Friday, October 28, 2011

Three Years Later

So, to continue the personal birthing stories and the progress made by women of an older generation.....

By the time I had become pregnant with my second child in 1974, many women in the community had formed a coalition to change maternity care, childbirth and breastfeeding practices in our town. The wave just about started with us, in a major university town of a liberal nature and women in Boston and New York and California were simultaneously doing just about the same thing. Our Bodies. Ourselves was published and so was Free to Be You and Me. It was a brave new world for women. We realized that health care wasn't designed to meet our natural, normal needs and we changed it

I was able to participate in a Lamaze refresher and it seemed that Lamaze was no longer a dirty word. Care at the obstetricians was about the same, no doplar, no ultrasound and no genetic testing. Luckily, my husband and I ( of Ashkenasic Jewish roots ) had done Tay-Sachs testing before we ever conceived our first pregnancy thanks to a very hip local Jewish community, however there sure wasn't anything but that one genetic disorder tested.

Which brings up a relevant but slightly off the subject matter. We all realized at about the same time that there was very little being spent on research for strictly female issues--at all. No funding, no research, no knowledge and no changes. We've come a long way, baby! Back to the birthing story....

I had canvased and marched and organized consciousness-raising groups with many other women to change maternity care at the hospital. We engaged the Chief of Pediatrics and the Chair of Obstetrics and the Nurse-manager of labor and delivery and we initiated some huge reforms. No more communal labor rooms, no more restraints during delivery, dads in the the entire process and older siblings allowed to visit mom and new baby, next day. Rooming-in so we could bond and pick-up cues in order to stimulate milk production by having baby available to nurse on command. The nursery became a ghost town. And no more hanging around for five days, home in two.

A lot of what we accomplished has made maternity care and L&D what it is today. And a lot has gone back to no options, little control and does it matter anyway. Please know your options, the C-section rates of your providers and hospitals. Genetic testing before conception and all the testing available during pregnancy. All the metabolic tests and vaccines offered or provided in the nursery. Do you have a midwife? They can deliver babies!


Know how your pediatrician feels about breastfeeding. It is really a matter that is addressed there, not at your obstetrician's office. Does that provider have lactation support available to you? Must you circumcise? Do you want to? How does your pediatrician feel about batching immunizations?

Know perinatal massage. And for that matter, know everything you need to know about labor and delivery for every labor and delivery, even if you have five. Every one is different and things change. Be proactive when it comes to your body, yourself and be proactive for your family's sake as well.

We did a lot of work for y'all back in the seventies, in the twentieth century. Don't drop the ( birthing ) ball! Ask questions, be assertive and know your choices so you can make them. Trust your providers because you have done your homework on them and their practices. Form a tight mother's network for sharing and learning for supporting and caring. Women hold up more than half the sky.