Alarming new statistics on "non"-natural childbirth!

Sally is a tiny lady with a big, basketball-sized belly. She teaches at the local kindergarden, and her husband, Jeff, our local electrician, had found their way to our hospital's childbirth education class. Sally and Jeff had grown up in a small Eastern Alabama town. They had married right out of high school and now, living in Mobile, were preparing for the birth of their first baby.

Sally was quiet and soft spoken. She rarely raised a question but often jotted down notes as the class went along. When asked, "Why did you decide to take this class?" Sally had said, "'cause I want to birth my own baby. I want to push him out into this big, wonderful world!"

Sally's passion to deliver by natural childbirth is becoming less common.

CIMS - Coalition for Improving Maternity Care offers alarming new numbers on medical intervention at delivery:
"With a staggering 31.8 percent of US births occurring by cesarean section, improved transparency in maternity care has never been more urgent.
The safety of birthing women is in serious jeopardy according to the recently released 2007 US birth statistics. Birth by cesarean section has increased by 50 percent since 1996 and now accounts for 31.8 percent of all US births. While the procedure can be life-saving when used appropriately, it is a major surgery that carries extensive risks for both mother and baby--risks that are not present in a vaginal birth. The 2007 rate is more than double the US Healthy People 2010 and the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 15 percent. Despite these facts, today’s birthing women have no way of knowing if their local hospitals exceed the recommended rate."

Sally had heard stories about birth from other ladies at the school. Mary had been told that her "baby seemed too big," so she was induced -- only to deliver a 6 pound, 3 ounce baby boy. Jean's doctor had thought that her pelvis might be too small, so a c-section was done and she delivered a 7 pound, "late premie."

Sally's doctor had already discussed with her "getting an epidural"; he also mentioned that a c-section before the holidays might be "more convenient" for her. But Sally stayed determined. "I bake great sourdough bread," she exclaimed. "It's supposed to stay in the oven for 60 minutes. If I take it out at 50 minutes, it's soft in the middle!"

Sally asked a doula to come to her birth. The three of them made a formidable team, and Jamie was born a healthy 8 pounds, 3 ounces, two days after her "due date."

It's such a big job being a parent. There are challenges such as solving early breastfeeding problems, teaching a two-year-old not to bite his best friend, advocating for a kindergarten child with learning issues, helping a school-aged boy deal with a bully in class or a teen whose friends use drugs. I often wonder what impact we have on the confidence and fortitude of parents from the get-go when such a large percent of women are told they can't even birth their own baby. What does the medical world take from women when we deny them what may be the most empowering experience of their lives?

Sally had it right: "I want to push my baby out into this big, wonderful world." We are lucky when our job is to help her do just that!