But to be born, one must first be concieved. Let me start from the beginning…
My name is Melissa and I am a registered professional labor and delivery nurse at a hospital based, high-risk labor and delivery unit in the North East. As a feminist and lover of women’s studies, I have always been interested in women’s health issues and after a year in the microbiology/pre-med program during my undergraduate education, I came to realize that not a career in medicine, but a career in nursing would afford me opportunities to work with and professionally advocate for women and women’s issues.
Almost immediately, becoming a labor and delivery nurse became my goal and after a year of working in medical surgical nursing post-graduation, I finally was hired for a full time position in labor & delivery. It was there that I truly cultivated my passion for perinatal nursing; I feel that supporting a mother and her partner through the labor process and assisting in the birth of a new life is both a privilege and an honor and is very empowering to all involved. I thought that being a labor and delivery nurse would afford me these opportunities; however, I am coming to realize more and more clearly that the state of maternity care in the United States is in a crisis and I find myself growing more dissatisfied, frustrated, and unhappy with my role in the current system.
Despite basic good intentions, the current system of hospital based maternity care as the “only legitimate and safe” option has not lived up to my expectations of providing me with the opportunity to support families through a natural birth process. In my opinion, many hospitals’ stellar reputations for managing high risk pregnancies and deliveries almost plague their ability to appropriately manage low risk births without unnecessary interventions, including but not limited to, the inappropriate use of labor induction and augmentation and unnecessary primary and repeat cesarean sections. There is a pervasive culture among attending obstetricians and their protégé (i.e. residency staffs of budding physicians) that pregnancy is a disease and labor is a complication that must be aggressively managed and remedied within arbitrary time limits. Even more discouraging is that after almost two years of working in a hospital, I have come to realize that as a labor and delivery nurse, I am at the end of the line when it comes to making an impression on how couples prepare for and view their impending birth experience and in consequence, began to feel almost powerless in my ability to affect a positive change in the current birth culture and practice in this country.
More so than not, the labor & delivery nurses I work with enjoy providing labor support to couples during childbirth, however I have found that hospital culture, including the never-ending paperwork, defensive charting, shift changes, wild fluctuations in how many patients we can be responsible for at one time, and the pressure to get patients “in and out” is crippling to those of us who desire a better way! Moreover, understanding that natural childbirth is not necessarily something every woman desires, those that do are almost bullied into changing or abandoning their birth plans with the use of fear tactics, unnecessary intervention, and an invasive medical model that pushes women towards analgesia and anesthetics. What is even more upsetting is that women are not being properly educated about their rights and options from the very OBGYN providers with whom they have placed their trust and safety in the hands of. In my opinion, the criteria for informed consent are often not met and informed refusal is not given as an option.
I began to wonder, “Am I alone in this?” And then I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born and realized I was far from alone. My goal in starting this blog is to get the word out there that things NEED to change for both the safety and welfare of our mothers and babies! I also want the birth advocacy community to know that there are nurses out there that are on your side! The time is NOW! I hope my blog will include ramblings of my day to day life as a labor and delivery nurse, resources for birth advocacy and tips for becoming involved in the cause, book reviews, commentary on current events, new perspectives on past experiences, and thoughts towards change!
So why “NursingBirth?” Since I am married to a linguist who enjoys word play, I have decided to play a little bit with words of my own. Although I do not feel that birth is broken (despite what some obstetricians might tell you), I do feel like the current state of maternity care in America IS broken and hence needs to be nursed back to health. I am also a nurse and hence, nursing is what I do. Also, nursing is also used to refer to breastfeeding (another thing I feel needs to be advocated for and supported) and natural birth needs to be nourished and supported, which is exactly what nursing does for a baby!
So after hours of “pushing,” NursingBirth is born! And I didn’t even need any stitches!