nurse and a doctor intently watch your anus. The feces is not coming down fast enough so the doctor decides that your anus must not be big enough for the feces to pass through so they make a large cut in your anus to make it bigger. They also need to use a vacuum extractor to help pull the feces out.

You finally manage (with the help of a large cut and vacuum) to push the feces out. You are in a lot of pain, you’re bleeding, exhausted, spent and humiliated. You feel like something in your body is broken and didn’t work correctly. This must be true since you needed all this help for a normally natural bodily function right? The nurse then pushes on your abdomen to make sure all of the feces have been expelled. This is VERY painful but thank God you were in a hospital or else something bad might have happened. Someone stitches you up and are given instructions on how to aid your healing.

So, you made it through. You’re alive and that’s what really matters right? Is it though? What about your pain? What about the humiliation? What about the violation of privacy? What about the anger you feel towards the whole damn thing because your experience could have been completely normal and uncomplicated at home?

Now, this scenario is absolutely and utterly ridiculous right? It seems absurd to go to the hospital for something that could have easily, and much less painlessly, been done at home. The same is true of birth. This scenario is exactly what happens in today’s hospitals to birth (the “unhealthy” habits were obviously a bit different) and many women are suffering, needlessly, as a result. I can attest to the fact that this scenario is VERY common in hospitals today—I have even experienced it with my own hospital birth.

People have been raised to fear birth and to think that it needs the medical community to make it happen. Birth interventions have become so common that people accept them, and every side effect that comes with them, as necessary for a good outcome. And most don’t believe it when someone tells them that it can be so much better if those things weren’t done routinely.

A healthy, informed woman who is knowledgeable in birth had just as slim a chance of dying in birth as someone does while having a BM. All you need to have a safe birth is to be informed and to listen to your instincts (something that is very difficult to do with people watching you—just like it is difficult to have a BM with people watching you!). Birth is safe and simple. Just like having a BM is safe and simple. I need as much assistance while birthing our children as you do while having a bowel movement! Having a baby is a beautiful miracle having a homebirth is choosing to treat it that way.

Homebirth website I created

The Rape of the Twentieth Century(20th) By Leilah McCraken

Rape of the Twentieth Century
-by Jasmine Smythe. Written in March of 1998; revised April 2000.

I have had seven children move through my body, and I have much to tell you. Mothers who have given birth to many children have become a rarity; we are no longer the ones who teach the mysteries of birth- the voices of wisdom and reason instructing attendants in the proper care and assistance of parturient women. Modern obstetric knowledge is based on false hospital outcomes: doctors know how patients give birth, but they don't know how women give birth. We, as a society, have largely forgotten that birth is trustworthy- it doesn't need a lot of meddling. Birth is beautiful; it is passionate, wild, and hormonal. And it is wounded. Incomprehensibly intrusive, painful and humiliating hospital procedures have injured birth; it is bleeding, and weeping. The twentieth century has witnessed the institutionalized rape of childbirth.

I had the privilege- and misfortune- of conceiving my first baby at nineteen. Privilege because my body was young and resilient; misfortune because I was woefully ignorant of birth. The usual route was my path- I found a doctor, read lots of books about pregnancy written by doctors, and went to prenatal classes that told me to always obey my doctor.

In the last weeks of my pregnancy, I had increasingly strong contractions- I always thought I was going into labor, but never did. This was to be the seed of my massive self-doubt in giving birth- that my body couldn't perform; didn't know what to do when it was supposed to do it. I learned many years later that this is prodromal labor (I wish we could get rid of the word "labor")- one of Nature's many different ways of perfectly easing a woman's body into birth.

My water broke at 42 weeks, and as instructed by my books and prenatal instructor, I rushed to the hospital. I was introduced to hospital birthing by a giddy young doctor who had me strip down, lie flat on my back, and put both feet together on a bed pan. I was made to drop my knees open. He inserted a speculum in my vagina, and came in really, really close and had a good long look. There were two nurses in the room, drolly looking on. I said, "this is the most humiliating thing that's ever happened to me." No one else said anything.

I was hooked up to endless hours of fetal monitoring. My contractions were cramped, irregular and spasmodic- which happens very often with women attempting to give birth in hospitals, inherently stressful places to be in.

The next twenty-four hours were a maze of interventions: a large number of pelvic exams by many different people; being moved from room to room; blood work; an enema; obsessive fetal monitoring; tubes; needles; signing strange forms. I was not allowed to eat or drink, and became very weak.

My doctor (via telephone) put me on Pitocin drip. The contractions almost immediately became unmanageably intense. I had an epidural, but it didn't work (most local anesthetics don't work on me). Four hours later, my baby was born. I was starving, exhausted, traumatized, and thrilled at the birth of my baby daughter. My husband wept with joy.

It is the custom in North America to induce a woman's labor twenty-four hours after her water has broken; in many other countries, this is extended to over a week. The key factor in both philosophies is that induction must happen only if birth is not imminent within twenty-four hours of the first pelvic exam. But if no fingers are introducing possible contaminants, the risk of infection is minimal. So contrary to most popular birthing belief, after the natural rupture of her amniotic sac the worst place a woman can go is to the hospital: there, she is guaranteed of a contaminating pelvic exam upon admittance.

My second child came sixteen months later. My water broke: again I rushed to the hospital. I had irregular contractions and lots of pelvic exams. I was missing my baby at home so badly; I caught my reflection in a mirror. "I look so tragic!", I said through my tears.

