I had my heart set on UC, though I didn't know it yet. I had overcome the paradigm that I had been presented with and accepted as the norm. This happened in stages.
Stage 1: Realizing that UC was an option in America.
I don't remember what I was looking for, but one day, I came across Laura Shanley's website. Admittedly, I thought it was a little extreme and "out there," but as I read the stories, I kept thinking, "I want that! I want to try that!" I learned that UC was legal and that people really chose it- it wasn't just a have-a-baby-too-fast thing. Suddenly I felt like I was a part of something and I wasn't alone. It gave me more courage to do the research involved.
Stage 2: The research- finding out that birth is simple.
I don't know why, but it took me a couple of months to realize that I had one of the greatest university libraries at my disposal. I checked out Laura's book, Grantly Dick-Read's book, and a couple of midwifery books that discussed complications in childbirth and how to handle them. I found amazing websites and asked the people I knew who had natural births about their births. I gave McKay things to read so he would feel prepared, also. I immersed myself in the birthing world. I was a little hesitant about this- I was afraid that birth would be too complicated- I'd have to memorize facts about dilation and station and birth would turn into this huge science experiment with measurements and timing. It didn't. In fact, the more I studied, the simpler birth became. I remember at my baby shower, someone asked, "Do you know how to give birth? Does McKay know what to do?" I remember laughing because those ideas seemed so preposterous at that point. Of course I did- you just let the baby come. And McKay...well, if he can catch, he knows exactly what to do.
Stage 3: Confronting the idea that childbirth is inherently painful.
Maybe this stage should be called "overcoming the Catholic/Protestant vein of America". I'll admit that this was one of the largest stumbling blocks for me. Even though as a Latter-day Saint, original sin is not part of my belief system- "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression" (Articles of Faith), I hadn't made the jump from, "I'm not punished for Adam's trangession" to "I'm also not punished for Eve's transgression". Part of this is because America is culturally very Protestant/Catholic in its views. The idea that childbirth is painful is not only suggested from the Garden of Eden story, but from television, movies, and the way we discuss birth amongst ourselves (aka birth horror stories). I had to decide that I was not going to believe in original sin and I'm going to ignore the scare tactics of other people. I had to surround myself with uplifting stories, thoughts, and people.
Stage 4: Finding Support
Part of my paradigm shift was to realize that I wasn't alone in wanting a UC and that it wasn't a strange hippie idea. This happened in stages. Last fall, I found out that a British company wanted to film a segment on UC. I contacted them and they were interested in talking to me- so much in fact, that they flew me to Colorado to take part in the filming. There I met other women who had previous UCs or were planning future ones (I even met Laura Shanley!) This was important for me because I was able to meet people who were supportive and not put off by my plans. A couple of weeks after this, I went to my first LLL meeting. I stayed afterwards hoping I could talk to people about birth. I told one of the leaders about my plan to UC and I was surprised to find out that she knew about UC and knew a lady in the area who had UCed her first two children, and she ended up UCing again in November! I got to meet her at December's UCAN meeting where we watched the UC of Psalm and Zoya. My unassisted childbirth went from "someone in Laos" to "people in America" to "women in my own town" who were also LDS. It made a huge difference to have that local support.
I chose UC because I wanted a peaceful birth, found that it was indeed possible and safe from my research, and because I had great support (I probably would have UCed without the support, but it would have been more difficult). I had grown up knowing and trusting my body- unassisted childbirth seemed like a natural extension of what I already knew about it. I knew I wasn't being careless- and if something had really and truly gone wrong, we would have sought help. We need to stop thinking of birth as an emergency- the panic and fear resulting from that causes more complications than necessary. Beautiful birth experiences aren't unreachable aspirations- they are attainable, tangible realities.
Friday, May 23, 2008