The Best Birth for You: A How-To Guide

Dare to dream, then assemble a team of caregivers who jibe with your worldview

| Utne Reader March / April 2007

Today there are as many ways to have a baby as there are names to give one. Women no longer have to rush into the waiting forceps of a male obstetrician or rely on an herbal, unlicensed midwife. Freestanding birthing centers, certified nurse-midwives, doulas, and widespread acceptance of natural birthing techniques have allowed more women to get creative with how they bring babies into the world, without compromising safety.

'If you told me you really want to give birth with a cross-dressing midwife in a freestanding birthing center with a commune attached to it, I could probably find that for you,' says Lisa Gould Rubin, a doula and childbirth educator at the Good Birth Company in South Salem, New York, and coauthor of The Birth That's Right for You (McGraw-Hill, 2005).

Even as women have more options, birthing experts and surveys have found a phenomenal number of women coming away from their birth experiences feeling let down at best, violated at worst. Jennifer Block, a New York City-based journalist who interviewed dozens of mothers for her new book Pushed (Da Capo, 2007),
says many of the women she spoke with imagined themselves dealing with labor in time-tested ways, but their experience resembled an intensive care unit more than a candlelit sanctuary.

'They saw themselves walking around the hospital, taking a bath, breathing through the contractions, and bouncing on a birth ball,' Block says. Instead, many were tethered to their hospital beds by monitors, catheters, and tubes. 'One woman told me that she felt like a science experiment.'

Carol Sakala, program director at the nonprofit Childbirth Connection in New York City, says if women feel that they were duped by their hospital birth, it's because they probably were. Hospital caregivers and marketing messages often tout options and choice, but when contractions begin, much hospital birth care is in fact quite standardized. 'For women who want a natural, unmedicated birth, the hospital environment really is a square peg in a round hole,' says Sakala.

The good news is that women have options and information. All it takes is some research and self-exploration.

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