Monday, September 3, 2012

"Birth is Just One Day" -- Right?

In honor of productions of "Birth", a play by Karen Brody, and BOLD (Birth On Labor Day) performances going on across the country, I thought I'd write a few paragraphs about something I've been talking about with a few people this week.  For the last two years, the Tarrant County Birth Network has put on a huge, amazing BOLD production, which made us a ton of money. (This year our September advocacy is participating in The National Rally for Change on Labor Day.)  

I've read the "Birth" script each year and seen the play numerous times.  There's a line repeated several times in the play in reference to birth -- each time in a different tone -- "It's only one day."

I have an acquaintance who is pregnant with twins, and without going into lots of detail, her entire focus is on getting the babies out alive.  She struggled with infertility for years and is, understandably, thrilled to be pregnant.  She is, however, convinced that the babies will have IUGR (Inter-Uterine Growth Restriction) if they stay in the womb past 35 weeks.  I know, I know, before your head explodes, take a deep breath.  Breathe out.  In and out. 

It's very hard to convey to a mom-to-be that it does matter how the baby gets here.  All of us want a healthy baby and mama -- that goes without saying -- but I'm so tired of this potentially beautiful journey being walked in fear.  She's already planned a c-section.  That fight is lost and is a whole 'nother story.  It ain't happenin'.  Don't waste your breath. 

But it does matter how a baby starts out its new life here on Earth.  Let's play a game for a minute:  If a baby is born at 33 weeks, it'll be roughly 3 pounds.  It took 33 weeks to grow a 3-pound baby that will look like a normal - just small - baby.  So, in approximately 7 weeks, the baby will likely more than double his/her weight.  Have you seen the pictures of a baby's brain at 35 weeks vs. 40 weeks?  It is remarkable. 

Women are often put on diets and told not to gain any more weight in the last trimester.  This can be devastating to a growing baby's brain development.  Mom needs cholesterol and good fats in her diet to help the baby grow normally. I wrote a post about prematurity based on Dr. Lucky Jain's research, who I had the pleasure of hearing speak a few years ago at the Controversies in Childbirth Conference.  There are many issues with forcing a baby out.  But it's not all about the physical side effects of keeping a baby in the womb. 

"It's only one day", right?  WRONG!

I know a sweet mom that had her first baby at 30 weeks and the baby was in the NICU for weeks, thankful he survived.  Her second baby, miraculously, made it to 36 weeks and she had the homebirth she dreamed of.  In her own words, she didn't know what she missed out on the first time until she had a different experience with her second.  Of course, in a situation like this, there's nothing you can do, but in so many cases, there is!  Like the mom insisting on a c-section at 35 weeks to prevent something that is very likely not even going to happen!  The benefits of the babies staying in the womb greatly outweigh any (imagined) risk.

I've seen women so greatly affected by their births, it changed who they were and who they became.  I am one of those women.  I've been a childbirth educator for nearly a decade.  You can imagine that I have all kinds of people in my class over the years.  I have seen shy, insecure women sitting in my class who can barely make eye contact.  Through the course of the classes -- and ultimately their births -- they are transformed into these amazing, powerful, confident, outspoken women.  

No, birth is not "just one day".  "You will always remember how you felt - or were made to feel - on the day you give birth."  I have no idea who said that or where I heard it (please share if you happen to know), but I've carried that in my back pocket for years. 

Birth matters. The end.


Jules said...

So much truth to this post. I have found this to be a hard point to make with first time moms, or moms who are happy with their inductions and/or epidurals. This is exactly why I want to become a natural childbirth educator- to help mommas CARE! :)

BonBon Chihuahuas said...

When I went in at 25wks for preterm labor with my twins (I'm 27wks now) the nurse wanted to input my preferences for birth. When I declined the epidural, she said "The most important thing is a healthy baby and a healthy mom". I looked her in the eye and said "No, the most important thing is a healthy baby, healthy mom and a healthy birth. A traumatic birth can cause Postpartum depression or even PTSD"
She just looked shocked and didn't open her mouth about anything stupid again!

Beth said...

The quote is from a European Doula they interviewed in "The Business of Being Born."