The Business of Being Born

15 Nov

I just finished watching a really interesting documentary on maternity care and birthing in the United States called “The Business of Being Born”.


The pain of childbirth is often presented as the curse of Eve, as punishment for succumbing to temptation.  The original sin.  Feminists back in the day wanted to break loose of those chains, to take charge of their birthing experience, believing that they did not need to suffer.

Shockingly, many modern interventions were not carefully studied before being put into use.  In the ’20s they used to give drugs that allowed women to give birth without pain or, rather, without any memory of pain.  Unfortunately, loss of self-control was a side effect.  They would strap the women down and leave them to suffer through, lest they get their faces clawed off.  In the ’30s they would use x-rays to determine pelvic size and placement and suitability for birth, but they later discovered it gave the babies cancer.  In the ’50s and ’60s they used drugs that caused children to be born without arms or legs.   They administered drugs to induce labor that commonly caused a ruptured uterus and infant death, all the way up through 1999.  Shouldn’t there be more intense study of these methods before they’re used on women and their unborn children?

After the horrors of birthing from the ’20s to the ’60s…

women began to turn again towards midwifery in order to avoid those types of interventions.  Unfortunately, modern medicine took another turn and today more than 1/3 of births in the United States are accomplished via caesarian section.  Even obstetricians admit that vaginal birth is the safest way to go, rather than having a major surgery via c-section, which is presented in today’s society as a simple procedure.

Why is there an increasing trend towards caesarian sections, you ask?  Well…It’s economical.  A hospital is still a business.  They want you in, they want you out.  The average hospital birth costs $13,000.  The average midwife charges $4000.  Of course, they want you there, instead of with a midwife.  In addition…it’s trendy and it fits into our current demand for instant gratification with minimal effort.  The whole concept of controlling your pregnancy and childbirth down to the hour of induction of labor is modern woman taking advantage of the technology available today.

Furthermore, the drug used to induce labor it known as pitocin.  It is a synthetic substance, a replacement for the natural version, oxyctocin, which simply does not illicit the same response in a woman’s brain.  Oxytocin helps to form that bond and trigger that protective, paternal mindset.  Pitocin inhibits the natural inclinations encouraged by oxytocin.

I’ve never really thought about this in detail before.  I always just figured that I would have that whole epidural, numb from the waist down thing.  Because that’s what everyone does.  But this film really made me think.  How do I want this experience to be for me someday?  Do I want to be anywhere near a hospital?  That’s easy.  No.  Never.  I hate hospitals and I don’t trust doctors one bit. I think that this is something that should be experienced.  Really experienced.  I don’t think it should be numbed or forgotten.  Do I want my husband holding me while I go through this?  Do I want to be completely alone aside from my midwife?  Do I want candlelight and warm water and soft music?  The comfort of my own home?  Or bright lights and unfamiliar faces?  This sterile, impersonal setting?  It’s a long, long, long way down the road, but…it’s still interesting to think about it.  And now I’ve formed an opinion on something that I had no opinion on until this moment.

Here are some quotes I liked:

“She comes to the end of this journey and she says, ‘You know, I knew I couldn’t do it.  I knew I couldn’t do it…and then I did.  I hit a wall that was higher than anything I’ve ever seen in my life…and I scaled it.'”

“You get the highest oxytocin rush you’ll ever have in your life when you give birth naturally.  You will go into an altered state of consciousness and be in a kind of a state of ‘Yes, there’s pain and yes, there’s bliss, and it’s all tied up together and you cannot have bliss without pain.'”

“If you believe in this woman and you believe in her body…then you can’t tolerate what’s going on right now.”

“Nothing compares to the privilege of giving life and the responsibility of that.  Nothing.”

If you haven’t seen “The Business of Being Born”, I highly recommend checking it out.


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