Sunday, December 12, 2010
Missing the Forest for the Trees: Birthing in an MRI Machine
I came across the above article from a Facebook friend, and have to say it left me with a dizzying sense of sadness. A woman gave birth in an MRI machine in Germany. The stated intention behind this crazy endeavour was to set up a study which seeks to examine why doctors "have" to deliver so many babies by C-section. They want to unlock the mystery as to why some women can birth 10 pounders and others have 7 pounders which get stuck. They want to understand why so many babies' craniums are disproportionately large for their mothers' pelvises. When the article went on to state the researchers were trying to get a better understanding of the mechanics of birth, I didn't know whether to laugh my head off, barf, or hit someone.
Firstly, even open MRI machines, which is what this woman birthed in, are not in any way conducive to normal labour. I highly doubt she could have been any way but lying on her back. I could be wrong, but from images I've seen it doesn't appear to be possible in another position. So if you are trying to study the mechanics of labour yet put a woman under a machine on her back, can you be seriously believing you are studying something that even remotely approaches normal labour mechanics? The vast majority of women in this world who have given birth normally, meaning unmedicated and largely undirected, would not even conceive of lying on their backs to birth. If the baby is trying to push that nice flexible sacrum away with his face as he begins to extend his wee head, the joints of that sacrum being suffused with lovely, bone-opening Relaxin, what kind of slap in the face is it to find that the sacrum won't move because it's sandwiched between his head and the bed his mother is lying upon...on her back? Mom is directed to resort to purple pushing with people yelling at her that she HAS to create intra-uterine pressure by holding her breath and popping her eyeballs, effectively turning herself into a human pop-gun. The rush and stress of all that direction and being yelled at not to yell when it is all you want to do, makes MY pelvic floor contract at the the thought of it. Purple pushing is NOT NORMAL!!!! But close off the space, and Mom may have to resort to it.
I doubt this nifty MRI machine, closed or not, accommodates the positions most women adopt during physiological labour, which are more hands and knees or crouching stances. And they will probably want to YELL as they push their babies down, and move around a lot, which is probably not great when you're trying to get an MRI image. She will not actually be "wasting" her contractions, or "lessening the efficiency" or "be doing it wrong" if she doesn't surrender to the needs of the MRI machine and the desires of the doctors who "deliver her". But she will likely be made to feel like she is in the wrong, the negative emotions created by this circus contributing to some of the mess I as a doula have to help a woman process after her birth to heal from her experience so she doesn't remain unconfident, traumatized, and subject to depression..and this is without even having birthed in a machine. Women don't birth "wrong". Yeah, sometimes the unexpected happens, and thank goodness for science then, but the way women adjust and adapt their bodies to the process is instinctive, and to change them is usually inappropriate and problem CAUSING. Just check out the powerful, gorgeous, loud birther of Jason Shawn in this YouTube clip. I dare you to tell this woman to shut up and get on her back because that's the "best way"! I in no way see in this clip a woman suffering or out of control...I see a woman expressing her most authentic power, and it is pretty much the opposite of a medicated woman in a machine lying on her back. I don't see why this kind of birth can only happen either with midwives or unassisted. Why can't OBs hold the space for this kind of birth too? It's obviously not like they have to do much.
If you observe a woman birthing and you have the attitude there is something inherently wrong with our birthing design, and you're creating a study to determine her potential biological flaws so the people in white coats can "fix" us, I assure you, you will not be watching a normal birth, mechanics aside. Your doubt filled observations will affect the process. If you are trying to have an orgasm and you sense you're being observed and judged, you're going to lose your mojo a little. If you're trying to have a crap, you have a time limit in which to achieve it, people are observing you and perhaps even commentating, would the efficacy of your bowels not be affected just a smidge? Is it not considered a common thing for gentlemen to have pee shyness when another guy stands beside his urinal? How on earth can we expect a woman experiencing an event as challenging and dare I say as sacred as childbirth be remotely normal in this INSANE context? We're not even scratching the surface here, as there are other reasons many of the cases of shoulder dystocia and "CPD" could be occurring, such as the over use of labour stimulants, epidural anaesthesia, etc, which are all known to have a potential effect upon normal hormonal flow AND mechanics.
As a woman, a woman who knows the triumph of having birthed normally 4 times, and as a doula who has witnessed so many potentially unnecessary hospital horrors my tears could fill an ocean, this whole article did not make me execute jumpy claps at the marvels of science. It made me feel terrified for the future of birthing women, because I really think much of what this study will find is blame for the woman and her brilliant design to justify the expense and effort put into it, as opposed to illuminating the sheer arrogance and danger of trying to determine how birth fails by breaking it down and examining it right down to its smallest particle. What if we were to focus more upon the preventative benefits of nourishing the whole process, perhaps even doing a little humble bowing in the face of such Mystery...woman's mystery...now and again? You know, even Joe Public understands that many Cesareans are iatrogenically generated. Don't these researchers know this?! There is no motherwit here.