Emily and I have been doing our birthing classes for the past three weeks preparing for birth. We are taking the Bradley Method classes because we’re both interested in having a natural birth (or at least as much of one as is possible). But that’s where we’re running into some difficulties. We’re finding that the less-than-helpful medical system of which our insurance company has thrust us into isn’t as pro-natural birth as one would hope. One problem is that we have an HMO that offers no alternative to a hospital birth. There are not separate standing natural birth centers we can go to (and be covered) and the insurance company knows of no doctors who are “friendly to natural birth.” We have a lot of friends who have had natural births but they are either PPOs or on Medicare (so far as I know). It just seems really weird that within a 30 mile radius of where we live there isn’t one place covered by our HMO that is on board with this stuff. I mean it’s not like we live in the boondocks. And how does a healthcare group really not know if any of their doctors do take natural childbirth seriously?
Secondly, when (in our very limited experience) asking a doctor if they are “friendly to natural birth” gets you a strange look and a less than satisfying answer, you start to get a little scared. Why is it that in our society we are obsessed with the over medicalization of everything? The current doctor we’ve been seeing (our second so far) said she is “sort of friendly” to natural birthing methods, but when it comes down to it, she’s actually not into it at all. For instance, we learned yesterday that the doctor has a c-section rate of over 30% in line with the rest of LA and its everything pristine, Hollywood mentality.
In the LA Times recently a woman said:
Too many caesareans are literally medical overkill. Yet some U.S. hospitals are now delivering half of all babies surgically. Across the nation, 1 in 4 low-risk first-time mothers will give birth via caesarean, and if they have more children, 95% will be born by repeat surgery. In many cases, women have no choice in the matter. Though vaginal birth after caesarean is a low-risk event, hundreds of institutions have banned it, and many doctors will no longer attend it because of malpractice liability.
Not only is a C-section arguably more risky but it’s just not necessary most of the time. This website points out that for patients of natural birthing methods, those who are well practiced and prepared for birth, their c-section rate is closer to 4% (a majority being to due to complications). It says:
Of 11,814 women admitted for labor and delivery and attended by midwives to 84 free standing birth centers in the US, 15.8% were transferred to the hospital and 4.4% had a cesarean section. Although the women were lower than average risk of a poor pregnancy outcome, their cesarean rate is one-fifth of the national average.
For us it’s hardly about just c-sections, though I find the study of its growing popularity fascinating from a cultural standpoint. The bigger problem is that we want to feel like we have the freedom to have a baby naturally without being pressured otherwise. Overall, this doctor has requested some things of us, done or made suggestions that have made us feel rather anxious about having her as the doctor who will see the birth of our baby through. Will she push unnecessary medicine on Emily in the heat of the moment? Will she demand inducing birth if the baby doesn’t come “on time” (she already told us she will)? Will we be able to keep the baby after birth? Will she respect any of our wishes when push comes to shove (no pun intended)?
I am realizing these are important issues for all of us to think through. As the church we’re called to be a contrast society in the world, that can at times mean asking uncomfortable questions and being irritating to the “professionals” of the world. But if it means that we can be honest about how our faith and choices work together (and sometimes don’t) and ride against the powers of our culture then it seems worth it to us. Having a first child is really exciting but we’re finding it’s also really scary. We want our daughter to be born in a way that is safe and healthy, as well as not over medicated or unnecessarily unnatural. I don’t believe these two things don’t have to work against either. Let creation work its magic. Do we really need intervene when it’s not necessary?
We heard while we were in the UK that Holland doesn’t offer any kind of anesthesia or any other drugs during birth unless it is medically an absolute necessity. They recognize that women have been giving birth since the beginning of time, and that maybe our interfering has negative repercussions we don’t see. So we’ve adopted the saying “remember the Dutch” as a way to remind us of this simple, yet important point: creation has a powerful magic of its own.