Birth is

Birth is, I learned and I can say with clarity now, about women. That’s what the midwives taught me, and that’s what my own experiences have shown me. Birth is not about babies. Babies get born. But women give birth. Giving birth is awesome. Babies are miracles, and cute besides, but birth is an Event. It is Something. It is a life-shaking, developmental moment that makes you who you are, that teaches you who you are. Sometimes people say they want to become midwives because they just love babies. Wrong. Midwives who actually go through with it, the women and a few men who go through all the training, the learning, the growth and change and fear and power of becoming midwives, do it because they love women. They are in awe of the power of the birthing woman.

Barbara Katz Rothman, Laboring On


6 responses to “Birth is

  1. Birth itself is about women, but I do think it’s about the baby too because the mother/baby go through it together from different perspectives. I beleive birth is an act of love and is a genuine event, as you say. Because it’s about mother and baby, I do things differenlty than I might if it was just about me. I choose to not take medication that’s not needed, though I would take pain medication for a painful procedure, I do not take it for birth because it’s first of all, not a procedure and second, there’s a little one in me trying to come out who doesn’t need that extra medication. I eat and drink in labor because I need the strength to get the baby out without intervention. I also move around because the combination of the baby and my body lets me know when a position is trouble, it just plain hurts more if my baby is malpositioned because I am malpositioned. My baby and I work in labor together to get to that first moment, when we can touch each other’s skin and gaze in each other’s eyes, and when we can nurse together. My contractions hug and push and twist the baby…and the baby has to respond. Together, we get through labor and birth.

    Birth is NOT about the “care provider,” not about a monitor and heart decels, it’s not about epidurals, episiotomies, breaking the membranes, internal exams, hospitals, nurses, or anything else modern medicine can give us. It’s about a woman becoming a mother even if for the 18th time. It’s about a baby experiencing life in the light for the first time, hopefully into the loving arms of friendly people.

  2. I would not disagree with you.

    I also absolutely agree with Rothman’s quote above that you do not get into midwifery because you think babies are cute. If that’s your motivation for getting into birthwork, it’d be much better to become a postpartum doula or early childhood educator.

    But I also think it’s worth re-focusing on the mother when I read articles about state-forced atrocities like this one or this one from

  3. I love the sentiment about what birth means to women, but disagree with the aspect that it is not about the baby. First as a midwife you will learn to care about the mother, then manage the decisions…but soon you come to see how to manage birth from the baby’s perspective. Practicing ‘being the baby’ in childbirth classes, or yourself as a midiwfe is powerful. The way we touch, what we do matters deeply. Sacred Birth by Suni Karll, Suzanne Arms website, and rebirthing stuff by Sondra Ray are good places to look. How does that blanket feel to a baby who just woke to the world, and felt gravity the first time. This is what the world is made of, to the baby.

    A Hand Full of Hope

    If we hope to create
    a non-violent world
    where respect and kindness
    replace fear and hatred

    We must begin
    with how we treat each other
    at the beginning of life.

    For that is where
    our deepest patterns are set.

    From these roots
    grow fear and alienation
    ~or love and trust.

    Photo and poem by Suzanne Arms

  4. Again, I would not disagree with you about that.

    I think that Barbara Katz Rothman is trying to get across in the quote I posted above, however, is that one does not become a midwife because one loves babies or because they are cute. And if that’s your only motivation, you probably won’t make a great midwife.

    Of course the baby is important in the birth process and it is vitally important how she is treated during and after birth – treated gently and with great love, placed on mama’s chest and allowed to breastfeed (and not isolated with no human touch in a warmer somewhere), etc.

    However, in modern American obstetrics there is sometimes a focus on the baby to the exclusion of the needs of the mother. I strongly believe that this way of thinking is dangerous and leads directly to high-rates of unnecessary inductions and labor augmentations, c-sections, episiotomies, etc. It’s that line of thinking that allows OBs to say again and again to laboring women “You want to do what’s best for your baby, right?” when what they really mean (but aren’t saying) is “Let’s get this labor over with so I can be home in time for dinner.”

    On a more subtle and insidious note, this way of thinking allows for situations where the rights (and sometimes health) of the mother are compromised to the needs of the fetus and/or baby (see the links to Unnecesarean posts in my first comment). I don’t think we have to choose either or and I have a strong visceral reaction against the sentiment that the mother’s rights, needs, and wants are subordinate to that of her fetus or baby’s. I’d like to think of it more as a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship that works best when both mother and baby are skillfully and well cared for.

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