Letter from a Concerned Labour & Delivery Nurse

Letter from a Concerned Labour & Delivery Nurse

I received the following letter this morning, and couldn't help but feel compelled to reply to this conscientious medical professional who reached out with what she thought perhaps was helpful advice for freebirthing women. 

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"First and foremost I want to tell you I completely understand where you are coming from. I am a labor and delivery nurse who has worked at a wide variety of hospitals. I have 10 years experience and have seen a lot.
 
I’ve worked at the high risk hospitals and the low risk birth centers and by far I believe in the more natural approach to birth. I have worked at hospitals that definitely push women into c-sections and scare them into things that are not necessary (augmentation of labor, AROM, internal monitors, episiotomy, etc.) and I don’t agree with it. So I do see where you are coming from. Trust me, I have been very frustrated at times with what the doctors want to do.
 
With that being said however, I have also worked at hospitals that are absolutely not like this at all. They practice by safe standards that in my opinion are not unreasonable. The reality is, unfortunately, complications can occur (even in a low risk Mom) and there is nothing wrong with monitoring your baby for a short 20 minutes to ensure your baby is doing well or having a saline loc (an IV access in case of an emergency....it’s like a seatbelt...we don’t use it if we don’t need to).
 
I work with midwives and doctors who are amazing and NEVER push moms into something that is unnecessary, but the reality is, bad outcomes can occur. I have witnessed infant and maternal deaths. It happens. Yes, It is rare, and it’s a chance you take delivering at home without an attendant.
 
I know people will do what they think is right for them but I just want everyone to realize that not all midwives, doctors, and nurses are practicing by scare tactics. There is something to be said about good prenatal care and delivering at a place that encourages a natural approach to birth but also has the means to intervene in an emergency.
 
You don’t know me, but I just want to defend the “evil medical side of birthing.” If you choose the right place (and provider) to give birth, It can be a very peaceful, wonderful experience. It can also save your life and your babies in the rare case of an emergency. I hope this sheds some light...."
 
 
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Dear H, Thanks so much for writing. Your message absolutely sheds some light. Primarily on the obvious fact that you really do not have any clue about where we’re coming from at all.
 
I’m not surprised. I have been working in the freebirth world for almost 18 years now, and over that time, I’ve heard pretty much exactly the same sentiments that you’ve shared here, from countless industrial obstetric workers, advocates and adherents. It’s not personal, I understand that. You have been indoctrinated, via schooling and medical culture, into a highly ideological and even fundamentalist, worldview—one in which the notion that others might make choices that differ from yours, is unbelievable and almost unbearable to contemplate, such is the robustness of your sense of self-importance. This is a testament to the success of the conditioning you have received, which places obstetricians in the centre of authority when it comes to birth, with their minions (L & D nurses) circling around to bolster and confirm their supremacy. So I don’t hold it against you! It’s clear that you’re very concerned about us silly women, thinking that our bodies are our own, and that birth is a normal biological event.
 
Your message confirms what I have understood and witnessed to be true for almost two decades: That there really isn’t any point discussing birth with industrial obstetric professionals, because they literally have no understanding whatsoever of what physiological birth even looks like—I’d bet my house on the fact that you have never witnessed a biologically integral birth, based on the kind of ideas you’re sharing here. The fact that you are trying to explain to me how great (and unobtrusive) your hep-loc is (like a seatbelt!) and the very language that you’re using (“WE don’t need to use if if WE don’t have to), illustrates exactly why I, and thousands of women like me, are making the INFORMED choice, not to have anything to do with systems like yours, or frankly, people like you.
 
I found your suggestion that “If you choose the right place (and provider) to give birth, it can be a very peaceful, wonderful experience”, chilling. First, you do not have a monopoly on what constitutes “the right place” or “the right provider”, although your arrogance is unsurprising. And secondly, your ersatz notion of a “peaceful, wonderful [birth] experience” is a tragic reminder that most women will never know the kind of crystalline euphoria and otherworldly ecstasy that truly undisturbed, spontaneous, physiological birth makes possible. And that’s truly heartbreaking. I have served so many women whose first births were exactly what you describe as being “peaceful and wonderful”—they birthed vaginally, the nurses didn’t overtly abuse them, the doctor said nice things, they were “allowed” to submit to, for example, only one cervical exam, or they even birthed without drugs—except maybe for a huff or two of laughing gas, a little cervadil, and the post-birth pit-jab….It isn’t until these women actually decide to take the leap into freebirth that they come to really understand the ecstatic transformation that birth can be, and what a radical departure free birth is, from what they thought was “woman-centered” and “gentle”, but which is in fact another iteration of birth in captivity. It’s a different world.
 
