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

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Failure of Perfection - Caused by Natural Birth or by the Disruption of Natural Birth?

Natural birth is just yet another impossible ideal we hold women up to: perfect body, perfect looks, perfect job, perfect mother, perfect home, perfect organic cook.

--poster on another blog

No, these are symptoms of the denial of a woman’s most basic physiological ability – to conceive, gestate, birth, and sustain an infant with her breast. The perfection syndrome and the list of symptoms here are the result of the socialization of this culture – and a focus on things of external value. Looks, careers, etc.

Truly, “natural birth” is not an impossible ideal. Women have done natural birth for eons. Now we have the technology to assist those small few who cannot and to eliminate the causes of most of the deaths during childbirth. In the US high mortality rates are more associated with the misuse of technology and the toxic, stressful environment, and older women giving birth. The US, like other industrialized nations, made significant gains decreasing mortality rates through the sixties with addressing infection, sanitation, and nutrition. These are causes still plaguing most of the third world on this planet in 2007. Save the Children 2006 Mother’s Day edition states that "Sixty million women give birth at home, without the help of professional birth attendant with delivery skills" and " More than 500,000 women died from complications of pregnancy an childbirth" and 4 million babies die every year within their first birthday. Thirty-six percent of the 4 million neonatal deaths are from infectious diseases and another 27% are a result of prematurity (malnourishment and other poor living conditions).

The "ideal" of the perfect woman is an American illness, not seen in third world countries. They have neither resources nor the time to worry about their breast size to fulfil a perfect image, nor do they worry about their thigh dimpling, their hair, nail color and clothes all matching, and brand-name label clothing to fit in their suburban neighborhoods where they park their SUV mini-vans with the latest DVD equipment upgrades to keep their alive child pacified while they chatter on the cell phone en route to shopping, dance classes, and other "necessities" of American life.

Natural birth is not the reason American women feel like failures in birth and have perfectionism complexes. Rather, it is from a belief in man-made perfection and a lack of sacredness and respect for anything natural (unless it can be bought) that has distorted women's view of what a woman is about and what makes her good and REAL and WHOLE. The "ideal of perfection" is just a SYMPTOM of the disregard for women and the belief that women's bodies are defective and in need of rescue from natural birth. Instead of seeing a woman's body as perfect -- as it truly already is, and how it functions to conceive and bring forth life, a medicalized model of birth that is controlling, expensive financially and in cost to lives, and devaluing model of birth rules this society that has 5% of the world population with 70% of the world's wealth. Disruption of her perfection is what causes women to feel like they have failed. Women are being failed and expected to be some outside standard of perfection. When they buy into it they feel like failures.

Failure is a sensate feeling of the body when physiology and basic needs are disrupted. 500,000 women around the world are failed by a society that takes and has so much and squanders it so. Poor nutrition contributes to cycles of poor health and poverty while the US has a fast food restaurant on every corner, and Americans are the fattest people in the world despite the best resources for health, the best healthcare in the world, and a consumer base and income for a weight loss and fitness industry that in itself would feed a third world country and train midwives. The devaluing of women's body and the ideal of perfection (sexually, physically) is promoted in every commercial on television to the number one video industry of pornography. Even the most educated, wealthy, and nourished America woman has a high likelihood of maternal and infant mortality because many of her basic needs are disrupted in modern birth -- privacy, respect for her soul and body, food and water, movement, drugged ... and, she is also failed in a culture where how her body looks, not who she is, is the measurement. She is expected to birth with high tech and how painfree and technolized her birth was is her status and measurement. It is her "right" to have a technological birth even when it disrupts her body's ability to birth as it was perfectly designed. Social acceptance of this is the source of feelings of failure.