Nothing was happening; my husband went out for a burger. An obstetrician with a team of students came in; he pushed my hospital gown up and stuck two fingers in my vagina. "Hmmm." He had a student do the same; "vertex (head down) and two centimeters dilated", she said. The obstetrician disagreed; he gave my cervix a REAL good feel and roughly twisted my uterus around. "You have a breech here." I wept! I had strangers casually touching my most secret parts; my husband was gone; I was hungry. The student asked if she could check me again, in the "interest of science". I annoyed everyone in the room with more weeping. The doctor told me the baby was in a transverse lie (lying sideways).

My husband was back now: I felt battered; spent; hopeless. We were told my labor and birth would be agonizing, dangerous and slow; but with a cesarean section the baby would be in my arms in forty minutes. What would you say?

I was wheeled to the operating room. I shakily climbed on top of the table. My arms were strapped away from my body; my feet were immobilized. My body was shaved. Needles and tubes were inserted. I said I felt like I was being crucified. A nurse tried to reassure me- "but with this kind of incision, you'll still be able to wear a bikini!"

Through the thick maze of moonsuited strangers I saw my doctor- I noticed for the first time how much eye makeup she wore. I heard a tableful of pagers beeping. After four attempts at an epidural, and lots of morphine, I was given spinal anesthetic. The baby was delivered- I felt an overwhelmingly bizarre extracting tug from my abdomen; I said, "oomph!" The staff looked up in alarm. The anesthetist smiled and said, "I always like to leave a little sensation for the mothers at birth." It's a boy! Relief and ecstasy flooded my body.

He was taken away to be examined. I heard his cries; I pestered the staff to hurry up so I could hold him. The obstetrician blandly explained that my bladder was sitting on my belly and had to be reinserted. I would also have to have all my layers of muscles and fat stitched together, and then my belly would have to be stapled shut. Oh. I was told to be a good girl.

Finally, it was done. In the recovery room I breastfed my baby, to the astonishment of the hospital personnel. At least I claimed that for myself... I learned much later that my baby wasn't a transverse lie at all, but a Frank breech, bottom presenting first- the easiest kind to deliver vaginally. I wasn't told the truth; I had a cesarean section for nothing.

Frank breech babies are best born vaginally, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. It was found elsewhere that overweight women are more likely to be cut: when I looked at my hospital records years later, the obstetrician repeatedly mentioned my "obesity": curvy women are not more likely to have difficult births, but they are more likely to be discriminated against.

I'm grateful, thought, that the surgical staff didn't put me under general anesthetic- it can be lethal to the bonding and breastfeeding of brand-new babies, and make a mother feel even more powerless.

After a sad miscarriage eight months later, I was pregnant again. At six months pregnant I injured my hand in a cooking mishap. I was whisked to the hospital, and waited two days for microsurgery; all the while fasting and on IV drip. While in the OR my family practitioner phoned (I was aware of this because I refused general anesthetic- and yes, it took several attempts to find the right kind of local anesthetic); my one-hour glucose tolerance test was a bit high. I said to tell her I would get tested for gestational diabetes right away.

I was hungry when I got home the next day: I ate a birthday cake and several large orders of french fries with Coke. Early the next morning I had the three-hour glucose tolerance test. Two of the blood glucose levels of the three that matter most were high- a positive test result for gestational diabetes. What a week I was having! In learned retrospect, the diagnosis was a sham: I have to wonder why no one asked me about what I had eaten the previous day, and why wouldn't it matter about the fasting, the surgery, and stress I had been under?

So the next few months were spent largely with doctors- in the hand clinic for occupational therapy; in the diabetes clinic at the hospital; seeing my own family practitioner; seeing the cursed obstetrician who gave me the c-section and also the go-ahead for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).

In the last weeks of the pregnancy I had been having my usual strong contractions. And since I was worried about my "gestational diabetes" having a harmful effect on my baby, I went to the hospital- I thought I should be induced; my body didn't work for birth anyway. I was sent home.

Then at forty-two weeks, my contractions were picking up, and I was having show (pink mucous or light blood from the vagina). I went to the hospital- I was two and a half centimeters dilated, and a bit effaced. But I was distraught at the thought of being sent home again! I implored the nurses to do something to help me give birth. I was positive I was defective, certain I would have died with my previous births if I hadn't been in the hospital. So my membranes were ruptured.

This birth, compared to the others, came quickly and easily. My husband was stunned- he said- "is that it?"

My fourth baby came twenty-six months later (no "gestational diabetes" this time). I was fanatically fit and extremely uncomfortable in this pregnancy- fit and uncomfortable because I exercised like mad, even at the end, out of fear of developing diabetes.

At forty weeks I had light contractions and a touch of show; I phoned the hospital. On a nurse's advice we rushed in, and my body stopped working. I hated my body, called it stupid and useless. They broke my water at one-half centimeter dilation. (Segue- isn't it funny how women who have hospital births say "they" when referring to those who attend and badger them in labor and delivery? Women who have homebirths say "me", and "I".)

Still nothing much happened; just a lot of niggly, irritating spasm-like contractions. I remember trying to find a quiet place to "nest". I had two obstetric nurses and a doctor (a stand-in for my doctor, who was on a ski trip) literally sitting and waiting for my every sensation. A student, too: she had short fingers, and was having difficulty finding my cervix in pelvic exams. I placed my fists under my hips so her fingers could reach inside my vagina more efficiently. What a good helper! No wonder I wanted to retreat, to get away!

Every now and then I would cry. The staff were concerned; I said not to worry, because it seemed to be a hormonal thing- it happened at every birth.

