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Pregnancy and Child Birth – Her Wisdom, Her Work

pregnancy and child birth trusting women's inner wisdom and her body

Ever since man and woman came to partner on this planet, women have given birth. Birthing has been their second nature – an involuntary process – like breathing. But, times changed. And messages too. The modern woman was constantly drilled with messages about child birth that created dark and perilous clouds of fear in her mind. She was constantly being told if she won’t do this, that might happen, if she won’t listen to so and so, she’ll put her baby at risk. So, she was constantly listening – to every fear-inducing message from the authority figures, from the medical experts, from the machines and the lab tests. The only important being she was told to not listen to was her own body, her own inner wisdom and her natural instinct as a woman and a mother.

But, pregnancy and motherhood is not merely a medical event. 

Pregnancy is a rite-of-passage that will refine and redefine a woman’s whole being. She will remain herself – and yet she’ll change inside out – her body, her bones, the muscles and their tones, the hormones surging within, the blood flowing through her veins, her emotional and mental state and every single cell in her body – they’ll come together to form an alliance, to chart out a path, to strengthen and ease each other onto that life-changing journey of preparing the woman for child-birth and motherhood.

When every aspect of her – her mind, body, spirit has to undergo changes – even the structure of her brain will look different after child birth – isn’t it imperative that this woman must lay exclusive trust in herself to be able to face the changes and the challenges that come with it?

Respect during pregnancy and child birth. It’s her fundamental human right

And, for the mother to trust herself and her environment, isn’t it vital that she should have the right to choose how, when and where (home or hospital) she wants to give birth to her child? Isn’t it a fundamental human right of the pregnant woman to be respected as the decision maker for her own care and her baby’s care?

Instead, the health care systems, all around the world treat pregnant women like patients, subjecting them to interventions, procedures and check-ups without their informed consent. Many, many women come out of such experiences feeling violated, abused and traumatized. But, often keep their mouth shut either out of fear or out of ignorance. Often, they don’t even know birthing their child with dignity is their fundamental human right. I didn’t figure this either during my first child’s birth when I surrendered my fate in the hands of those so-called experts who treated me like a 2-year old asking to keep my mouth shut or I’ll be responsible to put my baby’s life at risk. I felt humiliated by the gross interference, by the sheer neglect, by the looking-down-upon attitude. But, I knew nothing better. Not then.

But, now I know. And, I wish women all around the world know their rights during pregnancy and child birth. Only when we know our rights can we be true to our selves. Only then can we overcome our fears and begin to be true to who we are and what we want.

So, bring on the Oxytocin, the love hormone. The natural Oxytocin, mind you, and NOT the synthetic one that will compromise a mother’s well being and her child’s as well. Let’s ask those health care systems vocalizing “happy mothers, healthy babies” to restore compassion and respect and NOT fear and unnecessary ‘expert’ interventions and interference as the cornerstone of child-birth practices.

Let’s tell them that child-birth is not merely about survival; there’s much more to it for the woman in question. It’s about her right to emotional health, her courage and confidence, her identity and integrity, her belief in herself. And, last but not least – her spiritual growth and freedom.

An edit to add something (a song):
Merely minutes after publishing this article, I came upon this song – shared by a friend (Daria Marmaluk) on FB. It was kind of eerie to realize the words exactly summed up the essence of my message. I could not not share the song with you here. So, here goes. What a timeless song!


Somethin’ Inside So Strong

The higher you build your barriers, the taller I become
The farther you take my rights away, the faster I will run
You can deny me, you can decide to turn your face away
No matter ’cause there’s…

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doin’ me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone, oh no
There’s something inside so strong
Something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho, your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place and time, you squander wealth that’s mine

My light will shine so brightly it will blind you
Because there’s…
Something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters, when they insist we’re just not good enough.

Well, we know better, just look ’em in the eyes and say.

