Today is Pioneer day here in Utah. In general this is taken for granted as another 4th of July. We do fireworks, parades, leave up red white and blue decorations. However, often it’s easy to overlook why we celebrate. We celebrate a group of people that fought against great odds to get to a place where they could live and practice as they desired. We celebrate them leaving a situation where they were in danger and fighting hard to come to a safe place. Likewise, there are many pioneers in the birthing world. Ones that fought hard against great odds to birth as they felt best and to birth in ways that they feel bring themselves and their babies out of physical risk for a safer way.
When I think of pioneers of birth, one the first things that comes to mind is dads fighting to be in the birthing room. Throughout much of time, dad’s were not generally a part of birth. Usually it was women’s work. As birth moved to the hospital, this continued. Men were separated from their wives and left to wait anxiously for baby’s arrival. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s there were several men and families that fought for the chance to be there for their child’s birth. One dad in Chicago even handcuffed himself to his wife’s bed so that he could be there for the birth of his child. Now we take for granted the expectation of dad’s there for the birth. I am grateful for these dad pioneers that paved the way for my husband to support me during the births of our children.
Another great stride our birthing pioneers took was against the “twilight sleep” drug. In effort to give pain relief in birth, a drug was formed from of the combination of Morphine and Scopolamine. It altered the mother’s consciousness and mindset. Women had no recollection of their births. Years later many women would get nightmares of their birth experiences. Some women were tied to the bed on their backs, moaning, in their altered state of mind. It has been called the “drug them up, drag them out” time of Obstetrics. Once again around the 60’s and 70’s many were fighting for a better way. There were two type of pioneers at this time. Women pushing for the chance to birth naturally and women pushing for better pain relief options. Both groups of women were fighting for the chance to be present and active participants in their births. Change did take place. Hospitals started having better policies allowing women to have natural births, also more home births and birth centers started to pop up. Better pain relief options were developed eventually giving us the epidural used today.
Our babies have also changed. In the time of “twilight sleep” babies were born groggy. Their mother’s were also unable to safely care for them as their medication wore off. Hospital nurseries became a necessity. Breastfeeding was affected as babies and mothers were often separated during the key bonding period after birth. As the twilight drug was phased out, the nurseries stayed out of habit. Mothers requesting their babies have paved the way for “rooming in” and “skin to skin.” Scientific studies are now showing just how beneficial these things can be.
Currently we have pioneers fighting to revolutionize the Cesarean Section by fighting for things like clear drapes and skin to skin contact. Many women traditionally only get a glimpse of their baby, we are seeing policies and practices change to involve these moms in their births. I love it.
Throughout history, women have been able to affect great change in the birthing world. The influence of high society women brought doctors and hospitals into the scene. In this century we don’t need to be in the rich elite class to effect change. Birthing policies are always changing. We have more birthing options and locations available than before. Your requests and preferences matter. Keep requesting what matters to you. I am grateful for all the pioneers that have paved the way for by birthing experiences and i hope to continue to pave the way for future generations to have even better opportunities.