While America squanders resources on non-medically necessary obstetric intervention on perfectly healthy and perfectly capable women who have every possible resource available to them, the resources could be better used to saving birthing women and babies in the third world countries. Ain't gonna happen --- American doctors trained to save lives don't even want to live in rural areas of the US where a number of women do desperately need life saving skills. Better to stay in the cities and practice on healthy, perfectly capable of women -- where the money is. According to Save the Children, the price tag to help Africa is $1 billion per year to save up to 740,000 newborn lives. Instead, we invaded Iraq at a cost today of $405,878,677,142. Click and watch with your eyes spin and wonder how it could have been better used. Today spending is about $6000 per second and $100,000 per five hours. Shame on America.

I shudder to think though if Bush had not declined to support the CHILD and Newborn Act (HR 4222) last year and had actually approved money to support saving women and babies' lives in third world countries (something in me snorts with disgust at how little concern would be given these women and babies as not even American women and babies are regardled as worthy). Today, if America took on this challenge, there would be a surgical suite in every village now. And, even the Gates Foundation, on it's home page, says hospitals are NOT the answer. This means access to induction, epidural, and surgical birth is NOT the answer. -- in Africa, America, or anywhere. The bill asked for "authorization of increased resources to save the lives of mother and babies and require a comprehensive US strategy for improving newborn, child and maternal health." The US is asked to save these babies whose dilemma is poverty, disease, and nutrition and is good basic health care and midwifery care that is known to decrease the maternal and infant mortality rates (below that of the US) in other industrialized nations. The US is not saving it's own women and children from barbaric, non-evidence-based care and violating treatment. "The ideal of perfection is caused by natural birth advocates." Give me a break.

The sense of "failure" that many American women feel after giving birth is rarely about "not being natural enough.” The failure is a deep, non-verbal expression that results from a devaluing of women in general, even by women, and by the ongoing disruption in Her physiological hormonal process. A proponent of “natural birth” states, Many women, with lesser interventions, still hold themselves up to the ‘natural’ ideal and feel as if they've failed when they couldn't ‘resist’ the interventions. Apparently, according to this poster and the blogger, the feelings of failure women have in not being able to resist interventions are blamed upon women who did have natural birth and “brag” and “gloat” about it. They are chastised to not speak of it to other women as this is rude, and hurts the feelings of women who “fail” to give birth naturally. The answer, they believe, is for women who birth naturally to stop talking about it. C’mon. What distortions. Feminine betrayal by women. Evidence-based research tells us that natural (non-mediated) birth with mother in upright positions, moving freely, nourished, hydrated, and with loved ones, not strangers, and it is clear that techniques for managing pain naturally are healthier for the woman and her baby. Six million women give birth without any skilled caregivers and in this country a woman who chooses to birth "unassisted" is hardly unassisted by world standards. She is nourished, has shelter, and access to the greatest health care in the world, and has access to information to totally educate herself but she is treated like a heretic.

This claiming of natural birth as leading women to feel like failures is such cultural psycho-babble, double-talk perpetuated by those who for whatever reason have dismissed birth as a natural occurring, physiological, biological, intimate process and are deeply engaged in victimization and displacement of self-responsibility.

“The exception I take with the natural birth ideal is that it raises the bar so incredibly high. Not only are we supposed to try to know almost as much as our midwives or doctors about birth so that we can be ready to question them (well, just the doctors) at every turn (all while having a baby!), but we are to try to make the birth experience as natural and softly lighted and hands-off and beautiful as possible---ideally without the most effective pain relief for most women, the epidural. It is no more realistic or desirable for most women to forgo these comfort or safety measures, however much their "pure" necessity is debated, than to expect women to be perfect homemakers or perfect career women/moms.”

And, why not? For eons women have given birth in all sorts of substandard situations and environments. At the turn of the century, British and American women who lived in poverty and gave birth at home attended by other women and even on the streets had better maternal and infant mortality rates than the rich, white women who gave birth in hospitals. These were also the socialite women expected to have perfect homes, children, and lives, but who did not have to do the work themselves.

