To she who loves us before she meets us

To she who loves us before she meets us. Inscription on the Monumento a la Madre in Ciudad de Mexico.

The story of how women birth babies in this country has many chapters. In brief, it is a story that begins with essentially all births being attended to by midwives from various traditions in women’s homes and leads to the current paradigm of almost all births being managed according to a pathology-oriented medical model in hospitals.

monumento a la made, villahermosa, tabasco, mexico

The change was affected by the professionalization of obstetrics at the end of the 1800’s; the advent of charity hospitals that lured women with the promise of improved care but essentially were intended as training grounds for a profession that had no actual experience–and that resulted in a significant rise in maternal and infant mortality; and the influence of physicians who changed labor and delivery from a natural process to one that required the routine use of a series of interventions. By the 1940’s, the vast majority of births took place in hospitals. This trajectory was not the same in most other industrialized countries.

The introduction of “twilight sleep” which used morphine and scopolamine defined mid-20th century birth. The combination of these drugs left women powerless, with no memory of their labor or delivery. Problems associated with this cocktail led to its discontinuation, but gave rise to other substituted interventions.

The late 1960’s and 1970’s saw a counter movement with women recreating options for more natural birth. This resuscitated the profession of midwifery and ushered in the establishment of free-standing birth centers, more comfortable birthing rooms in hospitals and even expanded possibilities for women to deliver their babies back in the sanctity of their own homes. However, the persistent culturally held belief system that medically guided births are safer and the seduction of pain-free birth–promised now by the wide-spread use of epidurals–has maintained the predominance of a medical model. A midwifery model of care is still marginalized–though it is quite alive and kicking.

In my post, Attacking the Causes of Obesity, Really?, I discuss how I believe some very powerful influences regarding our current health situation including the weight problem have been seriously overlooked. To me, dismissing the consequences of dissociating women from the birth of their children is a glaring oversight. It seems rather obvious that as women were lulled into surrendering their most primal potent power that there would be other negative sequelae. Try not to interpret this on a personal level but rather on the larger societal level where these insidious changes occur.

Birth is a very divinely tuned natural process where a precise cascade of hormones allows for a woman to orchestrate the birth of her baby. It benefits from attendant security, guidance and support. Right after a normal delivery, a woman is alert and aware, able to hold, bond, nurse and care for her infant. Imagine, coming out of an induced stupor to find yourself alone with no baby to immediately see–let alone to hold. With medications and fear impeding the ability to breastfeed, it is also no coincidence that formula feeding quickly obliterated nursing at the same time that these interventions were implemented. This period of medically controlled birth was also marked by weight gain fear being instilled in women and the withholding of food during labor. Those practices are still the norm today.

Over the course of a few decades in this country, we abruptly dissolved the innate wisdom of women on how to trust their instincts in the care and feeding of their young. Ironically, it happened just as women were gaining other rights. It has now been about seventy years since that big SNAP, CRACKLE  and ultimate POP of male-dominated modern obstetrics felled the tree that rooted women to their maternal wisdom. Our infant and maternal maternity rates are abominably high–along with our C-Section rates, and, our breastfeeding rates are pathetically low. Chronic illnesses are common and increasing in our children.

With a few generations of women now lacking communal wisdom and thereby, confidence in their ability to give birth; and, with doctors who are not trained in nutrition and the motherly art of breastfeeding conducting our obstetric and pediatric care, is it any wonder that we no longer know what to do? That we no longer know how to cook and prepare real food for our children, that drugs are offered like candy, that a huge percentage of our infants and young children have hardly ingested a morsel of non-processed or non-adulterated food and, that we barely know and trust how to nourish our own selves?

In that prior post, I state that I want to be an impressive expert–a paid one. Here, I will boldly lay claim to my area of expertise. I have had the very unique experience of providing nutrition care in clinical and community settings for almost thirty years. In my next post I will share my observations and experiences.

Until then, as always I welcome your thoughts and comments. And, I share my deep gratitude for all the incredible midwives, many of whom I know personally, some whom have birthed my own children, others who are out there fighting for the rights of women and children on a daily basis.

A special thank you to my midwife Helena who brought me boxes of organic vegetables the summer I was pregnant with my daughter.
Please check out http://birthnewyork.org/birthnet/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zDnigbvPvk&feature=share
Also, a mention to the work of the model Christy Turlington who is working actively as a global maternal health advocate. I follow her on my little twitter account, and her work links to an organization at http://www.everymothercounts.org
In health,  Elyn

My Plate Haiku

Craving for pickles

And German chocolate cake

My friend is pregnant.  By Gretchen

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6 thoughts on “To she who loves us before she meets us

  1. Why yes, that felled tree of maternal wisdom and instinct has caused a great disconnect between mother and child which leads not only to poor nutrition and consequent obesity but creates insatiable hunger and craving in other relationships the child has throughout life. We seem to have birthed a generation that has extraordinary difficulty in connecting. Studies suggest that these young people lack empathy. Or does their disconnect just make them fearful of rejection and it only appears that they lack interest in and concern for others?

    Our older generation has damaged its progeny – our doctors, priests, politicians, marketers and money mongers. Mulltitudes of young people worldwide are beginning to voice not only concern but real fear of what’s “on their plate.” They seem to be looking for a great deal more than a diet of food additives and drugs. They want to consume something other than the material goods and temporary pleasures offered them. They are beginning to demand fulfillment through more serious, life-sustaining stuff. Thankfully, they have become old enough themselves to fend for their own survival and are seeking nourishment in new ways.

    At age 61, I’m sometimes embarrassed to be part of a generation that has done such harm. I welcome and encourage so many of our youth, now emerging into adulthood, to claim healthful lives. It’s time for the doddering old folks to either step aside or get in step with their burgeoning movement and help them find the way. Do I sound frightened? I think I do, because I am. I’m afraid of the primal disconnect that’s broken us down. I feel your concerns, Elyn, and thank you for championing efforts to bring nutritious living back into our consciousness, keeping us mindful of what we need to be telling our now grown children: “Eat your vegetables. Nourish the earth. Spread peace and calm among all people. Trust your instincts. Regrow the trees of wisdom.”

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  2. As we progress, we develop a certain amount of contempt for what came before. Everything you address has a root in this truth. To my mind the ultimate goal is to “arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. To glean the positives out of each stage of our development and find a new way to synthesize the ancient wisdom with the new.

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    • dear color and light indeed, thanks for this thoughtful response. yes, you are so right, but the extent to which women have been disconnected from their innate birthing wisdom is just one example, but an extreme one for how much natural processes were discredited and coopted by powerful forces with other interests at stake. how many errors till we learn the consequences of not synthesizing. happy new year dear sweetness.

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