Last Saturday we went to the Conscious Birth Summit at our local public library.
I was walking with a friend of mine a few days later and mentioned this fact and she honk-laughed so hard that she would have choked if she’d been drinking something.
The event line-up included several prenatal yoga classes, a session on acupuncture for the childbearing years, a panel talk with doulas, another one about birthing plans led by two “social entrepreneurs and visionaries” and a session with a chiropractor who recommends his realignment services for your newborn baby, whose body will in all likelihood be out of whack after making its way through the ol’ birthing canal.
I promise, though, I’m not trying to be snarky here–or at least too snarky. I really respect people who take the birthing process more seriously than I do. I know I should likely have a pile of books by my bedside about the best ways to birth and raise a child. Instead, I six volumes of Virginia Woolf’s diaries.
In fact, when you don’t take the time to study up on birthing practices these days, and then you go to the conscious birth summit in your liberal midwestern college town, you begin to feel a bit like that dazed freshman in an upper-level Marxist theory course. Everyone is talking dialectic-this, dialectic-that and here you thought a thesis was something you used to write a term paper.
During the doula session, for instance, the panelists (several doulas* as well as a midwife and doctor) and audience members kept making references to “interventions” in the birth process. “Hasn’t it been proven that the more interventions you have the more problems your baby will have after it’s born?” one audience member asked. The midwife and doctor shook their heads. And then they began to talk about “interventions” in the abstract again.
Marta turned to me, “But how many interventions are there?”
She had a point. The way the panelist were talking, in the abstract plural, it seemed as if dozens of possible interventions lay in wait for the expectant mother. But I could only think of three: the inducing of a pregnancy, a c-sestion and, the devil of them all, an epidural**.
And what a strange word, really: intervention. Though it fits nicely with another key phrase in the life of today’s PLOTWAD (Pregnant, Liberal, Over Thirty, With an Advanced Degree): the “natural birth.” By natural birth, fellow PLOTWADs usually mean no interventions. Sometimes they also mean at-home, though usually they’ll specify this as an “at-home, natural birth.”
Around here, I’ve found that we’re asked if Marta plans to have a “natural birth” nearly as often as we’re ask about the baby’s gender. At the conscious birth summit, it was almost assumed that you were going that route. And though I’ve met the occasional POTWAD in town who gave birth with an epidural, she will always assure me that she went in with the intention of having a “natural birth,” but just couldn’t take the pain and “gave in.”
Marta, though, has already made it clear that she wants an epidural. “Give it to me now,” she likes to joke. Other PLOTWADs always begin blinking too quickly when she says this and then look down at their feet before reassuring us that they understand.
Another area where we realized we are woefully under-read relates to the “birthing plan.” During the doula session, woman in the audience talked with ease about their birthing plans while Marta and I looked at each other quizzically. Once home, we Googled it.
Our first hit was a birthing plan worksheet four pages long. Items one should plan for include: guests invited to the pregnancy; music and lighting situation during labor; labor “props” needed; self-hypnosis, breathing exercises, or acupressure as your preferred pain relief technique; if your partner will catch the baby or not; and whether you’ll donate the umbilical cord to science (Marta can’t because science apparently doesn’t want the umbilical cords of Europeans).
“Shit,” Marta looked at me as we finished reading the worksheet options aloud.
“Shit,” I agreed. “We’ve got a lot to think about.”
“What’s a squatting bar?” she asked.
“And a birthing stool?”
“Also no idea.”
Luckily, there is always Google.
*Full disclosure: We too have a doula. More on this in a future post.
**In writing this blog, I looked up some research on the epidural just to figure out why it is the devil. Here is a link to the most recent comprehensive study, actually a lit review, that shows that it does bring increased chance of various other complications, from a fever in the mother to the need for an “instrumental birth,” i.e. the use of forceps, but less so in “high-rated hospitals.” Which means we have at least one item for our birthing plan: “Give birth in a high-rated hospital.”