Historically, birth wasn’t really a big deal. It was a fact of life, a very common event that took place in almost every home, in every family. Attended by mothers, sisters, friends and the midwife. You labored with the support of all the women in your life. Women witnessed birth before they had their own children, therefore there was no mystery and very little distress or fear. Yes, mothers and babies died in childbirth, but that too had almost an air of mundane, another fact of life.
Then the 20th century came and messed everything up. In an effort to make birth “safer” western medicine created a culture of fear, doubt and anxiety around a woman’s ability to perform an act her body was designed to do. We took birth out of the home and shifted it to a place for sick people. We removed the midwife and replaced her with male doctors with male gazes. We cut open bellies until they perfected the C-section. We made chemical cocktails that took away the pain of labor, and by doing so deprived ourselves of the self belief that we can withstand any and all pain. This twisted the philosophy of birth and created the idea that women having control or intuitive input in the process of her own birth is ridiculous.
As I prepared for my first birth I longed for the prairie, the frontier, surrounded by my women laughing, crying, kids running around as we prepared the house, cooking food to nurture my body. Instead I was hooked up to beeping machines and already grieving the vision of the “natural” birth I so desperately wanted. That was 2017. Then in February of 2020, I got pregnant with our third child. There’s nothing like a pandemic to make you more scared of giving birth in a hospital. I tried my best to make my old-school home birth dream a reality but alas, it wasn’t possible. Instead I held my fear inside. I stewed in anxiety, simmering in the covid fear we’re all experiencing. There was no relief, no wine, no weed, trapped inside our house and truly trapped in my mind. The time came and of course, nothing went the way I had planned or wanted.
Masked, compartmentalized, induced. “Elective induction for my mental health” was the reason I gave every person that asked, because I couldn’t be pregnant a second longer. Two great things happened in that hospital, my son was born healthy and easily, and the other was an epiphany: We need to change our expectations around birth.
We need to take the control back.
We need to trust women.
We need to trust midwives.
Move birth back home.
Normalize including the women that are close to us, so that birth is no longer some secret that only doctors hold.
The way things are now, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. They tell us to make a plan, and we go in with a plan. Then the plan is blatantly disregarded or forgotten about as soon as it no longer serves the attending medical staff.
So, let's say no to pacifying plans; no to a system that doesn’t serve us and our babies; no to thinking that the hospital is the right place or even the safest place for us. But until we get there, until we change the system - let’s work on changing our expectations. I know so many mothers, both personally and through social media that are grieving their birth experience. Let’s change that. Maybe the answer is to make birth more mundane? I don’t know, but my gut is telling me to give it less weight.