My uterus was palpated, and I was assessed to have a baby in posterior presentation- "facing pubes" (babies are normally born facing the mother's spine). The pain soon became ferociously intense: hysterically agonizing contractions as I kneeled on the shower floor with a man-midwife (male obstetric nurse) hosing my lower back with a tepid shower nozzle. My husband held my hand. I screamed that the baby was coming. I made it to the bed and flopped onto my back and shrieked him out. I vowed never to have another child.

I recently learned that my baby most likely went into that position because my membranes were ruptured prematurely. The most agonizing of all my births did not have to be that way at all.

I relocated during the pregnancy of my fifth child, a year later. I got a new doctor. Again, no gestational diabetes. I passed the forty week "best before date" and was advised of a new policy that women must be induced at ten days past their expected delivery date. I questioned the validity of this; my doctor told me of worries of placental insufficiency, of placental calcification- worries that my baby would be deprived of oxygen and nutrients. This sounded reasonable to me. (Though not reasonable to a study published years later that found that routine inductions at 41 weeks will increase labor complications and operative deliveries, but will not improve infant outcomes.)

Nine days went past my due date without any excessive uterine activity. I went to the hospital, was monitored for an hour then had Prostin (prostaglandin gel) smeared on my cervix. I was monitored for an hour more. I was released, but told to come back either in six hours or in actual labor. So my husband and I walked around, trying to get my labor going. I started feeling strange, shooting pains in my cervix and down the backs of my legs. I suggested we find a place to have illicit sex, because the sensations I felt from the gel, it occurred to me, were identical to those I feel after having sex in late pregnancy.

I learned much later that the idea for the gel itself- which is reported to have a base of pig semen- actually came from human sperm, which is rich in the cervix-dilating, prostaglandin hormone. Human sperm, though, is a better way of inducing labor, because it can be compounded with natural oxytocin. Loving and orgasmic sensations- hopefully intrinsic in the lovemaking process- are known to stimulate the secretion of oxytocin in a woman's brain (and interestingly, in a man's), and oxytocin is an integral hormone for birth. Nipple stimulation releases it in abundance as well.

My husband passed on the quickie; it seemed that he felt my vagina had somehow become the hospital's property, now that it had been meddled with. We went back to the hospital. Thinking of my fourth child's birth, I was terrified of what was to come.

I was confined to a fetal monitor. A strange, haggard looking man (the staff obstetrician) examined me, and found that my afternoon's progress amounted to two centimeters dilation. Oh. I commented on how tired he looked- he told me that he had been working for the past three days. Did he sleep?- I asked. Yes, sometimes, he said; there's a cot in the doctor's lounge. We must speed things along, he said, to "get this nasty business over with".

He ruptured my membranes, and instructed me to semi-sit for an hour, so the umbilical cord wouldn't prolapse. Cord prolapse, often fatal for the baby, happens when the cord drops below the baby's head and comes out first. Artificially rupturing the membranes is known to be a cause of this! My babies had always been at risk, and no one even told me how. Where was my "informed consent"?

I played some cribbage with my husband. I felt myself drifting into a strange land I had never been in; my terror was replaced with a wonderful calm. I felt peaceful and introspective; sleepy and restful with every birth sensation. The nurse-midwife attending me was amazed. But my progress was slow for a fifth child- it took twelve hours from my first prostaglandin smearing until I was moved at six centimeters dilation to the delivery room.

The table- not even a bed anymore- was my birthing enemy. My lovely contracting became cramped and sore. I instinctively pushed the nurse-midwife's hands to my breasts, to stimulate the release of oxytocin; she rigidly pulled her hands away. After a while, my baby was born. The doctor tugged painfully, inexplicably, on the umbilical cord.

A new nurse took over within a few minutes of the birth. This was her last day of work, ever, as an obstetric nurse: thirty-eight years of this place, of countless episiotomies and shavings, of love and death and birth and the whole damned thing. She wanted to tell me about herself and her husband and how the times are a'changing, as I tried to breastfeed my brand-new baby. I listened politely. My husband went out for a smoke and some phone calls. The nurse reluctantly left when I shooed her out of the room.

Then I was finally alone with my baby. There we were, alone and entranced, hospital-tagged and naked, when I heard the screams of the woman giving birth in the room beside me. I said aloud, "get me out of this chamber of horrors".

We went upstairs, and got settled into a semiprivate room. I tried to breastfeed and sleep, but the woman next to me had difficulty in caring for her baby- they were both crying. I heard phones ringing. I was hungry; I had to get my own toast from a kitchenette on the other side of the ward.

I took my baby everywhere; I wouldn't let "them" touch him to bathe him or weigh him or pester him. I insisted on doing everything myself. There were people everywhere, in my room, in the halls, in the nursery; everyone saw my leaking breasts hanging out, my matted hair, my tears. I crept to the day lounge with my baby swaddled in hospital towels. I sat with him and mourned, how I cried over all that was lost! I wept and shook. A nurse came in. "You should be in your room!" I said, "I need privacy! I have to come here to cry!" I pulled my baby under my chin.

A year and a half later, when I summoned my hospital records through the Freedom of Information Act (please, everyone, do this!), I saw that this nurse wrote that I was handling my baby roughly. (I was holding him tightly to me as I wept and shook.) I would never hurt my babies! I was being watched, scrutinized. Another nurse accused me of bruising my baby when she saw a birthmark on his leg. These cold, semi-sterile strangers believed me to be a child abuser! Even the most kindly-faced nurse was watching every move, every whimper, like a malevolent hawk. I left shortly thereafter.

A few days later, at home, this thought went through my head- a swirling black flicker of sentience that translated into the following sentence- hospital birth is the rape of the twentieth century.

