The Business of Being Born

Thinking of having a baby?

Pregnant?

Labored already?

Then you should see The Business of Being Born. Wolf and I watched it last night. He got to see birth for the first time. I’ve seen it before but only on TV. Certainly I would love to see a live birth but I can’t imagine that’s going to happen.*

[I can’t get the YouTube link to embed right so you’ll have to click on the website above to see the trailer]

Back about a decade ago I worked for an ambulance company. Said ambulance company had a contract with Children’s Hospital. We, the EMTs, would drive out to area hospitals (from New Hampshire to the Cape) with a “crisis team” of doctors and nurses, scoop neonates into big, heavy, portable plastic incubators and whisk said baby to Children’s Hospital. It horrified me to take newborns from their mothers.

You might ask why newborns were kidnapped and taken from their mothers/parents. Mostly, I think, so the doctors could feel important. I can remember one baby who was transfered from the hospital he was born at to Children’s because he was “big.” That was the only reason. If I remember right, he was 15 pounds. He didn’t seem to have anything wrong with him, he was just big.

Another baby we took to the city was because of breathing difficulty. We left her twin with her parents. Another set of twins came with us. They were placed in the same incubator at the mother’s absolute insistence; the crisis team was quite annoyed with her. They wanted to bring a second crisis team out from the city (read: more money) for the twin but the mother refused to sign any paperwork until the babies were placed in the same incubator (I don’t remember the medical reason they were taken from their mother).

Parents did not make the decision to have their neonates transfered to the city, the pediatricians did (not even the obstetrician made the decision. Someone the mother never met made the decision.) Parents were not allowed in the ambulance with the baby so the father, if he came**, he had to follow in his own vehicle, pay tolls to get into the city, pay for parking ($20 at the time), and then may not even be let into the NICU to see his baby. Mothers never came because Children’s does not care for adults***. I know there’s was talk of having labor and delivery services but it never happened.

I watched babies taken away from their mothers, put into cold, plastic environments, and whisked sometimes 100 miles from their mothers. This is not conducive to bonding me thinks.

Some mothers weren’t able to see their babies at all until they went to Children’s to pick up said baby (Children’s will provide transport into the hospital for a baby but not back to the birthing center the baby originally came from) because they had no way in and out of the city, no money to pay for transportation, parking, and food for themselves.

The manner in which the crisis team physically handled the babies left a lot to be desired. Now, I’m no expert but if a baby is crying, you comfort it, not take off its clothes. Matter of fact, you have to keep babies warm by holding them, which is my understanding, but the crisis team, nor us, were allowed to hold the babies, they had to go into the portable incubator PRONTO.

The whole experience put me off hospital birth. And I wasn’t thinking of having a baby.

Over the years I’ve listened to friends talk about their labors and each and every one of them has said the same thing: I want a natural birth. Only one has the rest have had “emergency” c-sections. And while I had an inkling of what was going on, watching The Business of Being Born really drove home what I already believed to be true: hospitals don’t give you the option for natural birth.

  • Epidurals slow down labor
  • They give you pitocin to ramp up the medicine-induced slowdown
  • When those drugs don’t work, they give you more drugs
  • The drugs put your fetus at risk
  • Once your fetus starts showing signs of distress (because of all the medication) it’s time for an “emergency” c-section.

Cesarean sections have a whole host of problems for you and your fetus. I did a google search for info on c-sections but kept coming with pro-c-section sites so you’ll have to do one on your own. Needless to say, you cannot see or feel the birth, you are not allowed to touch your baby, and everyone has to be gowned up. Sterile environments do not induce bonding.

The only one of my friends who has had a natural birth had a midwife from the Concord Feminist Health Center. I hear the midwives there are *fantastic*.

I’ve always known if I were to have a baby it would be at home but since I’m not having babies in this lifetime, I’ll promote it to women who do plan on having babies. Less than 1% of “American” women have their babies at home. Why are women choosing the hospital? You’ll have to watch the documentary to find out.

*I’ve had three women promise to call me so I could see them labor and birth and each forgot to once things got going.

**I don’t mean that rudely. Most fathers chose to stay with their wives to console them who were FREAKING out of their minds because moments after they gave birth their children were taken away from them.

***Well, they do but only if you’re an adult and have some sort of something going on. For instance, a 70 Down’s Syndrome patient could be at Children’s because s/he had been treated there for their whole lives. Children’s, however, does not admit mothers.

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2 Responses to The Business of Being Born

  1. Gina says:

    I am an advocate of home birthing (as you know), but had both of my children via c-section. I started naturally with Shawnee. Well, I was induced so I don’t know if that actually qualifies as “natural” and it was the worst experience in my life. The nurses were mean and rude and uncaring. I developed a blinding migrane due to the fluids they were giving me (and this was not epidural ones-I think it was just regular fluids). Shawnee was a very big baby (10+ pounds) and I am not a big woman (I wasn’t fat back then either). I really think if I had gone into labor on my own and the baby wasn’t so big, I would have preferred to go into my own space, alone, and given birth. I hated all those people being there. I couldn’t concentrate because of the bright lights and headache and I hated the nurses who were mean because I wasn’t pushing to their delight.

    When I had Lyndon, I opted for the c-section (at the recommendation OB) and I switched hospitals. The experience was much better because the nurses were nicer. I admit I was “scared” of natural birth the second time around. I did, however, have a horrible reaction to the spinal block (another horrible headache) and I believe Lyndon was affected somewhat by the experience. He is a light sleeper, senstive to light and gets irritabil at the drop of a hat. Could be his personality, I guess, but I suspect my method of birthing him is probably more the cause (he does seem to be outgrowing it a bit).

    If I could do it all over, I’d homebirth and breastfeed for at least two years. I messed up, I guess, in this lifetime.

  2. Howling Hill says:

    Gina: you can do it over right in your next life!

    I was an ether baby. My mother was given ether when she was in labor with me. She tells the story like this

    …and when I woke up they handed me a baby and said “It’s a girl!” I looked at you and thought to myself you’ll be a good mother. Then I fell back to sleep.

    …you were a difficult baby to [breast] feed. You didn’t want to wake up to nurse so the doctors up a sign on your bassinet which said “feed upon demand.” Ever since then you’ve enjoyed your sleep.

    I wonder if the ether prohibited appropriate bonding between my mother and I. I mean, if neither of us were in our right minds from the ether then bonding and other important stuff doesn’t happen like it’s supposed to. Right?

    I’m not having babies in this lifetime so I don’t have to worry about making the choice as to whether to birth at home or in the hospital. But if I had to choose I’d choose home. And I would’ve when I worked in the hospital also. I know what happens in them, there is no way I want to be a patient. Ever.

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