Birthing from Within???? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 14 Old 02-19-2005, 07:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been working my way through the book and really enjoying it although I disagreed with some of the author's opinions. However, I just reached the part where she talks about how hard labor is and how painful. Of course I disagreed with much of that from past experience alone.

But when she went on to tell the story of the midwife who walks into someone's house and sees if they have lighted candles or something like that and DECIDES FOR THEM that "this will take too long" and have the woman change her clothes, put out the candles, etc. I just lost it. Who does she think she is? Labor OFTEN takes a long time–laboring has its own timing. Moreover, it is just the sort of interference and disrespect that makes labor and delivery traumatic, whether it is happening at the hospital or at your own home.

I am also rather shocked at the setup women who haven't labored before or haven't had a natural birth are getting. Maybe hospitals have their own set of "beliefs" that they force down society's throat, but obviously many midwives have their own agenda of making themselves needed by scaring women and teaching them "facts" that simply aren't true.

Sorry for the vent. But if anyone sees this and has finished the book, can you tell me whether it is worth it to read any further or should I just do some of the artwork and exercises for myself to see what comes up?
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#2 of 14 Old 02-19-2005, 08:18 PM
 
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I have heard several recommendations for this book from others in my home birth class, but I've been turned off by quotes/references I have heard. So I'm very curious to see others opinions - I'm still on the fence about whether I want to bother to read it before my birth.
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#3 of 14 Old 02-19-2005, 08:26 PM
 
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I am just over half way through this book and have read the part you reference. I agree with your concerns about that midwife's actions, although overall I'm finding that section of the book helpful in giving me confidence & ideas for my VBAC. Sorry, can't tell you what the rest of the book holds, though. As for a general recommendation of the book, I think it depends alot on personality. This author talks about Zen alot & is BIG into birth art, pre- & post-. Totally not my thing, so I tend to find her annoying, but for others may be right on the mark. But I have learned some things & if you can find the book at the library would probably be work a look through.
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#4 of 14 Old 02-19-2005, 08:37 PM
 
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I have to say that I loved BFW, but that I did not take away too many little details, but a larger "vibe" about birth that I found very reassuring and empowering. I think that the book is probably near useless for someone who has already given birth naturally. I don't remember much of the book, but I wouldn't read it AGAIN, kwim. If I were you, I would just do some birth art and focus on your babe vibe!
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#5 of 14 Old 02-19-2005, 08:41 PM
 
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I also read BFW and loved it. I didn't even really think about whether the midwife's behaviour in the described situation was appropriate (reflecting on it I think it wasn't). But what I liked about that story was that it communicated something that was true for me - I imagined birth to be really peaceful and flowy and candlelit, but it really wasn't. I had an amazing, transformative, powerful birth experience with my daughter, but it really was hard work, and painful beyond anything I could have imagined.

Part way through labour I didn't care at all about the candles and statues. And I liked that BFW was at least some preparation for the reality of labour as I experienced it.
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#6 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 12:31 AM
 
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I think that there are a ton of midwives out there that believe that birth is about THEM being drill sargents and not midwives. Hence, the little story. Every woman has to birth her own baby - and her journey is her own.

BFW is a good book, IMO, because it stops short of saying "the goal is a natural birth at home" or "you can do it without drugs!". It creates a situation where every couple needs to explore their fears, expectations and ideals around birth BEFORE birth to consciously plan as much as they can, then surrender to the birth when it arrives. It teaches people to ask the right questions (which most people don't when it comes to interventions) and to be partners with their babies.

Take what you can use, discard the rest. nearly 99% of all books are like that. There are very, very few books that I love wholeheartedly.
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#7 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 12:40 AM
 
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I like BFW for the most part.. (take what you need and leave the rest,yk? )

I am so grateful I had read the c/s parts before I had an unplanned one w/ baby #1. Never thinking it would happen to me while reading it, I do think it made a HUGE difference how I handled & processed my birth.

anyway it's been awhile since I've read it (since before my c/s)

I need to dig it out and reread it again!

Blissful Mama to DD-(5), DS-(6) and someone new due in November!
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#8 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 01:17 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cresorchid
obviously many midwives have their own agenda of making themselves needed by scaring women and teaching them "facts" that simply aren't true.
As a homebirth midwife I find this very offensive. I don't teach anyone "facts that aren't true," and I don't scare anybody to make them need me. I am available to women who desire to have a midwife attend their birth at home. If somebody wants to have a hospital birth or an unassisted birth, fine and well, that is her choice.

