The Other Side of the Glass

Part One was officially released June 2013 in digital distribution format. To purchase to to If you were a donor and want to download your copy send an email to

The trailer

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The dangers of today's no-faith birth mentality

I was speaking to a woman who wants to homebirth but is unsure that she could birth unmedicated. I mentioned that throughout history, women have birthed without pain medication. Today we do have better maternal death rates, but the decrease is most likely nothing to do with the availability of pain medication. I realized, also, that traditionally, centuries ago, women even as young as 12 were giving birth--without medication. If my great-great grandmother could do it (and she did) at the age of 12, why is it that so many women years older than that have such self-doubt?

We have been programmed to associate hospitals with birth, birth with danger. We have been trained to believe that hospitals are safety, that doctors are the protectors of our mortality. We have been taught to rely on them for advice not only about our health but about our lifestyle, even our approach to parenting our little ones. Rather than empowering women to trust their intuition, their bodies, their strength, we have crippled them by convincing them that they cannot handle the pain of birth without pain-numbing prescriptions.

At 19, I was a victim of this mentality. I knew women had given birth throughout the centuries, many of them dying in childbirth. Modern obstetrics, I thought, had to be the reason that we now have much better outcomes. I hadn't really thought about all of the other factors that must have contributed. I just knew that the hospital was where women go to give birth from what I'd seen in the world around me & on TV. That was just how it was done. An obedient patient, I reluctantly consented to every intervention. I put my faith into the hands of the CNM doing my prenatal care and the ob/gyn 'delivering' my child. (I find that to be such an odd term, considering the woman is the one doing all of the work.)

I thought they wanted what was best for me. I believed doctors were saviors, good-hearted folk who cared very little about politics, self-gain, or money. They had been to medical school, and I hadn' of course, I should listen to them. How could I possibly know better, especially not having ever birthed before? Their interventions both calmed my mind--and raised alarms. I felt like my baby was safe, but at the cost of my own dignity, self-respect, my trust in my body to birth naturally. I wasn't coached to believe in myself but in the doctors. It felt wrong--and it was.

This ignorance, this lack of self-confidence could have been very dangerous and often is. Epidural led to pitocin and amniotomy, which created such violent contractions that I felt I was going to die even with the pain-killing drugs pumping through my veins. Many infants go into fetal distress from the force of the compressions, and the result is a C-section. This was all due to the unwillingness of the doctors to empower me to birth naturally and their impatience. I wasn't laboring quickly enough for them--due to their administering of epidural! Therefore, they interfered even more with the birth, endangering my child.

This isn't the only scenario where impatience can be life-threatening.

It is common for women estimated to be carrying large babies, over 9lbs, to be schedule for C-section. We have already discussed on this blog how a woman's pelvis width is no indication of how much it will expand during labor and how positioning can prevent obstruction of labor.f labor. Ultrasound estimates of weight and due date are often very inaccurate, resulting in babies being born by C-section for no reason whatsoever. The mother has had a C-section where if the doctor would have allowed her to labor, she would have been able to birth vaginally, naturally, safely.

Often when a woman is carrying a breech or transverse babies, doctors schedule a C-section--without even attempting ECV! Most of these children will change positions in preparation for birth, not necessarily around the due date the doctors have calculated but around the due date the BABY decides. Simply allowing the mother to go into labor on her own and checking before encouraging pushing to see if the baby's position has changed would decrease her chances of C-section quite a bit, as well as give the baby a chance to rectify the situation before calling in the cavalary.

Unfortunately, doctors are loath to let a woman attempt vaginal delivery when C-section seems likely. They don't want women to recover from both if it's unnecessary. The problem with this is that C-section is always a possibility, especially with today's overly medicalized approach to birth. C-sections are more likely in high risk cases, for women with transverse or largie babies, etc., but they are a possibility for everyone. While one may not be high risk for cord prolapse, it can happen. Does this mean homebirth is unsafe? NO. There are steps one can take to decrease the risk of complications and to prevent the chances of needing a C-section should one arise. The point, however, is that there is no point whatsoever in denying a woman a chance to birth vaginally.

The timing of the average C-section is even more troubling. Most scheduled deliveries are set for 37-38 weeks. Why!? The answer is impatience, one of the traits of our society's negative mentality of childbirth. This is incredibly dangerous. Due dates are often off by 2 weeks, even a month. Why would we deliver a child at 37-38 weeks by a C-section scheduled weeks in advance? What would be the problem with waiting those three extra weeks, or even until 41 or 42 weeks gestation, to give a woman a chance to go into labor on her own and try to birth vaginally? If we are planning on delivering by C-section anyway, what would the timing matter so long as it is not after 42 weeks (the point most experts agree that remaining within the womb could become dangerous, though I disagree)? Would a few extra pounds on an infant make it harder to remove him from his mother's stomach? Oh, no! A little extra effort to lift a slightly heavier child, a little bit more waiting to form a more mature set of lungs!

