I sat in an office almost six years ago and explained that I wanted to turn inward, trust the process, and follow my body’s lead. Surprisingly, this sentiment was met with, “But what if you can’t?” and an explanation that sometimes outward signs aren’t always reliable in determining labor progress.
. . .
I'm now more compelled than ever to lean into a holistic approach to birth. As I support growing families and teach childbirth education, my foundation is reminding women to have the following:
A deep trust in physiology.
An awareness of the body.
An alertness to instinct.
Of course, provider choice is also important in this counter culture approach to birth. Finding someone who trusts women and trusts the process is essential. Finding someone who is unhindered by past trauma and is freely able to hold space for informed consent will likely determine your future experience.
Women remember how they were treated during birth despite outcomes and the way they mother will be directly influenced by the birth experience.
Back to the unfortunate conversation I experienced years ago regarding labor progress: I explained that I did not want any internal exams during my labor.
In the decade that I have been attending births, I have never seen a useful cervical exam for a low risk, healthy woman. They are unnecessary, invasive, painful, and carry more risk than provider and patient believe. I’m not talking about the risks of water being broken accidentally or being exposed to bacteria that can lead to infection in you or your baby.
Of course these are risks with every cervical exam.
I’m talking about taking your power away. Taking away your trust in the physiology with every hand inside your body. Making you believe that the awareness of your own physical being is less knowing than the subjective amount of centimeters someone else’s fingers felt your cervix open. I’m talking about taking away alertness to your instincts and somehow proving that an external source of information is necessary to birth the baby you created.
These are the greater risks, in my opinion.
Rachel Reed, midwife, academic, and author writes on cervical exams and labor progress in her book Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage,
“While telling women to ‘trust themselves’ and ‘listen to their body’, midwives continue to define women’s labors in cervical centimeters.
Regardless of previous knowledge and beliefs about their own capacity to birth, once in labour, women often revert to cultural norms, particularly during liminality. Women want to know their labor is progressing, and there is a deep subconscious belief that the cervix can provide the answer.
Midwives and doulas also enact natural interventions, such as directing women to walk around or bounce on a birthing ball, to encourage women’s bodies to fit into external timeframes. Some use hands-on techniques such as ‘sifting’ with a rebozo (Mexican shawl) to speed up the rotation of the baby. Regardless of the type of intervention, these actions reinforce the idea that a woman’s body should be made to fit generalized parameters of progress.”
. . .
You can in fact turn inward, trust the process, and follow your body’s lead.
Who made you believe that someone else's hands inside your body are necessary to have a baby? It’s a lie.