Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Expecting Kindness

When you are giving birth, it is my absolute belief that you are deserving of FAR MORE than simple kindnesses, I believe you should be downright revered.  Having attended a great many laboring women and witnessed the absolute magic a woman's body performs in the creation of life, the harboring of that life, and the birthing of that life into a life of their own, it is impossible to not have reverence, right? Not necessarily. The medicalization of birth throughout the 1900's shifted the "respect" to the doctor and extended medical staff.  Women were sedated, undermined, over-treated, evaluated, subjected to barbaric procedures, condescended to, tested upon, and categorically disrespected. The birth stories I've heard from women in those generations would make your head spin, and likely cause you to reflexively cross your legs. Thankfully, medical science is always in a state evolution.  It can be, however, a very slow evolution and there are always some practitioners and some hospitals that are resistant to change their status quo to accommodate "new" ideas, even once proven. It is highly interesting that science is finally beginning to catch up to, I mean prove, what midwives have known all along. The physical, intuitive, emotional, mothering, knowing, type of intelligence is finally being vindicated through scientific studies.  One example is the change that happened recently in which women can FINALLY eat food during labor.  The rule (in hospital) as long as I can remember has been NPO, nothing by mouth, except for ice chips and small sips of water just to prevent her feeling dry.  The perceived risk (previously an actual risk likely derived from the time when women were customarily under general anethesia/twilight sleep for delivery) was that IF there was a complication, and IF she required a surgery, and then BIG IF she required a general anesthetic, she could possibly be at risk of vomiting and aspirating her vomit. So the obvious response was to starve ALL women in labor (even after the age of common anesthetization of women) while they are essentially running a marathon or climbing a mountain, of all nutrients that she needs to keep up her energy.  So a recent study compared the risks and decided that the risk of starving women in labor was greater than the risk of the string of IF's. For those of us who work in and out of hospitals, this has been a glaringly necessary shift for a long time.  Out of hospital, we literally and commonly fan women while feeding them. In hospital, we have had to beg for anything that falls in the margins of "clear liquids" and the results have been plainly obvious. I needed no study, but it appears that scientific studies have now proven that when women are pampered and nourished, their bodies are better able to handle the demands of labor and birth. It's movement in the right direction, but it is slow.  There are other examples of how science has served women well in recent decades: Actively working to brings cesarean rates down, limiting episiotomies to absolute necessity (in fact, it took me about 4 minutes to remember that word, it's been so long since I've witnessed that wicked procedure that my mind buried the vocabulary!). But alas, there are also many other examples of common practices that science needs to re-address and change policies for normal/healthy laboring women: What constitutes "progress" in labor, time limits placed on women, resistance to allowing full chord blood transmission to baby (delayed clamping), policies that disallow doctors from determining safe fetal positioning (some babies can, with a trained doc, be safely birthed in a breech position), overuse of pitocin for induction of labor for non-medical reasons, the use of (sometimes vague or outdated) statistics to scare women into compliance, unwillingness to provide thorough explanations of suggested procedures/medications to allow for the patient to offer informed consent. Even the language used when some practitioners want to check the dilation of the cervix, for example. "I'm going to check you" or "It's time to check your cervix" or "Let's check your cervix", often at intervals that don't give women much time to make significant change. Is it too much to ask, to expect a person to ask permission before they put their fingers in someone's vagina? Maybe she just need to pee first, maybe she doesn't want to be checked at all, maybe it's just kind to give her the chance to pretend that she has some control in a situation where many feel wildly out of control.

Ok, you get it.  So ends the rant about why we can't assume that we will be treated with both expertise AND kindness. Back to the title.  Expecting Kindness. In this particular situation, perhaps it comes off as a little entitled.  Yeah, and?  You ARE ENTITLED to be treated in a particularly special way while you are performing the most powerful, magical, and loving act the human body is capable of.  I mean, if you only could have seen the things I have seen.  I wish I could extract a few memories, Harry Potter style, and place them here for you to really experience.  I suppose just watching video's is not enough though, because in order to fully comprehend the image, her: strength, intuition, dedication, choice, AHHH this language limits me, wisdom, love, willingness to endure, partnership, meditation, excitement, tears, worry, anger, peace...you would have to be able to feel what the woman is feeling as she is radiating all of the above, and so much, much more.

In closing, you absolutely deserve to be treated with every conceivable kindness,
and you should absolutely be able to expect it.
Let's get to work! www.expectingkindness.com

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