“We’re gonna do it anyway, we’re gonna do it anyway…
We’re gonna do it anyway”

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you’re doin’ me wrong, so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone, oh no
There’s something inside so strong
Something inside so strong

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • SADHANA BHAGWAT July 19, 2016, 5:20 pm

    unfortunately Rashmie, not everyone can boast of healthy and happy outcomes from child birth when they deliver at homes. the statistics through the ages are evidence of this. it was common to have at least one child die during pregnancy and also many times, the mothers. there can be no blanket approach. institutional deliveries have helped bring down maternal mortality globally and in India. so, these are not all from vested interests!

    • Rashmie July 20, 2016, 7:31 pm

      This is the irony in the world of maternal caregiving. There’s a section of the world population that gets over monitored, over-examined and controlled during hospital births. The result of which is rampant interventions, interference, hilarious proportions of caesarian births leading to more and more medical procedures, multiplying costs and unnecessary health hazards – the visible and the not-so-visible: long-term effects (and effects in the long-term) from epidurals, episiotomies and abdominal surgeries. If it wasn’t for vested interests, the rate of c-sections wouldn’t be more than double in private hospitals. And hey, the rate of c-sections in certain states of India where there are an abundance of medical colleges is skyrocketing. Where the national average of c-sections is 18-20%, in such states, it’s nearly 50%! The hospitals, the practicing students (they need to fund their education and high loans!) everyone gains something.

      And then, there’s another section of women (and their new-borns) – the less privileged (in terms of money, education, awareness, access) who’d rather do well to have some decent care and monitoring. For such marginalized societies the hospitals would do good to step up and provide the required caregiving. But, the maternal and infant care services they receive is dismal.

      It’s heart-breaking to find that “in 2014, India’s government said its health-care spending would amount to 1% of its gross domestic product, which gives it among the lowest rates globally, according to the World Health Organization. That level of expenditure puts India behind countries like China and Afghanistan. The U.S. government spends about 8.3% of its GDP on healthcare.” Read this report:
      http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2016/02/15/how-to-reduce-indias-infant-mortality-rate/

      Hospital or home – it won’t matter much as long as mothers get what they deserve and need – appropriate care, information, dignity, choices. They would do well without the fear-mongering drilling from the experts. They would do well to be not pushed into ICUs when their labour is moving alright. They’d do well to be not inducted at 38 weeks of gestation. 42 weeks is natural, it’s healthy. But the healthiest of mothers are given a deadline much sooner, despite the known fact that a baby’s brain grows way faster in the last few weeks of gestation. Every day counts for the baby. They’d do well to be not separated from their babies just because it’s “hospital policy”. They’d do well if they’re allowed to breastfeed the baby and not pollute the baby’s body with formula milk. The list is endless….
      My heart weeps in such a world.

  • Sunita July 20, 2016, 2:46 am

    In the USA we have a very high rate of hospital births and a very low rate of maternal/fetal survival for such a “developed” country as we are thought to be. USA maternal/fetal care is very poor. My own birth experiences were very institutionalized and stressful and I feel like they caused me to have a post-traumatic stress disorder for months afterward where I couldn’t stop ruminating on the inhumane things that happened to me and the babies. Even the work of getting pregnant the first time was very institutionalized and surgeries and really bad medical advice was given and I almost lost my reproductive organs due to outdated practices used on me! I was told I could never get pregnant, then once I was pregnant, I was told the baby was over 10 lbs. at 8 months gestation, and I was told so many more things that probably aren’t fit to write here. All were lies and fearmongering and ate away at my body confidence. I left that first doctor when I was 8 days overdue with my first baby and the new doctors that took me in were wonderful, but the hospital where they did deliveries still was in the dark ages. Once I got far more in touch with my hormonal cycle between the two pregnancies, I figured out I just had to stop eating gluten and I was pregnant almost immediately compared to all the horrors that I went through the first time. I had another truly misogynistic doctor for the second birth when I was trying for a VBAC and he was so mad at my midwife for allowing me to attempt the VBAC that he didn’t allow me food or water for over 12 hours of labor until I was so weak that I had no choice but to have another c-section. During the surgery, he closed my wounds on purpose with unsuitable closures that tore open and the staff felt he did it vindictively as a message to the midwife because no one had ever seen him use that type of closure before. With all that said, I now look back and feel thankful for the rough, unpleasant, exhausting, unhealthy experiences because it makes me have sympathy for all the women I see going through the same thing. There is only one friend I know who has had a truly beautiful hospital birth, and many, many friends I know who have had beautiful, safe home births even though we live in a rural area. I think what you have written here is a very important message for women all over the world. Birth must be allowed to become the human and humane process it should be.