It would not be dangerous, only inconvenient, yet it is incredibly dangerous to schedule a C-section for 37 weeks. Certainly there are times when continuing a pregnancy or attempting vaginal birth would be dangerous. A large or transverse baby, however, are not reasons to deliver early. Neither situations are life-threatening for anyone involved. Delivering them before the mother's due date means they are deprived of several weeks of gestation during which they could have been preparing themselves for the outside world by gaining weight and developing their lungs. It greatly increases the chances that they will be born prematurely, which means a whole world of difficult for them that they wouldn't have faced if doctors had only been patient. Premature birth is the number one cause of infant death, and while most premature babies are not born because of the actions of doctors, there are still many who are. That is deplorable.

With the rate of intervention and especially C-section being so high, is it any wonder that women have so little faith in their ability to handle the pain or to birth naturally? What's the point in getting yourself all revved up, lifting your hopes, if you might end up having a C-section anyway? Where can we get support if not from our attendants? We are social creatures who crave acceptance and encouragement, thrive on it, need it to reach our full potential (most of us, anyway). Chosing a birth attendant that believes in us, in our natural abilities, in the strength of our minds and bodies, can have a profound impact on our birthng outcome. It can make birth so much safer, because we are surrounded by faith, positive energy, and a reluctance to interfere with mother nature's beautiful design. Mother nature isn't perfect, but there is no reason to interfere when her plan is not threatening anyone's well-being.

So far, so many women have been victims of this mentality. Everyday women are coerced, manipulated, deceived into consenting to early C-sections and a variety of other interventions. They believe there is no safe alterative, and doctors do their best to keep them believing that. How much longer will we risk the lives of our children over impatience, convenience, self-gain, and other motivating factors that have little to do with the safety of the child? How many more women and babies will be victims before we finally give birth back to the mothers and their children? How long before we stop perpetuating this dangerous mentality before we start empowering women to just have faith. On that day, the safety of birth will inevitably increase several times over--regardless of location!

~ Heather Burke


daharja said...

I'm due February 8th, am planning a homebirth, and have absolute faith that my body will do the job perfectly.

Why? Because my mother's did, as did her mother's, and her's before her, stretching back for thousands of years and thousands of generations.

If that isn't evidence of a system and a design that *works*, I don't know what is.

I'll be sure to post the story once I've had my little girl (we know it's a girl), and you'll see that I'm right to have faith. My body will do its work admirably, and both of us will be fine.

Heather B said...

You are absolutely right. I hope your faith stays strong throughout your pregnancy and never wavers throught your birth, and I hope you find yourself surrounded by positive energy and supportive encouragement. That will make all the difference!

Safe Baby Partners said...

"Why would we deliver a child at 37-38 weeks by a C-section scheduled weeks in advance? What would be the problem with waiting those three extra weeks, or even until 41 or 42 weeks gestation, to give a woman a chance to go into labor on her own and try to birth vaginally?"

Good question!! My second daughter was born in 1977, seventeen days past the "expected due date" and she only weighed 7# 7oz. Were she born I would have never been "allowed" to go that long and she would have been very small and possible premature. The doctor was a family doctor from Holland where birth in not viewed as a medical crisis waiting to happen. Thank goodness.

MY QUESTION FOR AMY, and any doctor, is where is the research - controlled studies with emperical evidence -- that shows it is safe for obstetricians to change the gestational age to a magic number of 37 weeks? Hmmm. Does THIS correspond with the increased prematurity rates and increased need for NICU -- that costs unbelievable amounts of money both in the NICU and for the lifetime?

The scientific research tells us it is the baby that initiates labor (Nathanielzs, MD(OB) PhD (Vet) hormonally sending message to mother. It is illogical and non-scientific to believe that one can use artifical hormones with the same outcome as one natural birth -- as it's been for eons.

Inducing labor with synthetic or bovine oxytocin is not the same as if a woman and baby create and use their own. How could it not disrupt many functions of not only labor, but also many of baby's internal functioning?

Does anyone else notice that obstetrics has "trends" just like fashion -- that have NOTHING to do with what is scientific?? At least the fashion industry acknowledges women's needs and adjusts to them.

Heather B said...

I don't know why they feel the need to have a magic number at all, be it 37, 38, 40, or 42 weeks. The baby will emerge when ready, and it is unlikely that the placenta will fail less than a month after the 40 week point especially considering the average pregnancy lasts longer than 40 weeks anyways. I would love to see some evidence from ob/gyns that babies truly are more likely to pass meconium and become infected. I know it is a possibility, especially if they are distressed, but I would enjoy learning how often it happens and in what situations.

