Letters from the Issue of March 25, 2004

Coming Soon: My Bundle of Joy

When I announced I wanted natural childbirth, they freaked: I am eight months pregnant. Like the women in Celeste Fraser Delgado's article "Cuts You Up" (March 18), I have been greatly troubled by how many of my friends and co-workers in this area have had cesarean section births. Early in my pregnancy I was keeping a list of everyone who told me their birth story, and 75 percent of the women had had at least one cesarean birth, usually for "failure to progress." I became terrified this would happen to me -- even though I am perfectly healthy.

I made a difficult decision early in my pregnancy to leave my well-known and well-respected ob/gyn. I searched for different options, for a caregiver who would relate to my pregnancy as I did -- a natural, normal event for which my body was designed, not as an illness to be managed. I had a hard time finding women who could knowledgeably discuss alternatives with me.

Alternatives exist, however. I spoke to midwives who birth at home. I visited birth centers run by midwives who are backed up by sympathetic doctors if hospital transport is required. I spoke to certified nurse midwives, some of whom have hospital rights and who are also backed up by obstetricians. And finally there are a few obstetricians who will allow a doula to assist a woman in delivery and who are willing to discuss a birth plan with a new mother. Because I was a little too apprehensive about a home or a birth center for my first delivery, I decided on a well-respected nurse midwife who delivers at Kendall Hospital.

I began reading voraciously about natural childbirth and learned that other industrialized countries do things differently, and with greater success rates for mothers and babies. I learned that in the U.S. there are two schools of thought: one in favor of frequent birth interventions and one against, and that they have become so radicalized that neither side listens to the other. Because of this lack of dialogue and cooperation between midwives and obstetricians, mothers and hospitals, and researchers in the field, common sense is lost, respect for the mother's body is lost, as is good information about how birth interventions affect the baby or cause complications in delivery that can lead to a cesarean section birth.

I have spent eight months listening to well-meaning people question my every move: Should you use the stairs? Can you take that Tylenol for your headache? You aren't in your house while your husband is painting the nursery, are you? But these same people look at me like I've grown two heads when I state that I am going to birth with a midwife, that my husband and I are taking the Bradley class series on husband-coached natural childbirth (there is only one teacher in the region), and that it is our goal to give birth without drugs. You would think women who look askance at one Tylenol would be also against opiates, sedatives, tranquilizers, and anesthetics -- the different cocktails that are used in systemic analgesia, epidurals, and general anesthesia. You would think they'd oppose the use of such drugs but they don't, despite the fact that those substances enter the baby's bloodstream and affect it. I even have been discouraged from trying natural childbirth by friends who have never given birth.

I commend Ms. Delgado for such a great article. More women need to know about alternatives to the unfortunate norm of high birth interventions in South Florida. And more of us need to hold the hospitals accountable for policies that tie doctors' hands, prevent them from treating each woman and birth individually, and from practicing medicine caringly and responsibly.

Marla Alpízar

Miami Springs

Moo!

Move along now, you little heifers -- delivery room's thataway: Celeste Fraser Delgado's article about midwives and home birth couldn't have come at a better time. With the cesarean rate rising to alarming heights, it's important that women be informed about all childbirth options. The article brought to light an urgent healthcare issue that affects women, babies, and ultimately society at large.

One comment in the article needs clarification. Ms. Delgado wrote that Janessa Wasserman was "wary of depending exclusively on a midwife to deliver her second child." She was not wary of the midwife's expertise but rather her own ability to give birth vaginally because of her first birth experience. The comment reinforces the stereotypical idea that women need doctors in order to give birth safely, exactly the kind of thinking the article was working to change.

There are many reasons women are beginning to seek out the midwifery model of care. They are sick of being treated like cattle being herded through the hospital system, sick of being viewed as a commodity rather than a living being capable of making her own healthcare choices. Women are seeking midwives because their care is more personalized, holistic, and often safer than conventional care. Midwives spend more time with their clients and empower them to be involved in their own healthcare. I hope the article inspires women to educate themselves and choose what feels right to them.

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