People learn by observing. Before walking, we observe other people doing it. Before riding a bicycle, we watch others doing it. Before driving a car, swimming, or even skydiving, we observe others before we jump in. So often, however, women are expected to jump feet first into experiences that they have never observed first hand. Breastfeeding and childbirth are two of those experiences. Women hear that they are difficult, yet important and that often makes them much scarier than they need to be.
In August, I wrote a post encouraging mothers to breastfeed in front of teenagers to help normalize breastfeeding and promote inter-generational learning. I wrote:
Breastfeeding is normal and natural, but it isn’t always easy. A lot of mothers find it awkward, difficult, and may even see it as disgusting or off-putting. In large part, this stems from the fact that they haven’t seen women nursing their babies as part of every day life, in the same way that they see women walking their babies in strollers, giving them pacifiers or bottles, or playing peek-a-boo. Men are often concerned about their wives breastfeeding in public because they don’t want them exposing their breasts. Unfortunately, these attitudes come about because breastfeeding is so often hidden away and done only in the privacy of the family home or at best under a nursing cover in a public space. In order for breastfeeding to seem normal and natural, it needs to be visible. It needs to be something that everyone has seen and everyone is familiar with. It shouldn’t be something that people see as awkward or disgusting.
When it comes to childbirth, the situation is very similar. By the time they are walking into a hospital timing their contractions, most women have never seen another woman give birth. If they have, it was probably a highly medicalized, sensationalized and edited birth, such as the ones show on TV shows like A Baby Story. For many women, this means that they see birth as a scary event requiring significant medical interventions where the doctors are the ones in control.
Now, using the Internet, a number of women are stepping up and trying to change people’s views of birth and also help better prepare women for their birth experience. Recently, a woman called Talina who writes at Harvest of Daily Life gave birth at The Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, Tennessee. In her post about the live birth (note: post includes embedded videos that include nudity), Talina notes that around 2,000 people followed the labor and birth on August 29th and 30th, 2011. Numerous people engaged in discussions about birth on twitter as they watched.
Now, Nancy Salgueiro (pictured in image at top of the article), an Ottawa birth coach, chiropractor and mother of two, is planning to broadcast her home birth live on the Internet. Dr. Nancy, as she is known, has been supporting women through pregnancy and birth for a third of her life and loves “inspiring and empowering women to know that they can do it and that they are powerful.” Her expected due date is October 7, 2011, which means that she could go into labor at any time.
In her invitation to watch her birth live on the Internet (note: some nudity in images on invitation page), Dr. Nancy writes:
If you are pregnant or thinking about it, think you want a natural birth, and don’t know what to expect, then this invitation will allow you to be experience my home birth so you can see how wonderful and gentle birth can be.
She goes on to encourage mothers-to-be to watch as many videos of good births as they can. Dr. Nancy says that people who choose to watch her birth will be able to see how a woman behaves in labor, watch how birth unfolds, see a great support team in action, and see how her children (age 2 and 5) experience childbirth.
In this video, a young woman called Becky talks about what it was like to be at the birth of Dr. Nancy’s son and explains how it changed her view of birth.
Seeing childbirth, whether in person or on the Internet, can change society’s perceptions of it. Instead of seeing birth as a scary, painful medical event, women can become empowered, calm, prepared and confident in their ability to birth a baby.
Have you ever seen a woman give birth? What was your experience?
Would you watch a birth online?
Will you be signing up to follow Dr. Nancy’s home birth?
Photo used with permission by Nancy Salgueiro.
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