So did anyone else catch the birth on the Today show last week? I never watch the Today show anymore, or any TV news for that matter, because it's just depressing and BJ will tell me if there's anything important going on, and if there is I'll go read about it. I don't need talking heads to tell me what I should think about whatever's happening... That's not news, it's commentary, but I digress.
I was getting dressed and I could not take one more minute of the Disney channel or the related music that has spun off of the same, so I turned on NBC and Meredith Viera was talking about how excited she was that the Today was about to show a birth on TV.
Obviously that got my attention, having done birth personally I know that I would deck anyone who came within a mile of me with a video camera during labor, so I sat down to see if the mom broke the cameraman's nose.
It turned out to be a C-section.
Now I need to derail a minute, here, because I know there are a lot of sanctimommies in the world - the kind who think that motherhood comes with some kind of point system, and that if they choose, say, natural unmedicated childbirth over a C-section, they're automatically somehow a more superior mother than someone who, for whatever reason, had a C-section.
I am not this kind of mommy. There are no points, and the measure of a mother is not in how she gave birth. Period. There are some really miserable mothers who have given birth without drugs, and there are plenty of phenomenal mothers who have had C-sections, induced births, epidurals, etc. It SO doesn't matter.
I'm proud of the fact that I gave birth naturally in the same way that someone who ran a marathon is proud of themselves for accomplishing that - it was something that was hard and painful that not everyone tries to do, and even those who try often don't succeed. But I am not a better mother than you are if you had a c-section, any more than you're a better mother than I am if you've run a marathon. Kapiche?
I do, however, have a problem with the fact that about 34% of births in this country are C-sections.
Because I think that a lot of those C's are done for stupid reasons. (Here's a good article about it, if you want to skip my ranting and read something rational and reasonable with numbers and facts... But I know you come here for the rants and the pictures, so buckle up, here we go...)
I think if doctors would just get out of the way of birth and let it happen, if they would allow women to labor in a more natural position than on our backs (we're on our backs because it's convenient for the doctor to get a good look at what's going on, by the way, not because it's efficient), if they would be patient and not get all antsy if things take, oh, longer than 24 hours from the time the water breaks, if they would stop saying things like, "Oh we'd better schedule a C because this baby is huge..." and so on and so on, we could bring that number (34%) down. Way down. In other developed countries it's more like 10%. (And I'm not even going to calculate what all those C-sections are doing to the cost of health care in this country, but I think we can all agree that it is a LOT cheaper to give birth vaginally than it is to give birth in an operating room).
I think it's important to get that number down, not because I think that all women everywhere should have crunchy granola unmedicated childbirth with Zamfir Master of the Pan Flute playing liltingly in the background while everyone sings Kum-bye-ah... but because I think that interventions (pitocin, breaking amniotic sacs manually, c-sections, epidurals, etc. etc.) have CONSEQUENCES that are non-trivial for mothers and babies.... Consequences that are glossed over. Consequences that were glossed over on the Today show, too.
Any time you tell someone "no" when you're pregnant or in labor, they threaten you with a dead baby. When I was on bedrest with MG, I asked the nurse who came to the house to take my blood pressure if I could go up and down the stairs more than once a day, and she literally said to me, "Sure, you can do whatever you want, if you want to kill your baby!" (Talk about someone who deserved her nose broken...). But in the same culture where we tell mothers that they can't eat COLD CUTS without dire consequences for their unborn children, we seem to think nothing about cutting them open to get those same unborn children out.
Doesn't anyone else think that's a little bit screwed up?
Back to the Today show... Oh hey, there's video!
Ok, first of all, if you were that mother wouldn't you be screaming, "Shut up, who do you think you are, Sanjay Gupta?" Forget the camera man, I would've broken the nose of the chatty doctor. I don't understand why they couldn't have had her in the studio with Meredith instead of in the operating room annoying the parents, but whatever...
I thought it was interesting the way the doctor was constantly assuring everyone that things were "orderly," "routine," "normal protocol," and "scheduled." As opposed to vaginal birth? Where things are unpredictable and messy and (generally) unscheduled?
Ok, then they start talking about all the different reasons for c-sections, and they get to my favorite one, "Baby's too big."
My friend Karen was told her baby was going to be "huge," and he weighed less than 7 pounds. They don't know. The measuring techniques are extremely inaccurate in late pregnancy.
I guess this mother was a big baby and so was her husband, and they decided to schedule a c-section. Now, it goes against my personal editorial policy to question the medical decision of one individual mother, so I'm not going to debate whether or not this mother really should have had a c-section for a suspected big baby - that is a decision that is totally between her and her doctor and it is SO not my call. But I know plenty of people who have delivered 10 pounders vaginally and lived to tell about it. If you're pregnant and you're being told that you have to schedule a C because your baby is too big, it is my opinion that you should get a second opinion. Of course, you're probably going to be told that you're going to kill your baby... but they'll tell you that for eating tuna fish, too, so tell them I said to piss off.
I love how Meredith, medical expert that she is, says, "Clearly Mom made the right decision, scheduling a c-section..." when she's told how much the baby weighs... That quote is inexact because I've somehow killed the sound on my computer, but I remember getting all fired up about it several days ago when I saw this originally, and it's close enough.
It just annoys the crap out of me that the Today show is going so far to normalize surgical childbirth... It seems to me that if 30+% of births are already C's, it's pretty normal. I've heard anecdotally that a lot of labor and delivery nurses have never seen an unmedicated natural childbirth, because they've become so rare. Maybe, considering the complications that are possible in any surgery (much less one with two patients!), we should be trying to normalize the old fashioned sort of birth.
I know my next birth is going to be induced (Claire's was, too, and I did it unmedicated after that - unless you count the Tylenol they gave me for the headache I got from pregnancy-induced-hypertension) because I would never make it to the hospital if I waited until I went into labor naturally - I have extremely fast labors. Scary fast. Maybe the Today show should send a camera crew, and they can normalize natural childbirth a little. I would love the opportunity to show other women that it IS possible and you CAN do it (believing that is half the battle, actually). I'd love the opportunity to show women that natural childbirth isn't anything like what you see in movies - it's not all screaming and "You'll never touch me again!" and bumbling doctors and fainting husbands.
I promise I'll try not to break the cameraman's nose.
PS - I fully believe that C-sections should be available to those who truly need them in emergency situations. A very old friend of mine just had an emergency C-section, actually, and both she and baby are doing fine, thank goodness. Edited to add: The FRIEND's not old, but I've known her forever. She's only 29. LOL