Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guest Column: The Miracle of Birth

The Miracle of Birth

When I heard Krystal's story of birth it brought me right back to the home births of each of my three children.

Natural childbirth is, without a doubt, the most beautiful and magical of life's experiences.

Sadly, the medicalization of birth, and the media's portrayal of of natural birth as a hellish and fearful experience, have largely taken this precious moment away from us.

I asked Krystal to share her story to inspire others to reclaim the birth right of their children.
Krystal's Story:

Childbirth….everything I imagined and more
Becoming pregnant, growing this amazing gift for 42+ weeks was hands down the best 42 weeks of my life, until May 12th came, and I was able to, as a woman birth my child. No one “delivered” my baby, I DID.
I chose a homebirth, selected great midwives out of Northampton, Sacred Birth Midwifery, and proceeded to gain friendship, trust and love ….yes, from my care providers! Hard to believe huh? Our visits were over an hour long each and every time. No waiting for an hour in the waiting room to see the doctor, then getting a whole 15-20 minutes of their time, if you are lucky.
So you may ask, why a homebirth? Well let me ask you….is pregnancy a disease or sickness? NO! So, why go to a hospital that is intended for sick people? Why deliver your precious new baby into this world in a place full of sickness and disease when you could just as easily stay in the safety and peacefulness of your own home with skilled professionals that come to you? I was also able to have a wonderful water birth in my own living room!
My labor was the most amazing, invigorating, exhilarating 26 hours of my life…so far. I had my husband by my side, my doula, my midwives and oh dogs! I was able to walk around my own house at will, no needles, no synthetic drugs being pumped into my body or my baby’s unborn body.
I absolutely LOVED the water. I was able to sleep in between contractions while in the tub and completely relax my body. My midwives even told me days after my little ones birth that I was actually smiling while having a contraction! This was hard for me to believe. They told me it was beautiful to see. WOW! Quite different from what you see on TV and the movies huh? Screaming women begging for drugs. Nope…not here, it was nothing like that. Intense at times, and while in transition, but as long as I relaxed my hands and my face and didn’t tense up, I was able to make it through every surge I had. I just kept telling myself that this was all good and every surge I had was doing it's was bringing my baby down the birth canal, into my arms!
I pushed for a little over 3 hours (it was my first), which is completely normal. I pushed in the labor tub, on the birth stool, standing up and even on the toilet. I got back in the water to deliver my baby. I so wanted a peaceful warm water birth. I wanted my baby to be born into warm water. No bright lights, loud louses, no one screaming for me to push to 10. Nope none of that. Just 3 midwives sitting by the side of the tub watching me do my thing.
My body went into the goddess position automatically (all 4’s) and I gently pushed my little one out. One of my midwives told me that the head was out, I didn’t even know! One more push and the rest of my little angel slid out into the water, right in front of me. I looked down and saw my baby! I gently picked him up and brought him to my chest. I will never forget this moment. His eyes were wide open and he was just looking around. I delivered my baby…no one else. What an amazing experience. I cannot wait to do it all again!
Our midwives stayed 6 hours after our baby’s birth to help clean up, they cooked us breakfast and fed it to me, and did our little one’s first assessment right there in our living room in front of us. My little one was never out of my site. No nursery to wisk him away to, nothing like that.
I once had a gynecologist tell me that I would never be able to vaginally birth a baby because I was just “too small” down there. Funny huh? My little one weighed in at 8 lbs 6 ounces. Guess she was wrong!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Human Brain: Use It Or Lose It

The Human Brain:
Use it or lose it

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote a wonderful article: When Our Brains Short-Circuit. The article describes how our brains “systematically misjudge certain kinds of risks.”
Above all else, evolution has programmed us for survival. One basic survival mechanism, hardwired into the most primitive part of our brain, is our instinctive surveillance for, and recognition of, immediate threats. However, perhaps evolution’s greatest achievement, the neocortex, our thinking brain, “is not equally hardwired to respond to dangers that require forethought.”
Kristof gives wonderful examples such as our intense fear of snakes verses our nonchalant response to global climactic change with the potential catastrophic consequence of ending life on the planet as we know it.
This short circuit in our brains explains why so many of us fail to plan for our futures, especially in terms of our long-term health. The evidence for this abounds.
A mother scolds her obese four year old for running into the street, seeing the immediate threat to her child’s life, but not the long-term health consequences of obesity.
Food poisoning at a fast food chain claims eight lives nationally, forcing a government re-call and plant shut-down, while the public continues to eat massive quantities of the untainted, but none-the-less, lethal fast foods that are killing them slowly and by the millions.
Swine flu claims a total of 127 lives in one year, creating a national panic and a run on the Tamiflu vaccine. Meanwhile, the largely preventable lifestyle-related chronic degenerative diseases of heart attack, diabetes, obesity and stroke kill an estimated 2.5 million lives each year yet we reject known and simple preventive and curative measures such as exercising more and eating natural, healthy foods.
An ache or pain has us immediately and unquestioningly reach for an advertised drug, in spite of our awareness of its long list of disabling, life threatening or even lethal potential adverse effects.
The pharmaceutical industry capitalizes on our fears of disease and death with the false promise of drugs that further derail our personal responsibility to commit to a lifetime, lifestyle for health.
And on and on.
The miracle of humans is that we are so much more than the hardwiring of the primitive parts of our brains. Our neocortex, or new brain, gives us the ability to think, reason, learn and remember to further increase our chance for survival. Sadly, while the brain is hardwired for instinctual adaptation mechanisms for survival, there is no natural instinct to protect us from our own stupidity.
However, do not despair. Ultimately, the only deterrent for long-term risks is thinking.