I started pondering the art of sharing after reading the birth story of Dr. Rixa Freeze‘s third child, Inga. Inga was born at home on March 2nd in a surprise unassisted birth — the midwife arrived 5 minutes after she was born — and Rixa posted the birth story a few days after the birth.
I’ve admitted before to being a birth story junkie. I love them; I love reading about birth and watching videos about birth. It’s such an amazing and wonderful process, and one of the most beautiful experiences a woman can have; I often find myself tearing up reading about/seeing the experience. I’m also amazed at how different every labor is…how different giving birth is for every woman, and yet they all have the same strength to get through it, to do what has to be done.
Rixa’s writing reflects the calm and peace with which she labors and delivers, and the video she provides is wonderful – more than 30 minutes, unedited, surrounding her daughter’s birth. She is cool and collected, centered and managing her pain, laughing just minutes before the baby crowns, and narrating as she catches her own baby. She is the perfect example of woman’s ability to work with the pain of childbirth and successfully deliver drug-free.
The first video, ends about 7 minutes before delivery:
But I hesitated to share, because it is not a birth that goes perfectly. In Rixa’s words:
Soon after the birth, Inga lost muscle tone and color. I quickly realized that I needed to perform mouth-to-mouth. Fortunately, I became certified in neonatal resuscitation several years ago, so I knew what to do. It was tricky getting the angle right, since the cord was short. I gave her five breaths. After each breath, she coughed and perked up a bit more.
What that means for those of us watching the video, is that there’s about two minutes of heart-stopping fear as the baby turns purple and goes completely floppy. Even having read the story before watching the video and knowing that everything turned out fine, I still felt incredibly nervous watching it all unfold.
On Rixa’s blog, it became apparent that, for most people, the two minutes during which she had to resuscitate Inga completely overshadowed the rest of the birth experience. Many people fixated on the fact that her baby needed assistance, and there were quite a few who pointed to those two minutes as an argument against home birth*, which really made me think about how I may or may not filter the stories I share.
In sharing birth stories and information, I think it’s important to be honest. Not everything goes as planned, sometimes there are surprises and sometimes there are challenges. There are also many things about birth that are out of our control, which is why almost anyone will tell you it’s important to be flexible and open to the experience. That said, most births are uneventful, and positive thinking and an optimistic outlook will do more towards a good experience than fear and worry. But where is the line between honesty and optimism when we talk to first-time moms?
The OB in my [past] midwife’s practice once told me that she hated What to Expect When Your Expecting because it makes women worry about every little thing and expect the worst. So how do we present an accurate view of birth? How do we talk about the rare instances that something doesn’t go perfectly without frightening women, most of whom will never, ever live one of those rare moments?
After watching Rixa’s video several times, I think that she has perfected the art of sharing. She could have edited out the resuscitation, but instead she left it in, and Inga’s birth is more beautiful for it. The honesty is refreshing and it adds so much to the viewer’s understanding of how Rixa births. Watching it, I am amazed at woman’s ability to birth naturally and to care for our offspring. That Rixa peacefully birthed her daughter and calmly reacted to an emergent situation, is a testimony to the strength of women. Something that would not come through as strongly without the resuscitation.
I also think that it is an argument for home birth. Rixa’s baby would have had the same breathing difficulties no matter where she was born, but home was the only place where she could be cared for gently. As Tatiana said on Becoming Midwives,
That this one precious, tender, incredibly sensitive new little person could be born needing help and receiving that help from her mother in the warm safety of a tub is a transcendently beautiful departure of what neonatal resuscitation normally looks like. Nothing jarring, nothing painful or invasive, nothing panicked, nothing even as upset as my own response watching on a screen so many miles away. No, just family, breath appropriately applied, and the rolling of time into life here among us other breathing people.
If you watched the videos, I’d love to know what you think. Does her calm surprise you? Is Inga’s initial struggle an argument against home birth or inconsequential? How much should we be telling expectant mamas about risk?