fast food nation
This is one of those serious times. I tell you this in advance because you don’t always expect serious from me but you’re about to get it, so I feel like you deserve a warning. Maybe because I’m pregnant and a little *ahem* moody or maybe just because. Anyway my friend Erin and I had a brief but very meaningful discussion about birth yesterday evening which prompted the writing of this blog post almost entirely in my head in about 5 minutes. Sometimes things flow like that and when they do, they should be written.
First… Facts: I am a RN (though not currently practicing). I worked labor and delivery as doula, then an intern and finally a RN for almost 5 years before I left for Hospice (that’s a whole OTHER blog post). I am also a homebirther but I have not always been.
I get asked two things fairly often 1. Why, if I love birth so much did I leave L&D? and 2. Why would I have a homebirth, because I’m a nurse and I should know better?
The two simple answers are these 1. I got tired of doing things TO people instead of for them and 2. (this one is in two parts) A. I like my house and B. I didn’t think I could get the birth I wanted in a hospital.
Now I am going to put on my flame retardant suit. Be right back.
While I’m gone look at newborn Ella…
Isn’t she CUTE? Yeah. I know. I made her. ALL TEN AND A HALF POUNDS OF HER.
I am about to say something that has been said by bloggers before me, and will be said again after me and something for which many of you may not, shall we say, like me. I am qualified to make this statement for one reason alone, because I have given birth, both naturally and not naturally, both in a hospital and in my home, both with the help of a doctor and without. Because I am a mother and woman, who has given birth. Four times.
We are doing it wrong.
Yes, I said it. You heard me right.
We are all a mess in this country and we are making things WORSE.
I worked L&D for roughly 5 years in a hospital that did about 4,000 deliveries a year and in that time I saw some beautiful births. Some were medicated, some induced, some even C-section (GASP). A HANDFUL of truly lovely births. But the rest, well the rest were what I like to call, McDonalds mentality deliveries. You can use your imagination there and picture getting your extra large 44 ounce diet coke in the drive thru while you’re in labor, but I’ll explain to you what I mean. It looked something like this… Mom comes in 39 (or 38 or 41) weeks pregnant. She is TIRED. She is HUGE. She wants this baby OUT. She JUST CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE (been there ladies? Yeah. We’ve all been there.) Her well meaning, lawsuit conscious physician has agreed to induce her because well the baby is probably getting too big anyway or her placenta probably isn’t functioning that well. So he does. She gets the cytotec or the cervidil or the pitocin and about 5 minutes later she’s had all she can take. She stuck in bed, strapped to a monitor and she is DONE. She hits the call button. I want an EPIDURAL NOW. I call the anesthesiologist. Two minutes later her husband walks out, “She can’t take it. Did you call? CAN YOU CALL NOW PLEASE I THINK SHE IS GOING TO KILL ME. Please fortheloveofgod (tone of begging).” The anesthesiologist administers the epidural and she kisses him square on the mouth and goes to sleep. She says, “wake me up when it’s time to push.” And I watch the monitor. I watch for fetal heart rate decelerations and the tell tale deep V that says baby’s head is getting compressed and it’s probably time to push. I check her. Sure enough, 10 cm. She can’t feel her legs and she doesn’t want to. So we push, numb. Sometimes for hours and hours until we finally see some hair. Sometimes for not too long before she gets a section. Sometimes the baby pops right out into my hands before the doc arrives (more often than you’d think actually). So the baby is out. It doesn’t matter how it got that way or at what price as long as it’s “healthy” and mom and baby are doing “fine”. Her miserable pregnancy is over. The awful horrible terrible labor experience is over. Her baby is in her arms and she almost slept through it. But thank god. It’s OVER.
People don’t like when I liken the American birth experience to eating at McDonalds. But the fact is folks, we are, in large part, a fast food nation. And this mentality is trickling into our births. As fast as you can say two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun our births are becoming a managed experience, not just an experienced experience. People can control everything around them from the temperature of their house to what brand of jeans they buy. And why should birth be different? We want it fast, painless, timely. We want under our control. We want it how WE WANT IT. Have it your way. And all that.
Here’s the problem, and where things get a little sticky, it’s not MEANT to be controlled. In fact, I daresay, most of the time it functions best when left alone. Yep. I said it.
Now, before you start drafting your hate response, let me again say I have seen beautiful epidural births (and induced births and even c-sections). Births where mom was present and involved and asking questions and being informed. Not merely a passive participant in something happening TO her but rather an active participant in something she is doing. She does not lie silently waiting for it to be over. She does not ask to be left alone or tell the nurse to “just get the baby out.” Instead she stays in tune with her body and baby. She feels what she can. And she processes it. That all being said, if you’re asking my opinion, which I realize you are NOT, I’ll also say I don’t recommend an epidural. At all. And it’s not because my births weren’t painful, because of course they were. It’s because I’ve had one. And I’ve done it the other way and I promise you, you’re better off without it. Scouts honor. Better off. Moving on.
The McDonalds mentality is spilling folks. And it’s scary. It’s spilling into every.single.facet of our lives. Fast food. Fast birth. Easy out. Path of least resistance. Quickest result. And this is a DANGEROUS prospect for our nation and our world. When we start approaching life this way, from birth to death and every thing in between, we are shortchanging ourselves. The body, whether you believe it to be an instrument of grand design or a product of millions of years of evolution, is SMART. It does things for a reason. Why did it take my 10 and a half pound baby hours and hours to be born, when it was my fourth birth and should have been the fastest? Well because MY BODY was finding a way to get that huge baby down and out. Whether we want to believe it or not our bodies have a plan. And if we don’t screw with it, usually the plan is pretty smart. When we start ordering it to be quicker, easier, painless, we are asking it to REVOLT. We are, for all intents and purposes, telling it to show us just who is boss after all.
It wins. Because it is boss. You cannot fast food drive thru your way out of birth. It’s a bad idea. And I don’t think we’ve even realized the depths of just how bad it is. I don’t know how long it will take us to fully grasp all the ways we may be screwing things up by not letting nature takes it’s course. A baby KNOWS when it should be born. The BABY. Not your OB. Not you. Not your mother in law or your great auntie or some lady at the grocery store. YOUR BABY. And pain? Well hey here’s something, maybe pain exists for a REASON TOO. WHaaaaaat? Yeah I said it. I could get all physiological on you and start talking about dopamine and endorphins but suffice it to say, PAIN HAS A PURPOSE. No lie.
The other thing about the McDonalds mentality is where does it stop? We want our births easy? We want raising kids to be easy? We want our jobs to be easy? Housework to be easy? What should be hard? Should ANYTHING be hard?
Here’s something… things aren’t always MEANT to be easy. They just aren’t. The best things in life are worth fighting for and usually take some WORK. Sometimes a LOT of work. Birth is no exception. It’s hard for a reason.
It’s hard because the hard work of growing and nurturing the unborn and the work of bringing that being earthside is meant to be preparation. Because motherhood is, ohmigawd I can’t believe it, HARD. Like really really hard. And being a good mother? You can’t get that in a drive thru. You just can’t. And you shouldn’t try.