Women Birth a New Vision for Maternity Care
Recommendation: Make Birth a Compassionate Experience
US: Coming Into The World In Violence
Arrive in pain. Sign papers. Strip down to a thin little gown. Hook you up to machines that beep loudly and irritatingly so. Stab you in the arm with a needle for an I.V. because you can’t eat for 8+ hours and they need to make sure they can give you drugs at a moment’s notice. Stay in bed. Do not get up unless you ask permission. Lay on your back. Open your legs. They push Pitocin because you’re not going fast enough; cue the intensity of your contractions skyrocketing. Person you’ve never met before is between your legs, giving you orders on how to deliver your child. The sound of scissors unnecessarily cutting a perineum. Push on command in a room full of spectators wishing you’d hurry up and give birth already. Pull baby out. Suction its mouth and nose upon arrival. Cut the cord prematurely. Show you what the baby looks like. Take the baby away to be weighed, poked, prodded. At some point, sign more paperwork while you’re trying to breastfeed.
Welcome to motherhood.
Currently, this scene is incredibly common in many hospitals across the world. From my experience, there are varying levels of how intensely this scenario plays out. After the five births I have attended as a doula, I made a decision to never give birth in a hospital unless it is a dire emergency. Why would I want my child to come into the world so violently?
It is hard to have 'birth' and 'violence' in the same sentence; and yet, in the US where it’s more dangerous to give birth than in 49 other countries, the violence and death is real. African-American women are at almost four times greater risk than Caucasian women. A safe pregnancy is a human right for every woman regardless of race or income. From my experience, this disproportional rate of risk for African-American women grows to include all and any marginalized women in my country. I often pose the question: What message are we sending future generations by bringing them into the world like this? What is happening around the world to birthing mothers is nothing short of mental and physical coercion and abuse.
We have been convinced that home birth is dangerous and that the only safe way to give birth is in a hospital—an idea that is younger than the history of women giving birth in the world. The secret to why many women end up feeling safer in a hospital is due to the underlying notion that a woman’s body is dangerous, and therefore, childbirth is dangerous. It too may as well be a sickness that should be monitored and controlled.
We are coming into the world violently, and this must end. We must find a way to make birth a compassionate, safe, and loving experience for women and their families.
Ynanna Djehuty | US . . .