An Empowering Experience

On October 10th this semester, we had a guest speaker come in and inform us on her work as a doula. Her name was Merrill Durham and she is a birth doula that serves clients in Middle Tennessee.¬†Merrill’s presentation was both personal and informative. She began the presentation by telling her own story of how she became inspired to pursue a career as a birth doula. She first stated that she was probably just as confused by and uniformed of home birthing and the job of a doula when she was invited by her friend to attend her home birth. Merrill continued to describe the experience as an immensely sacred one and one that changed her life forever. This experience was one that inspired her to begin to learn and study everything she possibly could about labor and childbirth. She attended a number of home births and also births that were held at hospitals. She also had a first-hand experience when she became pregnant and chose to have a natural birth at home. She repeatedly stated how empowering that experience was for her and it became her goal to empower other women in their own birthing experience.

Merrill’s presentation included a lot of information on what exactly home birthing and having a natural birth entails. A beneficial aspect of this presentation was that she did not express bias or a purpose for persuading the audience to participate a natural home birth. She provided factual information about both home birthing and birthing at hospitals with the use of drugs. Another beneficial aspect was the information provided about birthing in a hospital that I, personally, was not aware of. She informed us on the dialogue that exists within the hospital and the ability for the birthing mother to request for or refrain from any procedure that occurs in labor. She informed us that sometimes hospital doctors will inform the patient that she will “need” a procedure done while this may be implied that the patient has no choice in the matter when in fact she most certainly does.

A limitation of this presentation would be that she could have provided more history regarding natural birth and possibly include references to birthing from previous centuries and how the development of modern medicine has influenced the success rates of birth. I feel this may provide more substance or support for her presentation.

This presentation connects to previous course content we have covered including feminism and gender. The birthing experience is one that is unique to women and should be done so in a way that best empowers the woman. A woman should not be told how or in what setting the birth of her child should be done. Feminism involves political, social, and economic quality among both men and women and women’s method of birth should not be dictated by another, whether it be the husband, partner, or friends and family. Women should not be kept in the dark at hospitals about their birthing process and made to feel inferior to doctors’ authority.

An example from media that I immediately thought of during this presentation was an episode from Keeping Up With the Kardashians. My sisters and I watch this show regularly and I had remembered an episode that I watched with them over the summer involving Kourtney Kardashian’s birth of her daughter Penelope. In this episode and scene attached above, Kourtney talks with her sisters, Kim and Khloe, about thinking about a conversation she had with a midwife. Kourtney explains how the midwife she spoke with has owned a birthing center for seventeen years and they help do at home births. Kourtney ponders this idea as she says how the birthing could include all of her close relatives to come over to her house and have her own son be able to watch the birth. Kourtney says, “I feel like it’s empowering to know that you can do it.” Her sisters remind her that during her previous birth to her son Mason, she was numbed using medicine and that she doesn’t remember how painful the birth was. Her sister’s advise against this type of home birth however Kourtney still questions if it is right for her.

I felt this scene¬†not only provides an example of a woman that is considering an at home birth and replicates the type of setting that Merrill had described as an at home birth, but also attests to the pressures from others that a woman faces when deciding a method for her own birth. The aggressiveness of Kourtney’s sisters’ responses gives an idea of how often loved ones feel as though they know what is best for another’s birthing experience. Even as Kourtney tried to further explain the process of an at home birth that she learned about through talking to a midwife, her sisters interrupt and respond in an almost appalled way. This relates to the idea that birth is an extremely personal experience and is unique for each woman, as Merrill mentioned in her presentation. Society attempts to put pressures on woman and voice opinions about birthing methods and can influence the overall perception of birth and how it “should” be done.

Do you feel that a natural at home birth is a popular option for pregnant women?

Do you feel as though there is enough information made possible about doulas and the option of a natural at home birth?

Do you think that a birth in a hospital appeals as safer than an at home birth with a doula?

Would you consider a hospital the safest place to be in labor and birth a child?