For Earth Day, I want to share a few facts with you. First, birth is a natural process that has been going on since the first mammals graced our planet. Second, birth has become extremely medicalized and expensive. As of 2015, 32.0% of births in the United States and 41.4% at Canton-Potsdam Hospital were by cesarean section. The national average cost in 2011 for a cesarean section ranged from $17,859 to $23,923. Hospital vaginal births ranged from $10,657 to $13,749, while a vaginal birth at a birth center was $2,277.
Don’t get me wrong – hospitals are great if something goes wrong. I would much rather see women have access to a cesarean when they need one than to not have access. Medical interventions can mean the difference between mother and baby surviving and not. As a member of the human race and someone who spends a lot of time thinking about and helping laboring women, I know how valuable interventions can be. But that doesn’t mean that everyone should be spending tens of thousands of dollars to give birth. And a woman who is healthy should have the option to give birth in a space that doesn’t come with the costs and risks associated with hospitals.
Why are hospital births so expensive? There are a lot of pieces in play there. Adriana Lozada of the Birthful Podcast has an excellent interview with Nate Dallas that goes over the expenses of birth and how to finance for yours. If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of what you’re paying for and how to afford it, listen to this podcast. But the short answer is that hospital births are expensive because they need to plan for all the possible problems and they also have a lot of waste. All the sterile only-to-be-used-once items need to be purchased for each patient and then thrown away. All those Peri Bottles and non-slip socks cost money. The packaging for your blood draw costs money. The mandatory Pitocin drip following birth to prevent hemorrhaging (standard practice at CPH) costs money.
I don’t think that everyone should be giving birth in a field with no medical support. I also know that we have to work with what we have. But, when many people are able to have complication-free vaginal births, they shouldn’t have to choose between giving birth in a hospital and having an unassisted birth. As of June of this year, we will no longer have a licensed homebirth midwife in St. Lawrence County. We have no birth centers here. There are very few options for how women can give birth and this is absurd.
I’ll end by leaving all the human-rights and feminist arguments aside and just speaking for the Earth. If we want to leave the smallest impact possible on our planet, we need more options for birth here. We and the Earth deserve that.
I was recently at a birth of a devout Catholic. During contractions, the mother would alternate between stating her birth affirmations and praying.
Our Father, Who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
This beautiful submission to her faith, her God, gave her the strength she needed to endure labor. She was able to let go and trust in her body. While I helped her with hip squeezes, I felt the calm stillness of a holy place in the room. It was amazing.
Birth is a sacred event. A new life is beginning, which in and of itself is sacred. But the trust the birthing woman needs to have in her body is also on the holy realm. She needs to have faith that she can give birth and needs to let go to a higher power. Whether that power is called God, Allah, Goddess, Jesus Christ, Great Spirit, or just Other, the letting go and having faith is what needs to happen.
There aren’t too many times in our modern-day lives that we encounter the type of out-of-body experience that birth puts us in. Interacting in certain athletic endeavors can do it, as can certain religious activities. The mental part of us needs to let go and let our body do what it already knows how to do. The faith in our bodies is what allows us to do the unbelievable.
I wish I could tell you that birth is easy. But it’s not. It’s going to require you to get to the point where you don’t think you can cope anymore. Every woman has a moment (or more) where she doesn’t think she can do it – where the pain is too much. This is the time that faith is especially needed. Most of the time, that point where we don’t think we can go on is right at transition; it’s the point right before pushing where the body makes a big leap. Having faith that the unbearable can be endured is crucial to getting to the part where you birth your baby.
In the months before your due date, you can practice this letting go. One of the best ways to do this is through prenatal yoga. Yoga offers the unique combination of stillness of the mind and challenge of the body. You will practice holding uncomfortable poses while focusing your mind to be comfortable with them. It also is excellent for stretching aching muscles and having a time to concentrate on the life you’re growing inside you.
You can also prepare yourself by meditating with birth affirmations or taking a calm walk. Any time you are alone with your head and body can be an opportunity to check in and remind yourself that you believe in you. You know that your body is capable of giving birth. You truly are amazing.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.