Friday, June 24, 2011
Childbirth: Revolution Is The Only Way Forward
When I read the recent post by Dr. Micheal Klein in the Sense and Sensibility blog telling us that both OBs under the age of 40 and pregnant moms are fearful of childbirth today, and that this is deeply worrying if we want to have a women-centered model of giving birth, I had a flash back:
It was 2004, I lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, and had just learned that Dr. Marsden Wagner, former director of Women’s and Children’s Health in the World Health Organization for 15 years, lived three blocks from my house. Since I was writing a play on childbirth I thought it would be useful to speak to him so I called him up. He said come on over. He was finishing up the manuscript for his book "Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity Care System Must Be Fixed To Put Women and Children First " when I walked in holding my notepad. Within a minute I began scribbling furiously...the passion and urgency in his voice was palpable.
Why don't pregnant moms make better birth choices?, I asked.
They are being sold fear by the medical establishment, he said.
Why are they buying it?
Because power is sexy, he explained, and OBs have power.
How is this going to change?
Two things: First, the education of OBs must change. If all they get taught is fear that's all they will have to offer. Second, pregnant mothers have to change. Ultimately, they are the power brokers.
How do pregnant mothers have to change?
They have to say no, he said.
Yes, no...no to a medical system that puts them last on the list, no to the lack of true midwifery options, no to the way they are spoken to at prenatal visits...or not spoken to and not given accurate information.
What do you think will change childbirth today?
A revolution led by mothers. It's the only way forward, he said.
At the time as a playwright interviewing my subject I thought Dr. Wagner was eccentric, and he is. But as a mother, birth activist and life-long community organizer I also knew he was right: revolution is the only way forward.
It was hard back then to find an OB who would echo Dr. Wagner's sentiment. Revolution was just too radical a term in 2004. Wasn't there a more polite way to call for social change? Well, today Dr. Wagner has a few obstetric friends in Camp Revolution. Dr. Klein is one of them.
1. A forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.
Dr. Klein's recent blog post got me thinking again about the wisdom of this idea. How can we improve childbirth choices for pregnant mothers and start teaching pregnant moms and new OBs to trust childbirth, not fear it? How can we overthrow a maternity care order for a new system?
I think there are a few mini-childbirth revolutions happening in some communities - mothers are standing up for their childbirth rights (thank you Joy Szabo). And even attempts on a global stage (the Women Deliver conference, but having attended it last June I was let down by the 'show' of it).
Ultimately the community organizer in me knows that sustainable change has to come from a revolution by the grassroots - from the pregnant mothers themselves - a trickle up process - who must stand up and say they are fed up with childbirth models that for the most part don't work for pregnant moms.
If we want social change revolution is the answer.
My revolution looks like this: let's teach freedom instead of fear to pregnant moms and their partners today, and to the pregnant women and men of tomorrow, and to a new generation of OBs. Let's examine social change movements around the world, find the ones that work, and use these models to build a women-centered childbirth model that works.