During the years between my third and fourth childs births, I morphed into an unassisted birthing mother. This chapter from my book A Mothers Journey contains many details about WHY I decided to run down this other path.
Few things in my life have brought more pain, suffering, and rejection into my life than our decision to step off the birth plantation and start walking north to freedom. Yet I have no regrets about how our life has played out in the intervening years. For more than 20 years I have had time to think through and reconcile this choice, and it truly was the most empowering thing I could have decided to do.
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Chapter 4 Looking for the Truth
I am going to use this chapter of the book to explain why I decided to get into Unassisted Childbirth.
Hopefully the first three chapters of the book illustrated some of my frustrations with the medical profession well enough that you are not asking, “WHY would she do such a silly thing?” One of the most misunderstood aspects of the “Why” for my friends and family is the absolute belief I have that at some point before the return of Jesus Christ to this Earth, we are going to have a period of time when all current governmental and societal infrastructures are going to fail us.
“But behold, in the last days, or in the days of the Gentiles – yea, behold all the nations of the Gentiles and also the Jews, both those who shall come upon this land and those who shall be upon other lands, yea even upon all the lands of the earth, behold, they will be drunken with iniquity and all manner of abominations” 2 Nephi 27:1
“My servants, go ye forth as your circumstances shall permit, in your several callings, unto the great and notable cities and villages, reproving the world in righteousness of all their unrighteous and ungodly deeds, setting forth clearly and understandingly the DESOLATION OF ABOMINATION in the last days. For, with you saith the Lord Almighty, I will rend their Kingdoms; I will not only shake the earth, but the starry heavens shall tremble. For I, the Lord, have put forth my hand to exert the powers of heaven; ye cannot see it now, yet a little while and ye shall see it, and know that I am, and that I will come and reign with my people, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Amen.”D & C 84: 117-120
Our church has always preached self-sufficiency. Yet when it comes to the Medical Profession everyone seems to have a hard time carrying certain prophecies to their logical conclusion. If it has been prophesied that “we will see a day when we will live on what we produce” – Marion G. Romney Conference Report 1975, I take that prophecy at face value. And I have also believed that if we were not going to have grocery stores, commerce as we now know it, and the current “systems” that we all depend on for food, medicine, education, and entertainment, there was no possible way we were going to have epidural anesthetic machines, baby formula, plastic diapers, immunizations, antibiotics, and all of the myriad “tools” we all supposedly “have to have” in order to raise our families.
I had an interesting experience while I was pregnant with Michelle. I was listening to our Prophet President Benson speak at October General Conference just a few weeks before I gave birth. He said that it would be “not many years” and the Savior would return to rule and reign on the Earth. This was so powerful to me. I began thinking about what I knew about end times events shortly after that talk. It wasn’t until Michelle was a few weeks old that I began to understand the full implications of what the Prophet had said.
During my first birth we were in late first stage labor and I was still at home in our apartment laboring. As my contractions were getting longer and closer together I looked at my Mom and Paul and said, “can’t we just do it here?”
It was December, cold outside, and I was so relaxed I didn’t want to bounce around in the car on the way to the hospital. The fear that leapt into the eyes of my husband and mother told me the answer to my question was NO! So I went. But the whole time I was there I wanted to leave the hospital and we did, as soon as possible. As I birthed my daughter I kept having the feeling that all of these strangers were unnecessary and we would have been just fine at home.
Right before I became manic, after we moved to Ohio, and I was nursing Shelly one day and reading my scriptures. I came to the 24th chapter of Matthew where the Savior is describing our day. One of his disciples asked him what would be the signs of his Second Coming and he spent many verses describing the conditions of the world. As I read verse 19 “And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days”, my heart jumped.
He was talking about ME! I prayed and I asked Father what was meant by woe. Into my heart came a feeling, a feeling of sadness from Father. He was sorry that so many mothers had sold their birthright of beautiful gentle birthing, breastfeeding and natural mothering for the chemical mess of pottage that conspiring men had sold to us through advertising and the media.
He let me know through my feelings that the woe was two fold. The 1st woe was our 200 year old growing dependence on the medical profession, which peaked in the 40’s and 50’s in America and has had other peaks in other countries in the years since then. For example, in Mexico Fathers are not allowed in the delivery room – this is one of the unhappy results of countries patterning their medical profession over what has taken place in America in the past.