Tricia said...

What bothers me most about the fixation on "due dates" is that women end up feeling a tremendous amount of pressure from not only their doctors but those around them when they pass 40 weeks (and sometimes even sooner).

I just had my 3rd baby last Monday and she was 41 wks and 9 2nd baby was also 41 wks and 9 days when I birthed her. Luckily my doctors are with Homefirst in Chicago and no one put undue pressure on me there...however, my friends and family were all frantic..."Why aren't you inducing? Why don't you schedule a C/S to be SAFE?" I definitely didn't need that pressure (that was obviously fear based) daughters were perfectly healthy...
that's my 2 cents (For what it's worth :) )!

Safe Baby Partners said...

Thanks for the post.

Congratulations on your new little one. SO GLAD you had the support to let your babies grow as long as they knew they needed to. Research out of Harvard has shown that the average length of pregnancy is 41-1/2 weeks.

I LOVE HomeFirst!! I used to live in IL and I've had client who were attended by Homefirst (even a baby born at home has aspects of birth that are difficult for baby). I met Dr. Eisenstein and his wife and granddaughter last May. He is such a supporter of homebirth and has shown for thirty years now that it is safe when women have qualified and adequate care.

Dr. Eisenstein told stories of his training with an old homebirthing doctor; just as Ina May Gaskin tells her story of training with an family practic doctor in Tennessee who was their backup for years. These folks are perfect examples of how to blend the medical model (life saving knowledge and abilities) with the caring, compassionate, relational and physiological model of care from midwifery.

Interestingly, it is Family Practice phyisicans, like at HomeFirst, who are supporting this model of care, and it is the obstetricians (surgeons)who are doing everything possible to prevent them from doing obstetrics. (That is the reason my ex did a second residency in OB -- to be able to attend birth without crap from obstetricians.)

Heather B said...

"Why aren't you inducing? Why don't you schedule a C/S to be SAFE?"

There's the mother of all oxymorons!!!

From what I have heard, late pregancy isn't deemed dangerous until 42 weeks. However, many doctors schedule a C-section before that--out of impatience. I have known women who have carried babies to 44 weeks with no complications. The thing is that not everyone takes 40 weeks. Some babies take 41 weeks...and if you usually take 41 weeks to bake a bun, you're not late until a few days after words...and the situation isn't dangerous until 2 weeks after that, if you want to go by the 40-42 week rule.

Congratulations on your baby!! I am hoping to conceive a second one soon and begin my journey towards my first homebirth. I think it will be an empowering, healing, and bonding experience for my entire family. I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn before I am truly ready. I have to be extra prepared if I am going to do this on my own. *chuckles* I don't think Ina May Gaskin would be too thrilled with my choice! But, I still love her. :)

Tricia said...

Heather B.--Best wishes as you work on bringing baby #2 into the world...homebirth is so wonderful...I wish you lived in Chicago so I could refer you to Homefirst...but you should definitely read Dr. Mayer Eisenstein's book "The Homebirth Advantage".
Enjoy your success in birthing and motherhood the second time around!!(I don't like to say "Good Luck"):)

"Soft is the heart of a child. Do not harden it."

A public awareness reminder that things that happen behind the scenes, out of our sight, aren't always as rosy as we might think them to be. Perhaps its a restaurant cook who accidentally drops your burger on the floor before placing it on the bun and serving it to you. Here it's an overworked apathetic (pathetic) nurse giving my newborn daughter her first bath. Please comment and rate this video, so as to insure that it is viewed as widely as possible, perhaps to prevent other such abuse. -- The mother who posted this YouTube. How NOT to wash a baby on YouTube Are you going to try to tell me that "babies don't remember?" There is no difference to this baby's experience and the imprinting of her nervous system/brain and one that is held and cleaned by the mother or father either at the hospital or at home? By the way, this is probably NOT the baby's first bath. The nurse is ungloved. Medical staff protocol is that they can't handle a baby ungloved until is has been bathed (scrubbed if you've seen it) because the baby is a BIO-HAZARD -- for them. Never mind that the bio-hazard IS the baby's first line of defense against hospital germs.

Missouri Senator Louden Speaks

Finally, A Birth Film for Fathers

Part One of the "The Other Side of the Glass: Finally, A Birth Film for and about Men" was released June, 2013.

Through presentation of the current research and stories of fathers, the routine use of interventions are questioned. How we protect and support the physiological need of the human newborn attachment sequence is the foundation for creating safe birth wherever birth happens.

Based on knowing that babies are sentient beings and the experience of birth is remembered in the body, mind, and soul, fathers are asked to research for themselves what is best for their partner and baby and to prepare to protect their baby.