Women are systematically, routinely, and willingly assaulted every day by individuals and institutions who claim to have their best interests at heart, and most women have no concept of what is lost. Yes, it is rape: just as a man forcing sexual intercourse on a woman strips her of her powers, and wounds her in sacred places, so does birth rape. Women are left shaking, enraged and filled with sorrow after both rapes, because the rape is the same. And just as it would matter if our children were conceived through rape, it matters if they are born through rape. And in both rapes we bleed.


Women are made to bleed, often uncontrollably, in hospital births. They bleed because of the standard shot of oxytocin in the leg after birth: a woman's natural oxytocin-making mechanisms (which contract the uterus to its previous size) shut down when a huge dose of the synthetic hormone is in her bloodstream. And when the artificial stuff wears off, a woman will suddenly feel faint and collapse in a pool of her own blood. (The uterus has stopped contracting, and the placental site is nearly as large and raw as it was after birth. Artificial hormones used to induce labor cause excessive bleeding, too.) Hemorrhage also happens when "fundus fiddling" is involved: impatient birth attendants will externally manipulate a woman's uterus to expel the placenta, and will even tug on the cord. This is agonizing, as well as bloody.

A bigger cause of bleeding is episiotomy. Most blood loss in a typical birth will actually come from an episiotomy wound; so much so that a woman can even become anemic. Episiotomy is a foul, malevolent invention- created out of the incredible logic of trying to prevent a perineal injury by inflicting one. When vaginas are cut open, women suffer: episiotomies can rip through a woman's perineal tissues, causing extensive tearing; they hurt intensely- doctors will often not even wait for the local anesthetic to kick in before cutting (or even bother administering one); women will cry when they pee for a month. Scar tissue can make sex painful or difficult, often for a woman's lifetime; and sexual sensation can be diminished because episiotomy permanently severs the nerves that flow far into the perineum from the clitoris.

The wound often becomes painfully infected- in which case the sutures need to be removed to drain the wound, and the perineum needs to be painfully restitched. Deathly gangrenous infections- necrotizing fasciitis and clostridial myonecrosis- are caused by episiotomy. Cancer, endometriosis, and brain abscesses are known to be seeded from the episiotomy site, too.

Episiotomies permanently weaken the pelvic floor muscles and can cause hidden injuries to the anal sphincter. This is the reason that 6% of women have anal and fecal incontinence after childbirth. And sometimes after severe tearing, a rectovaginal fistula (a gap in the wall between the rectum and the vagina) will develop- and women will pass feces through their vaginas. These women are left feeling abused, mutilated, dirty- and are often told to consult a psychiatrist. They will need more surgery to repair the initial injury, and future babies will have to be delivered by cesarean section.

Babies can get cut in episiotomies too. There have been reports of eyelid lacerations, and even castration in breech-borne babies. Episiotomies cause the need for hazardous and painful suctioning: when a woman's vagina has been cut open, it cannot tightly squeeze the baby's shoulders as they pass through the birth canal. Nature has her own way of "suctioning"- the pressure of the walls of an uncut vagina squeezes the baby's shoulders and chest, making fluids burp out of the baby's nose and mouth, easily and naturally.

Natural tears are easier on the body- they heal far more quickly, and are less painful than razor-sharp, deep scissor cuts. Despite this- and the fact that there is no scientific support, whatsoever, in favor of routine episiotomy- over 60% of hospital-birthing women will still get one. Many doctors (and even nurse-midwives) are loathe to give up the old ways, and resist eradicating this most unfair cut.

Forceps, created through the unbelievable reasoning that babies' heads will be protected from birth by clamping metal tongs, are often used in conjunction with episiotomy. Forceps (and to a lesser degree vacuum extractors) cause rectal injuries, and anal difficulties- such as chronic, painful hemorrhoids: the veins inside pregnant women's rectums are naturally very thin. And when artificial extraction equipment is used- especially in association with coerced, forced "purple pushing" births- these delicate veins become engorged, distended, weakened and bruised. Any existing hemorrhoids become fiercely painful, and often manifest themselves into lifetimes of drugstore analgesics and sitting on rubber rings at movie theaters.

Use of forceps can permanently disfigure women's genitals, and cause bladder injuries- sometimes women's bladders are so badly bruised that lifelong urinary stress incontinence problems result. For babies, forceps use can cause cerebral and Bell's palsies, cephalhematomas (pools of blood forming under the scalp), skull fractures, and great pain- and painful birth brings an increased risk of violent suicide later in life.

In 1920, the article "The Prophylactic Forceps Operation" by Joseph B. DeLee became the touchstone for physician-managed vaginal deliveries. It detailed DeLee's ideal birth: first cutting a large episiotomy on an etherized, unconscious, bound woman, then pulling her baby out with forceps. Then manually removing the placenta, and giving large doses of ergot to curtail postpartum hemorrhage. Then pulling the cervix down with forceps to examine it, and stitch up any tears. Then carefully reconstructing the vagina to restore "virginal conditions". Scopolamine and morphine are given in the birth, and then for the lengthy post-delivery work to "prolong narcosis for many hours postpartum and to abolish the memory of labor." This one man's torturous birth ideal became the standard for women's births for the bulk of the twentieth century. Incredibly, there is a prestigious award given in his name… the "DeLee Humanitarian Award". It is awarded to doctors who have made outstanding contributions to the health of women and infants.