My grandmothers’ generation had been the true bottlefeeding generation. They were completely anesthetized during their births and breastfeeding wasn’t even an option for many mothers. “Better living through chemistry” was the mantra of the age and it was a rare free thinker who believed otherwise.
Woe came because of the fruits of this type of parenting. It is no accident that the drug use of the 60’s came one generation after widespread anesthesia during childbirth was adopted by the majority of mothers in the western world. I believe much of the angst expressed by the young women/mothers who started the feminist movement was partly in response to this type of birthing. Woe also came because of the ripping of the fabric of the extended family. As doctors took over rolls that traditionally mothers and grandmothers had played as midwife/healers, something precious was lost in extended family stability.
The 2nd woe would be in the future when all over the world natural and man made disasters and wars would make survival living a reality. Because of the extreme dependence of families on the medical profession that has gradually taken place all over the world in the last two hundred years, mothers especially, would not have the womanly arts and skills of birth, breastfeeding, healing, and teaching that is our birthright. Because of this lack of practical knowledge, many, many families would suffer disease, death, and injury because of the lack of skills. Picture in your mind a modern woman facing childbirth/childcare alone when all she knows is epidurals, bottles, and running to the doctor every time the baby gets the sniffles.
I prayed to know which of the “woes” was the worst. I felt that the 2nd was to be much more terrible for the family. Even though in our ignorance (not stupidity, just simple lack of knowledge) we have allowed the allopathic model of drugs and surgery to be our first choice in birthing and health care. the system does tend to work well in emergencies. What they don’t realize is that most of the “emergency situations” that they deal with on a daily basis have iantrogenic (doctor caused) reasons behind them.
One intervention leads to three more more and so on until the poor mothers are wheeled into surgery to have the baby sliced out. Most doctors understand that if they induce four women with an intervention, one or two will go on to need a c-section. Many books have been written detailing these issues. I will not take the time to outline all of the whys for the amazingly high c-section rate. Silent knife and Open Season by Nancy Cohen are great reads if you want to educate yourself.
I believe based on current cultural indicators the quality of life has decreased since the takeover of birth by the doctors. America is still in last place (between 23rd and 26th place) in infant mortality rates compared to all other industrialized countries, and it has been that way for years. Yet even this type of “Woe” will be nothing compared to the absolute terror that will come into the face of unprepared families who have no knowledge of natural pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding or healing. Most young parents I know don’t even know how to cook with basic foodstuffs (and seem to be quite proud of the fact), nor do they care to learn any of these basic skills.
I then had the feeling, and it was as real to me as anything I have ever felt, that Father wanted me to not only learn these practical skills myself, but he also wanted me to be in a position to teach them to others. Imagine my confusion when a few weeks later I fell into the abyss of Psychosis and went through two years of depression. When I was on the meds I conciously forgot about this prompting to become self-sufficient, but I must have remembered sub-consciously, because I became a Bradly teacher during the worst of the depression.
As the years have passed this desire for practical skills has always been my #1 motivator. In my criticisms of the medical profession and the way they have complete control over womens bodies and minds, backed up by the court systems and the fact that the masses have bought their propaganda hook, line, and sinker, I don’t want it forgotten that survival has always been MY main motivator. I also claim that Heavenly Father has led my path and given me answers to my specific questions, (usually in the form of a book borrowed from the Library). He has led me line upon line and today I feel emotionally, spiritually and physically prepared for whatever the future may bring. This preparation has given me a peace that is felt deep in my core. This peace is the antithesis of the depressed, fearful, negative, and suicidal place I was in for so long.
Getting to this place has been the most difficult part of the past five years since Jeffs birth. I have been surprised and amazed at the reactions of those around me, especially my Faithful Mormon friends and family members who have read the scriptures and know what is coming in the future.
