Monday, May 5, 2014

maternal health on international midwives' day

six - almost seven - years ago, i had my first child. i had no idea what to expect. i was living in a foreign land with few female (like-minded) friends. i was determined to not have a c-section, and breast feed: two things that were unheard of here.

after being sent home by a condescending OB numerous times who told me things like "if that little pain is bothering you, how are you going to give birth?" and "now you're just being a baby," we marched up to the hospital administrator office who sent us to another OB. i was deemed incapable of dilating, and had the un-wanted c-section -- luckily, because it wasn't pretty.

i was, however, able to breastfeed -- i didn't have a ton of societal support, though. my husband was 110% on board, as were my in-laws (and my family, too, but they weren't close by). but, for most everyone else i was either silly or an amazing novelty. i became the poster-child for "american mothering," even though we were just trying to get on with our lives. there were also the snarky side-eyes and unsolicited commentary, but mostly, "oh my god, you make your own baby food! in american EVERYONE does that!"

my birth with amely was different in that i was resigned to the mandatory c-section (no vbacs allowed). at about seven days, amely was put in the clinic for 4 days to deal with jaundice. there was no explanation, no reasoning other than "sometimes this happens." we fought with the nurses and staff over the breastmilk and formula. in the end it wasn't terrible, but now, as a more educated mother i know that amely's jaundice was caused by breastmilk and when she "failed to thrive" for three more months - that probably had to do with not enough nutrients as well.

i didn't have any severe complications that "only happen in developing nations" - we had situations that women are dealing with all over the world. rising numbers of c-sections - often unnecessary - are taking over vaginal births and formula-feeding has long trumped the breast. and you know? i don't mind that we women want c-sections and that they are choosing bottles over breast. i don't.

as long as we are not scared to give birth because a catty doctor - who had never had a child, let alone birthed one from her vagina - told her she was being childish or that she wasn't strong enough. and that she couldn't handle the pain.
as long as we are not just being cut as a convenience for the medical staff.
as long as we are not led to believe that our bodies are not capable of feeding and nourishing a child.

a few years ago, i was pretty sure i was done having babies but i was sure that i didn't want any other women to deal with being told that they weren't enough. that their bodies - which have birthed and nourished since the beginning of time - were somehow now not enough. not strong enough, not perfect enough, not productive enough.

and when i started the journey that led to pre-natal education and lactation support, i've met numerous other women - some in real life and some on the internet - who believe that we are enough. that not only are we enough, but we women have more than enough to birth and nourish. and we need to spread the word.

today, on international midwives' day, i choose not to focus on the negative statistics but on the wonderful women and men who are changing the face of birth across the globe. not just midwives, but doulas, childbirth educators, lactation consultants and counselors and advocates.

thank you. the world is a more beautiful place because you are in it.

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