My muse has been directing the painting... out of order. Imagine that! I've asked for some direction today for the next section in sequence so all the birth peeps can follow logic, but you may have to follow my muse with me. Tomorrow we will continue the Hero's Journey.... Today let's begin a mini-series of "Tell the Truth" ideas to change birth in our culture.
On Sunday I had my favorite veggie crepe and salad breakfast at the Green Café with Tara, a critical-thinking friend who is also a doula. She was telling me about how during their first pregnancy, she and her husband signed up for childbirth classes at the hospital where they planned to birth, but for some reason that class canceled after the first two of six, and they were referred to complete the series with another teacher in another childbirth class in a hospital only 17 miles away.
One childbirth class is as good as another, right?
So they transferred classes, no questions asked.
Tara observed that the classes were only 17 miles apart, but they were worlds apart. The first hospital had a 17% cesarean rate, and the second had a 35% cesarean rate. Not surprisingly, this was also reflected in the two hospital’s classes, where not only were the teachers and curriculum “worlds apart,” but so were the attitudes and expectations of the parents. Parents in the second class (who had received prenatal care from, and who planned to birth at, the “high cesarean rate hospital,” seemed to have adopted that hospital’s attitudes. For example, when Tara announced to her first class that she was hoping to have a water birth in that hospital, the teacher and parents accepted and talked openly about this idea. But, when she introduced herself and her water birth plan at the second hospital class, one father said, “Water birth is gross,” and the teacher did not use this as an opportunity to talk about the benefits of option of water birth. Parents who form a class are not merely passive recipients of information in a medical birth culture, they are also unwitting “teachers” and participants in perpetuating it.
Although there are exceptions, for the most part, hospital childbirth classes don’t actually teach parents about childbirth. The only thing they teacher can teach is how to be a patient in the hospital-that-paid-them? Hospital classes don’t tend to teach parents about the wide-range of choices that are available nowadays—only the choices that are available in that hospital.
To be fair, some home birth classes and other methods of childbirth preparation can also be one-sided and omit conversations and preparation regarding certain aspects of medicalized birth in our culture, e.g., how to negotiate decision-making in the hospital (in case there is a transfer), or how to cope with pain, or how to give birth by cesarean.
So, today’s proposal for changing birth in our culture:
Tell the Truth. Don’t mislead parents. If classes don’t actually teach parents about “birth” from their perspective and offer practical information about a wide-range of options that are possible, then, don’t call the “childbirth classes.” So let’s all tell more of the truth now by calling hospital childbirth classes that teach about birth in that hospital what they really are: An Orientation to the Policies, Beliefs, and Attitudes of Birth in Our Hospital.