As pregnant women navigate the internet in search of a caregiver and a place to birth, some may end up opening a web page describing a birth center, and read a description such as:
“Imagine being respected for your choices of where and how to birth your family. The lights are dimmed, the room is quiet. You know who the people are in this room. You feel supported in a way that relaxes your body and allows you to feel safe. Trust prevails in the space. You can feel your body settling down. Your body knows how to do this. Your baby knows how to be born into this world. You and your baby are doing this together, with the support of those who love you.” **
The expectant woman sighs deeply, closes her eyes and gives thanks for having encountered professionals whose philosophy of childbirth appear to be completely congruent with her hopes and dreams of a woman/baby/family-centered birth.
Would they also share her vision of having this transformational experience viewed by those who subscribe to watch it streamed live on the internet? I sincerely hope so.
Welcome readers to Nancy Salgueiro’s world!
This past Saturday, Nancy live-streamed her third child’s homebirth on the Internet for all the (subscribing) world to see. From Salgueiro’s website:
“If you are pregnant or thinking about it, think you want a natural birth, and don’t know what to expect, then this invitation will allow you to experience my home birth so you can see how wonderful and gentle birth can be.”
There are those who contend that live streaming the birth undermined the sanctity and privacy championed so eloquently by the Ina Mae Gaskins and Michel Odents of the birthing world. Others have labeled it “publicity.” One birth professional concluded it was a “side show event.” I hold a different opinion.
While Nancy’s decision may have offended some or shocked others, her choice of how to experience the birth was just that…her choice. She views birth as a joyous, safe and loving celebration and wanted others to have the opportunity to observe, witness and be inspired by watching hers. Women receive a barrage of negativity about labor and birth….isn’t her confident and upbeat attitude a welcome alternative? Her homebirth brought the Six Healthy Care Practices of Lamaze into action!
While initially writing this post, Salgueiro was at 40 weeks and 7 days of her pregnancy. How many women have a positive role model for patiently waiting for labor to initiate on its own? How many women may have, and will continue to, learn via Nancy’s experience, that 40 weeks isn’t a deadline or an expiration date that necessarily requires induction to avoid?
Perhaps my willingness to embrace the idea of permitting observers, stems from the welcoming way it was presented to me by the Dutch midwife who attended my first baby’s homebirth in Amsterdam in 1982. During a monthly visit, she proposed that I attend another woman’s home birth and asked whether another pregnant mama might come and observe me during mine. In that typical, straight forward manner that characterized any suggestions my midwife made, it was presented as an option. I remember my guest observer walking in after sunrise. It was just a couple of hours before my baby emerged and, I’ll admit, I didn’t hesitate to “uninvite” this woman after the short while she spent in my living room sitting tensely on the edge of her chair, biting her lip, furrowing her brow and making all kinds of tut tutting sounds and sighs! Even though my experience of having a guest observer wasn’t a favorable one, it was easily resolved by asking her to leave. Like Nancy, I could exercise complete self determination about my environment and could decide who would be present for my birth. How wondrous if birthing women in the Americas had this kind of authority!
Nancy’s situation was different in that her observers were not physically present. Though there may have been thousands observing her, they were not sharing her physical space. Contrast that with women who endure the onslaught of unknown nurses, obstetricians, assistants, residents, interns and technicians at their births. Or simply a change of caregiver at the last minute because their preferred attendant isn’t “on call.” The camera lens in Nancy’s home simply represented the faceless internet viewers who had submitted their requests to watch her birth. Why is the former accepted, while the later provoked horror?
I find the furor over her decision a bit confusing. When a woman reclaims her right to birth within the privacy of her own home, often because the clamor and intrusiveness of strangers in an institution is objectionable to her, we herald that step. Why recoil from a woman just because she decides to share her triumph with others via the internet? Is it the immediacy of the telecast that frightened or perturbed us? Does a video have to be edited first? Would we have tolerated it better if it had been set to mood-enhancing music?
