I’m Going to Eat My Placenta
I haven’t written a blog in months.
I could say it’s because I’m pregnant and haven’t felt well, but as my new friend Robyn helped me realize this week, that’s not the whole truth. I’ve actually felt great since hitting my second trimester stride and managed to get a lot done…the first trimester was more like being hung-over, exhausted and seasick at the same time. But, unlike before I was pregnant, when I measured my accomplishments from a calculated, goal-oriented place, today I measure them in moments of relaxation and good meals…which is totally new for me. I’ve always been the meal-on-the-go, workaholic type. To be honest, I haven’t written much because I just stopped caring about the world of information for a while.
Instead of following the news and flushing out topics to write about, I’ve grounded into my body and gotten out of my head. No longer globetrotting and fighting evil, I am at home, preparing for my homebirth. I’m listening to relaxation CDs, doing yoga and anticipating the imminent arrival of this new person inside of me. Though I know very little about this little being (I’m not even sure it’s only one!). I’ve resisted our mainstream birth-culture, which dictates I closely monitor and measure and compare my baby to averages and statistics. I don’t know what sex I’m having and am consciously trying not to attach an identity before he or she enters the world. I talk to her all day, I sing to him at night in the bath, and I look at the wildflowers behind my house and wonder what it was like to see them with fresh eyes.
When I found out I was pregnant, the only thing that was really clear to me was that I was going to do this my way, as informed as possible and willing to stand up for what was right for me. I suppose that’s how I’ve done everything in my life.
After watching some documentaries on birth (Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born is an excellent place to start), I was shocked to see how in the last 50 years, childbirth left the home, entered the hospital and became “business managed” …and amazed at what a negative effect such change has had on the outcome of labor. One in every three babies in the US is born by cesarean-section, most of which are directly caused by previous medical interventions. Women in this country are terrified of giving birth and have been convinced that handing their power over to the medical establishment is the responsible thing to do. We have lost control of our bodies’ and our babies’ experiences of childbirth. The percentage of women who elect to have cesarean births is on the rise and has become the popular way to birth among celebrities. We’ve ended up fitting childbirth, one of life’s greatest miracles, into our busy schedules and taken all the grit and joy and spontaneity out of it.
Along with our counter tops, our hands and our shopping carts, birth has been scrubbed and antibacterialized.
My partner and I quickly decided that a hospital birth in the US was not for us, so as an uninsured human rights activist/writer my first instinct was to find another country to give birth in. I have family in Mexico and thought perhaps I could have this baby down South. The plus side was that the cost of having a baby in a Mexican hospital is considerably lower than the US. The down side was that Mexican c-section rates are even higher than the US. Most of the traditional birth knowledge in Mexico has been abandoned for the “miracle of modern medicine,” much as it was in the US in the past few decades. Moving to Europe, getting new jobs, and being far from family seemed a little drastic. So we went searching for something else.
To my surprise I found what I was looking for in the hills of the Rocky Mountains, my own back yard. A direct entry midwife who has been birthing babies at home for 34 years, long before it was legalized in Colorado in 1993. With more than 1200 births under her belt, I knew I was in good hands and dove right into the philosophy and ritual of homebirth. We decided against doing an ultrasound unless there was a red flag that emerged through my prenatal appointments. I’ve spent hours with my midwife, talking about proper nutrition, preparing for the immense emotional changes that come with being a parent and reviewing the approach we will take during the actual birth. She has become a good friend and when I leave her office, she hugs me and tells me she loves me…and we all get excited and joyous for this baby’s entry into the world.
Now I’m sitting on the precipice of that birth, big as a house, ready to step into my power as a woman and birth this baby the way women have done for thousands of years…before it became too dangerous to do so outside of a medical facility; before the mythology of birth was spun as terrifying, painful and something to anesthetize against; before doctors and money and business got involved and starting telling women what they are capable of handling.
Sadly, practicing direct-entry midwifery is still illegal in many parts of the US. For those who don’t have such resources available near them, check out The Farm in Tennessee, they have boarding programs for women from out of state and boast a C-section rate of 1 percent in the 25 years they have been catching babies.
Often when I tell people of my birth plan, fear grips them and they feel obligated to tell me about the risks that I am taking and how I am putting my life and the life of my unborn in danger. I’ve had two people tell me how I should actually be prepared to die or lose my child if I continue on this path. Now these people are not doctors or trained midwives, just folks whose own birth experience was traumatic and scary and left them convinced that they would never have made it without the intervention of the hospital staff.
I’m not saying medical interventions are not sometimes necessary and I know that since the introduction of the C-section, countless babies have been saved when they otherwise may not have made it. Nor would I ever stand in judgment of another momma’s choices about what is right for her. I myself may need an emergency medical intervention, and I’m prepared for that.
But elective c-sections and profit-driven hospital policies have turned childbirth into an unnatural and highly controlled and managed event, one that too often leaves mom’s and dad’s traumatized and babies drugged, separated from their moms and unable to nurse. Who knows what effect this is having on the generation being born today? But its getting worse every year.
What I do know, is that if I am going to lead by example in this child’s life, teach them to be courageous and independent and instill in them a sense that they can single-handedly create the kind of world they want to thrive in…it starts now, with me.
So this is my first lesson to my unborn: Never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do with your body and never let fear make you question what feels right, nor prevent you from standing up for what you know in your heart is the path for you.
And when it’s all over, that’s right folks, I’m going to eat my placenta (one of the oldest known cures for postpartum depression).
Featured contributor to Ed and Deb Shapiro’s new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World. Winner of the 2010 Gold Nautilus Book Award, with forewords by HH Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman.
Do you have a story to share about homebirth? Think I’m crazy and want to tell me about it? Please leave a comment.