I anxiously awaited that fateful day. And then it came. I had a doctor appointment that morning and was told to 'go home, pack my bag and head to the hospital'. I was immediately disappointed that i was already missing out on spontaneous labor pains or my water breaking. I was *gasp* "OVERDO!" Before reading further, please understand that I consider my first birth to be EXTREMELY oppressive. I realize that I sound very much a like a raging feminist when it comes to birth, and I will admit that I have much in common with feminists when it has to do with the rights of women during their births, motherhood, and the way allopathic medicine is practiced in our capitalistic, patriarchal society. However contradictory, (aren't we all in some ways), I also consider myself a strong believer in capitalism (especially small business) and that overall competition is a good thing.
Beginning with my first vaginal exam, with my mom in the room, who was probably still stunned but conveyed a feeling that i was just beginning to 'get a taste of what i had gotten myself into', i felt completely dis empowered. My impression from the doctor was that I was only an ignorant teen girl who was too young and dumb to be taken seriously. However, I had all of the normal interruptions given to women in hospitals every single day. The pitocin- induced labor on a Tuesday (Doctor thought it was convenient because he already had 3 other women in labor.) The reasoning was because i was 11 days 'overdo' (a word that in my educated mind does not apply to women between 38 and 42 weeks gestation) and possibly contributed to my excruciating back labor (a condition during labor in which the baby's occiput is firmly against the maternal sacrum causing constant pain). The quality control checks, (eh-hem, i mean, vaginal dilation checks, ie. intrusion by complete strangers), the head-to-toe hospital scrubs on nearly every person in the room (including masks, as if i had an infectious disease),the long and deep episiotomy given to first time moms routinely at the time (which we know now to be based upon no good evidence) after the doctor kneaded my perineum (no wonder it was swollen the size of two bananas! I was hospitalized for four days as a result of that. Can someone say Iatrogenic??), the lithotomy position while pushing, (probably THE most humiliating position for a woman, reminiscent of missionary position, view more at http://www.birthingnaturally.net/barp/lithotomy.html ) and then waiting for the swelling to reverse and regaining bladder control from the catheter that i had during the epidural. I now view hospital gowns, with the split down the back, as a way to take away one's personal clothing, their identity, much like they do in prison. This in turn results in a strong submissiveness on the psyche of the patient, undermining their power...a feeling i was more than familiar with at the time. But hey, at least i avoided a C-section, right?
Immediately, I was denied access to my little cocoon shaped baby. I barely caught a glimpse of him and was not 'allowed' to hold him for the first TWO hours (***^%$??!!) while the doctor stitched me up. The way they wrap the newborn up in a receiving blanket and cap is ridiculous but necessary, if mom is not actually 'allowed' to hold her baby and keep him skin to skin, warmed by her own body. Meanwhile, Craig was busy taking him down the hall and telling everyone his middle name was Lee, after his grandfather, while i had specifically told him over and over that my choice was Ryan, meaning 'little king'.
For the birth itself, i was well supported. I had several friends who waited all night in the waiting room to await my transformation into a bonafide mother. My mom kneaded my aching back with tennis balls as long as she had the strength, and my mother-in-law joined the army in the delivery room to help announce his arrival. And my father-in-law video taped the whole thing from the hallway, trying to catch the action through the crack in the door. Craig was there, too, cheering like a cheerleader and excitedly pacing back and forth from the waiting room to delivery room to keep everyone updated.
When i finally got to hold him myself, it was magical. I was in awe. He had perfect, smooth skin and perfect tiny features. He was such a tiny little guy, at 7lbs 11 0z. I had no problems breastfeeding him, all my years of practicing mommy-hood with dolls, barbies, babysitting, and little brothers, served me well. When i was finally alone with him at home, i suddenly knew what being in love really meant.
Eight months later, when i was invited to a home-birth of a childhood friend, I was stunned. Surrounded by aunts, sister, mother, midwife, friends, she was anything but belittled. She was beautiful, strong, empowered. She cried out with the pains, then encouraged, and relieved. She was encourage to squat, stand, walk, eat during labor (!!!!) and do whatever she felt came naturally. She cuddled her newborn immediately, and the cord stayed attached. Fifteen minutes after delivering the placenta, she got up, showered, and ate pizza in the shower! (I had to wait what seemed like forever in the hospital, because it wasn't yet "breakfast time") She was radiant. The attending midwife walked me through every detail. Why she didn't cut the cord, why she doesn't induce, why episiotomy is almost always unnecessary, why massage of the perineum during labor is ignorance, why Cesarean is usually performed under a myriad of false pretenses, why my friend was free to move as her body and baby required, why believing in birth empowers women rather than oppresses them. I left feeling a mix of anger with what I had gone through, but finally able to communicate why I felt the way i did, and at the same time fascinated with the way the experience resonated with me. Yet another profound change occurred in me. I was no longer the same.