A Message from Barbara Harper about the Oregonian Article on Sunday February 11th
Most women desire to have an empowering birth experience which is gentle and loving, as well as safe for their baby. Many women today are aware that the experience of birth affects not only their own lives, but more importantly, the lives of their babies. Women who seek ways to avoid unnecessary trauma or violence at the time of birth are not doing so to "bear the pain of natural birth" nor are they out to make anyone "feel pressured" into choosing what they feel is the best for their babies. Women in Oregon, who choose to birth naturally, are strong, vibrant and full of determination to avoid medical interventions, if at all possible. These women want to avoid the routine use of powerful drugs, chemicals, artificial hormones and surgical instruments whenever possible because they feel it is best for their babies and their own health and well being. We have the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to help a woman experience an undisturbed and powerful birth.
The Portland community offers all the options to any woman who wants to strive toward a gentle loving birth experience. Portland, and many areas around the state, offer waterbirth at home, in freestanding birth centers, and even in the hospitals with nurse midwives. We have naturopathic family medicine, including labor, birth and pediatric support; labor and post partum doulas; health spas; pregnancy yoga; breastfeeding and lactation counseling; birth pool rentals; prenatal swimming; therapy to resolve traumatic birth issues; rebirthing and conscious living. Portland is a very green city when it comes to supporting a woman through a natural birth experience.
We know how to assist her to experience her birth as pleasurable, even orgasmic, as opposed to painful. That is one reason women all over the world are exploring the use of warm water immersion during labor and birth. They absolutely know, deep in their hearts, that there has to be a better, gentler way to give birth and welcome their babies into the world.
The baby pictured above was born in a pool of warm water on Thanksgiving Day. This first time mother experienced a four hour labor and didn't even push one time. She simply breathed her baby out. She breastfed almost immediately, waited until the placenta was born before cutting the cord and walked out of the hospital with her baby still naked on her chest, wrapped in her robe, after only a five hour stay. Once home she kept baby on her chest skin to skin for the next 72 hours. Hers was a gentle birth.
Waterbirth International has chosen Portland, Oregon as the back drop for the Gentle Birth World Congress and Whole Baby Expo because of the diverse opportunities for families to enjoy birth "alternatives." The Congress will bring together experts in obstetrics, midwifery, neonatology, waterbirth, gentle birth, undisturbed birth, Kangaroo mother care, infant brain development, effects of medications on the neurological system of babies, breastfeeding, bonding, pediatric cranial work, and many more topics, while the Whole Baby Expo will provide an up close and personal look at all the birth options that the Pacific Northwest has to offer families.
There has never been a more critical time for parents and professionals to examine everything about maternal/child health, the world over. My hope is that the Congress and the Expo will serve as the middle ground for people with differing opinions to come together and share points of view and work out solutions. Because, quite frankly, our goals are exactly the same - happy mothers and healthy babies.
I do feel badly that any woman would feel guilty or depressed about her birth, but when it happens we use these feeling as an opportunity to explore and heal her inner child. We also determine if she wants to make changes in her life and the way she would give birth, if there is a next time. Many women are completely satisfied with their medicated births and that is great. But, when you have been counseling women as long as I have, you hear story after story of disappointment, pain, tears and heartache. Many women feel robbed of something primal and important. When women hear that there is a connection between insecure attachment at birth and emotional distance as an adult, they often report feelings of guilt. This is okay, if we help them process. Mothers are not to blame. The medical system that prevented the bonding and attachment by separating mother and baby at the time of birth and not giving her adequate assistance with breastfeeding and the society that discouraged her from co-sleeping, baby wearing or breastfeeding in public all had a part to play. But, the medical establishment has done the best it could with the information that it had. We now have much more scientific evidence and have decades of observations of undisturbed birth, so that we can offer birthing families an entirely new picture of gentle birth.
The good news is that babies are resilient and mothers and fathers are resourceful. Women suffer from emotional and physical fatigue even under the best of circumstances after a baby is born. Our primary goal is to assist every woman to have a gentle birth with or without medication, provide every mother with the resources to equip her to be good parent and hope for the best.
I just got off the phone with a woman from Portland, pregnant with her first baby, not too well informed, but knowing that she wants a better experience than her girlfriends' births. She feels very strongly that not having medication is best for baby. After a brief conversation about her needs, I introduced her to the concept of a hospital birth with midwives. She had no idea that you could have midwives in the hospital. She didn't feel safe about staying home or going to one of our excellent freestanding birth centers. I enjoyed assisting her to find a birth care provider that would listen to her and empower her to make good choices. Now, multiply that times 20,000 more other women, whom I have counseled over close to three decades, and you will see what I truly love to do - inform, empower and educate - not to make women feel guilty. We as women have too many things that put us down and make us feel that way without the stress of mothering, pregnancy and birth.
I am passionate about birth and babies and have sat at the bedside (or tubside) with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women, holding their hands, wiping their brows, breathing with them and being there when they gaze into their awake, aware babies eyes for the first time. It has been, and will always be, an honor and a privilege for me to hold a space for women to be empowered, passionate and orgasmic about having babies.
Thank you for taking another look at my comments in a new light.
Founder/Director Waterbirth International