“Why have so many hospitals set up the room with the smallest bed one has ever had when you are the biggest in your life?”
As I wake early to prepare for my visit to our International MotherBaby (IMBCI) Demonstration site in Feldbach, Austria, my morning gratitude is focused on the great model that is the foundation of their hospital: IMBCI step #1) To treat every women with respect dignity and fully involved in informed decision-making. This philosophy is at the core of their care and contributes to their providing elements of comfort and intimacy with Optimal MotherBaby Maternity Care.
I feel the anticipation of seeing their labor and birth rooms for my return visit- rooms that give you a feeling of activity, freedom and choice. As we tour the rooms we see elements of comfort; a bed made from a combination of circles and colorful shapes; a ladder to hold, squat, or rock; a thick mat to use on the floor to be more comfortable on hands and knees, or to rest; a beautiful free flowing shape tub; a soft, silky colored rope to hold, swing, and squat from; a swing called the wheel; a birth stool; colored balls; music; aromatherapy; homeopathy; acupuncture as well the option of epidural, and cesarean when needed. There is a midwife available for every woman and a back-up obstetrician, who finds pleasure in working in this evidenced-based practice. After a peaceful ride thru the rolling hills and forest on this sunny, crisp, fall day, the colors of the leaves glistening and filling my heart with bliss as nature in all her eloquence was shining her beauty, as if to say- “trust nature, birth is beautiful, sacred and within all the pleasures are available to you look at what is before you. Each season holding it’s own secret treasure to unlock and behold.”
The smiling face of Dr. Hans Hoffman, chief OB, greets Angelika and I. He is happy to see us. It is such a pleasure to work with such diverse colleagues around the world who all share a passion for childbirth. I always remind people who attend my workshops, that whenever we are working to make change, we must honor that all who are called to the sacred gateway of birth, do it with the same passion and fire in our hearts, yet depending on our own experiences with birth and for nurses, midwives and physicians often their training indoctrinated them into different models. The challenge today is to look at our training; our longs held beliefs about childbirth, scientific knowledge and with a human rights lens, combine quality care with heart and compassion. This is what our demo sites and many information sites we call MotherBaby Networks, or MBNets, are doing. Some like Feldbach Hospital are further along than others, but it doesn’t matter where you start, it’s just one step at a time to create Optimal MotherBaby Maternity Care!
Soon Dr. Alexander Huber comes smiling along as well. His joy to see us is apparent in his whole body, I can tell they have some news to share that they are proud of. We go into the family room to have coffee and talk. This cozy room is where women and their families can gather in labor to eat, drink, relax and even sit outside on the beautiful patio overlooking the city of Feldbach. We walk outside today, enjoying a little heat wave in autumn, and together dream of women being able to have a waterbirth here, outside in nature. We smile, as when a physician can share this dream, we know we are in a very special place. We share how so many places find so many small barriers to stop such simple pleasures from being available to women, yet how easy it would be to set up a portable tub today, Angelika and I each as doulas know we could do this in 20 minutes, a woman could enjoy the water to labor and/or birth and should she choose to get out and go inside, or for a medical reason should this be a joint decision how easy it is to just move inside… maybe we will hear of this happening one day soon here. We all smile in acknowledgment that this simple act is pushing outside common hospital procedures, yet makes so much sense!
We sit to enjoy our coffee and the discussion prompted be me sharing my news of my amazing son and daughter-in-laws vaginal twin birth with a double footling breech just this past September. I am so grateful for my son and daughter-in-laws strength to trust birth and for an amazing skilled midwives and physician who can safely offer these skills. I know they share my joy. Dr. Hoffman begins to share of the 7 breech births he has caught this year and how it is a declining practice and how he wants to pass along to his staff before he retires in 2015. Dr. Huber eagerly says how he would like to travel to attend more breeches and learn more. I am humbled by their desire to keep a full range of options available to women and in doing so to continue to pass along essential skills that are being lost with so many cesarean births. As Ina May Gaskin shares- we are deskilling our midwives and physicians since the option to birth twins and breeches vaginally are no longer being taught in many places. My heart is warmed by their sincere desire to keep these skills and options for MotherBaby safe. We talk about many other issues in birth in Austria today and specifically Feldbach Hospital, as the sounds of a woman pushing her baby naturally into the world are music to our ears from the next room. It is beautiful to feel and embrace these natural sounds that go missing from too many labor rooms today as women are encouraged to silence and to bed with machines, drugs and surgery.
Here women truly have options and the support they need with continuous midwifery care and in some cases doulas as our discussion includes too. It’s time for the new surprise. Their eyes light again and we walk to the postpartum wing. Here we are greeted by beautiful photographs of babies that line the wall, most of them all born here. We enter a postpartum room and their brand new wooden beds glisten in the sun. The side pulls down so that MotherBaby can safely stay together in bed around the clock. This nice co-sleeper can be wheeled when needed, and has the capacity to slide up the side of the bed and keep MotherBaby together as nature intended. Wow! Why didn’t we think of this before? I am always struck in the U.S that we put our babies in a plastic box. When babies are so sensitive to smells, touch, feel, why do we use plastic to bond them to the artificial worlds instead of natural materials and fibers and of course the skin to skin of their parents? I wish every woman and care-giver could have the chance to meet Drs. Hoffman and Huber and their many midwives.
To experience these rooms and options is incredibly inspiring. I feel deeply moved at seeing what is possible when you have providers who embrace these new, yet old models of care that allow women all the options and comfort measures they need to birth their babies, trusting their inner wisdom, and provided with a full range of options for a safe, satisfying and pleasurable birth!
What options are available at your hospital for a safe, satisfying and pleasurable birth? Each time I enter Fedlbach Hospital and see their amazing birthing suites I have to ask myself why can’t other hospitals do this? Why have so many hospitals set up the room with the smallest bed one has ever had when you are the biggest in your life? When you are welcoming a new baby, why is there not room for your partner, husband, children or newborn to cuddle with you? Why are we creating so much separation at a time that we crave connection? Please share your thoughts in our comment section.