This week we have an article shared with us by Alison Howley, Mother of two and founder of From The Womb To The World in Australia, which invites women to really think about what they’re exposing themselves to when they watch birthing shows on T.V. Please feel free to share your comments.
Last week, I came across another ‘real’ birth documentary series, ‘The Midwives.’ Set in a busy hospital in the UK, as I tuned in part way through an episode, my heart sang as a midwife talked about how perplexed she was that the caesarean section rate had soared since she started working there; stating that neither women’s bodies nor abilities have changed, so why are so many women unable to trust in themselves and the process of birth. I was thinking, yes, finally a series which is actually about empowering women! I was elated, and so looking forward to the depicted births… silly me, I forgot that I was watching television, and birth on television or in movies usually equates to the instilling of fear and dramatic life and death scenes – enough is enough – this is not birth!
When we find out we’re pregnant, it’s natural to immerse ourselves in all things pregnancy and birth. We become both the hunters and gatherers of information, and if this is our first pregnancy, it’s pretty likely that we’ll start seeking out shows like ‘The Midwives’ or ‘One Born Every Minute.’ We’re most likely quite nervous and apprehensive about our impending births, but like moths to a flame, we just can’t resist the temptation to switch on the TV to watch other women do what we’ll be doing. If it’s only one bit of advice you heed – switch off the TV and tune in to your heart.
These shows, produced only for entertainment and ratings purposes, not to support you on your journey, are akin to planning your first overseas holiday and realising you’re petrified of flying. You want to see other people flying in planes, so you watch movies about flights – but the planes all crash – and not before everything grips in you as people scream in total, blood-curdling panic, their worst fear coming true… Now imagine only ever switching on to birthing documentaries and seeing women calm, focused and in control. Working with their bodies, with their babies. The care provider just melting into the background, I’m here if you need me, but know you’re doing beautifully. The labour just unfolding in its own time. Where’s the theatre in that?
As I watched ‘The Midwives,’ I wanted to scream! I wanted to scream because not one woman was empowered. I wanted to scream because every woman who birthed vaginally did so struggling and grimacing in pain in the supine position on a hospital bed. I wanted to scream at the midwife who kept offering a woman pain medication, but offered no other alternatives for her labouring position, and then went on to say that she couldn’t believe this woman had refused medication and that she felt this was some kind of ‘super-human’ effort. I wanted to scream that one of the midwives didn’t more carefully choose her words, and scared a woman into choosing an elective c-section, so that in her mind, that way she would have full control of the birth. This is all so irresponsible – this is the plane crash. Fear of childbirth on a global scale? Isn’t the media doing a brilliant job!
To this day, the single instance of birth portrayed with respect and love that I have witnessed was in the illuminating ABC documentary, ‘Home Delivery.’ Passionate and driven Independent Midwife, Virginia Howes, was followed around through the course of her care to three families during pregnancy at their home antenatal appointments, and then their homebirths. Now this documentary had my heart singing – this had me wishing that every woman was watching this – whether pregnant or not. This showed the true power of the female body; the way a woman finds her groove and finds a deeper strength as labour escalates, the look of pure joy as the women had their I did it moments and realisations as they lifted baby to their chests, and the normality of it all! It also showed the utter commitment of an Independent Midwife, and spoke to the gravity of intuition.
As an Independent Midwife becomes our care provider, she becomes so much more – she becomes an extension of the family. She is welcomed into our homes week after week, to not only undertake the antenatal care as we lie down on the comfort of our own couches, but to really listen. To get to know us, to get to know baby. What are those little things about baby which the midwife can tune in to, which as baby develops, are just something unique to them and not of concern; and in turn, in getting to know us and baby so intimately, what just doesn’t feel right. As I have experienced, I would say that hiring an Independent Midwife showed me the meaning of the word midwife – ‘with woman,’ as opposed to choosing birth in the midwifery-led unit of a hospital where the care felt like ‘with protocol.’
It’s not only vital to be choosy about your care provider, but also about what you read, watch or hear. Pregnancy is a time that heightens your emotions, and I feel that’s important as it steers your inner guidance, and will really raise those ‘red flags.’ Some women in your life just may not think before sharing a birth horror story with you – try and think of this – this is their story, it’s not the script from yours, and it doesn’t foretell yours. If you need to distance yourself from certain people who keep reiterating the negative, step away from them. Consider a complete media detox, and just switch off the TV altogether. It’s not just the shows or movies which show birth in the most fear-inducing light to be aware of – but the web that gets spun to try to pull you in and get you buying all of those ‘safe,’ ‘natural’ or ‘necessary’ products for baby. Television is only ever trying to sell you something, not to support you. Get your hands on some books, go within and talk with and connect with baby, and create your own little nurture nest – you’ll be so glad you did!