Birth is a normal function of the body, just as digesting food is. Seldom is there a problem when we eat something. Bad food or stress can give us an upset stomach, but usually digestion works as it was created to. So does birth.
Yet, in our culture we are terrified of birth. Think about it. Why, for example, don’t we insist that everyone who operates machinery or snowmobiles in the mountains or who eats dinner be within ten minutes of a hospital? There really is risk in almost everything we do.
To avoid the chance of choking, should we all stop eating and get feeding tubes put into our noses? It seems that women are at a higher risk of dying on the way to the hospital (20 in 100,000 women of childbearing age die in car accidents) than they are when simply giving birth (6 in 100,000). Do we install IVs in the cars of all women of childbearing age “just in case”?
If we were as paranoid about all aspects of life as we are about simply having a baby, we would likely make up nonsense rules in other areas besides childbirth. Why is our culture so obsessed, so fanatical, in this particular area?
One reason, surely, is that so much is at stake. Good care should certainly be readily available to both mother and baby in the case that something might go wrong. Yet sadly, the extent that we have gone to out of fear, is very unfortunate because the question must then be asked as to whether our culture’s attempts to protect mothers and babies have been productive. Routine use of technology at birth has not improved outcomes. Babies born in the U.S., surrounded by technology, have been shown statistically to be born in less safe conditions than babies in a great many other industrialized countries.
The fact is that we take risks all the time, and giving birth is no different. Birth is really as safe as life gets—just like anything else. Understanding the history of childbirth in our culture gives some answers and insight into what this insanity is really all about. More about that soon!
(Adapted from Wise Childbearing, What You’ll Want to Know As You Make Your Birth Choices by Jennetta Billhimer.)