The Business of Childbirth

181523_10150188562993242_2468618_nMy Godson and his wife have been sufficiently scared by their OB-GYN to agree to go in for an induction tonight, in order to seduce their first-born son to come out and join them, apparently, before he is quite ready to come out. This is no great surprise to me. As a retired La Leche League leader and birth doula, I have watched this same scenario play out more times than I care to recall. Back in the 1980’s, when I was having babies myself, you counted back from your last menstrual period to arrive at an expected date of delivery. It was an educated GUESS, and it could be plus or minus 2 weeks. You might have an ultrasound once or twice during the pregnancy to confirm the position of the fetus or to rule out any issues.

Nowadays, in our lawsuit-happy world, ultrasounds are routinely done almost monthly, expected due dates are changed routinely based on baby’s bone length, and doctors are almost sure to suggest an induction of labor if you go past your due date, which is apparently set in stone now. No thought at all is given to a female fetus’ ovaries, which are formed in utero along with every egg cell she will release in the future, and, as some studies suggest, can be damaged by these multiple ultrasounds now being done during a mother’s pregnancy. As current research done on labor and childbirth suggests, induction of labor will almost always lead to a C-section, mainly for a FAILURE TO PROGRESS diagnosis. It leaves a woman feeling as if her body has failed her, she has failed her baby, and with a painful incision and an 8 week recovery period from major surgery WHILE adjusting to the lack of sleep and the newborn’s constant need to nurse.  Which will then usually lead to a FAILURE TO THRIVE diagnosis which the baby’s pediatrician will make shortly after birth, leading the mother to again feel as if her body has failed her, she has failed her baby, and the quick change from breast milk to formula seems a godsend. A very expensive godsend, which serves to make a woman forget how strong she is and what a miraculous thing her own body is made for.

It’s no big secret that surgical birth is more expensive than vaginal birth and it’s really no secret at all that breast milk is free, perfect for an infant and readily available at the right temperature, while formula is expensive and of a different species of mammal, or worse, a plant oil, and needs to be trucked in big old smelly diesel trucks to supermarket shelves, where, it must be mixed properly and heated properly to be safe before consumed in bottles with nipples that must be washed and sterilized. If you are lucky your baby will do well with the standard cow’s milk formulas, but, if the baby should develop an allergy to it, the expenses increase for the “hypoallergenic” varieties of non-human breast milk substitutes (a.k.a. infant formula.) Ugh.

It’s so hard, especially when you are an advocate for natural birth, to reassure parents who are being scared to death by their doctors, that nature has carefully crafted the symbiotic relationship between unborn baby and expectant mother. The baby’s readiness to be born signals chemicals in the placenta to be released into the mother’s bloodstream in order to soften and elongate the mother’s cervix in readiness for birth, as well as loosen the ligaments and joints of the hips and pelvis of the mother. Medical induction is almost certainly the path to a Cesarean surgical birth, if they have not waited long enough for these natural actions to have occurred. First-time parents, who are so nervous and don’t want to do anything to show that they do not trust the provider they have chosen are especially vulnerable to the persuasion of their doctor. The whole obstetrical industry has caused many women to view ‘scheduling’ their baby’s birth as the most logical and easiest thing in the world. Little do they know that a normal, natural, vaginal birth would have them back on their feet in hours, their baby nursing like a champ to increase their milk supply without the drugs or pain killers in the mother’s bloodstream after a C-section making it less likely to get nursing off to a good start. And no long recovery from major surgery.

It’s a sad and all too common phenomenon these days. And it is all driven by money. The fear of losing it in a lawsuit should there be even a slight complication that a lawyer could blame on the physician not suggesting a C-Section sooner, the want of making more of it and having a clear weekend schedule by scheduling the inductions and then placing the standard 24 hour window on a ‘trial of labor’ and the pushing of the formula companies to have the hospitals hand out their brand of infant formula, to all new mothers.

I can only hope that my Godson’s baby is ready and that my gut feeling that she’s going to have a C-section in spite of the doctors assurances that according to the ultrasounds, the baby is very big and past due, will not come to pass. I fervently wish all newly pregnant mothers and fathers would seek Nurse/Midwives and only use the medical establishment when there is an identified high risk issue. Pregnancy and birth are normal and natural functions, not medical conditions, and it is a shame and a disgrace that so many women are left wondering why everything went so terribly wrong, when the medical community makes it so that natural vaginal birth is almost surely going to fail. These women did not fail, the system has failed them.


9 thoughts on “The Business of Childbirth

  1. Quite frankly, I probably have no place having an opinion on this as I am a man and have never been through the experience of pregnancy and birthing first hand. However, the births of all but one of my children (and the pre-natal care leading up to those births) were overseen by midwives. Given the drastic differences in the types of training and experience between a midwife and a [male] OB-GYN, to say nothing about the empathy factor of a woman being your primary care giver, if I could have a baby myself I would choose a midwife in a New York minute! Their approach is much more natural, they don’t seem to care for the idea of rushing to induce, and they tend to consider a C-section as an absolute last resort.

    I hope that your Godson and his wife and up having a completely positive experience with the birth of their baby but, if they should decide to have more children, I also hope they’ll consider consulting a midwife when the time comes.


    • On the contrary, fathers have every place having an opinion. And having used midwives and seeing first hand what their standard of care is, you should spread your opinion around! Namaste.

  2. Have you read Rikki Lake’s book? (I’m sure you probably have). It really sealed the deal as far as me going for a VBAC this time around. And was just so reassuring (unlike OBs honestly) that birth is normal. That we’re made to do this. That pregnancy is NOT an illness. I found it so empowering, and even though I *still* most likely won’t get to do things exactly the way I want this time around (because of the prior csection), I feel so better armed to go in there confidently and willing to fight for certain things. And have I said this this week? Why don’t we live closer? I could totally use a doula lol.

    • Write down exactly what your birth plan is. Having it in writing helps you to remember when you’re in pain. Make sure your provider is TOTALLY on board for a VBAC. It’s not too late to switch providers when you present your birth plan and get a true sense of the response you will receive from your provider. I’ve known women who changed the last WEEK of their pregnancy. Stay home as LONG as you possibly can and away from the hospital. And heck, you live in CALIFORNIA, land of the Birkenstocks. You must find a doula. Search xo

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