The film is designed for midwives, doulas, and couples, particularly fathers to work with their caregivers. Doctors and nurses in the medical environment are asked to "be kind" to the laboring, birthing baby, and newborn. They are called to be accountable for doing what science has been so clear about for decades. The mother-baby relationship is core for life. Doctors and nurses and hospital caregivers and administrators are asked to create protocols that protect the mother-baby relationship.

Men are asked to join together to address the vagaries of the medical system that harm their partner, baby and self in the process of the most defining moments of their lives. Men are asked to begin to challenge the system BEFORE they even conceive babies as there is no way to be assured of being able to protect his loved ones once they are in the medical machine, the war zone, on the conveyor belt -- some of the ways that men describe their journey into fatherhood in the medicine culture.

Donors can email to get a digital copy.
Buy the film at

The film focuses on the male baby, his journey from the womb to the world and reveals healing and integrating the mother, father, and baby's wounded birth experience. The film is about the restoring of our families, society, and world through birthing loved, protected, and nurtured males (and females, of course). It's about empowering males to support the females to birth humanity safely, lovingly, and consciously.

Finally, a birth film for fathers.

What People Are Saying About the FIlm

Well, I finally had a chance to check out the trailer and .. wow! It's nice that they're acknowledging the father has more than just cursory rights (of course mom's rights are rarely acknowledged either) and it's great that they're bringing out the impact of the experience on the newborn, but I'm really impressed that they're not shying away from the political side.

They are rightly calling what happens in every American maternity unit, every day, by its rightful name - abuse. Abuse of the newborn, abuse of the parents and their rights, abuse of the supposedly sacrosanct ethical principal of patient autonomy and the medico-legal doctrine of informed consent, which has been long ago discarded in all but name. I love it!

In the immortal words of the "shrub", "bring it on!" This film needs to be shown and if I can help facilitate or promote it, let me know.

Father in Asheville, NC

OMG'ess, I just saw the trailer and am in tears. This is so needed. I watch over and over and over as fathers get swallowed in the fear of hospitals birth practice. I need a tool like this to help fathers see how very vital it is for them to protect their partner and baby. I am torn apart every time I see a father stand back and chew his knuckle while his wife is essentially assaulted or his baby is left to lie there screaming.
Please send me more info!!!!
Carrie Hankins
CD(DONA), CCCE, Aspiring Midwife

Thanks for sharing this. It was very touching to me. I thought of my brother-in-law standing on the other side of the glass when my sister had to have a C-section with her first child because the doctor was missing his golf date. I'll never forget his pacing back and forth and my realizing that he was already a father, even though he hadn't been allowed to be with his son yet.

Margaret, Columbia, MO

In case you don't find me here

Soon, I'll be back to heavy-duty editing and it will be quiet here again. I keep thinking this blog is winding down, and then it revives. It is so important to me.

I wish I'd kept a blog of my journey with this film this past 10 months. It's been amazing.

I have a new blog address for the film, and will keep a journal of simple reporting of the journey for the rest of the film.

I'll be heading east this week to meet with a group of men. I plan to post pictures and clips on the film blog.

I'll keep up here when I can -- when I learn something juicy, outrageous, or inspiring related to making birth safer for the birthing baby.

Review of the film

Most of us were born surrounded by people who had no clue about how aware and feeling we were. This trailer triggers a lot of emotions for people if they have not considered the baby's needs and were not considered as a baby. Most of us born in the US were not. The final film will include detailed and profound information about the science-based, cutting-edge therapies for healing birth trauma.

The full film will have the interviews of a wider spectrum of professionals and fathers, and will include a third birth, at home, where the caregivers do a necessary intervention, suctioning, while being conscious of the baby.

The final version will feature OBs, RNs, CNMs, LM, CPM, Doulas, childbirth educators, pre and perinatal psychologists and trauma healing therapists, physiologists, neurologists, speech therapists and lots and lots of fathers -- will hopefully be done in early 2009.

The final version will include the science needed to advocated for delayed cord clamping, and the science that shows when a baby needs to be suctioned and addresses other interventions. Experts in conscious parenting will teach how to be present with a sentient newborn in a conscious, gentle way -- especially when administering life-saving techniques.

The goal is to keep the baby in the mother's arms so that the baby gets all of his or her placental blood and to avoid unnecessary, violating, and abusive touch and interactions. When we do that, whether at home or hospital, with doctor or midwife, the birth is safe for the father. The "trick" for birthing men and women is how to make it happen in the hospital.

Birth Trauma Healing

Ani DeFranco Speaks About Her Homebirth

"Self-Evident" by Ani DeFranco

Patrick Houser at

Colin speaks out about interventions at birth