Category Archives: C-section

Empowered Birth vs. Empowered BY birth

The interesting thing about the natural childbirth movement (of which I strongly support) is that it often fails to differentiate between empowered birthing and the empowerment gained FROM ones birth. We tend to treat the two as the same thing when we discuss natural childbirth, and in our fervor, we fail to mention that it is entirely possible to have one WITHOUT the other. Instead, we refer to natural childbirth as “empowering” the woman and bringing “empowerment” to women everywhere. But, what exactly do we mean?

I’ve thought about this quite a bit lately, and it is my belief that we lump empowered birth and empowerment BY birth into the same phrase of  “empowering women”. I think we choose to use one phrase because in today’s society they ARE the same thing. In the current day where entering a hospital with a normal, healthy pregnancy increases ones risk of unnecessary medical interventions, we hope to educate women so that they might be “empowered” to make the birth choices that are correct for them. In turn, we hope that these women will experience a birth that is fulfilling TO THEM…thereby granting them a feeling of empowerment (increased self-worth, a powerful sense of accomplishment, and a revelry in her role as a woman).

I feel particularly strongly about increasing the education women receive with regards to the variety of birth choices that may impact their birth experience. Too many women simply go along with whatever their doctors dish out without QUESTIONING him or her. So many women end up in uninformed situations where they have no one to trust other than their doctor…their doctor who has been trained to treat emergencies…their doctor who is  a SURGEON first and foremost. A doctor who has no reason OR time to allow them to labor naturally…to provide them with alternative pain relief, and the solemn support of a midwife or doula. For these women, natural birth is a hard achievement…and often impossible. Some of these women go one to have traumatic births and are left with a sense of loss-the loss of their birth experience…and there is no empowerment in this.

For others, they may have what “normal” culture deems a ‘normal’ birth: labor naturally to 4-5 cm, receive an epidural, deliver vaginally with no complications, but they will still feel dissatisfied with their birth. Perhaps they would have felt a stronger sense of entitlement over their birth if they had managed it naturally. Perhaps they did not educate themselves enough to KNOW of these alternatives. Perhaps those they trusted to educate them failed them in their time of need. And, for these women, their is no empowerment in their birth experience.

By increasing the amount and quality of education that women receive prenatally, we empower women to take control of their births. We can inform them so that THEY can choose what happens to their bodies and their babies. If a woman receives unbiased, informative information regarding the epidural and its risks AND chooses it anyway, then SHE has made an empowered decision in her birth. I want this. I work towards THIS.

While I strongly believe that having an empowered birth (where the woman is educated in her choices and affirmatively controls what happens to her) will lead to a lasting feeling of empowerment BY her birth, I also believe that there are other ways to gain empowerment from birth. For some women, knowing that they have created life is enough. For them, there is nothing to be gained from a vaginal birth over a cesearean. Others only desire to birth vaginally…whatever happens past that point is meaningless as long as their baby is healthy. And, lastly, there are the women who are quite content to leave their birth and the health of their child in the hands of the qualified doctor they have chosen. While these births may happen in a variety of manners that I might not personally advocate, they all empower the women who choose them. These women are empowerd BY their birth.

So, have I made a mess of this distinction? Are we right to use one phrase/word to refer to such an ecompassing meaning? Have we alienated some women by our fervor? Or am I wrong to believe that we are actually referring to TWO separate ideas.


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Filed under Birth Preferences, C-section, childbirth, Homebirth, pregnancy, prenatal care, Uncategorized

The Birth Spectrum

Births occur on a hugely ‘unknown’ basis. I think this is what can utterly terrify some people into opting for the controlled atmosphere of a hospital. There is no danger in a hospital of something going terribly out of control…and if by some mad chance it DID, well, then there are doctors who are trained to react in just such occasions within easy reach.

For other people, the unkown of birth can mean a triumph where one could never have been foreseen.

A friend of mine was relaying the story of  her sister who had an unneccessary C-section with her first child. This same woman switched caretakers, adopted the Bradley Method of childbirth, and vaginally birthed her 2nd and 3rd children. Despite her proven ability to birth, this woman was talked into birthing her 2nd and 3rd children in the local hospital where she was forced to undergo all the medical interventions deemed ‘necessary’ by her attending doctors. For her 4th and final child, she chose to homebirth. Despite all their best preparations, her 4th child came too quickly and was delivered by his father in the family’s living room. The midwife arrived to the cries of wonderfully healthy baby boy who had been welcomed into this world in the most natural way possible. This woman feels like a warrior and thanks to the huge ‘unknown’ of birth has reclaimed her birthing rights. She no longer doubts her ability as a woman to bring a child into this life…and that is wonderful.


Filed under Birth Preferences, Birth Stories, C-section, childbirth, Homebirth

Continuation of Birth Story #1

I gave a brief overview of my first doula client’s birth HERE. It’s taken me a while, but I finally have wrapped my head around a few of the things that bothered me about her birth. Of course, visiting her postnatally has helped her tremendously, but I can’t help but feel the burden of her birth on MY shoulders. It’s not as though I could have done anything differently to get her through the 37 grueling hours of labor withOUT a C-section. Once she entered that hospital with broken waters but NO contractions, she became a medical patient sick with childbirth. Once she “failed to progress”, she was a shoo-in for surgery.

Anyway, in this post, I wanted to give an update as to my client’s condition. Shortly after the birth of her son, she complained of shortness of breath and chest pain. After being ignored for quite some time, she was finally sent for a scan that showed fluid around her lungs. An EKG later diagnosed her with Congestive Heart Failure. (Basically, that her heart had expanded to a level that would not allow it to retract like a normal heart…in other words, her heart is not able to pump like normal.) Needless to say, she was rushed to the Heart Tower of the hospital where she was completely separated from her newborn (who remained in NICU) for a full week. After a week, her baby was finally released from NICU and reunited with her in the heart tower. 2.5 weeks AFTER her birth, my client was released from the hospital with instructions to limit her physical activity to only lifting her baby.  A few days later, she ended up in the ER due to pain and numbness in her arms and left leg. The doctors gave her medicine to the relieve the pain, and sent her home after a brief hospital stay with no diagnosis. Today, she begins follow up visits with her team of 12 doctors who are working to treat her various conditions.

I visited her a few days ago at her request, and I was shocked at how frail and frustruated she appeared. It’s one thing to have a hard labor and birth, but quite another to deal with additional medical emergencies while remaining the sole caretaker to a newborn! The hard part though was when she began to ask me questions…staring at me eagerly as though I could offer some valid reason as to why her birth has turned into this nightmare. We discussed the various stages of her labor and the progression of interventions leading up to the C-section. When she told me that she had been told by the doctors that she could never go through childbirth again as a result of her heart condition, she started to cry. This is her birth…this is her ONLY birth.

As a doula, my role is to support her…as a WOMAN it is my role….and most especially, as the person who has seen her in that most primal state of childbirth. I helped her with her baby for a few hours, and we talked until she was confident in herself once again…confident that, for her, she had made all the correct decisions (the ones that were allowed) with regards to her birth. She is now satisfied….I am the one left with questions.

Questions such as…why did your water break in the first place? Why did you ever go to the hospital? Why did you let them give you pitocin? Why did you let them drug you to high heaven? Why did you never question the doctors’ decisions regarding YOUR body? AND, most importantly, why are you STILL complacent with those decisions?!!!


Filed under Birth Preferences, Birth Stories, C-section, Doula