“ When you give birth to a baby, you give birth to a mother as well. ”

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While Orit and I were traveling, I asked women that I met from Spain, Italy, France, Norway, England, Scotland and Austria about how women give birth in their country and what kind of class or preparation they do. I asked about hospital vs. home, OB vs. midwife, epidural & c-s rates, fathers' involvement, and general attitudes/approaches toward birth. We didn't have long in-depth conversations, and a few of the women were younger & had not yet had babies, but the one common thread was the surprise and curiosity about birth preparation "classes." It was so interesting. They were truly surprised to hear the extent of fear and uncertainty that women in the USA experience when facing giving birth. There did not appear to be anything analogous to our common American birth classes, whether private or in-hospital. The attitude was more "you go and you have your baby." It did not strike me at all as a disempowering lack of available information, but rather an empowering, very natural attitude that women were strong enough to do this, the proper resources would be provided, everyone does it, and welcome to the world of birthing women. Very important to note however, is that all these women knew (even if they hadn't consciously thought about it until I brought it up) that they would be attended by a midwife (a woman), and that a doctor would be used "only if there is a complication or something wrong." This is a key point. They also added that women could get varying types of birth preparation from the midwife, in advance.

After teaching for so many years about different perceptions of and approaches to birth in other parts of the world, it was gratifying (but sad) to have everything more than validated. Those of you who know me know that I am not anti-medical in any general way. But sadly I found myself having to explain to these European women that one of the reasons the American women needed a birth "class" was to "protect themselves" from the American system and to encourage them to have a female labor support companion, in addition to their husband or partner.

When we change our birthing environments to ones that are safe yet private, intimate, and supportive, we will stop believing that birth is the most traumatic thing a woman can face, because it won't be. When conditions are the opposite of what women need, our collective fear is justified. Let's continue to work toward change in this country, so that courage and acceptance can be part of the fabric of our birth preparation.


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