Monday, June 13, 2011

Letter to a First-Time Mother

  Dear New Mother-to-be,

   Your life is full of excitement right now;  joy and expectation.  You are feeling new life within you and when you tune inward, you can sense that you are a part of the great mystery of creation.  Many parts of your life may need shuffling around, requiring re-arrangement to make way for this new human, who will be joining our world soon thanks to your hard work.  Perhaps there is more stress in your life than you would like, in which case I pray for your peace of mind, and for easier times.  Taking good care of yourself is the number one job of an expectant mother - getting enough sleep, eating wholesome food, and cultivating joy and relaxation, all help to grow a healthy baby ready for a good and straightforward birth.

   Our culture is so complex and information-saturated right now, that you are facing all sorts of important decisions right from the get-go!   Will you find out the sex of the baby mid-pregnancy or not, will you have genetic testing or not, should you take hypno-birthing or Bradley classes, and on and on...  All the choices feel confusing  The biggest birth-related choice, the one that will provide the framework for all the other decisions and details of your birth experience, is this:   Should you use a hospital based provider (doctor or midwife) and give birth in a hospital, or hire a homebirth midwife and have your baby at home?

    Maybe you are just now realizing that you even HAVE a choice.  It is likely that your own mother went to a hospital when she had you.  Her mother may have given birth in a hospital as well but you can bet that your Grandmother's mother gave birth at home.  Hospitals were not used for birth until the 1910s in urban areas and the 1940s in rural areas, just so you know.  Before that babies were always, everywhere, born at home.  For ages, since the dawn of humankind.  But when you were growing up, birth in the hospital was the norm, and if you were like me, you never even HEARD of a midwife as a kid.

   But now, you are a grown woman, and a pregnant one.  Times have changed  again and homebirth is suddenly something to consider.  You are healthy and have taken relatively good care of yourself thus far.  You may have a vague distrust of doctors and the medical system, which you have heard is driven by the engines of the pharmaceutical and insurance industries  You may have relatives who have gotten sicker while taking drugs or treatments prescribed by doctors.  And now that you are pregnant you are noticing that SO MANY of your friends have had hospital inductions that ended in c-sections.  And if you ask around, you hear that in most U.S. hospitals there are 70-80% induction rates and that 32% of U.S. births end in c-sections.  This is probably true of the hospital in your neighborhood.  It is true of the three hospitals in our area.  Yikes!  In 1970 the c-section rate was 5%.  And we all turned out fine!  But what is homebirth all about?  Is it really safe?   It is hard to know where to turn, whom to trust.  What is the "right" choice?

   One thing I have learned in my work as a midwife is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to pregnancy and birth. You are a unique woman, that baby inside of you will be a unique individual, and this birth will be uniquely your own experience.  Your task as a blossoming new mother, is to learn how to take in external information and then turn inwards and listen to your own inner wisdom.  That is right -YOUR  WISDOM.  You may think you don't know anything about this stuff, but your body knows everything it needs to grow your baby and give birth.  Say you close your eyes and imagine giving birth easily in a pool of water  and then picking up your baby and kissing her;  your body tells you something right?   It feels good, your body can almost feel what it would be like to hold your new baby.  And say you hear about a scary emergency surgery where the baby was barely saved, you can feel the fear and the anxiety in your body, right?  Pregnancy makes everything feel deeper, giving you the opportunity to really feel into your choices.  So I ask you to not just THINK about your choices, but FEEL into your choices.