“Supposed to try to know almost as much as our midwives or doctors about birth…” Hmmm. It occurs to me, why not? I wonder one hundred years ago and back through time if every woman did know about birthing. And, did she know how to handle many of the problems that could arise. Recently, on my sister’s fortieth birthday, my mother was sharing her perspective of the experience again. She shared that she had hemorrhaged and said, “Wonder how many women giving birth at home and hospitals before they knew what to do.” They would be medical people. My mother’s generation – women born in thirties through sixties -- were particularly indoctrinated by the medical machine as they came of age during the period of declining mortality rates that is solely credited to medicine and men. Prior to one hundred+ years ago giving birth was primarily in the women’s domain. Women supported and educated their young women. Birth was not a taboo thing to be done only in bright, metal filled rooms cloaked in drapes and conducted by gloved and masked men. Women knew how to care for their own body (life literally depended upon it) and for each other.

I quote from another blog, :

What about the pain?", is another question that is asked. Well, I have no personal experience with this, but the way I see it is this way: My mother had all 6 of her babies naturally and her mother before that and before that until the first mother. My father's mother who is a strong Nigerian woman had her babies naturally and her mother, and her mother until the first woman. My body is not broken. If all my foremothers can birth babies naturally and with no complications then I can do the same. I'm not afraid of the pain. We as women need to take back that power that has been stripped away from us and know that we are strong and we can do this. Yes, it's difficult but the pain is there for a reason. I'm personally more afraid of the cascade of interventions than any labor pain.

A quote from another blog from a poster who opposes the natural birth movement:

The exception I take with the natural birth ideal is that it raises the bar so incredibly high. Not only are we supposed to try to know almost as much as our midwives or doctors about birth so that we can be ready to question them (well, just the doctors) at every turn (all while having a baby!), but we are to try to make the birth experience as natural and softly lighted and hands-off and beautiful as possible---ideally without the most effective pain relief for most women, the epidural. It is no more realistic or desirable for most women to forego these comfort or safety measures, however much their "pure" necessity is debated, than to expect women to be perfect homemakers or perfect career women/moms.

Society has evolved in the last sixty years to mirror the belief of women that they can “have it all” -- homes, families, and career. And, it is still not true. I have come to believe and share with younger women: “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” Trying to have it all – as we were lead to believe in the eighties we could do -- does not come without a huge price. Delegating our child to the care of others under the psychobabble (researched) promotion that if “mother is happy, children are happy” lead us astray. The pendulum of natural birth of the sixties was swinging back. Childbirth and childcare are two important areas where women were lead astray as they delegated their work to others. Women now have childcare providers, house cleaners, and assistants to do their work. More women than ever schedule their child’s birth, go to the hospital, and even the most powerful of feminists who demand equal pay, maternity leave, and improved childcare will crawl up on the table, have a catheter stuck in their spine to avoid pain, and in doing so, allow their baby’s birth from their body to be done to them. Women don’t have time or tolerance for any more pain that what modern life gives. Painful marriages and painful relationships with children are the effect of our socially acceptable delegation of our womanhood to others.

This is the American ideal of the perfect woman and her relationships and life. It's not the world's and it's not even close for the women in third world countries.

Natural birth LOWERS the bar --- it requires a woman to just be a woman. A perfectly designed woman.

In the US it is the natural birth advocates, the MIDWIVES, the grassroots (those without the big pocketbooks as they say) who are trying to make a difference. Check out the Oregon midwives who are traveling to Sierra Leone to bring supplies, education, and training to women there. Training skilled caregivers to be with birthing and laboring women is a huge part of the process. I hope you'll support these courageous, compassionate women. They are in need of financial support and supplies. Gives new meaning to that bumper sticker we've all seen: "It'll be a great day when the Air Force has to have a bake sale to buy a new bomber."

A Must see movie is The Girl in the Cafe.


Grace said...

