Yesterday’s Washington Post article about “do it yourself” birth has some interesting things to say about this practice (that they imply is on the rise) of women giving birth alone at home, without help from any providers at all–no doctors or midwives.
This idea, of a woman giving birth alone, cutting the umbilical cord herself, is definitely not a new one. Despite the fact that it is a huge departure from our “modern” idea of childbirth (where huge amounts of technology and expertise are seen as indispensable), there is a long history of isolationist birth practices. Indigenous cultures have (and continue to) employ these practices–a group of indigenous midwives in the Ecuadorian Amazon told me about women from certain groups who would walk into the jungle when ready to give birth, and come back hours later with the newborn child.
I definitely wouldn’t advocate for a return to these times, or an adoption of these practices from other cultures. I don’t think most women in the US are ready to take on childbirth solo, but these extreme cases to prove a few things to the rest of us:
-It is possible to be completely in control of ones birth, without high-level medical expertise
-Some number of people are giving birth this way, disrupting the birth-as-emergency paradigm
The midwife interviewed for the article points out the most crucial question:
“To me the really interesting question is, Why would someone go outside the system?” Rothman said. “What is so broken that they don’t want to use it?”
Well, speaking as someone who is planning a freebirth in a couple of months, it’s because our system is irretrievably broken. There are no independent midwives working in my city, the nearest one is over an hour’s drive away and is booked out months in advance. The only birth centre is understaffed and also booked out very early, with huge waiting lists. To illustrate: I’ve been on their waiting list since two weeks after I conceived and I haven’t made it onto their books in six months. And there is no way I am feeding myself and my baby into the medical machine and either fighting tooth and nail for the natural delivery I want, or being processed through the induction and intervention cascade which will ensue if I don’t fight. So it’s not that I am choosing to go outside the system, it’s that the system I am happy to be a part of doesn’t exist…