Today while I was searching for the new study on the link between obesity and autism, I found a link from BBC's "Witness." They interviewed JANET BALASKAS, who, in 1982, was (in her own words), "just a mother and childbirth teacher in north London." She had never given a speech but found herself speaking to a group of 6,000 people, mostly mothers and fathers (and babies too). Balaskas announced and organized this march in London for the right to birth normally, and through a groundswell of consumer-interest (the internet, let alone social media, was not around yet!), 6,000 parents gathered to demand the right to birth normally. The protesters carried signs with messages such as: "SQUAT FOR YOUR RIGHTS" and "STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS." Janet invited Dr. Michel Odent, author of many books on birth, and he came to support them! Fortunately, a rock band offered the free use of a stage and sound system.
JANET BALASKAS, now a well-known author and founder of Active Birth (1990/1992) and birth activist, is an amazing woman. She has a beautiful, peaceful Active Birth Centre in north London (Virginia Bobro and I have both enjoyed giving talks and workshops at the Active Birth Centre when we were in London).
What inspired Janet to organize a march in 1982 was that women were literally being "forced" to birth on their backs. Janet went to the library to inform herself on other positions women could labor/birth in, and she discovered that, until the 16th century, women gave birth standing, squatting, and kneeling--there were no illustrations of women lying on their backs. She also learned (it was new news back then!) that when mothers lie on their backs, the pelvic diameter decreased and blood supply to the fetus decreased.
When Janet became pregnant, she sought out a midwife for a home birth. At the time her midwives had not seen a woman give birth upright, but they were willing to go with this; Janet did birth at home. She had four children.
When Janet first taught women "Active Birth" and upright birth positions, it was revolutionary. "Active Birth" was banned in the hospital. One doctor referred to active birth as "animalistic behavior." Through persistence, the idea of birthing upright, or in whatever position the woman desires, has become more "accepted." Even so, recently I was speaking with a mother who was still surprised to learn she could give birth without lying on her back!
There are new questions to ask, now in 2012:
(1) How many mothers in Western hospitals (who are not being induced or are confined to bed because of an epidural) are really encouraged or "allowed" to stand and birth, or get on hands-and-knees, or squat on the bed or on a blanket on the floor?
(2) How many mothers who ARE "allowed" to get up and walk in labor are told to get in bed during pushing and birthing?
(3) How many mothers are "demanding" the right to give birth naturally?
To hear the interview on BBC's "Witness" with Janet Balaskas: