Two recent research reviews found that women who have a doula, midwife, or supportive family member with them during labor are more likely to have a shorter labor, less likely to use pain medication, and feel more satisfaction with their birth experience than women who receive regular hospital care. In addition, women who practice “kangaroo care,” that is skin-to-skin snuggling with their newborns, directly after birth are more successful early on at breastfeeding, compared to births where the newborns are taken away to be swaddled or washed.
The reviews are published in The Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that reviews medical research. Cochrane reviews are highly respected in the medical community.
Before I had kids I would have been very pleased to hear such results. I would have stashed away the knowledge for a future pregnancy during which I would have let my doctor/midwife/doula/husband know that medical science has determined that this is the best way to give birth and so this is the way it must be.
But now that I have two labors under my belt I know that childbirth doesn’t quite work that way. In my own experience I ended up having two unplanned C-sections because for some mysterious reason I grow ginormous babies that would never fit through my pelvis. Believe me, I tried. Both times. Na-uh. Baby not coming out.
With both kids that meant no kangaroo care for me either. Both have breastfed just fine. As for my satisfaction: Yes, I would rather not have had surgery twice, in the same spot. But what can you do? At least I’m alive and my babies made it out all right. It was essential that my husband was there with me. I can’t imagine how it would have felt to go through that without him.
Given the experiences I had, I’m wondering what would it have meant to me if I had read about these reviews before I had kids? That is, what if I held the idea that unless my newborn was placed immediately on my chest, the chances were good we would not be successful at breastfeeding? Would this information have been useful to me or created more anxiety? I think you know where this is headed.
My point is, the information itself isn’t bad. It’s good to know what the best case scenario might be. Plenty of women have uncomplicated labors and are able to have their baby placed on their chest before it is cleaned and measured and tested for its Apgar bragging rights. It sounds lovely, well messy actually, but the emotions of the moment would trump that I’m sure. It would have been really cool to experience that.
I guess my wish would be for information like this to be presented to women as a preference, not a necessity. Before we had our second son, my husband and I went to a birthing class for couples who had a C-section the first time around. At the start of the class, the teacher had us go around the room and tell our birth stories. Many of the couples – there were about seven – were really sad about the way their first labor had gone. There were a lot of tears and anger. What I saw were people who had a specific idea about how labor was supposed to go and when it didn’t go that way, they were really upset about it. Seems like a shame. Maybe we’d serve ourselves better if we prepared for the unexpected, hoped for the best, and waited to see what Mother Nature and medical science had in store.