Although my mother gave birth to me at home herself, my training in a large government hospital in Cape Town 40 years ago dissuaded me from ever considering a hospital birth for my own children. As a student midwife I was forever helping the women to the bathroom so they could squat while the medical students (male) would force the women to lie back onto the narrow clinical beds, much to my dismay. I carefully chose a midwife who would come to my home and interfere as little as possible. The midwife did in fact sleep while I laboured quietly on my own.
Most birthing women intrinsically know what is right for them, and will move around squat, bend , kneel, eat and drink, go to the toilet when necessary and vocalise freely. These behaviours occur spontaneously when women feel safe, when women are in the presence of a trusted person and when they are undisturbed. The birthing environment needs at all costs to be PRIVATE and the presence of many family members, doctors, staff or others should be limited if not prohibited. Why is this? Well, most of us women feel the need to poop in labour, not something we usually feel comfortable doing in front of our mothers or husbands, never mind doctors and hospital staff who are strangers!! Our sphincters are shy, as the famous Ina May Gaskinhas said, and pooping in public is embarrassing.
Increasingly in Western society, women are culturally herded into situations where they find themselves vulnerable and prey to actions by others, which may lead to iatrogenic side effects. In other words, when labour and birth are disturbed, problems are created that could have been avoided. As one of my doctor friends exclaimed: “in hospitals they force women to give birth “UPSIDE-DOWN” lying on their back: have you ever heard of anything so silly?!” Attempting to give birth lying on one’s back lengthens the birthing time, impedes oxygen flow to the baby causing distress, and is incredibly tiring to the mother. The purpose of birthing in seclusion is to enhance the mother-baby contact straight after birth and this is in the best interests of both mother and baby biological and psychological health. Why we would wish to disturb the natural birth process beats me.
The joy of being undisturbed during labour and birth is that a mother and baby realize their capability to birth themselves. The mother into motherhood and the baby into life. And it feels really good when a job is well done. When a mother first holds her baby in her arms and there is skin to skin contact, warmth, relief, peace and NO DISTURBANCEs, it feels ecstatic. Why would any one wish to interfere with this process? Of course it is wise to have someone like an authentic midwife present to be observant and help in times of need. It is wise to have access to medical back-up. It is also wise to steer clear of exposing oneself to situations that may be disturbing and invasive.
My own three children were all born at home and my second was an unassisted birth, alone with my first son and my husband at home. I would not have had it any other way. We did not belong to the world of obstetrics in medicalized surroundings. We belonged to each other before anything or anyone else.
At the very least, whether in hospital or at home, I try to create a safe and undisturbed environment for the mother and her newborn.