As a doula, I have participated in nearly 900 births and probably had a video camera present for nearly one hundred of them. Only once did a laboring woman direct her husband to shut the camera off. He of course, complied. More often, all of us completely forgot about the taping! This holds true especially when the video camera is simply set upon a tripod and turned on without further adjustments to the lighting or sound. Then again, some video camera operators have been incorporated seamlessly into the tapestry of birth.
Although not a television owner myself, I am aware of the national syndicated television program “A Baby Story” whose parent company claims is “ a voyeuristic peek at the drama of labor and the sheer joy and relief of the unforgettable birth moment.” Viewers are invited to “share in the experience and all the emotions parents feel when they first greet their newborn.” A production crew enters the woman’s private sanctum to film, and later is given the authority to edit what has been taped! I met one participant, Mindy Goorchenko, who provided the video (filmed by her husband) to the Discovery Channel with hopes of demystifying and promoting normalcy in a twin birth. She was dismayed when the televised version was edited in a way that made it appear as though an emergency had just narrowly been averted!! With live streaming, there is no editing. There is no personal point of view by a producer or a director. Is this immediacy what makes it so formidable to some members and activists within the birth community?
When I taught childbirth classes to hundreds of pregnant women in a behemoth regional hospital in Mexico, I used an activity to underline the uniqueness of each woman’s pregnancy and birth. I would share a small sheet of paper and a pencil with each participant and ask her to either write a word or phrase, or to draw something simple that would convey something unique about her baby’s conception. The hundreds of entries (none of which were signed) conveyed graphically that babies were conceived in homes, hotels, beaches, or cars. That they were conceived on floors, mats, hammocks, beds, sleeping bags and with privacy or without. The women conceiving were joyful, scared, or sad. The babies were conceived at different times of the day (usually just indicated by suns, stars and moons) and by women who were seeking to be impregnated and those hopeful that they wouldn’t. My goal in offering this “dinamica” or “activity” was to underscore that just as each woman had a unique-to-her memory, situation or position at conception, it was unfathomable that at the moment of birth they would all want or need to birth the same. And so it follows that just as there is someone like Nancy Salgueiro, who was eager to share her birth, there will be women who find the idea abhorrent. But there is room in the birth community for both!!!
Certainly no matter how many books she sells or how many new blog subscribers she obtains as a result of the publicity surrounding her child’s birth, Nancy offered a gift to the world. For the viewers who previously thought birth was too painful to contemplate without anesthesia, or that birth can only be accomplished in an OR, or with the woman exhorted to push by “experts,” Salgueiro’s live-streamed birth might end up having been transformational. Many professional caregivers who know the theory behind delayed cord clamping might not have ever seen it done before. For the many educators, doulas and birthing families who dream of experiencing a birth in which the Healthy Birth Practices are a reality rather than what sometimes feels like a distant goal, this birth may have re-inspired.
The Salgueiro’s son was born at 3:18am on October 16th. Baby Oziah weighed 6 pounds 10 ounces (3.1kg) and arrived peacefully at home in the presence of family and friends. Active labor progressed very quickly and the midwives arrived shortly after the birth. The video is already available, here. To view, click on the text box and enter the password naturalbirthrocks.
Nancy will be re-streaming the birth and recording it on to Ustream so it will be available for viewing for those who feel better knowing the outcome before watching.
If the intimacy and immediacy of Nancy’s birth still doesn’t fulfill your expectations for observing birth, then consider Marni Kotak.
She will transform an art gallery into a birth center and thus turn the birth of her first baby into art.
“I think if people give birth in the completely inhospitable environment of hospitals, hooked up to IVs and monitors and strapped with stirrups into a bed, I can give birth in an art gallery.”
Posted by: Joni Nichols, BS, MS, CCE, CD(DONA)
**(excerpted from http://gracefullbirthing.com/)