The Year was 1975.
It was International Women's Year. Colour TV came to Australia and The Netherlands won Eurovision with 'Ding-a-dong'.
It was the year Frederick Leboyer published Birth without Violence.
In the led up to 1975, women fought to be heard. In the over 40 years since, the fight continues.
Whilst gains have been made, some very fundamental needs have been neglected. And not for lack of voices.
By 1975, the way were born had changed dramatically. From women-led matter of fact birth, mostly at home, birth became medicalised. In male-led medicine, power shifted from the Mother to The Man. Feminism at the time, embraced these changes. The illusion was one of being freed from the shackles of our biology. An illusion of choice, of control, of safety. Along side the medicalisation of birth, came the medicalisation of mothering. Formula was replacing breastfeeding, women had more options, and careers were opening up.
And a French Obstetrician published his poetic book on childbirth, which was met with enthusiasm from mothers and outcry from the medical establishment.
The Greats of Childbirth added their voices, the likes of Michel Odent (also a French Obstetrican) and Sheila Kitzinger (British natural childbirth advocate), along with Ina May Gaskin in America. These three voices laid a strong foundation, and others have added their strength.
And yet. over 25 years after it was first published, a revised edition in 2002 was prefaced with a musing from Leboyer:
"What was a strong wine became slowly watered down into the kind of herb tea that gives you a good sleep"
He had seen that birth had become more medicalised. Was he lamenting the loss of humanity? Was he troubled by how far we were going?
And still more voices cried out. There were more books written..Janet Balaskas, Sarah Buckley, Rhea Dempsey, Katrina Zaslavsky, Lucy Perry, Fiona McArthur, Henci Goer...and dozens more. Websites and facebook pages emerged as the new millenium placed devices in our hands. The irony of the technological delivery of a message about natural 'delivery'.
Another 15 years, and birth is even more medicalised than before. Pregnancies are bogged down with tests and examinations just willing to find a reason to stray from normal. The voices are strong. So why does the fight continue?
It seems to me the only conclusion is money.
No one stands to make money out of natural birth and breastfeeding.
So women are left to discover for themselves. Many experience disappointment and trauma, postnatal depression and dissatisfying mothering. Luck seems to be key. Lucky to have heard of doulas, or birth cartography, lucky to know women who embrace natural birth and breastfeeding, who understand what is needed and how the biology works. Who are supportive.
These lucky women receive the gift of love.
It is like they havea golden ticket.
And this is the state of birth in 2017. Without a Golden Ticket, you get the standardised care. The luck of the draw, You do what you are told and don't ask questions. As long as you emerge with a live baby at the other side, it is all good. No honour. No 'rite of passage'. No autonomy.
Your Voice strong. You have Knowledge and the Power to share it. In sharing, you initiate the change.
You are the One that can make a difference to your sisters, your daughters, your nieces, your friends.
If we don't Speak Up. If we don't SING IT! The fight is lost.
There is much at stake.
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Selected Articles by Catherine around the web:
birth without fear
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