Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Brainwashing of America part 1

For several generations now there has been a huge misconception in America that pregnancy, labor and delivery are medical diseases, in need of medical management and treatment.  Look around you, it's everywhere!  In our popular culture from movies to sit coms; every pregnant woman you see is a screaming, out of control banshee, blaming the man who put her in that condition.  While it makes for a laugh, this is perpetuating a myth that began when medicine became industrialized.  In reality, it began much longer ago than that with the persecution of midwives as witches by the male dominated medical profession.

But that's for another blog.

When I had my first child, I went into labor and delivery willfully ignorant, believing that my body would know exactly what to do, and that I could just coast along for the ride.  I was sorely mistaken.  Yes, labor was painful.  Yes, labor is work.  And my mistake was that in not realizing that as a woman in an industrialized society, without the benefits of being raised around women that were either constantly giving birth, or helping someone else in labor, that my brain, and the brainwashing I'd been subtly subjected to my entire life didn't allow me to just "go with the flow".   Fairly quickly I began to request something for the pain.  Since pain medication is based upon your pre-pregnancy weight, I was given very little; my pre-pregnancy weight was maybe 115 pounds.  In the end, I had an emergency cesarean section.  Turned out, my son's umbilical cord was wrapped around his foot.  Every time he was pushed/descended into my pelvis, his cord tightened up like a knot, cutting off his oxygen and putting him into sever distress.

When I became pregnant with my next child, I made a conscious decision to be as educated as I possibly could about what was going on with my body, and how to successfully have a natural labor and delivery.  About my 20th week, I spent some time with my parents.  One day my mom and I were in a book store and I came across a book; "Husband Coached Childbirth", also known as "The Bradley Method".  My hopes, wishes and prayers were answered!  I devoured that book.  I already had this "off" opinion of the La Maze technique, but I didn't know why until I read that book.  When Dr. Bradley made a point of saying that animals pant to cool themselves off, but not humans, the light bulb went off over my head.  As a youth, growing up on a farm, Dr. Bradley had been exposed to all sorts of animals having babies.  He noted that many of these animals panted during labor, but understood as he began his medical practice that humans didn't need to do this in order to ease themselves during labor.

When he began to assist single women during their labor, he experienced a huge amount of displaced gratitude.  This spurred him to further research, and developing a technique that we can recognize now as directed meditation.  Taking long, deep breaths during contractions lessened the pain of labor, and made it more manageable.  For some women, music can help put them in a good place to concentrate on the kind of breathing needed for a smooth labor, for others it's building a "safe place" in their mind, and go there while her body is working to bring her baby into the world.

These are just a few techniques that a student of Husband Coached Childbirth learns, but the point is that he was able to give back to thousands of women the power to give birth in a dignified manner.

So, as soon as I got home, I started looking for someone in the area who taught the Bradley method.  I was blessed to find a woman who did double duty as our local Le Leche League leader and a Bradley method teacher.  My class was small, only two other couples, and we were Darlene's very first class.  It was a learning experience for all of us.  The other two expectant mothers were both due on the same date; I was due a week and a half after them.  We all ended up having girls, and they were all born on the same date!  My daughter was the youngest; which I always thought was appropriate since I was the one due last.

My testimony for the Bradley method is even more significant in that the night after my baby shower; I woke up at about 1:00 AM, no knowing which body part to put over the toilet.  I was violently ill for nearly six hours before I asked my husband to take me to the labor and delivery deck on base.  During an ultrasound, it was discovered that my daughter was only surrounded by pockets of amniotic fluid.  I was immediately put on an IV; both for hydration and a slow pitocin drip.  The plan was to have me on the drip for 24 hours to monitor my baby to see if she could tolerate the rigors of full blown labor.  If not, if she showed any sign of distress, it would be another cesarean for me.

I spent the next 24 hours worrying that my baby wouldn't be able to come into this world naturally; though I must admit that much of that time was spent trying not to get sick again.  It was the fastest flu I'd ever had, though!  By the time 24 hours rolled around, I felt fine, and my daughter was handling the contractions like a pro!

At that point, the pitocin was increased to truly start labor.  It's well known that women who have induced labor with pitocin have a much harder labor.  Their contractions, instead of slowly climbing to a natural peak, begin at the peak and last that way throughout the entire contraction.  And so my labor with my daughter was textbook, by pitocin standards.  Obviously having had another child, I had a good idea of what was to come, but I couldn't have really guessed how hard those contractions would hit me.  That's where the Bradley training came in; my husband was a miracle!  He helped me stay focused, especially when I needed it the most.  During transition, I was asking for a c-section; practically begging for it.  He used a technique that we were taught during class.  He recognized that I was in transition, and he made a deal with me; if I could hang in there for another hour, we would seriously consider a c-section, but just give it an hour.  I gave him that hour, sulking through most of it in between contractions, and then suddenly found myself in the pushing stage.

My daughter was born 4 hours later, 12 hours after the pitocin was amped up to put me into real labor.  It was shift change around the time my daughter was born, and I had an audience!  The reason?  No other mother had labored naturally through an entire pitocin induced labor at that hospital before!  And since I was the only mother giving birth at just that time, I had about 14 people in my labor and delivery room; I was completely naked.  And I didn't care!

During this entire time, I never actually screamed, or yelled, or cursed, or blamed my husband for the condition I was in.  The only time I lost my cool was during transition, and I only whined a bit.  Did labor hurt?  Definitely.  But I was able to deal with it, with the proper education, training, and guidance.

This is when the idea that America has been brainwashed truly began to take root.

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