Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Respect birth.

Home from a birth with a lot on my mind.

I recently attended an event where Carla Hartley from Ancient Arts Midwifery Institute spoke about trusting birth and her message of Trust Birth, the Trust Birth conference, etc. She was a warm and loving speaker and I reserve a little seat in my heart for her and what I've learned through talking with her, being challenged by her, and the little connection I believe we made while she was here.

I told her then that I struggle hard with this message of "Trust Birth"; I fear that it comes across too simply. Birth is not simple. Well, it is, and it isn't. Babies are born, they come out one way or another. The myriad ways that occurs and what must happen for a child to emerge from their mothers, those things are complex.

I have been sitting with my discomfort with these statements and exploring what felt so challenging to me about it when it hit me- I don't 'trust' birth, I respect it. By having respect for birth, I acknowledge that it's something I can influence but not control with my presence, that if I am going to respect birth I must also respect the mother, the father, the baby, the "Birth Fairy", and the Divine aspect. Out of respect, I listen carefully and with my heart, I tune in my intuition. I speak honestly and from the heart. I put away routines. Out of respect, I ask birth to be birth, I don't ask it to be a performance, or to be a healer.

Let's consider Birth and her many facets- Birth is always accompanied by Death who must ALWAYS be respected as well. They are married to each other, one can not appear without the other. Let's consider birth's many moods - playful and light, intense and focused, frustrated, surprising, so many personality aspects that have a heavy influence on the experience of all of us walking through it.

We approach wild animals with respect, honoring that we walk the planet at the same time and that if cornered, sick, or injured, one might lash out at the other. Approaching birth without that same deference is a huge mistake. We can't forget that despite our best plans and full commitment and best birth team and everything lining up behind green lights, that a sudden change can happen that shift the whole experience. Sometimes those experiences 'bite'.

I think approaching birth as if something is bound to fail is the wrong attitude. I heard nurses say to my client recently that continuous monitoring was required after they broke her water (no other meds or anything going on) that the monitoring was needed 'in case something happened' during those 40 minutes when she'd be off the monitor. I was angered by this, how dare they approach her with their fear messages? I 'trust birth' and so should they. I felt like I knew something they didn't, and I felt just a little bit superior for about a second. 30 minutes later her baby had a five minute long decel and validated their concerns and left me reeling. I still 'trusted' birth but in some way they were right- the decel would have been missed and then what? Maybe the baby recovered on her own and maybe not. I didn't respect birth in that moment, I was busy being in my head about how birth 'should' look. If we trusted birth, we wouldn't need all of this monitoring! Maybe in this particular instance this mom DID need the continuous monitoring her doctor was asking of her.

The issues aren't with what happened, but rather what they triggered within me. I wondered what would have occurred if we'd been at home with a midwife several times. I knew the outcome would have likely been the same but so many variables would have colored those lines in with myriad different colors, painting a very different picture.

I wanted to believe in trust being enough and I don't now. I struggled because "Trust Birth" felt like such an ideal, I just struggled to push through to get there. It felt more like a goal. Someday, I will 'trust birth'.

Today I realize that it isn't the truth for me, trust isn't correct. Trust leaves the impression of safety. We trust our grandmothers, we trust our parents. Respect works hand in hand with trust but also adds that element of caution that we accept some risk as a part of the relationship. We respect the mountain we must climb, we trust in our ability to climb it. We prepare for outcomes we may not expect and do not hope for.