    • Rashmie July 21, 2016, 12:01 am

      My dear Sunita – I totally understand the pain, trauma and loss you felt after such a horrid experience for such an important milestone in your life. I came out feeling this way too – after Pari’s birth in the hospital. The birth that could have been natural, beautiful and joyful turned out painful – both physical and emotional. The biggest loss I felt was over my baby being kept away from me for hours when there was no need for it whatsoever. She was being bottle fed by nurses rather than being on my bosom feeling warm and safe and loved. What can I say, I’m still healing from all that. But yes, like you said, that experience made me see what matters to me as a woman and a mother. I’m proud of myself that I was not afraid to deny myself the value of grieving over that inhuman treatment. I did not lock those feelings up in a closet and did not blame myself for being sensitive or holding on to my dignity. Unlike many women do – often they blame themselves for the feelings they harbour over some or other form of violence.
      That experience, like you said, makes me see what women on this earth must stand up for.

  • Lina July 20, 2016, 11:08 pm

    Hi Rashmie – loved your blog and have shared it too. It’s important for the womens’ voices to rise, to speak up about what you are passionate about. I am a midwife and I strongly advocate for similar values especially autonomy and dignity, respect etc. I hope you will consider coming to the Human Rights in Childbirth Conference in Tata Institute, Mumbai o 2-5 February 2017 Registration is here: http://tinyurl.com/jabk6f2 and info at http://www.humanrightsinchildbirth.org We hope to come together to discuss and present on many issues with the goal of improving childbirth across the nation. It’s always healthy to evaluate and look at what can be changed for the benefit of Mother and Baby and that’s our hope.

    • Rashmie July 29, 2016, 11:07 pm

      Dear Lina,
      Thank you for sharing your views here and for sharing my blog article.
      I’d have loved to attend the Human Rights in Child Birth Conference. It’s high time we hold community forums and discussions around this subject and spread awareness about what women and mothers must ask for.
      I’m based in Goa and at this point it’ll be difficult for me to travel to Mumbai for this conference but I hope you’ll continue to have this conference in the future too and I’ll try my best.

  • Sunita July 21, 2016, 2:30 am

    I should add one more thing that is a problem in hospitals all over the world – infection rates! My sister had a c-section at a famous hospital in a famous city and two weeks after her child was born, the maternity ward was closed by the health department due to a very high infection rate for many previous months, including the time that my sister was there! These things are very scary. Another person she knows was birthing in the hospital and had a freak stroke and never recovered, despite the fact that she was in a hospital at the time. I think that hospitals have a place in birth, but it needs to be redefined to be more woman/baby/natural process-centered and there needs to be a healthy relationship between hospitals, birth centers, and homebirth midwives and the woman herself! The industrialization of birth is a mistaken path for the human race to take. And the disempowerment of the woman relates to all areas of women’s physical and mental health and her ability to have healthy relationships, make healthy choices. A vaginal birth seems to be the exception to the rule now in the USA, and this destruction of confidence in the body starts early in a girl’s life when she is not given proper information about her body, told to feel shameful about menstruation, told to feel shameful about her sexuality, or told to feel shameful about violence that other people committed on her body. Later, she is told to feel shameful about hormonal disorders, menopause, and the natural process of aging. Your message here is very important for women’s health and for society’s health, Rashmie.

