Monday, December 9, 2013

Choosing Your Own Birthday

My first two babies didn't get the opportunity to choose their own birthdays. My daughter was induced the day before her due date, my son the day after his, because, in both cases, my obstetrician was "on call" at the hospital then. I was naive and thought doctors must know best.

After a cascade of hospital interventions in both births that put my life at risk both times, I finally came to my senses in my third pregnancy and realized that, most often, the safest place for babies to be born is at home, on their own terms, surrounded by experienced midwives. Birth is a life event, not a medical event.

My third baby chose her own birthday, at our home, one week after her due date. She came in to the world a full pound heavier than her older sister and brother did, and in an entirely uncomplicated birth experience that was far more peaceful and authentic than that of her siblings.

I don't think it was just luck. I fully believe that unnecessary labor inductions, routine hospital interventions, and policies that define how, when and where a woman labors and delivers make hospitals inherently less safe for most births. Remember, these are places that until fairly recently gave routine enemas to women in labor, and decided that the best place for women to birth was on their backs, a position that is certainly advantageous to the doctor but one in which most women would never, ever naturally choose to birth!

One of the many downsides of the increased industrialization of birth, in addition to such serious issues as a doubling of U.S. maternal mortality in the last 25 years corresponding to a skyrocketing American c-section rate, is the fading prevalence of babies being able to choose their own birthdays. In the "olden days," before the overall medicalization of birth, women were given a "birth month," a broad period of time during which their baby would likely be due. Of course, the bell curve of birth hasn't changed much in millions of years and the majority of human babies, when given the chance, are born between 38 and 42 weeks, with most concentrated around the curve's peak, or 40 weeks. Sadly, though, we have somehow grown unduly panicky if babies don't arrive by 40 weeks and, in many hospitals, routine inductions occur by 41 weeks. As well-known obstetrician and natural birth advocate, Michel Odent, writes in Midwifery Today: "...a baby in the womb should be compared to fruit on the tree. Not all the fruit on the same tree is ripe at the same time... In other words, we must accept that some babies need a much longer time than others before they are ready to be born."

I am officially two days before my "due date," just about at the peak of the birthing bell curve. Statistically speaking, my baby will most likely be born sometime within the next two weeks. I wait patiently, eager to see what birthday my little one chooses.

1 comment:

  1. Kerry - how exciting! I will await the news of the arrival of your next little one. I wish you a peaceful, uncomplicated birth.