In terms of labor being hard and painful, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Every woman is different and every woman's birth experience will be different, and the same woman can have radically different experiences with each baby. I don't think it is wrong to prepare women that their experiences of birth may be different from what they expect. I think it is very presumptious to assume that every woman's birth experience will be like yours.
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#9 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 01:58 AM
 
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Kavita, while not EVERY mw tries to unnecessarily scare women, there are MANY midwives out there who feel that they MUST do certain things that go against what is evidence-based (suctioning babies routinely on the perineum if there is meconium is one).

You may not be one of those midwives, and I hope that I'm not one of those midwives, but they do exist. I hear it all the time.

Things like:

* If there is any type of meconium, it is dangerous and your baby must be born in th hospital

* If I don't have my hands on you and your baby as it is being born, you could tear more than if I had my hands on you

* GBS screens are unnecessary. It's no big deal

* GBS screens are totally vital - your baby could die from it.

* If you are pushing any longer than an hour or two, something is definitely wrong and we need to transport

* Epidurals do not ever affect the baby (this is said by a local CNM)

* Your water for your waterbirth must be AT LEAST 100'

These are just a few of the things that I've heard recently. I don't hear many mws that offer women TRUE informed CHOICE. I hear some blanket talk about prenatal testing options, but nothing clearly in writing for everything - including doppler exposure. There are MANY midwives who have fears about certain things and seem to use their fear to make blanket statements about them to women. I hear this all the time. I would bet that if you listened for it more, you might hear it as well.

I guess I'm wondering what was in BFW to make the OP make this statement. I also think that it's good for us to be challenged, as midwives, to look inside some statements that we find intitally offensive to see what truth it holds for us. I don't see a statement like hers as being offensive, she didn't say ALL midwives, she said MANY. And, sadly, that statement holds alot of truth in it for MANY midwives.

I also wanted to point out that this is the Unassisted Birth forum. Many women here have had negative (bordering on traumatic or traumatic) experiences with midwives. I would like to keep this space sacred and safe for women planning unassisted births and not have to have some disclaimer on every post trying to please or not be critical of modern day midwifery. I wouldn't go into the Breastfeeding Support & Advocacy section if I was a formula feeder and was angry about their distaste for formula. I think the same rules apply here - though unspoken.

I believe this should be a safe place for women to voice their concerns, angers, joys and pleasures of unassisted birth and the trials that come with it without being critiqued for their feelings.
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#10 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 03:09 PM
 
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I wrote to Pam England with the same objection about that story. Unfortunately I can't locate the email so I can't check to see exactly what she said, but if I remember correctly I think her take on it was that the story was meant to illustrate how different the reality is from what we expect it to be. I just wish she had made that point in a different way. For a birth attendant to even talk about this jokingly or metaphorically or whatever (meaning, they wouldn't actually do it) is offensive to me, because it doesn't just make a point about fantasy vs. reality, it also conveys the belief that the birth attendant knows better than the laboring woman what she needs, and is their job is to make that happen. That's the opposite of empowering.

Taken literally, it is of course extremely offensive! For my last birth (my fourth, and second UC) I spent part of the time in a very magical, sensual, beautiful place. Even just a few hours before the birth I had turned off all the lights and lit candles, and made myself a nest of sofa cushions and blankets near the bathtub. This wasn't about practicality -- if I'd been concerned with being purely practical, I would have at least bought and laid out some chux pads. :LOL In between the contractions, I walked through the house with a kind of ceremoniousness. There was definitely something spiritual and sacred about my actions. I was honoring the birth in this way, not consciously, that is, it wasn't premeditated, but instinctively, with a kind of body sense. If someone had come in at any point and said, "enough of this foolishness, you need to get to work," or even if someone had just implied that I was in some fantasy land to think that my birth should be sacred in whatever way I was trying to have it be, I would have felt violated and very, very angry.

Yes, the birth eventually got hard, and yes I eventually had to really work at it. But that does not invalidate the other part of my process. The notion that on the one hand is the sweet spiritual birth and on the other is the birth of hard work is an artificial dichotomy, and the notion that one is imaginary and the other is real is a fallacy.
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#11 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 03:46 PM
 
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I forgot to mention that I you Pam.

I don't think there are many midwives who are consciously distorting the facts or trying to scare women into needing them. I think it's rarely intentional, but still very common. The nocebo effect*, psychological issues inherent in unequal relationships (professional/layperson, careprovider/patient, mentor/student) one of which can be that of subconsciously creating need, and receiving ones training from an institution (as modern midwifery has become) are all things that can create a situation in which facts are distorted and women are scared into courses of action that don't serve them and that they wouln't have chosen otherwise.

