“[Birth is] … probably the single most dangerous event that most of us will ever encounter in our lifetimes” reads the third sentence of the Neonatal Resuscitation textbook put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This book is the companion to the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) required to be completed and renewed every couple of years by all medical personnel that may be involved in a birth.
Dangerous? What could be more natural than birth? If it is so dangerous then how are we all here today? Wouldn’t our species be close to extinction if it were so dangerous? How did all those women, before the current medical system was established, possibly manage to give birth to perfectly healthy babies that thrived? I argue that birth is not what is dangerous but birthing in the presence of people who view it as such is. A friend of mine has a scar on her head made by the scissors of an obstetrician cutting her mother’s perineum for a routine episiotomy. A baby not even born yet wounded by the hand of the obstetrician. The same doctor ten years earlier had stitched shut the anus of her patient by mistake while stitching the cut made by her scissors. These stories, unfortunately, are far too common. And yet, many women feel that this is a safer option than natural home birth? Have people gone crazy?
Why so much fear around something so beautiful and natural? Why do so many women just assume that they must find one of these fear-mongering doctors to “manage” the natural process of bringing forth life, something our bodies are so perfectly designed to do?
The answer is simple…we’ve been programmed. Systematically we’ve been led to distrust this process and ourselves and to simply give over control of one the most beautiful and natural processes of all. Now you’re thinking, “Great! Another conspiracy theorist”. Not exactly, it’s actually written in the history of our current medical establishment. For those of you interested in the long version, I suggest reading the book Lying-in: A History of Childbirth in America and for further reading Birth: An American Rite of Passage. For others I will summarize:
When doctors started coming to American during colonial times they had very little credibility or real experience. Most doctors in the nineteenth century had earned a diploma in four months with no clinical training, dissections, or labs, and most certainly had not seen a birth. For pathological issues people of this era preferred the more effective homeopaths, botanists, and empirics over medical doctors, and births were almost always attended by a midwife. Doctors were desperate to gain a competitive edge in the health market and knew that they must organize. In 1860 the American Medical Association (AMA) was established which allowed them to combine their resources to pump out propaganda that would push out the competition, and their first target was midwives.
The reason midwives were targeted first was because doctors believed that if they attended a successful birth (and birth was successful in colonial times more than 95% of the time) then they would gain the trust of that family to provide health care for the rest of their lives. They realized the potential for enormous trust that could be built with parents amid such a significant event in their lives. They felt they wouldn’t have to compete with anyone else if the parents believed that the doctor was absolutely necessary to the health and survival of their babies.
Unlike midwives at this time, doctors found ways to intervene with the natural process simply to create the belief in women that he was the reason for the success of her birth. Women were barred from medical school at the time. Professor Walter Channing, head of the Harvard Medical School training for what is now called obstetrics, in the late nineteenth century is quoted saying, “Let him be collected and calm, and he will probably do little; he will afterwards look upon and regret.” Also, that he “must do something. He cannot remain a spectator merely, where there are too many witnesses and where interest in what is going on is too deep to allow of his inaction.”
Many women were made to believe that they could not have delivered their baby had that brave and heroic doctor not brought him forth with the forceps, or if he had not cut that episiotomy. Meanwhile people were ignoring the true statistics as maternal death rates, birth injuries, and fetal death rates skyrocketed. What remains in our society today is this deep seated fear that our female bodies are somehow flawed and that nature is imperfect. This fear created by the medical establishment has worked perfectly to drive business their way as most women upon suspicion of pregnancy go running to their nearest OB department.
It doesn’t stop there. The programming has been successful probably beyond the wildest dreams of the AMA. Somehow we live in a society in which the majority of people feel that every decision about raising our children would be better handled by the so-called experts. Somehow, millions of parents don’t think to question vaccines, antibiotics, and even public school.
The experts, or a better title is strangers, do not have our best interests but their own interests in mind. The community midwife has been replaced by the city doctor, and you’ve been fooled into believing he cares about you. Certainly, some well-meaning people start out medical school thinking that they are going to help people. However, they are then put through the ringer of 4 years of intense brainwashing provided by the AMA followed by a lengthy residency for further indoctrination. All this serves to teach that what the AMA says is gospel. Most mainstream doctors come out the other side of their training desensitized and deeply ingrained with the notion that society depends on them because, according to their gospel, “[Birth is] … probably the single most dangerous event that most of us will ever encounter in our lifetimes”.