    • Rashmie July 29, 2016, 11:20 pm

      You’ve touched some fundamental problems in this thought:”this destruction of confidence in the body starts early in a girl’s life when she is not given proper information about her body, told to feel shameful about menstruation, told to feel shameful about her sexuality, or told to feel shameful about violence that other people committed on her body”

      And, yes, industrialization of birth was the nail in the coffin for us earthly beings after the industrialization of food, of education, of health…
      Everything inc. !!

  • Uma Handa July 21, 2016, 11:03 am

    I fully agree with Rashmi that there has to be a healthy relationship between the birthing woman,her family and most important the health care providers at all levels irespective of home or institutional delivery. A movement regarding woman’s rights is catching up globaly and we the Midwives and mothers to be should support it strongly. I am a postgradute Midwife and have been MCH Consultant at UNICEF and in a private hospital. Have been in touch with parents to be for childbirth preparation and lactation management for a long time. At the moment practicing Lactation management independently. I feel very much pained to see the situation going from bad to worst. We need to work hard togather

    • Rashmie July 29, 2016, 11:28 pm

      Dear Uma,
      Thank you so much for stopping by to share your thoughts. What you and many more midwives, including Lina, are doing is a service for our society. Modern India is in a state of losing most of our traditional knowledge and expertise. Please keep spreading the word about natural birth and midwifery. I hope many more women will be inspired to become midwives and doulas and change the negative narrative associated with pregnancy and child birth.

  • Miquela July 27, 2016, 1:03 am

    I’m a little late to the conversation because I was away on holidays.

    Sadly, I think in our day and age, no matter where we are on the planet, we as women are either outright discouraged (by medical professionals “who know better” or by family who believe that we lil’ ol’ women should leave such matters in the capable hands of doctors) or, at best, not encouraged to take charge of our own pregnancies.

    When we do try to take an interest and make our wishes known, we are often treated like extraterrestrials, eccentrics, or pooh-poohed for our worries. One of my sisters gave birth to a stillborn baby. She gained quite a bit of weight during the pregnancy (not her first) and was worried, but the doctor told her that she was simply eating too much. When she protested that this was not the case, he snidely said that he supposed little food goblins were stuffing her face for her while she slept. He never ran any tests to see if there was something to her fears. This was in the USA.

    I gave birth to my first baby in France. I wanted a home birth, but everyone I contacted about it (in my rural area) treated me like I was an irresponsible person. I ended up giving birth in a hospital, where an overworked midwife and her assistant were simultaneously tending four laboring women. They told my husband to go home and sleep a bit because I had at least 8 hours of labor ahead of me. I refused and good thing since my daughter was born 45 minutes after that pronouncement. My baby was immediately taken away, measured and weighed, cleaned up, dressed, and stuck in an incubator next to me. The midwives left for an hour to see to other patients, while I lay cold and alone in the operating room, staring at my baby in a plastic box. Even writing about that moment makes me tear up and relive the frustration, anger, hurt, and loss.

    When I got pregnant with my son, I was determined to take charge of my own birthing process. We were already living in Egypt at the time, and a home birth was once again out of the question. Nevertheless, I researched home and hospital births. I wrote up a birth plan and hired a private midwife to accompany me at the hospital during the moments my OB/GYN was not there. Everyone, including my doctor, was amazed at how the birth went, but mostly at how involved I was in it. My doctor said she loved how interested I was in the process because most women just show up and say something to the effect of, “Get this baby out of me.”

    In Egypt, women are made to believe that they are not strong enough to give birth naturally or that their pelvises are too narrow.* The C-Section rate was declared by the WHO to be the highest in the world in 2009 based on a 2003 study. Then the percentage was around 27; a more recent study says the number has risen to 52%. Here is an article on the situation if you are interested: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/born-knife-egypt-s-birthing-business-c-sections-are-sold-only-option-586089653

    To say the least I was on my guard and very defensive going into hospital, afraid of being lied to, as the woman in the article stated was the case for her. I was blessed to find a doctor who was(is) a good listener and respectful of my choices. She writes prescriptions easily, but she never forced or tried to shame me into taking any of the medications. So, when I got pregnant with my second son, I chose her again.