Epidural anesthetic has replaced scopolamine as the birth drug of "choice"- in some centers over 90% of birthing women will have an epidural- and it can lead to terrible consequences (none of which women are routinely told about when they ask- "is it safe?"). 70% of women will experience side effects- such as low blood pressure, fecal and urinary incontinence, paralysis of the lower extremities, allergic reactions, respiratory depression, headache, vomiting, and seizures. 20% will develop fever for which the baby will need to be treated too. 15-35% will have to be catheterized because they can't pee. 30-40% will have severe backache for hours or days after birth, and 20% will have severe backache one year later.

Epidurals cause one in ten babies to be born "blue" (severe fetal hypoxia- lack of oxygen; induction drugs cause it too). The Caine-derivative anesthetics used in epidurals rapidly cross the placenta and can harm both a baby's central nervous system and cardiac function. Epidural drugs- especially when given with a cocktail of other drugs- cause jaundice, as newborns try to metabolize the powerful drugs with their immature livers. Epidurals lead to a decrease in muscle tone and strength in the newborn, affecting the baby's ability to breastfeed properly. And since dose is calibrated to maternal weight, babies can easily get an overdose (a baby is about one-twentieth the size of the mother). Babies receiving epidural drugs, as well as any other kind of painkilling drug in their births, are more likely to be addicted to drugs later in life- and have learning disabilities and violent behavior. Epidurals make women four times more likely to have forceps or vacuum extractor deliveries, and twice as likely to get cesarean sections.

Cesarean sections are done for many reasons, mostly relating to impatience in the hospital staff. "Failure to progress" being the most common and infuriating reason: this is when a woman's cervix is not dilating according to the hospital's preset idea of how a labor should unfold, and she is literally stood over and told to dilate. She is threatened with surgery if she doesn't. Of course her body won't open for birth in such a dangerous and stressful scenario; and if the baby can't be blasted out by artificial oxytocin or dragged out by forceps, it will be cut out by an obstetrician.

A c-section may also performed due to the observance of normal fluctuations of a baby's heart rate (as noted on a fetal monitor, often the first intervention in the classic cascade of interventions); these fluctuations may sometimes lead medical personnel to erroneously believe that the baby is in "distress", and needs to be removed immediately. Activities like thumb-sucking, sleeping and even maternal thirst will cause dramatic differences in fetal heart rates. (Though sometimes the baby will be put in genuine distress through drugs or hormones given to the mother.)

Cephalopelvic disproportion is another common excuse for a cesarean section: it is often claimed that many women's pelvic outlets are too small for babies to pass through. This is nonsense! If so many women had such useless pelvises for birthing, their ancestors would not have survived- and the only women alive today would have enormously wide pelvises! Modern women's bodies aren't broken- they know how to give birth, if only left alone; women who are said to be incapable of birthing without modern obstetrics are very likely to be supremely able to give birth without intervention- as long as they are nowhere near the institution that is so quick to intervene.

In most hospitals, one in five women will have a cesarean section; in some centers the number is as high as one in three. This statistic should not be any higher than three in one hundred! And the cruelty of cesarean section must not be diminished because of its frequency: women should be focusing on babies, love and breastfeeding in the first weeks after birth; not staples, catheters and weeping incisions!

After my section (as in cross-section; vivisection) I understood misery: trying to care for my new baby while recovering from major abdominal surgery on a hard hospital bed was the most heartbreaking thing in my life. Every move was agony; gas pains ripped sickly through my savaged abdomen; my catheter hurt me when it was inside my urethra, and left sharp pains when it was out. I could barely move to change my baby's diaper, and the hospital staff were too busy to help me care for my baby. The tape that held the IV tube in my arm constantly had to be repositioned, and each time it ripped at my skin and hair.

I wasn't allowed to eat: first the liquids on Day One after surgery, then the gruel on Day Two, then the mash on Day Three was not the sustenance I needed to fuel my breasts for milk-making, nor to feed my healing, ravaged body. I was a patient, a sickly invalid, a twenty-one year-old woman who had to pee in a bag, and hold her belly together before rolling over in bed. I was helpless to care for my new baby, and I will always remember his first days of life as grotesquely uncomfortable, and full of sorrow. I couldn't even get up to brush my teeth.

And why are the significant risks of cesarean section not discussed? I didn't even know of the danger I was in. Women are up to sixteen times more likely to die after a cesarean delivery than a vaginal birth. Cesareans cause hemorrhage; women during cesareans are ten times more likely to lose their uteruses because of unstoppable bleeding, and hemorrhage is actually the leading cause of all maternal deaths. Cesarean sections cause ileus (intestinal paralysis associated with abdominal injury), intestinal obstructions and adhesions, pulmonary embolism, and Mendelson's syndrome (acid pulmonary aspiration). There is a 20% chance of a dangerous infection developing after the birth- a big problem with the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant hospital microbes.

After a cesarean, women suffer more from postpartum depression. And birth trauma, a much misunderstood condition that most doctors haven't even heard of, which stems directly from feelings of powerlessness and worthlessness that come from violent hospital births.

Women can develop lifelong urinary stress incontinence when the bladder is peeled away from the uterus, and bladder and uterus injuries happen, as well accidental injuries to other organs, tissues and vessels. Cesareans cause respiratory distress syndrome in newborns- a leading killer of babies, and between 2-6% of babies will be accidentally cut by the scalpel.

After cesareans, women are more likely to develop ectopic pregnancies (if they even manage to get pregnant at all); and future babies are at risk of poor outcomes. Women are also more likely to grow placentas that either block their vaginal outlets (placenta previa), or detach themselves while a woman is still in her pregnancy (abruptio placentae)- and both conditions can kill the mother and baby.

