How did we go from what was once Woman-Centered Birth to Protocol-Centered Delivery?
I have my own rather cynical view.
Once there were women who learned to support women during birth. They witnessed the power as women brought their babies into the world. Midwives offered skilled hands, in addition to a reminder of the power already present in each woman.
But in a patriarchal society, women had a rightful and dutiful (and humble) place to fill. And removing power from women, via birth, would help this cause. But how?
We’ll tell you we’ve got a way to save your life. Birth is dangerous – fact is women often die from infection after birth (because there were no antibiotics at the time). And if we tell women we can make it safer, that will definitely get them thinking. And if we can convince the men, their husbands will insist we take charge.
If we’re going to make an impact, we have to change how birth is viewed- starting with how we talk about it. We’re going to call it a delivery. There. That’s better. Now it doesn’t really even involve women, except that they’re present.
“We’ll deliver your baby.” There’s action in that phrase. We are doing this delivery!
And it sounds a bit like a rescue doesn’t it?
Oooh, what a great idea! We’ll make every delivery seem like a rescue! Then women will believe that everything that we do is important. Really, really important, and necessary to rescue them from themselves. After all they got themselves into this mess…
Moving into more modern times with some women actually asking for choice, a patriarchal view continues.
You may think you want to avoid certain procedures or protocols, but really, we know what’s best for you. We’re the experts. You can’t possibly know what we know. You’re not a doctor (and even if you are, you’re too emotional to think clearly.)
And as long as you understand what we do is for your own good, we get to have it our way. (Wait that’s a different ad…)
We do lots of things that work well for us, but may not work as well for you. Most of us aren’t doing those things because we want to make you uncomfortable. We’re not really thinking specifically about you at all. We’re focused on the outcome- keeping you and your baby safe.
We believe that our place is to rescue you. We’ve been taught that birth is dangerous. It’s a crisis waiting to happen. And we’re here to avert that crisis. We have learned the best way to keep you safe is to protect you from yourself.
This is important enough to repeat: We’re the experts here. You’ve been here once, twice, three times? We’re here every day. We know what goes on. The stories we could tell if HIPPA regulations were not in place. (Well, we tell a little bit, but not enough to identify people. We don’t want you talking to those patients anyway- we’re using the story to prove our point, not as a reference for our services.)
We know the best way for you to deliver is on your back, so we can see. I mean really, how are we supposed to see anything if you’re squatting? Ok, the bed does allow for that. But that’s a selling point the marketers wanted. We don’t actually use that stuff. We use the stirrups. We can see; a light can be positioned to shine directly on the baby as it comes out; and who doesn’t like lying down?
I don’t think doctors (or men in general) are malicious. Men are goal-oriented thinkers. Attention to the life-process of birth may not even make sense to them.
But I know managed delivery and I know powerful birth. And as a life-process, powerful birth (the opportunity to be supported in whatever choices you make for your body and your baby) has a profound and lasting positive impact, that patriarchal society should fear a little.
I know what I’m capable of now.