If you had any comprehension of, or respect for, the physiology of birth, you would recognize that simply the act of leaving our homes when our birth processes begin; simply being in the presence of strangers, having people touch our bodies whom we don’t know, or love, during what represents the most intimate and private and significant experience of our and our babies’ lives…heck, just being exposed to bright lights alters the delicate structure of hormones that ensures the highest chance of an optimal safe unfolding of the birth process. These interferences actually *create* the very problems that you and your colleagues pride yourselves on “fixing”. Add to these apparently minor disturbances the “standards of care” that hospitals specialize in,which range from the stupid (your GBS protocols and regulations, your gestational diabetes nonsense) to the unnecessary (your heploc) to the dangerously stupid (ultrasound, any kind of continuous monitoring) to the wholesale sadistic (internal exams, AROM, episiotomy, deep suctioning of babies, etc.), and frankly the picture is a dystopian nightmare.
 
If you had any respect for women’s reproductive freedom, or for women themselves (yourself included), you might recognize that yes in fact, I, and the other women like me who have chosen to remove ourselves from the industrial obstetric environment are well aware that “complications” can occur. We have made the choice to give birth in the safety of our homes away from people who share your philosophy, precisely for that reason.
 
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I came to the part of your message in which you suggest that “not all midwives, doctors and nurses are practicing by scare tactics”. Are you so myopic or lacking in self-awareness that you don’t recognize that this entire message is a “scare tactic” in the exact concern-trolling mode that the women who are choosing freebirth are sick of, and liberating ourselves from?
 
When you write that you have worked at hospitals that “practice by safe standards that in my opinion are not unreasonable”, it is evident that your idea of “safety” and mine are not equivalent, and that we also have a very different notion of what constitutes reason. It also seems to be the case that you are assuming that your opinion is something in which I might place even a shred of value, but let me assure you, this is not the case.
 
Has it crossed your mind H., to ask yourself, as a labour and delivery nurse, why it is that in most hospitals (perhaps yours?) the rate at which doctors cut women’s wombs open and extract their babies manually is sometimes up to 40% or more? Have you asked yourself why the rates of induction or “augmentation” range from 70-95% in many hospitals? Have you asked yourself why postpartum depression is so ubiquitous and so normalized throughout western culture as to be characterized as just a random inexplicable result of pregnancy and birth? The biggest risk to birthing women iatrogenic harm.
 

In the past 18 years, I have encouraged and supported thousands of women in their non-medical home births. Most of those women had been labeled “high risk”, and prohibited from even “natural birth” in the hospital (a contradiction in terms, really, but anyway)—and rejected from the privilege of a homebirth with licensed midwives. Many of these women have gone on to freebirth healthy babies ecstatically after multiple c-sections, at 43 and 44 weeks gestation, breech babies and in other scenarios that represent a pretext for the highest degree of medical meddling on the part of your crew. Not one baby or mother that I have been involved with has died, and my rate of transfer and c-section is 1% (because in the event that birth does require medical help, I’m very grateful for the existence of obstetricians). These stats have nothing to do with my being a fantastic birth consultant--much of birth, like life, is luck. But these numbers are representative of what the vast majority of births could look like, if birth weren’t routinely sabotaged by the obstetrics industry.

I hardly ever see, or hear of, excessive bleeding in the case of unassisted home birth or freebirth. That’s not to say it doesn’t occur. It’s just that it rarely happens when women are birthing away from people who are doing the very things that tend to produce that outcome—and yet nurses and obstetricians see PPH with great frequency! Hmmm. When women claim their power, and refuse to allow themselves to be manipulated and abused, birth tends to work. When women recognize that the most salient factors that will contribute to their birth process proceeding smoothly involves ensuring that they are in an environment that is familiar, quiet and dark; ensuring that a minimum of other people are present, and only among them who recognize the authority of the birthing woman herself, birth tends to work.