Future births will be considered high risk because of the slight chance of the cesarean scar rupturing, and a ruptured uterus can cause death for the baby and a lost uterus for the mother. VBAC women being administered induction drugs are at particular risk of uterine rupture, especially with the drugs Prostin (I was blissfully unaware of the danger I was in during the birth of my fifth), and Cytotec- an ulcer drug not even approved for obstetrical use by the FDA or its manufacturer: it makes women up to 28 times more likely to have their uteruses rupture in childbirth (despite this, its use has spread like wildfire in the medical and nurse-midwifery communities). The pain of cesareans just goes on and on.

In a cesarean section, a private, secret, and sensual event becomes a sterile crucifixion in a room full of slicing, staring strangers. And the ultimate rape is that we are told we need to be cut. The sanctity and power of birth becomes a meek "yes, doctor" and we become spectators to our own violation; we even thank the doctors as they scurry on their way out of the operating room.

In the hospital, an overwhelming, poisonous complacency overtakes us as we are stripped of our privacy, our dignity, and even our clothing. We hold our doctors in a position of utmost trust; we believe in their good intentions, and their upholding of the Hippocratic Oath (do no harm). But they do do harm- they do harm every day. And they are given societal sanction to do as they please with us.

This reminds me of children being abused by trusted people in positions of power: the abuse, committed selfishly and without regard for the children's future, is insidious and generational, and the children always believe they deserve what happens to them. The abuse of women's bodies in birth is committed for the selfish convenience of medicine, with little regard for women's immediate and future health. Generations of women have been told their abuse is necessary, that bloody birth is universal, and unavoidable- due to the frail malfunctioning of their own bodies. Women and children are told to put up, and shut up. This is no longer tolerable. Just as abusive authority figures are being increasingly held accountable for the suffering of children, exploitive medical practitioners must be held accountable for every stitch, every stab, every scalpel slice that is inflicted on women's bodies- even decades after the cut.

The underlying motive for every hospital birth is the safety of the baby (as if the hospital environment is salve to new life). A woman is told that her healthy baby is all that matters, that the end justifies the means- if she's sliced and diced in birth, then so be it; that the baby in her arms at the end is all that matters.

But a woman matters. Her vagina matters, her belly matters, her intact veins and perineum matters, feces emerging from her vagina matters, her self-esteem matters, her love of birth matters, she matters! Not allowing a woman a powerful birth is like never letting her achieve orgasm; sort of like saying "orgasms don't matter, dear, as long as you conceive!"

I call the whole ritual of sacrificing the integrity, power, and sexuality of birth "puerperal infibulation". Just as women in some cultures have their clitorises clipped and their vulvas shaved of flesh and sewn shut (infibulation), women in our culture quite often have their vaginas, perinea, and bellies cut open by doctors, then have their bodies sutured or stapled shut after it all. In both cases, women are either held tightly or strapped down to restrain them when the knives or scissors come out- and have little say regarding the outcome of the knife.

Interestingly, the underlying purposes are the same: to rigidly control female sexuality (yes, childbirth is an inherently sexual event), and to protect children as they are being born. Many cultures practicing routine female genital mutilation (FGM) are insistent in their belief that in birth, if an infant touches its mother's sexual tissues, it may well die (hence the removal of external genitalia). On average, one out of four North American women are told that unless their babies are delivered by cesarean section, their babies may well die (and of course, babies don't even come close to their mothers' vaginal tissues). Or unless our vaginas are cut open, our babies may be injured in the tight passage of birth. ("Crushed against a tight pelvic floor", as Joseph B. DeLee said.) Vaginas are very threatening things to some people!

Westerners hearing of FGM are adamant in believing in the sinister backwardness of practicing cultures. But how can we call the former culture barbaric when our own actions are so monstrous? Whether a woman has her vagina cut open in an isolated hut or in a world class teaching hospital is irrelevant: she's still having her vagina cut open, her suffering is still severe, and will inevitably endure.

Another reason women's vaginas are mutilated is to ensure a tight fit for their male partners. In some societies, models are made of betrothed men's penises- these models are inserted into the vaginas of the brides-to-be; then the women's vaginas are cut and sewn to fit the models' dimensions. In our society, I hear of doctors who tell women before their cesarean sections- "Your husband will thank me"; or asking the fathers, before episiotomy stitch-ups: "Do you want me to put a couple of extra stitches in for you?" Yes, this is happening now- not twenty years ago.

Puerperal infibulation is as deeply rooted in our culture as FGM is in the cultures that practice it. Here, women are myopically coerced into giving their birthing bodies to intervention-eager practitioners; there, women are vehemently encouraged to have themselves made surgically chaste. And we are both made to believe in the purposefulness of such mutilation, compelled to succumb to the sublime wisdom of those who profess to be more learned, more wise, more virtuous in mind and in practice than the simple women we appear to be- we are taught to trust in the righteousness of authority, and to disdain our most basic urges to flee.

And overwhelmingly, resistance is futile- because sadly, in both cultures, our own mothers and grandmothers- the ones who claim to love us most- usher us the most eagerly into the hands of the practitioners waiting to perform the cruelest cuts; mother-cutting is generational, and insidious. The elder generation can rarely see the pointlessness of this painful cycle- their own suffering seemingly will not go unfelt by the younger generations.

And birthing bloodshed isn't about to end- Western women are reluctant to give up their beloved doctors, and their worship at the altar of Modern Medicine. Exasperatingly, I have found that most women don't even come close to believing me when I tell them they don't need to go to the hospital to give birth; they especially refuse to believe that childbirth is trustworthy, and doesn't need gloved fingers, neurotic monitoring nor surgical scissors to perform its inevitable, evolutionary task.

