I had such an interesting weekend. On Friday, I attended traffic safety school. Four hours in a classroom with people wishing to avoid a stain on their driving record for getting a traffic violation. I would like to say I was there as an observer, purely to understand the type of person who would take such a class. But no, I was there because I received a ticket for talking on my cell phone while driving. Yes, I knew it was illegal, but I had begun to swim in the river with every one else it seems who doesn’t seem to consider it a law worth following. I have even seen police officers on phones, so why shouldn’t I get to? Well, as I was reminded by the officer who pulled me over, there is nothing so important that I couldn’t have pulled over to make my phone call. Luckily, I didn’t have my kids in the car with me at the time. What a lesson to teach them.
Well, after the 4 hours of traffic safety school, I had to completely agree. There is no phone call worth making to risk my, or any one else’s safety while I am driving. The very stern, but affective retired State Patrol officer teaching the class was clear. We take too many risks because of our belief that what we do will not affect anyone else. I completely agree. And while driving, the rules of the road ARE there to remind us all to allow for that safety as we operate machines made of metal and glass that carry precious cargo, our lives and the lives of our loved ones. The rules are there to prevent harm.
The next 2 days of my weekend were spent at the Studio surrounded by women attending a training in the space to become Labor Support Doulas. The Doula is a non clinical support person for a woman during her birth experience. She has great knowledge of birth, and she is often seen as a mentor and guide for the mother, assisting along the journey as best she can, where she is needed. She is an advocate, an educator, and a “safe space” for the birthing woman.
This theme of safety and the choices we make (or don’t make) to be safe have been on my mind. In the Traffic Safety class, I was one of 30 people being reminded that ignoring safety rules while driving can lead to more problems than just a ticket. However, most of us have the belief that we will be fine, that the split second between being safe and not being safe will not happen to us, and this leads us to risky behavior while driving.
In birth, however, the opposite is true. In this country, we have the overwhelming belief that birth is very dangerous and because of this belief, we will allow any and all medical interventions to keep Mom and baby “safe”. We have moved so far away from believing that birth is a normal process of the body, a normal process that yes, can have complications. We have moved into believing that birth is a pathology of the body with unlimited complications.
In her new book, “Birth Matters, a Midwife’s Manifesta”, Ina May Gaskin writes of the history of birth practices in the United States since the turn of the century. This history can help explain how fear of birth became the norm in our modern world. Around this time, from about 1900-1930, there was a major anti midwife campaign. This just happened to coincide with the creation of maternity wards and medical obstetrical practices. “The argument that childbirth was far too dangerous for midwives to be trusted” according to Ina May, “was one of the most repeated assertions during the anti-midwife campaign”. She also goes on to say that “maternal death rates actually rose when US women began giving birth in hospitals in large numbers.”
Working with these Doulas over 3 days, I was again reminded how important it is to believe in birth. To work with women to help them trust in their bodies. Belief that birth is unsafe and that the pain to process birth is beyond a woman’s capabilities is just that, most of the time, a belief. We take more risks when we act from the belief that medical interventions keep us safe in birth.
I love Ina May’s quote, “We need to recognize that technology is humbled in some very important ways by pregnancy and birth. Many of our current problems in US maternity care stem from the fact that we leave no room for recognizing when nature is smarter than we are.” And as I was just reminded by another amazing childbirth educator, Pam England, safety is not an action. It is an an outcome from the choices we make. Choosing to trust and believe in birth and to work to allow the process to unfold for Mom and baby continues to be the safest passage.