I just wanted to send you a big thank you for all of the wonderful information provided on your excellent blog. I recently gave birth to my first child and did not have the birth that I so desired for her at all. I had been planning a UC, but her membranes ruptured early one morning at thirty five weeks and contractions started very soon afterwards. I was far too fearful to continue with my UC plans in this situation and did wind up birthing her naturally as the CNMs would "allow" me to at the hospital. My little girl thankfully was born without complications and did not need NICU, but despite this she was still seperated from me for three hours after the birth, which were three of the most devestating hours of my life. I headed to the nursery and sat with her the second they finally "let" me after I proststed for the time in between birth and when I could see her and then took her from the nursery and kept her in my room with us until we left the hospital. It was not at all a glorious experience as her birth should have been. Hardly anybody understands why I chose natural birth to beging with, nor do they understand the terrible feelings that remain when I think about my daughter's birthday.

Your blog has been such a blessing to me during these past few months as I have healed from my experience and I sincerely hope that the information you provide can help many women understand the importance of achieving the wonderful birthing experience that is what we should all be having. Thank you again for your work on this blog!

Housefairy said...

I had forwarded the Oregon Midwive's link to alot of people so hopefully hey will get some donations.

Excellent post, I have often been "shamed" for "bragging" about successful breastfeeding, homebirth, ect--as if the positive voices are the ones who should be silenced!

Baby Keeper said...

Grace -- thank you so much for your kind words. I feel blessed that it has been a place for you to find healing and support. VERY BLESSED. That is my wish.

One of the things I know from my work in healing -- that seems odd to many -- is that the baby, the soul, comes in with an agenda and purpose. Mothers have their plans and needs and agendas, and so does the soul coming in. I believe the soul/baby is coming to teach the parents as well as live their purpose. I wonder sometimes as I sit with a mother who wanted desperately to give birth as you did and prepared and did everything right, and then an event changes it all. It wasn't your fault or wish to give birth this way. It must have been hers. When you, a mother, can really sit with her baby and embrace that and communicate it to the baby ... that your disappointment is your own, about your own agenda, and that you honor hers, an amazing deepening can happen. Birth is a profound experience that forms aspects of our personality and way of seeing and being in the world. Prenatal is when the foundation is built. Labor and birth is the icing on the cake of the personality of the person. I rant about drugs and interventions AND, I know that my son who is in Iraq, was a soul who chose us to carry out his journey in this life. I knew he was coming for a year or so. It is also a comfort to me to know that he chose us for our genetics and for our passions - his father was a conscientious objector in Viet Nam and I have been an advocate for women and children forever and as a young boy, my son went to my grassroots organizing events. He had a gentle gestation (with some relationship craziness) and attachment parenting. The part of him that is the warrior came from birth -- fetal scalp monitor, the rough treatment in the first moments of life -- all for his journey on this planet. An old warrior soul, now a Gentle warrior, intent to make a difference via the military.

The healing is ALWAYS a balancing and harmonizing of what we the mother experienced ourselves and what we wanted, knew, or didn't know AND EMBRACING what IS, and how it is the expression of the soul's journey into our lives.

It sounds like your experience, while disappointing has so many good and joyful aspects too.

What I know about traumatic births -- my own, and others' -- is that within that experience is where we have the template for our survival skills. Babies born under severe duress and trauma are very strong and skilled babies. Babies born traumatically are "survivors" and healing early on we can support our baby to process the experience so that they don't live life needing to survive in every situation. What they need most is acknowledgement of their perspective so that they can turn their struggles into gifts, and not live in the shadows of the experience, but transform them into postives and resources.

Dr. Emerson( that babies who are able to heal their traumas --- even homebirth babies have unrecognized trauma -- become even more extraordinary humans. This is my consolation for not getting to be a homebirth baby --- I am a survior and strong, and NOW, I can also be gentle and harmonious. ;-)

S said...

This is an excellent post! Probably the best yet.

"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