Why Birth Art?
Well. Let's see... I don't consider myself to be an expert in any other field than mixing colors of paint to achieve the desired result. That I can do. What I cannot do is tell you what is right for you as a mom (or a dad) when it comes to your pregnancy, birth and the raising of your children.
Apparently it is somewhat of a miracle that my husband and I agree about 99.9% on almost all parenting issues. We've managed to raise two very cool kids. I don't know how we've done it per se but we've done it and are doing it (raising our children-that is).
With the advent of the documentary The Business of Being Born it seems the topic of birth and how to give birth has all but exploded over the last several years. I missed this re-awakening by a long shot. My first born is almost ten years old.
Times have changed. Ten years ago there was: no support for breast feeding at the hospital where I had my son. In fact I was encouraged not to nurse because my son was having a lot of trouble latching on and I was told that it would be best to feed him formula. Which I did.
Ten years ago immediate fetal distress meant a rapid trip to the OR. Before I knew what hit me a needle was in my spine and I was out like a light. This is after hours and hours of unproductive, induced labor and a subsequent x-ray to be sure my hips were wide enough to give birth. I assure you, they are plenty wide enough.
There was no talk of risks to the baby with the drugs or the x-ray. Honestly, the only thing I had to save me was a mother who believed in prayer. She called everyone she possibly knew the night I went into labor because I knew from the very beginning it was all going to be very much a disaster from start to finish in many ways. I was young. Every time I squeaked there was one nurse in particular who treated me like some moron teenager off the street. It was so awful I can't stand to think about it. I was 23 years old when I had my first baby.
So, after the c-section I finally came to and it felt like someone had sliced my guts open with a very dull blade. Pain. It was so painful. I did not get to stay awake during the operation because, ten years ago in rural New Brunswick, they just didn't do that.
When I first saw my baby I could hardly see at all. My eyes were blurry from all the pain meds and who knows what else was floating through my (and my baby's) system. I could not bear to think about all of that. I had no chance to bond with him at all at first. I could not hold him. I asked over and over again how big he was and he was a strapping young lad of 9lbs and 12 ounces and absolutely gorgeous to me.
After a day or two my son developed a rash on his cheeks. The nurses told me it was because he had been in the "cooker" a little too long. Ten days past my due date. I didn't know that was something that was even possible. I thought babies were meant to be born when they were meant to be born. This was so much (mis)information going around it was crazy.
When we finally made it home I was more than exhausted. I was so drug out and in pain and I was confused and sad and angry and afraid. I was very afraid. It felt like so much had gone wrong with his birth. I hardly slept a wink in the hospital because I hate hospitals and there was so much light and noise and people. Not like home. Home was quiet and pitch black at night. Silent. How I would have loved to have had my baby there, in my bedroom, amidst all that peaceful solitude.
And I don't even want to talk about body issues. I am five foot one and I was the size of a house when I came to term. My body didn't look like my body at all anymore. I used to be so skinny. Now? Not so much. Nothing was the same with me physically ever again. There was no room for that boy to go but out and out he went. Stretched my skin like crazy. That was one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. I was not at all prepared for the changes pregnancy can cause.
As life settled into a fairly decent rhythm my husband and I enjoyed our new baby immensely. We were so protective. He more than me. One time some friends showed up at our house in the middle of the afternoon (or maybe it was early evening) with beers in hand looking to socialize I suppose. Well, my husband kicked them off our property immediately. I was inside giving the baby a bath and had no idea he was making them all leave. I felt so bad. I felt like he was losing such a huge part of his former life. He never once complained. Never once looked back. He was all about me and our son. Nothing else came into his periphery. Those friendships were damaged and never really ever recovered. I felt guilty about that for years.
Now? Ten years later? I feel very ripped off. I feel like my doctor never even came close to informing me about my choices as a new mother. Then again, I also realize taking charge of my pregnancy was something I should have done for myself. But when you are young, you don't know that. You do what you are told. You do it because you think that is what is best. You operate of the information given to you at the time by your mom. Your doctor. Your sister. Anyone who has a little experience with having babies. Prenatal classes never mentioned a thing about water birth, home birth, doulas, midwives. None of that. In fact here is a direct quote from that same nurse from Hell I mentioned earlier "You will feel like your are being ripped in half. I assure you-you're not". Nice, eh? No wonder I was so afraid. No wonder I willingly went for the c-section.
Things were not a whole lot better when I had my second baby two and a half years later.
But, thankfully, times have changed. They have.
I think we still need to turn it up a notch though. I am very tired of all the fear mongering that is going on in the world of birthing. I think it is time we match our vast array of knowledge on the subject with a good dose of humility and more importantly, kindness.
Some of the things I have read and heard from home birth advocates and anti-intervention this that and the other thing leave me feeling almost ashamed of my choices as a mother. Yet, in my community I am often commended on how good of a mother I am. Where is the truth? Am I good? Am I bad because I didn't try harder to have a more natural approach? I don't know.
The one thing I do know is a new mother is fragile. She needs love. She needs support. Guidance. She needs to be respected for her choices however they're made. She needs encouragement and she needs patience. She needs a nap and a good hot shower. What she doesn't need is preaching. What she doesn't need is the guilt and the holier than thou bullshit. You know exactly what I am talking about, don't you?
Needless to say-for the most part-I think we all do the best WE can.
I am thankful that when it comes time for my daughter to start her family, if she chooses to, I will have the wisdom and the knowledge and the power to inform her of all her options. She will know what her choices are. That's one thing I didn't have. I didn't seem to have a choice. It was what it was.
I would like to encourage the community of women committed to natural birth and parenting in general to use caution. Anything can happen. A Postpartum mom is fragile. Treat her gently. A pregnant mom is frightened. Give her hope. A mother of a toddler is tired. Give her rest. A mother of a teenager is at her wits end. Give her a bottle of wine and a night out.
It's about support, folks. It's about love. It's about information and it's about time we come around to a more balanced approach toward the whole deal. If you have had the opportunity to have your children at home and to nurse and to do all the things you had ever hoped to do when your baby was born, consider yourself blessed beyond measure but don't use it as a soapbox to make other moms who have taken a different path feel bad. It's wrong. Women must support each other. Life is hard enough as it is. Am I right? Of course I am.
To answer the question I posed at the first of this post: I create birth art because I know what it means to be a mother. I know the fear, the strain, the joy-the everything. I put it into my art and it resonates with moms and midwives and doulas and families in general all over the place because it's real. No agenda. Just reality. I know what it is to love a child the moment you realize one is on the way. It starts from day one and carries on into eternity. He or she is invariably a piece of your heart.
FACTS ABOUT MY FAMILY'S BIRTH HISTORY:
-My grandmother had ten pregnancies. Of those ten four died. That's almost half her family if you do the math.
-All of her babies were born at home. Would they have survived with medical intervention? Who knows?
-My mother had three babies. I was the last one. I was born prematurely and would have died without medical intervention.
-All three babies were born in a hospital. Pain medication free as far as I know.
-My sister had three babies via c-section. She wanted to have her third child naturally, her doctor wouldn't go for that. Her third baby was born several weeks early. She spent a week or two in the neonatal unit of the hospital. She was a strapping four pounds (or so).
-My sister was also encouraged not to breast feed even though she wanted to and did try despite the suggestion to do otherwise. Her oldest child is 17.
More on the topic HERE.