Thursday, December 18, 2008

Letter to the Editor: Ani.

I have been a devout Ani fan for the past 11 years and was thrilled to hear she was 1) having a baby and 2) delivering at home. She went through her life changing experience approximately 1 year before I went through mine. This post is in response to an article written on her homebirth experience. The article is directly below my post. I recommend you scroll down and read it first before further reading my comments.

When I found out I was pregnant, I started with a Nurse Midwife who delivered in a hospital and began to feel extremely unsettled so switched my birth plan and provider to a home birth. Everything was going great, emotional and mental preparations were being made, I felt powerful going against the grain. Despite my public display of acceptance toward hospital births, I had definite opinions and perspectives against them...not based on prior experience but the experience of others. I had the same view Ani had regarding the "lights", "the impatience" "the forcing of medicine" which is why I wanted to do homebirth.

My plan from the beginning was to preserve the health and well-being of my baby and myself and protect us from the "evil hospital staff." All of that changed 4 weeks prior to delivery when unforeseeable and unknown complications placed me on bedrest. My midwife kindly attended to me keeping my hopes of birthing at home still alive, but as the days went on she grew increasingly concerned for overall safety and recommended I change care providers to a Nurse Midwife. I was devastated. I felt like a failure. I grieved the experience I was hoping to have. Reluctantly and skeptically I met with my new midwife. I went in with my feet planted firmly of all the things that WOULDN'T happen in the hospital for me: don't give me medicine, no episiotomy, giving birth in normal clothes, use of a tub, no vaccinations...Without a pause she agreed to all of them and actually was client-centered not agenda-focused. It threw me completely off-guard because she's part of "them" not "us" who are enlightened and liberated from "the man" or rather the men :) Actually she was part of me. She met me where I was out while artistically and seamlessly weaving in her medical expertise. My new midwife was not threatened by my homebirthing midwife and was ready to join her in a team experience (the homebirth midwife moved to a doula), something that is not heard of in the both worlds.

Labor started and contractions were piggy backing at 2 minutes apart lasting 1 minute in length. Surely I was dilating, that's what all this endurance was for. I had done my preparation and my work and the natural course is to labor and deliver. 12 hours later I found myself at the hospital only to discover I was still sitting dilated at a two, with contractions indicating I was much further along. Home I went with a shot of morphine and a prescription to relax. Another 12 hours later with contractions hitting harder and faster I went to my doctor's office to confirm yet again...I was still at at a 2. With absolute frustration and disappointment we headed to the hospital because the pain was becoming unbearable despite my hynobirthing preparation...this was definitely not pressure but pain. After no relief laying over a ball, breathing deep or sitting in a tub it was time to, yes, get the epidural. I was exhausted and the medication brought on a relaxation that allowed my body to open up and start physically progressing...finally. When it came time to push, 29 hours later, my team of women surrounded my bedside cheering me on, giving me encouragement, strength and eased my fears. After 31 hours of labor my son was born. I watched him be deliver, I felt his head as it was crowning, I experienced his shoulders, arms and legs and they made their way out of my body and in to the world. It was beautiful, it was everything I thought couldn't happen in a hospital. Ocean waves in the background, lights dimmed, my delivery pace respected, my midwife meeting me where I was at.

This is the first time where I have veered from following Ani and gone toe-to-toe with her. This all or nothing mentality that further divides women in the birthing arena is getting worn out and old. This idea that the only way to have a positive experience is to birth at home is unnecessary and untrue. The idea that it's completely unsafe to birth at home is unnecessary and untrue. The idea that male doctors can and will come in to your room and induce, lift the legs up, put on the flourescent lights is naieve. Yes, there are those doctors out there but no that is not all the doctors out there.

I realize my place in this world is to continue to fight for the fight for finding commonality among what seems to be impossibly opposing ideas, to bridge women rather than further spread the divide. To me, this article that Ani has written is ignorant, misinformed and perpetuating more of an "us" vs. "them." Where I stand is for women to have the choice to deliver by someone and somewhere where they feel the most relaxed, the most confident and able to have the experience be the best delivery possible. I am sad for women who have aweful hospital births and sad for the women who have aweful homebirths. I am neither pro-hospital or pro-home...I am pro healthy baby and healthy mom. I am pro let's create discussion rather than creating further isolation.

Ani, I respect your experience, but while sharing yours, please do not feel a need to stereotype and compartmentalize mine...thanks.

