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Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds Paperback – Mar 17 2011
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About the Author
Cynthia Gabriel is a medical anthropologist, mother of three, and a doula who has attended nearly 100 births. With a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Post-Doctorate Fellowship from the University of Michigan, Gabriel's research focuses on stress during pregnancy among African American women. She served as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Center for the Childbearing Year, and runs women's and parents' support groups. Gabriel is also the founder of Growing Together, a Life Learning Center that offers psychotherapy and life coaching services in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she resides.
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The first thing I took issue with is the overall tone of this book. Basically it says that in order to get a natural birth in a hospital you just have to stand your ground, tell the doctors that you want a natural birth, and keep asking for "one more hour". This may work well if the staff really is pushing for interventions based on scheduling, doctor preference, etc (as does happen unfortunately), but what about situations where there really is a medical need? This book does not discuss what questions you should ask. Yes, asking for more time (if not an emergency) is good, but what about asking for alternatives, asking about risks of continuing without the intervention, risks of getting the intervention, etc? This book really gave a sense of it's 'us vs. them' in a hospital. Sometimes complications arise, and the most empowering thing the family can do is to make sure they ask the right questions, get what information they need, and make a decision that is right for them (whether or not that is the staff's recommendation) NOT just ask for more time.
I really disliked the line talking about c-sections being "the ultimate manifestation that other people are in control of birth". True, C-sections are over-used and *can* leave a woman feeling like she no longer has control. But this line implies that it's inevitable that a women has lost control as soon as she has a c-section.
The author downplays all possible complications of labor. Again, I think that most (not all) caregivers have lost the trust in women's bodies to do what is best, but sometimes complications do occur. Just pushing for a natural birth regardless of what happens is not necessarily a good idea. For instance, the author recommends that if your water breaks prior to labor beginning that you "don't look at the clock" so that you can't tell the nurses what time your water broke. And that you have to be careful because the doctors might use the words "possible life-threatening infection". Yes, there is a risk of infection after your water breaks. No, it's not a reason to start induction immediately, but this book really gives you the sense that there are no risks.
The author talks about pushing in labor and how "some women push for a few moments, others for twelve hours." Pushing for 12 hours? Really?
The author describes internal fetal monitoring as "using an electrode that is literally screwed into the baby's scalp". The electrode goes a couple millimeters into the skin on the baby's head. Important for the woman to know, but not nearly as bad as the author suggests.
Talking about risks of epidurals: that they can cause "intense headaches that can last for days or even weeks (these are relatively common)" These headaches occur about 1% of the time, and are less likely with epidurals than spinal- not exactly "common". Again- I'm not saying moms don't need to know the risks and this low risk may be enough that she doesn't want an epidural, but phrasing it the way the author did is rather misleading.
The only reason this book got 2 stars instead of 1 is the last chapter- it goes over each of the interventions and strategies (besides just asking for more time) to avoid them. It's actually pretty decent.
I was really disappointed with this book and I don't think it's enough to prepare a mom for a natural hospital birth. Maybe other people got a different sense than I did, but I really feel like this book leaves you feeling that you are against the staff and that they are just there to push you into things you don't want.
Funny that once I picked up this book, I saw Cynthia Gabriel mentioning some of these exact comments I got from my OB as a sign that one's provider was not open or supportive of natural birth. As I read the book, I became more empowered and confident that I could in fact have a natural labor and delivery. And as I was re-reading the book in my 7th month of pregnancy, I decided that I wouldn't have it any other way and set out to change providers and hospitals (at 32 weeks!). I also was able to craft a one-page birth plan by using Gabriel's anecdotes, examples, and suggestions about birth plans. I feel confident that even if I didn't switch providers, I could have the birth I want in any typical hospital.
My husband (a first-time dad) also read the book and found it helpful. He's the type who would go to a birthing class if I dragged him, but not feel comfortable asking questions. He learned a lot from this book, as did I, and it made him also feel empowered in helping and supporting me in my decision!
Love love love this book! I don't know what else I can say to express just how instrumental this book has been for me. I am due in 7 weeks and feeling ready for the challenge. That in itself is a rowsing endorsement, considering only a few weeks ago I wasn't sure I could do it. I highly encourage you to get this book if you are even considering a natural hospital birth!
The advice to ask for time was very helpful for my husband. I work health care so I'm used to schedules and routines, but normal childbirth doesn't follow some pre-determined schedule. For those wondering about asking for time in an emergency, when staff is stressed/worried it becomes pretty clear. They will tell you if it is truly an emergency situation, especially if you have made your natural/minimal intervention preferences known. As a patient you have the right to refuse any procedures, but people are intimidated by staff so this reminder gives you a chance to think. The book was helpful with coming up with strategies to plan for different scenarios, including a c-section if it became necessary.
We were very lucky and our daughter's birth was just what I planned. The resident who delivered my daughter had never seen someone push instinctively without coaching (nobody counting to 10). As amazing as it was to become a mother, we also taught the resident things about childbirth he would have never known.
Then, I had baby #2 and 'tried' for an unmedicated birth, but was still not informed enough. I knew I didn't want a repeat of my first experience, but I failed to do the research to truly find out how to accomplish that goal. I got to 8 centimeters when the hospital staff basically said, "it's now or never" and I accepted the epidural. Again, I felt something was missing.
Thankfully, I read this amazing book which gave me the roadmap I needed to overcome the culture of fear that I hadn't realized until pregnancy #3 was so prevalent. This book helped me achieve the natural birth I'd wanted and I will be forever grateful to the author for empowering me to take a leap of faith and believe in myself. My child, my husband and I experienced what birth was meant to be. I love to give it as a gift to my expectant mother friends who even hint at wanting to try a natural birth!
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