Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Barbarians in Blogistan"

Apparently I am part of an ultra-extreme movement, according to a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen, "Barbarians in Blogistan." Here is what the author has to say about people who give birth at home without a paid attendant:
Then there are the medical amateurs, who conduct their own research, attempt to heal themselves on their own, and even give birth by themselves. Devotees of the "unassisted birth movement" hold that newborns should be delivered by the mother herself, without a doctor or midwife or doula present...Certainly, do-it-yourself ob-gyn is amateurism at its most extreme. The majority of the millions of amateurs out there are not far-out obsessives...
Sweet! Now I am a "far-out obsessive." I get a kick out of the idea that allowing an involuntary bodily function to happen is somehow extreme. Sure, DIY brain surgery would be extreme. Or for that matter, a DIY cesarean. Ouch!

But giving birth isn't something you do; it's something you simply let be. For almost all labors, nothing needs to be "done." You just stand aside and enjoy the ride. Dutch obstetrician (and ardent midwifery and homebirth supporter) Gerrit-Jan Kloosterman agrees:
Spontaneous labour in a normal woman is an event marked by a number of processes so complicated and so perfectly attuned to each other that any interference will only detract from the optimal character. The only thing required from the bystanders is that they show respect for this awe-inspiring process by complying with the first rule of medicine--nil nocere [do no harm].


  1. Just wanted to say hello to another "far-out obsessive".
    Planning another amateur birth as we speak. Nothing in my life was like my unhindered birth. What a joy! I feel blessed to experience childbirth in its truly natural form.

  2. You know, this is just another example of the people living inside the little, confining box of a society full of "let's be like everybody else'ers" deciding that those who decide to live outside the box are completely crazy, and attempting to pull them back in. Way to go, Rixa. You have earned the scorn of some, and yet influenced for good more people than you can possibly imagine. Your example is changing minds and changing lives.

  3., 5:17 PM

    Wow, this statement is just priceless ("do-it-yourself ob-gyn is amateurism at its most extreme"). I fail to grasp at how a bodily function can even be classified as something amateur or professional (assuming that's the opposite). I can even see how doing a PAP youself or some other "gyn" procedure could be amateurism at the extreme...that's a procedure that doesn't happen naturally. Very curious statement out of Ottawa. And I thought the Canadians (to make a blanket statement) were a little more progressive with birth? Hmm.

  4. Jen, I think the statement comes from the mindset that birth is a medical procedure that is done to a woman. And, frankly, for most women, it is. Make a list of common procedures during a typical hospital birth and sure, it does look very technical/medical.

    - IV
    - Pitocin in said IV
    - fetal monitor
    - various injection/IV drugs
    - epidural or spinal anesthesia
    - delivery table with stirrups, footrests, and motorized up-down-sideways-tilt action
    - restriction of food and drink
    - frequent vaginal exams
    - automatic blood pressure monitor
    - 1 million megawatt spotlight for the "delivery"
    - episiotomy/cesarean/forceps/ vacuum extraction
    - "controlled" delivery of head and shoulders (ie, lots of manipulations)
    - perineal "massage" (ie, stretching)
    - managed third stage (routine pitocin shot, cord traction, fundal massage)
    - immediate cord clamping, suctioning, baby taken to warming table

    Many people cannot even imagine what birth is like without those procedures!

    I think a lot of people imagine home births, or unassisted births, are "amateur" versions of hospital births. Yes, that would be INCREDIBLY dangerous to replicate at home. But the whole point is that we *don't* do all of those things, for very good reasons.

    In other words, a hospital-style birth at home would be very unwise.

    But if people have never seen anything other than a hospital-style birth, they will have no other point of reference. Until they are exposed to a physiologic, undisturbed birth, they will continue to see hospital birth as the normative, and only, way of birth.

  5. Wonderful post, bravo!

  6. You're a BARBARIAN! That's like a superhero! :D

    Excellent comment above mine, BTW. You hit the nail right on the head (but you always do!).


  7. ...well, it's all nice and good to ascribe mere ignorance to the Canadian journalist. But I wouldn't give him/her off the hook so easily. Saying UC devotees "hold that newborns should be delivered by the mother herself" is not only inaccurate, it is intentionally phrased in a way that is a misrepresentation of our beliefs. "Should"? Well, depends which mothers' newborns. "Be delivered"? This phrase is not even part of our vocabulary. Whom is the author quoting? A statement like "they provide a supportive community for women who choose to and prepare to give birth spontaneously in the absence of medical procedures" would be much closer to the truth.

    Perhaps that level of accuracy would undermine the instant sensationalism and cheap satire that makes journalism such a lucrative profession these days.

  8. Oooo, this is fun. I love reading the thoughts of women who actually think, rather than spout. Well done, ladies.

  9. "But giving birth isn't something you do; it's something you simply let be. For almost all labors, nothing needs to be "done." You just stand aside and enjoy the ride."

    beautifully put =)

  10. My husband LOVES the 'barbarian' in me... (laughs) THAT'S the opinion that's MOST important, IMO. I would NEVER attempt to replicate what's done in a hospital at our home. Duh... It's BECAUSE of the non-stop medical interventions that we've CHOSEN to birth UBAC! Why is it when folks CHOSE to be responsible for themselves- someone wants to complain & take that from them?? Too often, someone's pointing fingers at someone else- blaiming others for the 'problems' in today's world. We CHOSE to take responsibility for ourselves & we're STILL wrong!! (sheesh)

  11. "Do it yourself ob-gyn," that sounds like you're performaing a caesarean on yourself! Then again, obstetrics and caesarean are coming to be synonyms, so maybe that IS what they think you're doing!


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