 
There are reasons why the USA’s maternal-health statistics are so shockingly abysmal. The interesting thing, is that I have spent the past 20 years reading medical literature and peer-reviewed studies on birth, and childbirth interventions, and while your associates parrot the rhetoric of “informed consent” and “evidence-based care”, your policies and standards don’t seem to have anything whatsoever to do with the actual science or evidence that is available to anyone with an internet connection. Funny, that.
 
I have given birth to all 7 of my own babies in my home, without the presence of doctors, nurses or midwives. I was labelled “high risk” at age 20, before giving birth to my first baby. I refused that label, fired my regulated midwife, and gave birth at home at 43 weeks gestation, after my membranes had been ruptured for 20 hours, and after a 40 hour-long birth process, (7 hours of which involved pushing). You and your ilk will interpret that decision as irresponsibility, recklessness, self-indulgence, and perhaps even evidence that I didn’t prioritize my baby’s health, wellbeing or life. The opposite is the case, but for medical professionals, the idea that “all that matters is a healthy baby” is predicated on a profound unconscious hatred of women and the assumption that women are mere incubators, rather than full human beings—persons-- with the inalienable right to determine what happens to our bodies and vaginas. Perhaps most importantly, your attitudes reveal your incapacity to compute the fact that there can not possibly be anyone on the planet more invested in a baby's safety that the mother of that baby herself.
 
But I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, H. Like you, I sometimes entertain the urge to email or message strangers out of the blue and inform them of the myriad reasons why they should stay as far away from the hospital as possible when having their babies, but I generally remind myself of basic courtesy, and the reality that I have no business infringing on someone else’s day with my assumption that they’re ignorant, misinformed, or perhaps even vaguely stupid.
 
Nonetheless, you took the time out of your day to reach out to us here at the Free Birth Society, so I’ll assume that you are interested in the kind of education we provide: Please start by listening to the Free Birth Podcast hosted by my colleague Emilee Saldaya, and my own podcast, The Bauhauswife Podcast. Later this summer, you may want to register for our online course, The Complete Guide to Freebirth, which will give you some grounding in why Freebirth is possibly the safest and most reasonable choice, and how to go about planning your Freebirth (which I’m sure you will be inspired to do, after receiving some much-needed education on the topic). I’ll be publishing my book on the topic of Freebirth later this year, “The Bauhauswife Guide to Freebirth”, but in the meantime, you may want to read Dr. Sarah Buckley’s book, “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering”. Dr. Buckley is an obstetrician who herself chose to give birth to her four children unassisted at home, and who supports other women’s choice to freebirth also—and that’s just the a fraction of the material out there that should help with your deprogramming. Good Luck, and take good care,
 
Yolande Clark (Bauhauswife)

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2 comments
  • Thank you so much for that beautiful reply!! I was planning a home birth for my first pregnancy, unfortunately due to anxiety my midwifery team saw me as a liability and transfer care to an OB… I ended up giving birth in the hospital. I was in my mid twenties, super healthy but with little support and heart broken since all my plans went out the window, I don’t understand why they kept giving me cervical checks, and why they broke the amniotic sac, I tried to labor without meds for as along as I could, then I just surrender to the nurses constant pushing for pain medication, I got an epi and right after that my baby’s BP dropped. I was rushed to an emergency c-section. It was a VERY PAINFUL recovery. Besides the pain from the surgery, when the nurse gave me the saline loc she nicked a nerve, so I couldn’t properly move my wrist without being in pain. Pain from the c-section, pain from the “saline lock”, pain from blaming myself for having anxiety, for not trusting myself, for giving in and accepting the epidural, for having a c-section… So thank you for that beautiful answer to the L&D nurse, this is my body even if nobody seems to care or get it, I am NOT just a a vessel or an incubator, and all the “safety precautions” you are given at a hospital are in most cases just the beginning of a s**t load of interventions that not only hinder a natural birth, but also have long lasting physical and emotional consequences.

    Ange on
  • Omg!!!! Yeeees!!!

    Amber Arehart on

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