Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It takes love, not fear

Nettles, one of the many herbal teas
Dora Rare learned about in the book,
The Birth House
Posted by Melissa Baumgart
It's about time to tackle that fridge and freezer and get them all cleaned out and organized.  And it should be time I get my butt back to a water aerobics class.  But I have been consumed since yesterday with two things.  One is my statistics project, where my study partner and I compared the likelihood of breast feeing among populations of women that gave birth vaginally and women that gave birth via a C-section.  The other is the book I finished today, The Birth House.  I feel so alive; I can feel joy and satisfaction expanding in my chest where my heart resides, as I have been living and working with these two "projects."

The first, the statistics project, overtook me with a fevered pitch of internet research.  I found a "Breastfeeding Report Card" issued by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in 2011 and discovered that there is a push to increase breastfeeding rates by 2020.  I was impressed, and admittedly a bit skeptical.  I don't know why, I guess I have some inner dialogue that tells me my government isn't actually every going to do anything truly healthy for its people.  What a pessimist.

In our small sample of 133 women, we found that the rates of women that give birth vaginally and are still breastfeeding at 6 months was quite a lot higher than the national average (this included all births, not just vaginal), which is 44.3%   We found that 76% of the women we surveyed, regard less of how they gave birth, breastfed for at lest 6 months.  And that the rates were fairly equal among both ways of birthing.  

I scoured the internet further.  I found loads of studies on the government's WIC (Women Infants and Children) program and the drastically low breastfeeding rates of the recipients of those benefits, regardless of WIC's claims that it overwhelmingly supports breastfeeding.  I am not shocked to find out that the infant formula triopoly of Mead-Johnson, Ross and Carnation all contribute to the fact that WIC has a dependency on rebates from formula companies to fund a portion of the program.  And I wonder why I question our government!

The second, the book, the lovely book I found on a random shelf at Value Village on President's Day.  It takes place in Scots Bay, Nova Scotia in the early 1900's, and revolves around the main character, Dora Rare.  She is sent to live with the old witchy midwife of the small rural town where she learns all of her skills and secrets about women and babies.  There is drama around a new maternity center in a more cosmopolitan town nearby and the Dr. that runs it.  The reader learns of the drastic difference between the way Dora learned to help women through birth, and the twilight sleep and forceps used by the all knowing Dr. Thomas.

As I was sitting in the cafĂ© at school today, finishing The Birth House, I unexpectedly felt tears rolling down my cheeks.  It wasn't that the ending was sad, like the last books I have read.  It was that the ending was so heartwarming.  Miss Dora Rare, after having been through so much, finally comes to a place where she is able to assist mothers in the way she had been trained.  I read on, as she lays out the simple rules of her birth house:

  • No woman or child shall be turned away.
  • No payment shall be required.
  • No idle gossip or cruel words shall cross the threshold.
  • No one may attend a birth unless requested by the mother.
  • Mother and child (or children) shall stay in confinement for at least nine days after birth, or until the mother's been churched.
  • Well-wishers may not enter unless the mother approves.
  • The mother's home must be clean and tidy, her house-hold chores looked after, and supper enough for a week must be waiting for her when she returns home.
Now that's what I am talking about.  I bet all those women breastfed their babies, and if they couldn't, some one else did it for them.  Now I am not saying this is the way for everyone, but Dora Rare and the women of Scots Bay sure were on to something.  And that something is honoring women enough to allow them to birth in the way they choose.  It means trusting that each woman will instinctually know what her baby needs, that we should stay quiet enough to let her figure it out, while offering just enough love and support to make that process as stress free as possible.  It takes love, not fear.

"The world will know and understand me someday.  But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter.  I shall have opened the way for other women."  -George Sand


Amy Baranski said...

Sounds like a great book I'll have to check that out.

elev8 said...

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Melissa Baumgart said...

Well said, elev8.