    This time, I also wrote up a birth plan was unable to pass it along because the labor went so fast. My private midwife didn’t have time to show up and the doctor arrived just in time to put me in the birthing pool, where I delivered 15 minutes later. Before that, I had only my husband and his limited command of Arabic to stick up for me with the hospital staff who wanted to give me an antibiotic, shave me, give me an IV, etc. always citing “hospital policy” even though I know these things are not necessary. I did end up letting them put in a Hep-lock, but it was unneeded and caused me discomfort.

    Of my three births, all of which were vaginal and 100% natural, the one where I felt the closest to my baby and the least guilt and regret was with my second child. That was where I was listened to, respected, and helped by my chosen helpers rather than “managed” by the hospital staff.

    Although I would have preferred to birth at home*, I am not against hospital births, but I think women ought to be allowed the choice…and the infrastructure should exist to support her in that choice. Yes, women and babies die in home births. Women and babies also die in hospital births. A birth at home does not translate to some uninformed “hippy hocus-pocus” happening with absolutely no recourse to modern medicine. A hospital birth does not mean that everything will go perfectly (see the comment above about the risk of infections in hospitals).

    No matter where a woman delivers her baby, she owes it to herself and her child to educate herself. I believe every woman should learn about her pregnancy (beyond the “your baby is the size of a grape” variety of facts), her rights, and standard procedures at hospitals/clinics, as well as other options like home birth or birthing centers that strive to recreate a home-like environment. A woman should think about what she desires of her birthing experience and work to make that happen.

    BUT! Not every woman is in a financial situation to do so, and no matter how much you plan something, life does not always allow those plans to come to fruition. In that case, no one should feel or be made to feel guilt at not achieving some ideal. And no one should be made to birth in a hospital because of bogus statistics that say it is safer. Here’s an interesting article: http://www.parenting.com/blogs/natural-parenting/taylor-newman/afraid-home-births-risk-factor-surprising-new-study-might-chan

    I apologize if I’ve talked around the subject without really addressing it. I have been trying to write this comment for three days now and keep getting distracted. 😛
    _____________
    * My OB/GYN was willing to look into a home birth for me here in Egypt. I finally decided against it because of two factors: 1) The traffic in Cairo is unpredictable and often times horrific. There was no way to guarantee I could quickly be transfered to a hospital if the need arose; 2) I was the only one who felt comfortable and confident birthing at home. Neither the OB/GYN, my midwife, or my husband was on board with the idea, and I didn’t want to deal with my own laboring process and have to make sure everyone else was feeling OK and “reassured.”

  • Rashmie July 30, 2016, 1:00 am

    Miquela, I feel honoured that you considered this space worthy of sharing your stories. Three birth stories! All profound, brave, natural and nurturing – nurturing to the listener to be able to partake in such tales of life and living.

    And, thank you for sharing your valuable perspective. You have more than addressed the subject. You’ve given such a direct, real-life perspective as well as a holistic view of how a birth may be and how women must feel empowered to choose for themselves and their babies.
    I feel blessed to have a community where I can fall back on friends such as yourself.

  • Probhita August 15, 2016, 11:11 am

    Great post, Rashmie!

    I have to say that there are some doctors today, very few,but some nontheless, who are pro- alternative or at least willing to work with the mother instead of administering the standard, fascist, I’m telling-you-so-this-is-how-it’ll-be- OBGYN procedures. They are extremely rare and it will take extensive searching to find a doctor who will work with you.

    Today with the internet and information and resources at our finger-tips, I wish I could do my babies again! But thankfully, my experiences were a blessing.

    Ria was born in Mumbai. At the time, 15 years ago, there were no midwives available. So we must have consulted with at least 20 doctors from all over to find the right one!

    Finally Dr. Mathias in Holy Family, Bandra, seemed the right pick. She was incredibly supportive! She allowed Adam to be with me through the labor and delivery and allowed me to say no to medication. She helped me find a Lamaz class and was wonderful! I think doctors can also tell when we are educated on the subject and not just belligerently pushing our cause but understanding what can go wrong and being informed.

