Saturday, November 7, 2009

Weekend at the Movies: Vive la difference!


The timing of this post I've been planning couldn't be better, what with the internet still abuzz and twitterpated from the birth streamed live by a woman named Lynsee just last night. But even earlier this week, a topic on Facebook was posited by Amy Romano: the great boon to the birth community that YouTube and other online video forums has been. We were all asked to share our favorite online birth videos, and there are a few absolutely incredible ones that are definitely my favorites (most notably the recent VBAC stories of Lindsey Meehleis and Alexandra Orchard, both of whom were so affected by their experiences that they became midwives themselves - truly transformative experiences in every way).

But the one that immediately sprang to mind for me was a black & white video that I had seen ages ago and tried to find again recently, to no avail. The film featured a blond woman, quite lovely, giving birth in a reclined but not supine position, alert yet relaxed, and best of all, looking absolutely, ecstatically amazed at what was happening! It's clear that she was watching herself in a mirror, and was totally enthralled and fascinated with her body and her baby, using her hands to feel what's going on, watching happily thrilled as the head crowns, rotates, and emerges. She pauses, in full, unpressured repose between contractions, no hollering to PUUUUSH or counting to freakin' 10, following only her own urges to push, including some pelvic shifting. It is astonishing to see, in a culture that focuses on the pain and angst and danger of birth - to see a woman filled with utter delight. The father (it seems clear) is guided through catching the baby himself, and when he brings it up to mom, the sheer, undiluted joy she expresses is equal parts infectious and touching.


(When you get to this video after you finish reading my waxings rhapsodical, take a moment: Can you envision what our birth culture would be like if THIS were the birth film they showed to the eighth grade health class?)

I had suspected YouTube might have removed it, and Ms. Unnecesarean confirmed this. Boo, hiss - I still have to give credit to YouTube for allowing so many birth videos, but it remains a bummer that they're censoring some. Luckily, the internet being what it is, I asked if anyone else might have seen this one, and might have any leads on other locations for it besides YouTube. Thanks to Amy's sizable following, someone procured it within MINUTES! I was floored and psyched - and I also got more than I bargained for.

The video I remembered is on there, starting at 3:40, and it's every bit as great as I remembered, but it's just one among 6 others in an 12 minute compilation - and all of the births offer something wonderful to witness. They are hospital births, but they are unlike pretty much any hospital birth I have ever seen (I imagine a birth with Dr. Wonderful or others in his rare, exotic species, would come pretty close). The women are mostly upright, many of them being supported in squats where their partners are acting as the birthing stool, and the doctors or midwives (my preschool level French couldn't distinguish this even if the audio were better quality) seemed engaged and positive, and largely hands-off. Young siblings are included in several of the births. Several fathers catch their babies with guidance, and one strips down nearly as much as his naked wife* (the mothers are all nude). Imagine an American hospital that encourages that much skin to skin not only with the mother, but the father, too. Imagine!

We get to see two perfectly vaginal, unhurried, relaxed births of twins. The first is a veritable feast. We start off with a gorgeous rotation shot at 1:06. As with most of the others, this one was extremely hands-off. Baby A lands softly on the towels, then a nurse gives the slightest possible bit of aid as the mother reaches down for the baby herself. Note: Meanwhile, no one is running around with instruments and towels and clamps and tables and suction bulbs. Daddy holds and talks to big sister about what she's seeing. Then Baby B backs into the world with absolutely zero sense of panic in the room, legs first and then rump, starting off with the same hands-off gentle landing that his predecessor got. (Speaking of, rather than being off getting weighed and measured and scrubbed, Baby A is simply being skin-to-skin on her chest, vernix and all.) Here the doctor, who we've barely seen up to this point, does step in with a little assistance as the head emerges - not yanking, but guiding the baby up in sort of a backward somersault. I'd be interested in seeing what people who attended the breech conference think of this maneuver - it seems gentle enough to my eye. Then Baby B, too, goes directly to the bosom. All this and we're 2 minutes and 10 seconds in! What a bounty.

The second twin birth, which follows the first, even takes place underwater. (I admit they had me biting my nails a bit on this, as they were quite leisurely in bringing the baby to the surface. I am all for not necessarily yanking the baby up as fast as possible, but this was just a bit too lackadaisical for me. Something between the two extremes would be my preference. Other thoughts? Please share.) Mom is the portrait of placidity.

And in the last video, though the birth itself was not a water birth, the baby is bathed in what I am assuming is a Leboyer bath shortly after birth - I have heard of (of course) but never actually seen this in practice before. I remember Peggy Vincent writing in "Baby Catcher" how Leboyer baths were a hot trend for a while among those families inclined to birth naturally, and how it was really mostly a headache for the nurses, trying to keep the water at the right temperature at the right time, and rarely went as smoothly as one hoped, with poor little ones squalling at the shock of a now-tepid bath. I can see how she would feel this way (though she appreciated how well-intentioned the idea was), and my impression is that the practice is basically obsolete today - but I can also see how this was part of the evolution towards birthing more gently, and I acknowledge its importance in that evolution.

I know, I know, quit yapping about it and show us the video already! Here's the thing, it's formatted so that I can't embed it here, and can't even directly link it, but the instructions are easy enough to follow. Go to this page, ignore all the other hospital videos on the page (or don't, but don't say I didn't warn you), and scroll down to #107. It looks like you may have to download this to Windows Media Player. If you don't have it, SRSLY, if you're interested enough in birth that you're reading this, it is worth it to install Windows Media to watch this. Get an upgrade if you have to, call Geek Squad, endure a tedious phone session with tech support, whatever you have to do. If it's not worth it, I hereby declare that I will pay you one million dollars**.

Laissez les bons temps roulez!

*If I recall correctly, this is also part of the Leboyer approach.
** Terms: one dollar a year for a million years.

1 comment:

  1. What a great website of videos! I love that video too, and now it is downloaded and mine forever! (Sometimes I wonder when listening to these orgasmic-type birth videos, if my roommate thinks I'm watching something a little more salubrious. I guess I should tell her it's just birth...)

    I want to track down a breech video that was on youtube just last year. It was, I'm pretty sure, from the same place/school of thought as those clear tub births. Used the same cubical clear tubs, and took the same amount of time bringing babies up to the surface which does make you a little antsy! But it showed beautiful, hands-off breech deliveries. Now it is gone :-(

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