I seem to be able to relate just about everything I ever read to birth. Some time ago, I read a book called Things I Learned from Knitting and in it the author recounts a story about her attempt to make her friend’s delicious stroganoff:
“The recipe was for a fantastic mushroom stroganoff that I thought was one of the yummiest things I’d ever eaten. I hurried to the grocery store to buy all of the ingredients, but there was one problem: I couldn’t afford them. I decided to make do. I bought substitutes…It called for cream; I used milk. It called for portabella and shiitake mushrooms; I used regular button mushrooms. It called for butter; I used margarine. The wine? I substituted water. I painstakingly put together my version of the stroganoff and was absolutely devastated when it was a pale (and sort of gross) imitation of the glorious dinner I had eaten at my friend’s. I explained the outcome to my mum, telling her that I must not have the skill at cooking that my friend had. I proposed that I just needed practice making the dish…’Darling, practice all you want, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.'”
How does this relate to birth? When women share their stories with me in person, online, or in articles, I am struck by how often they’ve tried to make do without the “right ingredients” and then blame themselves (or nature) when their birth didn’t turn out the way they had wished. They may have gone to a hospital with a 50% cesarean rate, chosen a physician unsupportive of natural birth, spent much of their labors on their backs in beds, labored while attached to any number of restrictive pieces of technology, taken powerful medications, and so on and then grieve the loss of the beautiful birth experience they had planned.
So, what are the right ingredients? Every woman is different and each birth is different and has its own lessons to impart. However, we do know that some things are the “right ingredients” for many women if they would like to have a normal (physiologically unfolding) birth:
- Labor begins on its own (no induction, no pitocin)
- Freedom of movement throughout labor (no restriction to bed)
- Continuous labor support (from a doula, your husband/partner, or a supportive friend)
- No routine interventions (any interventions should be based on the unique needs of you and your baby, not hospital protocol or “this is what we always do”)
- Spontaneous pushing in upright or gravity-neutral positions (try squatting, kneeling, hands and knees, or side-lying)
- No separation of mother and baby after birth with unlimited opportunities for breastfeeding (do not have the baby taken to the nursery and breastfeed early and often!)
Another wonderful ingredient is confidence in yourself and your body’s natural ability to birth your baby.
Please do not be afraid to seek out a care provider and a birth setting that recognizes the importance of the right ingredients and who will do everything possible to help you use those ingredients to “cook” up a healthy, rewarding, normal birth for you and your baby!
For more information about Six Care Practices that Promote Normal Birth, visit the Lamaze site.