A letter from Leilah McCracken
On my lower belly is a cesarean scar. It formed there 10 years ago after a needless cesarean. To this day, touching it makes me shudder. Hair doesn’t grow on it; it is without sensation- a white, bumpy, ugly dead strip.
The child who came from it is the only one of my seven children who has ever sucked his thumb, or needed a security blanket.
On my back are little pinprick scars from epidural catheters. They are little bland bumps. I am one of the women who have lifelong back pain from epidural anesthesia; and one of the few women for whom epidural anesthesia doesn’t even work. (I had spinal anesthetic though my epidural catheter for the c-section. My husband’s idea in the OR, by the way… one of the few times in our five hospital births where he was listened to, and not treated like a fourth class citizen.)
My daughter was hurried through my vagina with a Pitocin drip. She has some behavioral difficulties that many children who were born through Pitocin tend to have- almost autistic in nature. Autism is now linked with Pitocin use (see end).
My fourth child was induced at 40 weeks, my shortest pregnancy ever. I am supposed to have ten month pregnancies, as my last two births, sixth and seventh, have shown me. My fourth child is my only violent child; he causes so much heartbreak in my family. Every day he has hurt his younger brother. I wonder if he would have been a bit more gentle in his life if his birth had been more gentle- if he had been allowed to gestate as long as my body requires. (Incidentally the younger brother he beats up was born through a Prostin smearing on my cervix. He was lucky my VBAC uterus didn’t rupture. So am I.)
I always thought there was no other way for me to give birth- that I was a birthing failure; incapable of birthing without an induction jumpstart or a surgical incision. For five childbirths I always “needed” my doctors to create my birth experiences for me, and to save me from my own birthing inefficiency and hopelessness. (I was actually addicted to their “helping” me, and was always effusive in my gratitude for their efforts.) But then with my sixth, I just couldn’t do it again- I couldn’t go back to another hospital to give birth… I was just too hurt and broken inside.
I found a lay midwife, and had the beautiful, easy birth that I am intended to have. I finally gave birth as a full, luscious woman- all my own hormones, in my own safe place- with no fingers in me, or straps on my belly. (Or knives in my belly.) I simply pushed my baby out and went to bed.
This birth healed me… it fulfilled me, enraged me, and propelled me to begin writing and to help heal birth for other women- help them see that the childbirth theories of men in white lab coats are wrong. I created my website (birthlove.com), and soon discovered that millions of women feel just as I did- hopeless; inept; incapable; less-than fully female; not deserving of gentleness or birthing bliss: and that there is no other way to give birth. Millions of women bear terrible scars of the body, soul and psyche from processed, assembly-line birth… millions of women are heartbroken from the loss of what could possibly have been the most beautiful moment of their lives.
What seems to you like a routine day of work impacts entire lives- decades are affected by what happens in the few hours of giving birth. Later drug addiction comes with one’s own drugged childbirth; an increased risk of later violent suicide comes with one’s own violent, painful childbirth. (See references to Bertil Jacobson’s work below.) Terrible infirmities come to women who have had cut, manipulated childbirths… I know women who can’t control their bowel movements because of episiotomy cuts. I know women for whom hemorrhoids cause lifelong pain and severe loss of freedom because of their vacuum extractors and forceps deliveries. I know women who are suicidal in their awful depths of self-hatred and worthlessness: they have a despair that ricochets through their souls from being strapped down like meat to be palpated and probed by anyone who wants to touch their bodies in childbirth. I know women who never realize their full potential as women- as artistic, sentient, feeling women- because they have not given birth powerfully and joyfully.
I know of women who are not even living anymore because of their hazardous hospital births… I know of the doctors who are not held accountable for their deaths. I also know of doctors not held accountable for babies’ deaths.. and I know of thousands of women who have been lied to by doctors, and told that their difficult births were somehow their own fault- that they were too disproportionate, incompetent, or failures at progressing for birth at all without medical assistance (the same meddling, intimidating assistance that stunted their spontaneous birthing in the first place).
How can I tell you to stop hurting families? How can I tell you that giving birth matters? How can I tell you that your procedures cause more harm than good? Why would you believe me? Who am I to you- some “nut” on the Internet who will impact as deeply and personally as a passing, uneventful comet? The women still come to you. They fill up your waiting rooms with their passiveness, endless patience and willingness to follow your orders. They think you know best- they think you are the expert in human childbirth. But how can I tell you that you’re not? You won’t believe me; your medical degree and your years of managing childbirth in hospitals may suggest to you that you deserve the position of societal expert of childbirth.
But listen: the birth you know is incorrect. The birth you have studied and mastered is false; how most women give birth today- with unproven interventions and invasive, humiliating procedures being the norm- is wrong. The birth that doctors see and understand is caged birth; free birth resembles nothing of the stop-and-start, bizarre, agonizing births of the hospital LDR. Birth as it is meant to be given is as straightforward and obvious as any other act of elimination. And as are other eliminatory acts, birth is best given in absolute privacy. (Never flat on one’s back with spectators and bright lights.)
Birth is also the ultimate act of reproduction. It is transcendentally sexual- like a big, luscious orgasm: wild; uncontrollable once you get to the point of no return. That is… if you’re able to get to that point of no return… reaching this state of wild animal release- the optimal state of mind/being for birth- can only come if no one is disturbing you, and if you feel secure and are free from harm. If there is no external schedule imposed on your own intrinsic orgasmic schedule. This is how birth is- highly sensitive to external stimuli; becoming erratic, stunted and pathological if a woman senses her environment isn’t safe and accepting of her own unique way of opening up for birth (equate opening up for birth with ecstasy/release). And this is why so many hospital births “need” doctors’ drugs and intervention- because of how sexually constipating the hospital birth environment is….