The large group that turned out for my reading at Third Place Books in Seattle last night was an inquisitive and insightful one and I learned a few things from them that I will pass along here. First, I was told, hospitals are required to provide one-on-one continuous support throughout labor. Although that model is difficult to staff because you never know how many women will give birth on any given day, more states should consider doing the same.
A midwife in training told me that she had worked in Russian maternity wards one summer a few years ago and there, families have to pay extra to allow the father of the baby to witness the birth. But most women, she said, don't really want him there anyway because birth remains the realm of women -- as has always been the case throughout most cultures until the natural child birth movement changed that in the West in the 1970s. After the baby is born in Russia, she said, the new mothers spend time together in a postpartum area, where they can support each other, share stories and see how they each go through the same adjustment period. (I think that is a great idea.) Women in America are far too isolated in the early days and weeks after they give birth.
There was also a lengthy discussion last night of doulas, who offer labor support but don't do any of the technical aspects of birth such as cutting the cord. One woman suggested that perhaps it's time to pair doctors with doulas, having them work as a team, so that they are not on either side of a great divide, with the doula working as the mother's support and advocate and the obstetrician making decisions about care separately. It's an interesting concept, especially as physicians' assistants become more popular. Many studies have shown that having a doula can shorten and ease labor and make birth less complicated. A man, whose children were born 20 years ago, listened intently to the doula dialogue and said that while many men say they don't want a doula because they feel like another woman in the birth room would invade their territitory, guys could use the support too. Birth, afterall, is an emotional event for fathers and they don't always know what to say or do to help. He urged me to encourage men to be open to the idea of doulas.
Another male attendee, a massage therapist, asked whether anyone knew about the spot on a pregnant woman's ankle that, when rubbed, can stimulate labor. If you do, feel free to post here.