...is giving me a lot of time to think about things, I guess. Three things that have been on my mind lately: Birth, Breastfeeding, and Circumcision.
Well, this is a topic that I think about a lot, anyway. I love birth stories, and I find it amazing what a range of feelings these stories can cause. Anything from pure joy and happiness to disappointment, anger, and sadness. They all generally end the same, with a happy healthy baby, but they can produce a whole range of emotions. We live in a country where women have to fight constantly for their right to have a baby at home, attended by a midwife, and at the same time, women have the right to ask their doctor to induce labor, sometimes weeks before their due date, for no good reason other than being tired of pregnancy, or scheduling around their husband's work, and the doctor will agree to do that. Women have to fight for the right to birth at home, which has been proven to be safe over and over again, yet they also have the right to request a c-section, for no reason other than to avoid labor, or to keep their vaginas from stretching too much, or whatever, and a doctor will agree to that, even though it is well known that c-sections carry a greater risk for mother and baby than vaginal birth does. How does all this make sense? Technology keeps improving, the rate of medical intervention during labor and birth keeps rising, as does the rate of babies born via c-section, yet there has been no improvement in neonatal and maternal outcome since the early 80's. Still, we have such a firm believe in medical technology, and all the good doctors do for us. We can't imagine that birth could happen safely without all the mointors and drugs and surgeries. It's true, in some cases that technology can be life-saving, but what we are ulitmately doing by pushing women into hospitals to birth their babies is lose the art that is childbirth. The experience that so absolutely forms who a woman is. Becoming a mother is a life changing event, and it is so much more than merely pushing out a baby. It is so much more than a physically healthy mother and baby. What is neglected is the emotional health of the mother. Going through childbirth is an immensly intense experience. It is so amazing what the woman's body is doing to end many months of growing a new little human. It's amazing to think about all the intricate details that make up the process we call labor. How everything fits together just right, all the chemicals in our bodies are flowing just right, all the muscles are contracting just right, all to give birth to a miracle. And then we leave women alone with this intense, powerful experience. We strap them down in bed, hook them up to a monitor, and just leave them alone. Generally, husbands are expected to be of support, but a birthing woman is often quite an overwhelming sight for a man. Especially when that man is the father of the baby, and quite emotional himself. Some men live up to the challenge and make wonderful coaches, but many others don't. And sometimes, for one reason or another, the woman really is alone. Nobody else can be there with her. As happened to my friend just a couple of weeks ago, and she had to beg her nurse to stay with her and give her support for just a few minutes. Beg. I know how to check your blood pressure, how to read your monitor, how to put in your IV - sorry, I can't be your support person, I have one other mom in labor right now. One. So for half an hour I'm busy with the two of you, and the other half hour? I'll go chat with my nurse friends really quick. It makes me sick to hear stories like that. It makes me sick and mad and angry, and more than anything really really sad, that women are left to themselves like that. What we really need is more midwives. Midwives who can legally attend home births, birth center births, and more midwives for women who choose hospital birth. Midwives who care for the women during labor, and don't just run in at the last minute to catch the baby. Who get to know women throughout their pregnancies, and offer real support during labor. What we need is more doulas, who are welcome by hospital staff because they fill in where nurses sometimes fall short (and often, it really is because they are overworked). Yet both midwives and doulas are often under-appreciated, and some doctors and hospitals are flat out hostile towards them. What we need is more people to realize that birth is a natural, amazing, and wonderful process, not a medical emergency waiting to happen. Let OB's handle the true high-risk cases, the true emergencies, and give normal birth back to women, attended by those who know the art it is to help a woman bring a baby into this world. Safely. With a baby and a mother who are not only healthy physically, but healthy emotionally, as well. One can dream, right? Hope, maybe?
My sister-in-law (hi Nicci!) recently blogged about her trying to get their little boy to take a bottle occasionally, and how they weren't being very successful. It made me smile, and chuckle. It made me reflect on my experiences with breastfeeding and trying to get baby to take the occasional bottle. With my first baby, it was necessity, because I went back to school full time and he needed a bottle while I was gone. With the other two, I wanted them to be able to take a bottle so I could get the occasional break. Here's what happened. When Bryan was little, I introduced a bottle fairly early on, and it worked pretty well. I thought that was great, since it would give me the chance to leave if I needed to. Well, I tried leaving once, and while he was happy with the bottle, my breasts were not happy with the extra milk left over from a missed feeding. Lets just say I was in pain, and they let down because, you know, it was feeding time, and I was soaked. Too early to try this, I thought, but kept up with the bottle so Dave and I could go on a date sometime when Bryan was a bit older and I wasn't over-producing quite so much. Well, by the time I finally felt ready to leave the little guy for a couple of hours, he was old enough to have separation anxiety. Dave and I went on our date, but it really didn't matter that Bryan could take a bottle. He screamed relentlessly the whole time we were gone, not because he was hungry, but because he was so freaked out that we left him. Needless to say, we didn't try leaving him again for a really long time, and by then bottles had become useless. Did we learn from this experience? Not really. Kaylee came along, and I pulled out my breastpump. Thought I'd teach her how to take the bottle in case I ever needed some time to myself, or go on a date with my husband, or something. Kaylee was such a needy baby, however, that I quickly dumped the pump, and just resigned myself to the fact that she wasn't getting bottles because there was no way I was ever going to be able to leave her. And breasts make the perfect food, after all. Always the right temperature, always ready to go, nothing to clean up afterwards. :o)
I always think about this when we're in Germany. If you told someone about routine infant circumcision here, they'd look at you like you're crazy. They'd think you've gone mad. They may even call the police on you, and accuse you of violating human rights and mutilating a baby. Seriously. I'm not even kidding. So then I think about this topic, and why we practice RIC in the United States. And I always end with the same conculsion - I don't understand why it's done. Cleanliness, tradition, so father and son look alike? Those seem like pretty weak arguments to me, considering what's happening is surgery. It's purely cosmetic. Whoever performs cosmetic surgery on a little baby boy who has nothing wrong with him? How is that ethical? Then there is the argument citing research that shows a smaller risk of UTI's for boys who were circumcised. That's gotta be a good thing, right? No, not when you look at how small the risk is for a baby boy to get a UTI to begin with. Does that warrant surgery on a day-old baby? I mean, we don't routinely perform tonsillectomies on babies because they may develop strep throat at some point in life. We don't routinely put tubes in their ears because they may develop an ear infection. We also don't perform routine appendectomies because, hey, you may get appendicitis one day and it could save your life. Doctors would look at you and declare you crazy if you as much as suggested such a thing. Yet they go on cutting day-old baby boys, in the name of what? Whatever way I look at it, it doesn't make sense to me. Just wish I would have started thinking about it 7 years ago...