[*Example: "An isolated increase in blood pressure at the end of pregnancy is more often than not a propitious sign of good placental activity: the placenta, which is the "advocate of the baby," asks the mother to provide a little more blood. When a health professional presents this physiological response as bad news, although it is radically different from the disease preeclampsia, the nocebo effect may be dramatic." - Michel Odent, MD
http://www.midwiferytoday.com/enews/...14.asp?q=herb* ]

To answer the OP's question, I didn't really get into the art therapy part of the book, and didn't really care for some of her theories and philosophy of birth, but loved the positive, enthusiastic vibe and learned a few things that I hadn't seen in any other books. I think it's a very good book for 'beginners', that is, someone who really hasn't had any exposure to birth issues other than hearing from their girlfriends how great epidurals are. It's friendly, non-threatening, and not too "out there" for someone who is basically in the mainstream. If you're already fairly radical in your belief system though, already committed to natural birth and have an understanding of what facilitates the normal process, it probably won't be that compelling a read, unless you're into art therapy.
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#12 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 04:21 PM
 
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having taken the first seminar in thier childbirth educator training, i have to say that if you are interested in the overall tone of the book, that you should take one of their classes... they have actually changed a few things since the book was published. for example, pam no longer looks at birth art... she still encourages using art as a means of exploring your fears and your hopes etc... but she doesn't interpret anyone's work, she leaves that part to the artist. as far as the story in question is concerned... unless i'm mistaken (or forgetting what i learned), the point of that story was to demonstrate that you can burn yourself out too soon. like if you light candles and start your guided meditation as soon as you feel your first contraction, you might run out of steam before the harder labor gets going. the BFW thing is way into advocating an early labor plan... going for walks, baking a cake, laughing with friends, taking snuggly naps, etc... and saving your arsenal of pain coping techniques for when you need them. they do talk a lot about labor being painful, but i think this is mostly in response to the idea that breathing a certain way or using some other coping method will ELIMINATE labor pains. everyone experiences childbirth in their own very personal way, but the fact is, for most of us... there is some pain involved. i love labor, i've done it three times... but part of what i love about it is the awesome physical miracle of what my body is capable of doing. (wow!)

i think the best of the book is...
- how it really appreciates how beautiful and awesome being pregnant is, and how they have a few suggestions on how we might celebrate it. (blessingways, belly casts, etc...)
- how it has the whole thing about turning negative images into non-threatening images... how to avoid going into automatic mama-cat mode when you see something that is outside of your circle of comfort.
- the ice cube exercise and the suggestions for breathing... the negative imput from the ice is SO HELPFULL.

i wish i could go back and review the story in question, but i just sent the book to a pregnant friend of mine.
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#13 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 08:07 PM
 
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I think it might be good to actually quote from the book so we're all on the same page...

In the chapter entitled "Labor Means Hard Work", England quotes midwife Suzanne Stalls as saying,

Quote:
There are three things that are givens about labor: It's hard work, it hurts a lot, and you can do it.
Okay, I agree with the third assertion (provided of course that there is not a physical barrier to giving birth), but neither of the first two are givens, and to claim that is to set women up for it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

She also quotes her as saying:

Quote:
When I arrive at a laboring couple's home and find candles burning, soft music playing and the mother wearing a flowing, white lace nightgown, I know we're in trouble. I think to myself, "Uh-oh, this is going to take a long time." I know I can either get out my knitting and settle in, or snuff the candles, turn off the music, and throw her an old T-shirt. In other words, tell her to get down to work.
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#14 of 14 Old 02-20-2005, 08:30 PM
 
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My littlest is a year now, but the title of this post caught my eye.

I have had one positive CNM hospital birth, and 2 UCs -- one very beautiful UC (the second uc, third child) and one not-so-beautiful UC. I credit BFW for the gentle beauty of my third birth. I didn't like LOTS of the book, and only skimmed for parts I found relevant, and never even did most of the exercises, but I'll share my experience.

I bfed through the latter two pgs, and found it incredibly painful. The first time, I'd sort of hold my breath while I nursed, and had a very painful, difficult (still unassisted, uncomplicated, but psychologically difficult) birth. During my most recent pg, I practiced the BFW technique, learning to relax, practicing when nursing. This time, I had dinner, saw a movie, picked up my kids, and slept several hours while laboring. I got out of bed at 3:30 am, got the tub, oils, music, Christmas lights, and supplies ready, had the baby at 4:45, still talking between contractions, and got back in bed at 6:30. Sure, there was pain, but not mind-rending pain. I was relaxed; I felt in-control; I finally understood women who said, "It was very intense, but not painful." The ability to relax my pelvic floor and surrender to the contractions was AMAZING. That's the value I found in the book, which I too found extremely condescending in many ways. I spent a lot of time skipping over stuff, skimming through, but there was some great weight that came with the book as well; good information I didn't get from Ina May Gaskin or Sheila Kitzinger or Dick Grantley Read or the rest.

I hope that helps answer your question of whether it's worth reading. IMO, yes.
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