Thursday, April 29, 2010
The young man refused adamantly saying, “It is gonna bug em.” But the owner insisted and so when the cows were ready to calve the young man brought them in out of the far pasture where they normally calved and into a pasture closer to the barn. They hadn’t ever had any problems with the cows calving before but that year they had to do a c-section on one of the cows who was unable to birth her baby.
That made the owner even more afraid that something was going to go wrong with the births so he insisted that the young man bring the cows in the barn when they were ready to calve. The young man refused saying, “Now that is really gonna bug em.” Yet since he didn’t want to loose his job he drove the cattle into the barn when calving time came around. That year they had to do five c-sections and numerous manual assists; it was the hardest calving season the young man had ever had in all his experience on cattle ranches.
The next year knowing that the owner was going to want the cows in the barn again during calving season the young rancher drove the entire herd up to the pasture furthest away from the barn and left them there. He purposely waited until the very end of calving season to go up and check on them. There he found that all the cows, even those who had had c-section the previous year, had all given birth safely and without assistance.
This story struck me because I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to our modern maternity system. There is so much fear surrounding birth that we have this urgent need to monitor it, observe it and control it. Yet when we start controlling it, all of the sudden things start to go wrong, making us more scared of birth, making us want to control it more, and well, you can see how things have spiraled out of control until we have nearly a 36% c-section rate in the United States.
In all honesty, women aren’t much different than these cows and being closely observed, monitored and controlled during birth just “really bugs em.” In my experience a doula, the easiest and most peaceful births have been the ones where the woman either labored at home for most of the time or was left almost completely and totally alone (except for her husband and doula) until the baby was born. The times I’ve seen the most problems is when a woman is strapped up to lots of machines and is constantly being checked by the nurse to make sure she is making progress. Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a place and a time for interventions, monitoring and control, but in the majority of cases, women’s bodies and babies are perfectly capable of giving birth on their own power.
I can’t help but wonder how different women’s birth outcomes and experiences would be if they were allowed to just simply give birth—without all the commotion, without all the machines and without all the checking, poking, prodding, and control that goes on in many birth rooms. What if women were sent out to their “farthest pasture,” a place beautiful, full of good food, surrounded by loved ones who had faith in them, and were left by themselves to birth.
I’ve also had another experience this week that has turned my thoughts towards birth. My hen, who had been sitting on seven eggs for the last three weeks, just hatched four little beautiful babies. It was such a beautiful thing and the doula inside of me was having a hard time between knowing I should step back and let the natural process unfold and wanting to see the whole thing happen. The doula in me won and left the hen alone as much as I could.
In the end I only got to see one of the chicks hatch from its shell, and it took a really long time. I couldn’t help but think “Man, if this baby chick was in the hospital they would have given him a c-section by now.” I’ll admit that a part of me wanted to reach down and pull away part of the shell from him so he could come free. Yet, I knew from high school biology class that the motions a chick goes through pecking and wiggling out of it’s shell is vital to it’s development and therefore survival. If it isn’t allowed to do it by itself, then it won’t thrive and often dies. So, as much as I wanted to help the chick I just let things unfold and eventually that little chick did it just fine.
As I watched this little chick fluff out its feathers and run around the brooder box I couldn’t help but wonder why many people in our society seem to have so much more faith in a chicken’s ability to be born than we do a human baby. Humans are the greatest of all God’s creations. Unlike any other creatures on this earth, we are created in the image of God. We alone have the ability to reason and to make choices just as the Gods do. We are Gods and Goddesses in training and have so much divine potential. Why is it then that we mistrust women’s bodies so much? Why do we have more confidence in a cow’s ability to give birth than we do a potential Goddess’s? Why, when we know that a chick must go through the process of pecking and hatching from it’s own shell in order to thrive and live, do we assume that human babies can be cut from wombs, pulled out with forceps, or induced with drugs without having it affect them spiritually, emotionally and physically? Why do we assume that God made childbirth safe and easy for other animals, but that we, His literal children, aren’t made as well as a cow?
I have a great testimony of women’s innate divine power, physical and spiritual. I know that if we tap into this power, if we don’t allow anyone to “bug” us, and if we have faith in God’s natural plan, birth gives us an incredible opportunity to reclaim and rediscover the powerful connection between our bodies and our spirits.
Heatherlady is a contributor to the book and is mildly obsessed with chickens and babies. You can read more from her at her blog Women in the Scriptures.