It’s time we place the emphasis on ‘experience’ because birth is about more than simply a healthy baby and mother/parent. We need to understand that we are more than just a number in a system.
Whilst a fundamentally normal physiological function of our bodies, it’s also an incredibly transformative experience. One that will stay with us for the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children.
Birthing women and people are being vilified for wanting an ‘experience’, for having the audacity to ask questions and make demands on a system that does not, in the majority of cases, actively support physiological birth or people’s right to make choices outside of what they’re “allowed” to do.
This is not a manifesto for changing the system. I’m not presumptuous enough to think one person can begin to change the system. This is about what we as birth workers, doulas, birth keepers and pregnant individuals can do to change birth and how it is perceived in society.
So what’s the answer?
How do birth workers support birthing women and people to make choices that follow their own instincts, often going against the system?
Education is fundamental! I’m not just talking about antenatal education. I’m talking about educating our young people so that they understand that birth is fundamentally a normal human process. We also need antenatal education that doesn’t just teach people to birth in the system but actively encourages people to question their experiences and desires for their own births.
As a birth worker if you see physiological birth, if you see birth that works because birthing women and people are properly supported – talk about it. Shout it from the roof tops, make reels about it, blog, tell your friends. Spread the news that birth, in general, really does work.
We need to take radical responsibility in birth. Birth is no more or less dangerous than life itself. Yet in Western medicine we’ve demonised birth to the extend that the majority of the population are incredibly fearful of giving birth. We are terrified of every possible thing that may, or may not go wrong (and if you allow physiological birth to unfold the likelihood is, that it won’t go ‘wrong’).
Taking radical responsibility as a parent can be terrifying – you open yourself up to be criticised, and potentially ostracised, by the system for not simply handing over your power and responsibility for your birth to which ever health care professional you happen to encounter on the day.
As birth workers, supporting people to take radical responsibility for their births needs to take the form of sign posting to accurate up to date information. We need to actively encourage people to trust their instincts and decisions. We need to understand how physiological birth works and how to support it through our actions and inactions. (It’s equally important that we support but don’t sabotage the birth process). We need to understand the importance of advocacy for/with birthing people and how to use this skill to enable people to achieve their desired birth experience.
Nurturing those who bring life into the world
We seem to have forgotten as a society (I exclude birth workers, birth keepers and doulas from this statement) that bringing life into the world may happen on a daily basis but it is no mean feet to grow a human being, and birth that human being.
When we walk this path we deserve to be nurtured by society in a way that cares for us, feeds us, supports us in our time of need. Rather than simply abandoning us with a new tiny helpless human and expect us to get on with it. I’ve yet to meet a new parent who doesn’t mention the pressure of returning to “normal”, and getting back to how life was before this new person arrived.
As birth workers we play a fundamental role in ensuring the postnatal experience is one that enables bonding within the family unit. A time that enables the recovery of the birthing person and supports them in their care of their newborn.
Fulfilling an incredibly important function
Birth workers, doulas, birth keepers – your role is incredibly important in enabling people to have the birth experience they desire. It’s your job to ensure, that whilst you can’t be all things to all people, you can be strong in your confidence and commitment to supporting birth experiences that leave families stronger and happier than before they welcomed their baby. Your role is vital.