Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thoughts on Childbirth

I am sitting on front of "One Born Every Minute", a documentary series on childbirth. It's the first time I have seen it and I quite literally cannot watch the babies being born without crying. It was the same when I was pregnant; give me good births, bad births, high definition or grainy Youtube footage and I'll cry. I thought the crying might have stopped since I gave birth myself but it evidently hasn't.

I don't know how some ladies manage to watch birth video after birth video when they are pregnant. For me, they are just too loaded with emotion. Even having been there and done that once, it still scares the hell out of me. And I had a good experience! The day after I gave birth I thought "I want to do that again!", but 18 months later the fear has returned. How much did it hurt me? Did I make as much noise as the ladies on television? Did my labour hurt more or less than theirs? Would things go as well if I did it again? Would I breathe through my contractions more calmly or would I shout the house down all over again?

Television has also provided lots of birth footage via "Lambing Live", a bizarre show in which springy haired wildlife presenter Kate Humble delivers spring lambs live on air (if any sheep are cooperative enough to coincide their labours with the one hour broadcasting slot). What strikes me about this programme is how much the farmers know about natural birth. If things are progressing as normal, they leave the sheep alone to get on with her labour. When the lambs are born they place them in front of the sheep so she can lick them clean. They know how important it is for bonding that the lamb is given to its mum immediately after birth. They quietly watch on to check that suckling takes place soon after birth and they see it as essential that each lamb gets a bellyfull of colostrum before they go to sleep. If a lamb does not suckle spontaneously, they help it to latch on, and if that does not work then they milk the sheep and give the colostrum to her lamb through a feeding tube. Nursing is valued highly because it produces stronger, healthier lambs and is cheaper and less labour intensive than bottle feeding.

All of these practices are equally important in human births. But during the twentieth century we managed to convince ourselves that unnatural practices like keeping babies in hospital nurseries and formula feeding were beneficial. We went so far away from what is natural and instinctive that expensive academic research was required in order to persuade us that skin-to-skin contact is good, and mother's milk is far better than any artificial alternative. What a waste of time and money, when farmers could have set us straight all along!

Now be honest - do you cry at birth videos too? And are you as scared as me?

Photo from Independent.co.uk.

12 comments:

Sage Moonstone said...

It's not the first time I've heard that it might be better to go to a Vet or a Farmer for Health Care! (sad, but true!)

I think all women should have lots (and lots and lots) of support during the whole labor and birth process.. (during the whole pregnancy really!) And a lot of women are not getting it, a lot of women are going through these things scared and it's the fear that causes them to need medical intervention...

Blessings~
Sage

Lisa C said...

I'm scared because I know I'll probably have to be induced again, and that was scary. But I don't think I'll be as scared next time.

It's kind of ridiculous that we need to have things scientifically proven to us that should be instinctive. I guess that's what fear does to us.

Jenny said...

I normally don't cry. The one time I did was at a screening of Orgasmic Birth, when they showed a vacuum birth attempt. My daughter had been born after two failed vacuum attempts, and I didn't know how bad they were--until I saw that video.

Hayley said...

I dont cry at your usual birth video however if I see even the slightest similarity to my own birth I get a little welled up :)

Joxy said...

Ack, I use to the sterotypical tough northerner.. then I got pregnant and ever since (and Rye is 3 now!) I cry at anything and everything that is the slightest bit emotional.

When I was pregnant my friends thought ti was hilarious that I was crying my eyes out at that american show where they knock the house down and rebuild a beautiful one in 7 days, and often the mortgage is paid off etc... all for families that have faced or facing some sort of extreme adversity.... I scoffed when my friends cried, ..a nd now can't watch it I blubber like a baby. And I cannot watch baby births, again I blubber. In part because I so wanted to give birth naturally and it couldn't have been more invasive.. ending with an emergency c-section.

Melodie said...

I agree, I wish more people could let birth unfold the way nature intended. Yes, it's sometimes scary (I wonder if those sheep mamas get scared too?) but it's what our mammalian bodies were meant to do.

Liz said...

Yes, I cry at birth videos, but not as much as I used to. I had POst-traumatic Stress Sundrome complete with flashbacks and panic attacks after DD's birth as I was so traumatised by the whole thing. I feel healed after DS's birth though that was also difficult. I don't get how people can think 'I want to do that again' straight afterwards. I find labour and birth very difficult, and don't ahve any desire to watch birth videos. I think they're very intrusive.

cartside said...

I'm addicted to one born every minute. And yes I cry. I'm not scared though, although I didn't have an easy birth. My DH and SIL think I'm mad to want to watch it, but I actually find it reassuring in a strange way (not so much the fact that 1 in 2 seem to end in c-section - that does scare me!). I see it as making visualisation - which is recommended for hypnobirthing - easier, seeing the normality of the birth process, but also the wonder of it all.

I had similar thoughts on the lambing programme - It all sounded so familiar, and suddenly it became more than clear that above all, we're mammals and the tendency to move away from nature is probably based on our denial of that fact. We are mammals. And that's fine and good, yet we want to be something "better", something that doesn't remind us of us actually being an animal species.

Cave Mother said...

cartside - I'm so glad you said that about us wanting to deny that we are animals. I was thinking that, but I thought it would be too complicated to write about and it might step on some people's religious beliefs. But you're right - we do like to think that we are somehow different from other mammals, and we're really NOT. We ignore our instincts at our peril.

Hobo Mama said...

I totally cry! I love watching vetted birth videos — if they've gotten an endorsement from someone I trust that it's a beautiful birth, I'll watch it. Otherwise, I can't really take the sad or contentious ones anymore.

I do love watching animal births! I watched puppies born in a YouTube video once and just wanted to shout at the humans in the video to leave the dog alone because they were "helping" pull the babies out. Animals usually know how to do it without our help, huh?

The Awakened Heart said...

Oh dear Lord, do I ever. I have recently watched (for the third time) a number of birthing DVD's such as Orgasmic Birth, What Babies Want and the utterly magnificent, Birth As We Know It. I ball my eyes out at each and every one of them. I cry for the birth i didn't have with Beanie and I cry because I'm scared that I won't get to ever experience a beautiful, natural waterbirth. Plus, I'm 7-months pregnant and therefore cry at everything. But you know what? We learn something from every type of birth we experience, even from other people's births. Some people regard a Caesar as a good experience, others, like me, regard natural birth as the thing to aim for. Having said that, the ultimate goal is the delivery of a healthy, happy baby and the beginnings of a long and nurturing relationship between mother and child, so bring it on!

Amanda said...

Cry. Every time! I had apprehension immediately following birth about the idea of doing it again, but as the memory of the incredible pain and difficulty faded, so did the apprehension.