Have you seen the recent BBC documentary Childbirth: All of Nothing? If not, you might like to watch it on Iplayer or youTube. The documentary follows four women through their pregnancies and births, focussing on their birth choices. One woman chooses a private elective section; another chooses a home waterbirth with an independent midwife; another a home waterbirth with doula and lotus birth (in which the placenta is allowed to detach from the baby on its own); and the other an unattended free birth on her canal boat home.
After watching the documentary I joined in the discussion on a couple of closed groups of mothers, and the thing I found most interesting in these discussions was the description of the four births as “very different.” I guess the caesarean stands out as being very different from the others, which are all natural, unmedicated home births. However, it was the similarity between the births that really grabbed my attention. In the first place, all of the women were making choices about their births and had assumed the authority to make those choices. In the second, they all experienced the births they had in mind. I imagine that a lot of people might consider that they were “lucky” to have the births they were hoping for, but I think preparing for that birth and being informed about their choices is most of what got them there. So often I hear from mothers expressions like “they won’t let me…” or “I wasn’t allowed to…” Since women own their own bodies, and the role of midwives, obstetricians etc. is to care for them, it is the woman who is the focus of care, and the only one who has the authority to “allow” anything.
Part of having the power to make our own birthing decisions is taking on the responsibility to educate ourselves. We need to know the biological processes of birth, our options for labour and delivery, the risks and advantages of different options available to us and our children. I’m grateful that this documentary has brought the perspective of strong, engaged women into the popular discourse on birth, especially as there is another popular programme on at the moment, running in its seventh series, that is filmed in hospital and shows an awful lot of medicalised births. It’s good for women to know that there are alternatives out there; that not everything suggested by a doctor is obligatory; that they own their birth; that they can do this in a way that they will enjoy!
To facilitate this one of the mothers from the documentary is trying to produce a lot of left over footage that discusses various options and the evidence behind them. Kati is hoping to get the footage edited and make it available for free via YouTube, so that it will be accessible to all. If you would like to help her and her team achieve this goal you can find out more and support the Birth You in Love project here. If you would like to find out more about a woman’s options in childbirth, I can recommend looking at Ina May Gaskin and the Positive Birth Movement. Consider it a belated Mother's Day gift!