There is a fantasy bond that develops between those involved in the high drama of Western medical birth deliverance. The anxiety created in the birth process is relieved by the emergence of a live baby and the ultimate survival of the mother. The stressed family believes that they were saved, and they love their violators- returning time and again to the scene of violence unless they wake up, and begin to question the whole structure.

Puerperally infibulated women strive to find reason in their pain, a utilitarian purpose for every poke, every cut, and every scalpel slice. We need to believe in the righteousness of what's done to us- the sadness and horror of it all would be too much too bear, otherwise. Perhaps some women's worship of doctors is stemmed in a history of dysfunctional "enabling" relationships- it seems that the women who are the most abused at their doctors' hands are the ones who are the most unlikely to move away from their doctors' control (I know I was- I was always desperate to be a good girl, to please my doctors; I was always effusive in my forgiving of their errors). Disabling birth responses are based in our collective cultural birth hysteria, and women's fear and distrust of birth are so ingrained that someone who speaks of birth as an intimate, sensual event is likely to be feared and reviled.

But telling a puerperally infibulated woman about the beauty of birth must be like telling a woman with her clitoris snipped off that sex can be erotic and orgasmic. They will both think you don't know what you are talking about. But I have had my clitoris reattached, so to speak, and I must tell the world about what is lost.

It is only logical that childbirth should take place where a women feels most secure and comfortable- in her own home. Homebirth is safe: the countries with the highest incidence of midwife-attended homebirths have the lowest infant mortality rates, and women have much better overall outcomes. In a homebirth, interventions are taken very seriously, and are considered and reconsidered before resorting to (at hospitals, the very ease with which interventions occur lead to their phenomenal commonplaceness). Homebirth would only be dangerous if the common obstetric interventions were brought from hospital to home.

Home waterbirth in particular encourages excellent outcomes. Immersion in a birthing pool soothes away fear and discomfort; mothers need no artificial pain relief; labors are quicker and easier; big babies come more easily, and, due to how relaxed and supple perineal tissues remain, women rarely tear. Women can easily move their bodies for the smooth passage of their babies, and find optimal birthing positions without the cumbersome effects of gravity, as "on land". Women with knee or back problem can find comfortable birthing positions more comfortably.

And after giving birth in their own homes, in water or on a firm surface, women have joyful memories of their births and recover quickly. So why don't more women have homebirths, when the cost and trauma involved are so minimal? Whose interests are served by the women's enforced ignorance, and the ritualized invasion of childbirth? Not any mother's, nor any baby's.

If women and children are to thrive, they must be left alone in the genuinely trustworthy passage of birth. And choosing to stay home, far away from the equipment and practitioners that so easily and routinely foul birth, is the best way to ensure a healthy outcome.

So why are we mostly told to give birth in hospitals? There is a deep cultural fear of natural processes, especially of women's sexuality; and our medical establishment is a reflection of our society. It is "safer" to medicalize birth than it is to understand the true power of women, and the trustworthy functioning of female bodies.

As long as we think rape only involves sexual intercourse, sensual can only mean erotic, and bottlefeeding is a healthy alternative to breastfeeding, we are not realizing the magnificence of our own existence: orgasmic lovemaking, being pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding, and feeling goofy baby love all come from the same hormones; are all the same sensual swoon. And all must be left alone: we need privacy and dignity to explore our most secret and loving places.

Of course, there are exceptions to homebirth. Certain women have health conditions that may need advanced obstetrical care, and these women should never be condemned for not being able to give birth without intervention. Each obstetrical intervention benefits a small number of women. But when interventions are applied to women as a rule, the risk/benefit ratio reverses, and more harm is caused than good.


Thirteen months after my fifth child was born, I was pregnant again. I did not want another hospital birth.

I began searching for a better way to give birth. I read the helpful and powerful "Homebirth", by Sheila Kitzinger. I contacted various midwives registered with the College of Midwives of British Columbia, but understood that they would medicalize my pregnancy too much; would give me too many tests and interfere unnecessarily with my birth.

I heard of midwife Gloria Lemay through friends. I spoke to her of my experiences on the phone. I asked her how many babies she delivered- "Oh, I don't deliver babies, the Moms do that! I've attended over six hundred births, though." I asked her if she would touch my breasts for me if I needed that done in my birthing time. "I'd stand on my head naked in Mundy Park if it would help you get your baby out." We talked for hours. My husband and I went to meet her; she would attend my birth.

I got enormous amounts of hostility and concern from my extended family regarding my choice, and after hearing their experiences with forceps, rectal exams and stirrups, I understood their paralyzing fears. I summoned all of my medical records, and found the many inconsistencies, half-truths and outright lies that had occurred in my colorful obstetric history.

Forty weeks came quickly. My due date! Four liters of Labor Aide waited for me in the fridge, my mattress was covered in a painter's drop sheet- I was ready. But nothing was happening! The old dread came back. My body's busted! I can't give birth without intervention!

As the days crawled by uneventfully, I would call Gloria, crying. "I'm not like other women! I can't give birth by myself!" And she would say, "Of course you can, and of course you will. Your body will give birth whether you believe it or not. Your body knew how to conceive your babies, it knew how to breastfeed your babies, and it knows how to give birth to your babies." "You trust my body?" "Yes, I trust your body. Your birth will be beautiful." For a little while, I would believe her. She would give me these pep talks as I would need them.

At forty-two weeks my mother became very concerned; I myself was born almost a month late: my mother attributed my eye troubles as a child to her lengthy pregnancy with me. I called Gloria. "My baby will be born half-dead and blind!" "No! You're baby's fine!"

He was very active, and had a consistently strong heartbeat. I was healthy- my blood pressure was fantastic, and my diet was great. She said, "I can't think of any environment healthier for your baby than inside your uterus." Yet I knew that I would have been induced with almost any other midwife, and certainly with any doctor. Sometimes I had deep doubts about what I was doing- I knew that almost no one would agree with our waiting it out.

But I learned that forty weeks is just an average length of gestation- different women will give birth at different lengths of pregnancy, in the same way that every birth and every person is unique. We are born, learn to crawl, walk and talk at our own special pace; we can only learn and grow according to our own unique developmental schedule. No one has the right to intrude with preset notions of how a birth or life should unfold.

I grew afraid of my impending birth. I was afraid of the pain. I read a book written by another woman whose sixth child's pregnancy also went beyond forty weeks (Chris Griscom's "Ocean Born- Birth as Initiation"). She said, "Don't be afraid! Birth is yours to give! Claim it for yourself!" I would repeat this to myself in times of fear.

Forty-three weeks of pregnancy went by; I started a debate about midwifery in a local newspaper. It kept my mind occupied. I learned how to check my own cervix; I was more than three centimeters dilated already, really soft and beautifully open- thanks to my lovely, ongoing prodromal labor. I passed my mucus plug; Gloria said she had never seen a woman lose it and go more than four days without giving birth.

One week later: stumbling sad in the snow, feeling as though my pregnancy was a straightjacket I couldn't get out of. Why hadn't I given birth yet? There was no confusion about my dates; I had done a home pregnancy test two days after I expected my last period. This was a time of intense fear for me; I was terrified by all the medical documentation that said my baby would be unhealthy, that my placenta was dying. How could I trust in this one woman when so many others would have had me induced almost three weeks ago?

Then one night, at forty-four weeks pregnant, I woke up to pee. As I sat down, I felt a little pop!- my water had broken! I called Gloria. We quietly chatted, and she was on her way. My children were nearby; I touched their hair as they slept. I prepared a warm bath for myself. I caught my reflection in the mirror- I was radiant, joyful, beautiful.

My birthing sensations felt like squeezing hugs across my belly. Jacob helped me out of the tub, then put some African music on. We kissed and danced. For the first time ever, I was joyful in birth, and left alone- no needles, knives, fingers, hooks, scissors, staples, drugs, tubes, synthetic hormones, medical students, nonsense.

And no crying! The tears I had always had in labors before were not hormonal, but environmental...

My body worked beautifully: each birth sensation was elegant, and forceful. After three hours, the time had come. I kneeled on our couch, and panted, sighed and screamed my baby out. He was ten and a half pounds and adorable! My husband caught him in his big, warm hands, and I laid back to receive him onto my body. I have never felt such bliss.

Every woman deserves such bliss! Interfering with this bliss must be recognized as the criminal act that it is! Blissful birth is the birthright of every woman; a gift from her body to her soul!

My placenta was perfect. An induction would have been brutally unnecessary. I buried my placenta on day four. I never knew how much my placentas mattered to me; some cultures say they are the bodies of children's guardian angels. I still cry for all that has been lost.

We are living in strange and savage times. This century will be remembered as one of war and genocide; and violent, coercive childbirth. Birth is weeping, and bleeding. We are made to believe we must give birth in sometimes hostile and mostly indifferent hospitals, where interference with a woman's natural birthing rhythms is the norm. Our vaginas can be stared at and cut by strangers, and abnormal emotional and physical behaviors- such as excessive fear, crying, and stress-induced stoppage of labor- have become normal and expected. Babies are routinely harmed; and the perpetrators are exalted as life savers, instead of reviled as child abusers. A birth without unnecessary intervention is now unusual, even though we all have the potential to birth beautifully- if only left alone.

One hundred years ago, hospital birth was considered to be the radical and dangerous alternative to a midwife-assisted homebirth. Women avoided doctors and hospitals for many reasons: they didn't want to be experimented on (and many still are- especially poor, minority, very young, and/or non English-speaking women); highly contagious puerperal fever was a deadly reality; disease ran rampant (and still does); the of idea having men (almost all doctors were male) in the "lying-in chamber" seemed dangerously immodest. Hospitals and doctors were expensive. But quite quickly, doctors became the accepted providers of maternity care; and after a century long, worldwide smear campaign by the medical establishment, midwives and their wisdom have almost become extinct.

But women are becoming unwilling to be pawns that are moved, positioned and sacrificed by the medical "profession". We are increasingly, and passionately, healing birth for ourselves; and women who have borne many children can be instrumental in helping other women understand the mysteries and myriad variances of pregnancy and childbirth.

Hospital birth must once again be considered the radical alternative to a planned homebirth. If women still insist on having hospital births, they must consider having experienced labor support people, such as strong doulas, with them at all times- to vociferously and passionately "guard the normal". Homebirth is the obvious way to avoid unnecessary interventions altogether. Midwives have the potential to be our greatest allies in this; but they, too, must resist the temptation to try to "hurry things along", or interfere unnecessarily.

Most importantly, women must remember that childbirth is sacred- it is the most primal and hormonal event of our lives. And it is the most beautiful- it is when we meet our babyloves for the first time.

But we cannot expect others to respect and love our births and our bodies when we do not ourselves believe them to be sacred. I find it most heartbreaking that women still need to be convinced that being cut and stabbed at in birth is an inherently bad thing.

Please, women. Claim birth for yourselves. It belongs to you.

For medical resferences for Rape of the Twentieth Century, go here.