I have described my husband Paul as the most wonderful man, and he is. This desire of mine to become self sufficient and live as if we were completely independent of the medical and education professions has taxed our marriage, almost to the point of crumbling it. I have been guilty of ignoring the advice and counsel of my husband. I have suffered horribly for it. It is always important for any person who decides to embark down a different path to consider the consequences to their marriage and to their family. In my case, even talking about homeschooling in the early 90’s was cause for some in my sphere to start thinking I was crazy. (Having just BEEN crazy this was not the way to convince my friends and family that I was mentally well.) Homeschool was one thing, but when I started ranting and raving to Paul, my friends and my family about unassisted childbirth in 1994, there were some who thought I was certifiably nutso.
Soon after Jeff’s birth in April of 94 I picked up Laura Shanleys book, Unassisted Childbirth in the Library. I read it that same night and then feeling she was close by, (because she had signed the book) I looked her up in the Boulder Yellow Pages and called her that same night.
We talked for a while and exchanged phone numbers. I told Paul all about her book and he just blew it off. I had very rebellious feelings some into my heart and had the sense that if I did not draw a line in the sand about childbirth, this fight of ours of where to birth the babies would never be resolved.
I told him that I had thought it over and that I was unwilling to ever give birth in a hospital again. I said, “If you want to have any more children with me, we are doing it at home, ALONE.” He was stunned. A few weeks later he started having panic attacks. I was sorry for the chasm in our relationship but I wanted to have this issue discussed, resolved, and decided before we even thought about another baby. We had decided to wait a few years before conceiving and since I was up to my ears in tandem nursing Allison and Jeff, I thought waiting was a good idea. But I wanted to get things out in the open right away so we would have a while to hash it out.
Thus started the most challenging time to date, in our marriage. Paul lost himself in television and obsessing about his heart (his panic attacks were all about him having a heart attack and not getting proper medical attention quickly enough to save him). This caused him to feel like he could never be alone, go out and exercise alone or be more than a few minutes away from a phone.
I lost myself in the children and my childbirth class. We were also getting ready to move and were very busy with church activities. I went home to Michigan alone with Jeff Christmas of 94. I didn’t want to be with Paul so I left to visit my family and he traveled with the girls to visit his family in Utah. It was a dark, bleak time for us. Somehow my parents found out about my birth ultimatum. They took this as a sign that I was going crazy again. I had also ballooned up to 270 lbs. I was fat, dumpy, scared that I had ruined my marriage, and when I went home I thought I would be nurtured and validated by my loved ones, but ended up getting verbally thrashed by several family members.
My parents told me they thought I should get a tubal ligation, “because I was obviously obsessed with birth to the point of insanity and I needed to focus on the children I already had”. And “I was too fat” and “I didn’t keep my house clean enough” and “I have my priorities all mixed up” and on and on. I came home from that trip beat up so bad it took me years to recover and forgive my parents and some siblings.
Paul and I came home after the holidays determined to make our marriage work and decided that we would never travel to visit family without each other. When he heard how bad it had been, this thrashing from my parents, something in him clicked and he told me that we would somehow work through our problems and everything would be all right.
We continued to have problems when we discussed certain topics, still do, but what he eventually came to in regards to birthing the babies was that it was my body. I was the one who had to give birth. He had watched me do it in three different situations (natural birth in a high risk environment, c-section in a private hospital, and VBAC in a birthing center) and he knew that I had tried to make it work in my negotiations with the doctors and staff. It he was birthing the babies it might be different, but since I was the one going through it he felt he didn’t have any right to tell me what to do and how to do it.
For some reason, my soul would not let this unassisted birthing issue go. It was all important to me. I had never really felt guided to midwives. Since I had read the first home birth book in 1989 that talked about the League of Liberated Women who birthed their babies all alone, I had felt drawn to this type of birth. Laura’s book articulated so much of what I was feeling anyway, it really was the catalyst that allowed me to shoot for the stars. I felt a sense of urgency to learn as quickly as I could, everything I could, on home birth. It was something I had to experience for myself. Something needed to be satisfied in my body and my mind and I had a sense that an unassisted childbirth would fix the ache. (It did.) So Paul agreed that if we had another child he would back off and let me do what I wanted…”
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Here are a few photos from around Andrews Pregnancy and Birth:
I organized the 2nd International Husband/Wife Homebirth Conference in 2001. Here are the videos from our wonderful day of fellowship and education.