On my first day of high school, my chorus teacher sat down in front of us and read us a story. It was a story, I forget the title, from the very first Chicken Soup for the Soul book. While I'm sure that there are many different versions of this story floating around out there, here is a summary of the version she read to us:
There was a woman walking on the beach one afternoon. As the tide pulled away from the shore it left thousands of starfish stranded on the sand. As far as the woman could see up and down the beach there were starfish. As she continued to walk down the beach she saw a man walking several yards in front of her. She watched as this man would take a step, bend down, pick up a starfish and hurl it back into the ocean. Another step, another bend, another starfish flung into the ocean. When the woman was close enough to the man to speak to him she asked him what he was doing. "If these starfish stay here on the sand they'll die. I'm throwing them back into the ocean," the man said. The woman replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. Throwing a few of them back into the ocean can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the man took a step, bent down, picked up a starfish and tossed it into the ocean. "Made a difference to that one."
Sometimes I get so frustrated. How do we change birth practices in this culture of fear? Doctors are afraid of lawsuits, women are afraid of normal birth and that harm may come to themselves or their babies. A few weeks ago a lady on a birth board I frequent posted a link to a beautiful unmedicated birth. Many of the comments to it were along the lines of yuck, gross, disgusting. How sad!
Another lady said she wanted to have an epidural because she was afraid of "losing control" in labor. She doesn't realize that by having that catheter in her back she gives up any control she ever had. She will be confined to bed, have a blood pressure cuff on one arm, tubes in the other, vaginal exams she can't feel and little control over pushing her baby out.
One poor lady said she hoped (hoped?!) to have a c-section because she was afraid of "tearing" and "being so exposed" during a vaginal birth. How ironic and tragic! Has no one told her that a surgical incision is worse than a tear? Does she not realize she will be exposed, at least for a time, from the chest down, and that her most feminine parts, her uterus and ovaries, will be exposed?
How? How do we change this? Sometimes it just seems so hopeless. Thousands, thousands, thousands of women lying stranded on the sand.
I am fortunate though. I have some hope for the future. I have one daughter (the one who was cut from me) and another daughter on the way (who will not be cut from me). They will grow up with a knowledge and respect for normal birth. They will see normal birth. They will know how babies are made and how they are birthed. My Sarah, 4 years old, can't wait to see "baby Anna" come out of my "fuh-jina". She delights in putting her hands together to form a "uterus", showing her two year old brother how it will contract, open, and "let baby Anna out to see us".
Made a difference to that one!