It was International Women’s Year. Colour TV came to Australia and The Netherlands won Eurovision with ‘Ding-a-dong’.
It was the year Frederick Leboyer published Birth without Violence.
In the led up to 1975, women fought to be heard. In the 45 years since, the fight continues.
Whilst gains have been made, some very fundamental needs have been neglected. And not for lack of voices.
By 1975, the way we were born had changed dramatically. From women-led matter of fact birth, mostly at home, birth became medicalised. In male-led medicine, power shifted from The Mother to The Man. Feminism at the time, embraced these changes. The illusion was one of being freed from the shackles of our biology. An illusion of choice, of control, of safety. Along side the medicalisation of birth, came the medicalisation of mothering. Formula was replacing breastfeeding, women had more options, and careers were opening up.
And a French Obstetrician published his poetic book on childbirth, which was met with enthusiasm from mothers and outcry from the medical establishment.
The Greats of Childbirth added their voices, the likes of Michel Odent (also a French Obstetrician) and Sheila Kitzinger (British natural childbirth advocate), along with Ina May Gaskin in America. These three voices laid a strong foundation, and others have added their strength.
And yet, over 25 years after it was first published, a revised edition in 2002 was prefaced with a musing from Leboyer:
“What was a strong wine became slowly watered down into the kind of herb tea that gives you a good sleep”
He had seen that birth had become even more medicalised. Was he lamenting the loss of humanity? Was he troubled by how far we were going?
And still more voices cried out. There were more books written..Penny Simkin, Janet Balaskas, Sarah Buckley, Rhea Dempsey, Katrina Zaslavsky, Lucy Perry, Fiona McArthur, Henci Goer, Milli Hill…and dozens more. Websites and facebook pages emerged as the new millennium placed devices in our hands. The irony of the technological delivery of a message about natural ‘delivery’.
Another 20 years, and birth is even more medicalised than before. Pregnancies are bogged down with tests and examinations just willing to find a reason to stray from normal. The voices are strong. So why does the fight continue?
It seems to me the only conclusion is money.
No one stands to make money out of natural birth and breastfeeding.
So women are left to discover for themselves. Many experience disappointment and trauma, postnatal depression and dissatisfying mothering. Luck seems to be key. Lucky to have heard of doulas, or birth cartography, lucky to know women who embrace natural birth and breastfeeding, who understand what is needed and how the biology works. Who are supportive.
These lucky women receive the gift of love.
It is like they have a golden ticket.
And this is the state of birth in 2020. Without a Golden Ticket, you get the standardised care. The luck of the draw, You do what you are told and don’t ask questions (becauses, chances are, you do not know the questions). As long as you emerge with a live baby at the other side, it is all good. No honour. No ‘rite of passage’. No autonomy.
We know (through many peer reviewed scientific articles) that continuity of care with a midwife (especially one chosen by the birthing woman), leads to the best outcomes. These include less medically necessary interventions, but also (most importantly) greater ‘satisfaction’. We know that women who report feeling heard, included and autonomous during birth, feel more confident in their parenting. They are more likely to be successful with breastfeeding. We also know that most women want to breastfeed. And why wouldn’t you…making your own baby food, on tap! It is free, ever-ready, and changes with your baby’s needs. This combination of reduced physical trauma and increased confidence have the added benefit of saving the mother money.
Women are already at risk of poverty in her autumn years. Women, despite efforts to shake off our biology, are beholden to it. The emotional, physical, social and financial costs associated with being a woman should not be left to a gamble.
We know that when we leave birth to chance, sometimes called ‘going with the flow’ to make it sound like a good thing, we increase the risks to women. When we start with natural birth, and understand the biology involved, we give women the foundation on which to make informed decisions.
The sharing of positive birth stories is a HUGE component of changing the narrative around birth. Your Voice is strong. You have Knowledge and the Power to share it. In sharing, you initiate the change.
You are the One that can make a difference to your sisters, your daughters, your nieces, your friends.
If we don’t Speak Up. If we don’t SING IT! The fight is lost. And we have already been fighting for too long.
The Time is Now.