Back in the 1970s, you didn’t give birth without some medical assistance. However, for the Shanley family, that wasn’t the case. They called themselves ‘Freebirthers’, people who gave birth without any hospitalization or medical assistance. The mother gave birth to five children without medical attention. They weren’t alone in the category, as many other families and couples agreed to give birth unassisted. They thought it made birth easier, and gave the babies a better chance at surviving the outside world and it’s illnesses. “They [Freebirthers] say it’s healthier physically and psychologically for the baby to enter the outside world in a soothing, loving place without the glare of hospital lights, nosy nurses, intrusive doctors, and meddlesome midwives poking about.”(p.169-170). In the book, some expectant mothers had difficulty giving birth and the blame was pointed to the quality of their mental state or mind. The Freebirthers believed that too, but related the problem to the hospitals and medical students, for example: “Most of them [Freebirthers] believe they are doing what’s best for the child… If you enter a world with smiles and cuddles, you’ll be happier as a grown-up than if your first glimpse of the world outside the womb is latex gloves and feet in stirrups.”(p.170). They didn’t do it just to sprout bad gossip about medical students; they did it for the baby’s health.
However, that was back in the 70s, and today the statistics for unassisted birth are still as unavailable as back then. On the other hand, according to http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/07/health/when-giving-birth-opting-to-go-it-alone.html?pagewanted=all, nurses and doctors are making efforts to make rooms more cozy and friendly than the sterile white rooms of old. While reading this, I was surprised that so few unassisted births went smoothly, but that could’ve just been the limited amount of information given, for example; “A Guatemalan study compared women who labored alone with women who had doulas (companions by their side during labor). The upshot: women with doulas had shorter labors,” (p.179). It pushes out a fact that was looked over before, having a loving companion or family member is better than none at all, according to http://www.cochrane.org/CD003766/PREG_continuous-support-for-women-during-childbirth. I would agree, having someone you know is way better than having a stranger, or an anonymous person, at your bedside when your pushing a watermelon seized object through a coin sized hole. The book also stated the noticing of the fact that animals did have it easier when it came to birthing offspring, and likened freebirthing to be the same; “Nowadays, freebirthers like to say that they are giving birth the way nature untended, the way most animals do.” (p.178). However, later the book countered and said that animals had wider pelvis space, making it easier to slide the baby out.
photo: primate evolution