    A lot of women want in-and-out and can’t be bothered with the pain. Media too, makes it extra-horrific and the doctors will obviously go with the fastest and more lucrative options.

    Our first choice was a home birth for both our children but unfortunately that was not possible at the time. But for both births I had very supportive doctors who allowed us to be in charge while they supervised.

    It takes work, a lot of homework and the courage to say no to spoon-fed propaganda. Orwell could see the future and unless individuals step up to the plate and embrace the truth regardless of the resistance, women are going to sign away their privileges of ‘beauty birthing’ and accept standard procedures. The government and the medical institutions (who threw out the baby with the bath water – literally) and are drowning the mothers in experimental baptisms, have no ‘individual’ view. They want the stats and they’ll do their best to cover the emotional (and subsequently) physical trauma that their pharma marriages birth!

    Kudos to you and all moms with courage! Let’s hope more women trust their God-given instinctive wisdom and trust their own abilities to do what only they can do best, birth the next (even more empowered and healthier) generation and exult in the metamorphosis!

    We are back from the US and I’m looking forward to catching up with you before the year is out!

  • Lavern Burleigh August 22, 2016, 6:10 am

    This exquisite hormonal orchestration unfolds optimally when birth is undisturbed, enhancing safety for both mother and baby. Science is also increasingly discovering what we realise as mothers that our way of birth affects us life-long, both mother and baby, and that an ecstatic birth, a birth that takes us beyond our Self, is the gift of a life-time. All of these systems are adversely affected by current birth practices. Hospital environments and routines are not conducive to the shift in consciousness that giving birth naturally requires. A woman’s hormonal physiology is further disturbed by practices such as induction, the use of pain killers and epidurals, caesarean surgery, and separation of mother and baby after birth.

    • Jumana Parkar February 12, 2017, 10:12 am

      Hi Rashmie its a lovely read, heart felt just like you
      I am sorry I am so late to the conversation; I wanted to get to this but life just kept happening. I think you have very well painted what happens in the birth world in the east and I will second you the same is true in the west as well. First and foremost I want to say that a woman should be able to take back her rights and be able to choose what she wants for her body and her baby. She has the right to informed consent and to knowing the facts rather then being railroaded into procedures for someone else’s easy or benefit. She needs to know all the choices that are available and beneficial for her and her baby. And that home birth is one of most safest and natural ways to gently welcome a baby into this world. There was 10-15 % women who need a C-section or other sorts of interventions to save their lives. (WHO statics).
      There are so many pieces of the puzzle missing from todays self care and health care systems that we see these bleed into our bodies and our births. I think it is useless pointing fingers at each other and actually get to the root of where all of this is stemming from. We as women need to come together and understand our bodies’ take back our powers and come together in circles and communicate from our hearts to learn form our grandmothers. It was not long ago that they birthed at homes and labored with relative ease. Birth is a normal natural process and every woman has it imprinted in her reptilian brain. With the right state of mind and sacred space she can access to this hidden power and the magic of oxytocin begins with the other cocktail of hormones. I have witnessed this magic hundreds of times and each time there is a healthy baby in the mothers arms. There are times when I or a sister midwife had to transfer a mother or a baby to the hospital and it was for a reason beyond our expertise and so rightfully went into the expert hands of an OBGYN and I thank them for that. But they are the last link in the chain of events. The truth is most of the Doctors I have spoken with have not had an opportunity to witness a normal natural labor or birth and so for them birth is always something that needs managing rather than a beautiful sequence of events to be witnessed. I am not for or against any system here. Every one has their rightful place in this intricate web. All I want to bring forth here is that a midwife is a licensed, certified and an educated individual who is an expert at natural birth. She knows her limitations and understands the turn of events and when she needs the assistance of a doctor. She likes to have a healthy relationship with other healthcare providers. She is certified in CPR and Neonatal Resuscitation , gives IV, Injections knows how to suture and carries oxygen and some medicines to stop a hemorrhage.

      Jumana Parkar CPM,LM

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