“It takes force, mighty force, to restrain an instinctual animal in the moment of performing a bodily function, especially birth. Have we successfully used intellectual fear to overpower the instinctual fear of a birthing human, so she will now submit to actions that otherwise would make her bite and kick and run for the hills?”
–Sister Morningstar (in Midwifery Today)
Tanner, our last baby, was my first waterbirth. I didn’t really consider water for my first baby. I did for the second and had a birth pool and supplies on hand, but he was born so quickly we had no time to use it. Alaina was born in the deep winter, so water didn’t appeal to me at all and I never considered having a waterbirth with her. With Tanner’s pregnancy, I was interested in trying things I’d never done before. I’d also read that water helps reduce or prevent tears and I really, really, really wanted to avoid tearing again and I thought it would be my last chance to try water and see if helped. He was born in the water and I did tear. I have no regrets about having opted for water with him, other than wishing I would have been able to get out of the pool a little earlier since he got pretty chilled from it. (In case you missed it: his birth story and birth video.)
So, I was interested to read this article about the safety of waterbirth. The conclusion was that water birth is safe, but that women actually had a higher, not lower, chance of tearing…
The findings revealed babies born in water, as well as their mothers, were no more likely to require a transfer or admission to a hospital. Moreover, the babies born in water did not receive a low Apgar score. This quick test is performed on a baby one minute after birth in order to determine how well the baby tolerated the birth, and five minutes after birth to tell doctors how well the baby is doing outside the womb.
Despite the positive, the researchers did find an 11 percent increase in perineal tearing, or vaginal tears among mothers who gave birth in water…
A commonly asked question about waterbirth is whether or not water slows down water (the consensus is that it often can if the woman gets in the birth pool “too soon”):
A woman should be encouraged to use the labor pool whenever she wants. However, if a mother chooses to get into the water in early labor, before her contractions are strong and close together, the water may relax her enough to slow or stop labor altogether. That is why some practitioners limit the use of the pool until labor patterns are established and the cervix is dilated to at least 5 centimeters.
I was 35 when Tanner was born, technically of “advanced maternal age.” Luckily, new research also indicated that us “advanced” types have a higher chance of living to “extreme old age” (maybe that should be “advanced, old age”?)
A Boston University School of Medicine study found that women who can still give birth naturally after age 33 have a higher chance of living to extreme old age than those who had their last child before age 30. But the report, published in the online version of the journal Menopause in April 2014 doesn’t imply that putting off pregnancy will add years to your life. “If you physically delay having children, that’s not going to help with longevity, Paola Sebastiani, a Boston University biostatistics professor and study co-author, told OZY. A woman with a natural ability to have children later in life suggests that her body – including her reproductive system – just happens to age at a slow pace. Some women’s biological clocks simply tick more slowly than most.
And, switching gears slightly, I enjoyed this post about that “a healthy baby is all that matters” refrain, that, while seemingly sensible on the surface, is actually an insidious phrase used to shut down women’s voices and deny their completely legitimate right to humane care in pregnancy and birth:
When a woman gives birth, a healthy baby is absolutely completely and utterly the most important thing. Got that? OK – do not adjust your wig, there’s more… It is not ALL that matters. Two things – just to repeat: a healthy baby is the most important thing, AND it is not all that matters. Women matter too. When we tell women that a healthy baby is all that matters we often silence them. We say, or at least we very strongly imply, that their feelings do not matter, and that even though the birth may have left them feeling hurt, shocked or even violated, they should not complain because their baby is healthy and this is the only important thing.
This reminds me of the “birth and apples…” example I’ve used in teaching and activism for a long time:
It is not helpful because the expectation was not to not have a healthy baby–the expectation was to have a vaginal birth. It is comparing apples to oranges since there were two separate individual hopes: one the joy of a baby, the other her experience of bringing that baby into the world. The apple being the healthy baby we all want and usually bear, the orange being what we hope for in our trials and tribulations on the way there…
Source: Birth & Apples | Talk Birth
And, it also makes me remember that your baby’s birth is the beginning of a fresh new, lifelong relationship, one worthy of being treated with dignity and respect and honored as an important rite of passage. I explored a relational analogy in one of my most popular past posts…
You ask when the ceremony can begin and the clerk tells you not until your fiancé’s heart rate has been monitored for twenty minutes—“We need a baseline strip on him, hon. After all, you do want a healthy husband out of all this, don’t you?!” she says. You are asked to change out of your wedding gown and into a blue robe. When you express your dismay, you are reminded that your dress could get messy during the wedding and also, “Why does it really matter what you’re wearing? In the end you’ll have your husband and you’ll be married and that’s really what counts.”
In totally separate news, I have an upcoming free Womanspirit Wisdom mini class. Feel free to join!