One night as my daughter threw me a bone and fell asleep early, I decided to treat myself to a peaceful evening of Netflix where I came across The Business Of Being Born. There is nothing like a birth documentary after a full day of work and parenting.
From executive producer, Ricki Lake, comes this candid look at childbirth in the United States and the grim reality that it is a very dangerous game. This film traces the process of birth from the turn of the century to present day to show how birthing has moved from homes to hospitals; from midwives to doctors. Moreover, from something the body does naturally to a completely invasive, corporate driven procedure made lethal by health insurance companies who deem midwives as hacks and have resorted to putting American women in danger to keep premiums low.
How are they in danger? Well, as the documentary will tell you, watch TLC. Watch A Baby Story. In short, a woman is pregnant, her “due date” (which is just a suggestion anyway, really) comes and goes. She gets induced. She arrives at the maternity ward and is relegated to a bed, strapped to a fetal monitor, and IV. She is administered Cervidil then Pitocen and waits. Next comes the epidural and catheter. The woman, still getting pumped full of Pitocen which creates contractions stronger than natural ones, becomes alarmed when the baby suddenly goes into distress. The doctor swoops in to do an “emergency C-section” and saves the day.
The reality is that if the woman had never been induced then the drugs would never have caused stress to the fetus, who would not have been put into distress, and a c-section probably could have been avoided.
Now, this woman will come to learn that most hospitals do not insure doctors to perform VBAC’s (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) so she will face major surgery and added risks with each additional child she chooses to have.
In short, premature medical intervention is a lethal risk to pregnant women and infants across this country. Unfortunately, as the number of birthing centers and midwives dwindle, options are scarce. In some states women choose to give birth at home. I’m not really a fan of this method. Frankly, that is the absolute last thing I would ever want to clean up.
That being said, this documentary resonated with me because I realized I had a totally invasive birth and one that scared the hell out of me. In fact, the documentary made me realize things that never even crossed my mind before this night on the couch (but I’ll get to that).
I was induced. I was admitted to the hospital 9 days past my “due date.” I was not dilated, I was not effaced. Basically, she was not ready to come out. It’s no surprise the medical staff could barely insert Cervidil because they couldn’t reach the cervix as it was too high. (Again, not ready). Within 45 minutes of the medication being forced in, I was having major contractions that were compressing the placenta to the point where the baby’s heartbeat was lost on the fetal monitor. Unfortunately, I can only recall this partially because of a cocktail of Valium and Ambien to help me “rest.” I remember hearing the alarm of the monitor and fighting to open my eyes and stay conscious to see what was going on. I remember repeating “something’s wrong” until my husband said, “No, if it were doctor’s would be coming in.” And with that, a team rushed in to remove the Cervidil.
That should have been hint #1. Then I was put on Pitocen for the next 18 hours. I recieved an epidural and catheter at hour 4. By the time I delivered, my baby had been under the stress of Pitocen induced contractions for over 18 hours. And I’m lucky. My doctor was not quick to perform a C-Section despite the fact that her shift was ending and it took me 19 hours to dilate.
Furthermore, I was not allowed to stand, walk, use the restroom, or move for that matter. My experience is really typical of most births.
But as I watched this documentary the reality of the risk that I put my daughter in hit me. The baby who was sleeping soundly in her bedroom was compressed by earth shattering contractions. These things come fast and furiously without any peaks and valleys. It’s just peak after peak. She was exposed to drugs, antibiotics, hormones, and then delivered horizontally to make the experience even more challenging.
So after watching this film, I am horrified. I shouldn’t be. It should not be a shock but it is. It’s after the fact, but better late than never. It made me question every decision I ever made about giving birth. But what did I know? I, like most American women, am obsessed with the fear of feeling pain. But no pregnant woman ever died giving birth because of the pain. In fact, the pain releases the hormones that help you bond with your baby. I have to wonder if there is a link between induced births with pain intervention and post-partum depression?
Finally, as I get older and the introduction of a second baby calls to me from the future, how do I repeat the process the same way knowing what I now know? Maybe the first time I was deliberately unaware. I knew the birthing system in the U.S. was a mess. All of my original ideas about birth and labor and fear have been disrupted. Now, I look at my baby and know I put her in deliberate danger. That bothers me, and I can’t shake it.
To close, watch the documentary. You need to know.
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