DIY Birth

12.09.09 A Matter of Trust


Let me ask you a question. Is there any purpose to labor pain or is it just the “curse of Eve?” Could it be that one of the reasons why most women find labor so dang painful is because it forces us to trust others to help us?

Some “naturalists” in the birth world say it’s not “pain” we experience as much as “pressure, fear, intensity and discomfort.” Whether labor is “intense” or just plain painful, doesn’t it push you into the hands of caretakers to help you get through this incredible experience? We trust our midwives, doctors and nurses to do their best to take care of us and our baby just like our baby trusts us to take care of them in their fragile, vulnerable state?

For most of us, this transfer of trust is a primal human experience that we take with us when we leave the delivery room. It helps us understand we’re not in this world of parenting alone. There’s a village and birth opens the gate to it. Most people in the village will help you and your baby, if you trust them. If you don’t, parenting and childhood can be lonely, frightening and dull.

There’s an article in MSNBC this week about DIY birth. A small but growing number of women are having home births without any trained medical care. No doctor, midwife, nurse and many times, not even their husband. Nada! All by herself – by her own choice. One of the DIYers said since only she and her husband were at the conception, she thought only the two of them should be at the birth. Uh, lady? Didn’t you forget to count someone? Your baby? Lucky you for having a smooth birth. Did you have a back up plan in case you started hemorrhaging or your child couldn’t breath? Maybe you planned on dropping in at the ER where you knew none of the doctors and they didn’t know you. Whew! Talk about trust. You’d really have to trust in the kindness of strangers then, right?

Approximately half-a-million women in the world die in childbirth every year. Two million babies die within their first 24 hours. One of the biggest reasons is because they don’t have anyone (or anyone who knows what they’re doing) to help them deliver safely. In developing countries, they’re DIYers because there is no midwife, doctor or hospital near them or no money to spend on health care. Maybe their husband or family doesn’t think they’re worth the expense or, more often than not, they just don’t understand there’s anything you can do to avoid the risks. Once an agency like CARE sets up healthcare programs that women trust, mortality rates drop.

We don’t have the best mortality rates here in the US and some of that is because our health care system steps too far into a natural process. This has resulted in a growing number of women having their babies at home. Most of them trust an experienced midwife with a backup plan to deliver them safely. Most go quite well.

When someone decides to DIY here in the US, it’s because they either don’t trust any healthcare providers, are downright reckless, arrogant, ignorant, controlling or are steeped in an extreme birth philosophy that believes birth is a natural physiologic process and shouldn’t be treated like a disease. True that. Except sometimes our body gets it wrong (diabetes, for example –people don’t make DIY insulin) and then we die or are seriously injured.

And what about your vagina? One of the best reasons to have someone skilled deliver your baby is so you won’t blast your vagina to bits and pieces. Most women aren’t limber enough, mentally present enough or skilled enough to support the vagina and perineum, guide the baby’s head and shoulders and protect their butt from tearing. Even when you have the best midwife/doctor on the planet attending your birth, tears happen. If you want your lady parts to heal properly and work like they’re supposed to, they need to be protected and repaired by someone who knows how.

Even in ideal circumstances and perfect births, mothers want, need and deserve to be taken care of. That’s why they hire professionals, gather a support team and trust them with their bodies, their babies and their births. Birth is not a control issue. It’s just the opposite. Trust me on this one.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.