Ani DiFranco on 'Club Sacrifice' and her homebirth
Tags: Homebirths , Natural childbirth , News , Quotes

Anidifranco_petahnapolitano2 Motherhood seems to open the door to a secret society, and celebrity mothers are no exception. Singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco shared that she felt the shift in how the world sees her and her relation to other parents with the start of her pregnancy with daughter Petah Lucia, now 15 months.

Being a mom seems to have changed the way the world sees me more than the other way around. Being pregnant really shifts your relationship to society, and then walking around with a baby shifts it again.

I love the feeling that I get from other parents — women in particular — of being a part of the club. Club Sacrifice, you might call it. It’s cool to have camaraderie, warmth, and openness with strangers. I wish that dynamic was more prevalent in general, but I am grateful to have it now.

Having chosen a homebirth for the arrival of Petah in January 2007, Ani discussed her experience. She previously said that she believes birth is "the epicenter of a woman's power;" here, Ani, 37, expounded on her statements and delved deeper into an explanation of her beliefs.

I was in labor for 43 hours. Pushed for five hours. It was brutal and scary and prolonged, and if I was in a hospital, they would have definitely cut the baby out of me. I thank the goddesses that I was at home with patient midwives who knew how to go the distance. The memory of pain always recedes. The memory of triumph does not.

Click below for more on Ani's homebirth experience and her thoughts on 'performance anxiety.'

I would definitely choose a homebirth again despite the fear mongering of this patriarchal society, which convinces women that they are incapable of having babies without the intervention of men and their machines. I look at societies where women are marginalized and oppressed their whole lives (even covered head to toe in tarps!) but are still in control of birthing practice, in a whole new way now. I mean, who is really more advanced?

To take birthing out of women’s hands and deny us the continuum of eons of wisdom and experience is to eject us from the very seat of our power. I believe that women in hospitals are prevented from being able to have normal, healthy birthing experiences because of the intimidation of being on the clock, being pressured to take drugs to make it quicker, being inhibited in their movement and activities, and alienated by a sterile, fluorescent lit, feet-in-the-air type environment.

You know the classic “performance anxiety” of not being able to pee or poo because somebody’s watching you? Multiply that by a million! A cervix is a sphincter after all!

Then to add tragic insult to injury women are numbed through their great moment of revelation. I believe the act of giving birth to be the single most miraculous thing a human being can do and it is surely the moment when a lot of women finally understand the depth of their power and connection to all of nature. You think it can’t possibly be done, you think you can’t possibly take the pain, and then you do — and afterward you look at yourself in a whole new way. If you can do that, you can do anything.


aimee heff said...

Kris, this post was really thought provoking. I've gone back and forth about my birthing plan once I cross that bridge. I have many women friends/sisters that have done it different ways and I agree that believing your way is the right way continues to polarize us as women. We are all different in a world with many, many options. Of course we can do things differently and be ok with each others choices.

I am so happy to hear that your birthing experience was wonderful for you and you got to had your baby the way you felt most comfortable - because in the end that is what is most important.

Again, great post.

naptime nostalgia said...

Loved this post Kris. I say, "Amen!" to everything you said. I have lots of other thoughts about this, but every time I write them out I can't seem to get across what I'd like, so we will just have to chat about this another time.

Again, great post!

Mom said...

As you know I have witnessed home and hospital births and I couldn't agree more with the importance of healthy baby/happy Mom. All births I have witnessed have been beautiful. I like your comment about "fighting for the gray" and "encouraging discussion"
that just seems so you. I really love your perspectives.

Rebecca said...

My ever gray friend, I love you!

I think there is a fundamental difference between you and our beloved Ani D. Ani's self-chosen role in this world is rebel against The System. Rebelling against The System is helpful. We need smart, savvy, artistic people who can make the other side of conventional approachable. People who can inspire empathy in causes and ideals that are not mainstream. I love her for that.

With that being said, we all know that the truth is more complicated than simply black and white. That's Ani's limitation.

That's where you come in lady. :)

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Katie said...

It's funny, I felt the same way about people's reactions when I told them I was going the c-section route this time. My vaginal delivery itself was great, but I tore really bad and the recovery took over 3 months. I had a midwife my first time around and had a bad experience-I had wished I had a doctor. I originally was terrified to give birth here in PR, but suprisingly my experience here, with a doctor, having a c-section was a MUCH better experience! Go figure. I am with you, everyone needs to do what they feel comfortable with. I don't think I ever heard your birth story. Glad you had a good experience!

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