Submitted by Guest Writer: Denny Hartung, MD
Unless you have a philosophy background, degree or interest, or are a fan of Plato, you may not have heard of the concept of “The Noble Lie”. I first heard about it in Washington, DC, at The International Breech Conference in November, 2012. A wonderful midwife from Canada named Betty-Anne Daviss shared it while waxing philosophical at one of the lectures, and I share the concept humbly with you. I believe it has merit as we think about the childbirth experience over the spectrum of care today.
Betty-Anne told us The Noble Lie comes from Plato’s Republic. It is a myth or “untruth”, if you will, told by an elite, to maintain or advance an agenda. I did a little more digging after the conference and found out, in the “Republic”, the myth went something like this: Into whatever societal class you were born, there you will always remain and exist. Slaves and serfs are always in the lowest class, landowners will always lord it over the serfs, and the politic or ruling class will always have most of the wealth and always rule. If the ruling elite got the masses to believe that, then they maintained control and there was less chance that the masses would revolt and disrupt the status quo. We know this idea today to be antithetical to the general good of society. All have opportunity to improve their status in life, contribute to society to the fullest, and can grow, given the right circumstances.
The “Noble Lie” of childbirth, as Betty-Anne tells it, is this, “Women in childbirth need to be saved most of the time.” Her idea is that “the elite” are telling women they cannot give birth on their own. “You need that epidural. Your baby needs continuous monitoring. You need an IV. You need pitocin to help you deliver your placenta. You need that cesarean to save your baby from the difficulties of natural childbirth. You cannot deliver a breech baby vaginally.” I could go on and on. One wonders if the childbirth industry is telling us that to maintain control too. Something to think about…
Birth is a sentinel event in the human experience. The world is never the same after each and every birth. A new life is here to change everything. Maybe another Mozart or Gandhi or Goethe has come. Even more amazingly, a woman has been transformed into a mother. The process and outcome should be given the respect it deserves.
I believe that women need “saving” from childbirth only rarely. Cesarean birth can be good – sometimes. Epidurals can be helpful – sometimes, as can pitocin, etc. But, I believe we trivialize the experience of childbirth for each woman, her partner, her growing family, society and the global community when we disempower her from the most powerful and difficult thing she will ever do. Too much unnecessary intervention not only affects her, it affects our community adversely. Once a woman has given birth, she knows what she is made of. Let’s not let the “Lie” lead us away from the real truth of childbirth. Most of time she CAN DO IT. As a mother, she can then help others through it. She can lead our community and her family better. She can withstand practically anything. She is empowered. She can change the world.
Denny Hartung, MD learned that art of gentle birthing while he served as an Army OB/GYN with military Nurse-Midwives for 11 years in Alaska. Since his Army retirement in 2005, he has practiced community Obstetrics and Gynecology in Hudson, WI, and in the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. He has an interest in VBAC/TOLAC and vaginal breech birth and promoting the midwifery model of care in obstetrics.
Wise words from a wise man. Thank you for what you do for women and families in our area, Dr. Hartung!
Susan m says
I am one of the blessed women to have had Dr hartung as my Dr! With his complete confidence in my ability,I delivered my daughter vaginally, breech, with NO INTERVENTIONS. It can be done and it was the most empowering experience of my life. I was grateful that God put me in this mans path. And I continue to pray for him to pave the way for more obgyn s to do the same.
Kara Jo Prestrud says
As a local Hudson doula and resident, I can’t express enough how grateful I am that Dr. Hartung is a part of our birthing community. He is an amazing advocate for normal, natural birth, and a forerunner in his field. He has helped numerous clients & friends of mine to have wonderful birth experiences in which they felt supported and empowered. He also sets a positive and normative example for many other providers and hospitals, locally, nationally, and beyond. THANK YOU Dr. Hartung!!!
Carrie Pfeiffer says
I too was blessed to have Dr. Hartung deliver my breech boy – Roman in the fall of 2011. Truly, if it weren’t for my doula & the Childbirth Collective I wouldn’t have realized what was possible for a birth experience or why I would have even wanted it! I hope that at some point in his career he is given the opportunity to teach / train other OBGYNs!!!! Can you imagine how this kind of attitude & approach can change the birthing profession!
Michelle H. says
I don’t like male docs. At all. But this guy makes me realize that there ARE good guys out there in the doc’s uniforms! You are a very wise man, sir. If I’m ever around your area & in need of your services, I’ll be looking you up.
Sue B. says
I have been the doula at a couple of births that Dr. Hartung has done and he is amazing. His calm, cool, and collected attitude is apparent throughout the birthing process and everyone in the room experiences his humility and confidence. We are so fortunite to have him in our area. Wish I was young enough to recreate my two birthing events….
I also feel very blessed I was given Dr. Denny’s name when my husband and I found out my first pregnancy was also a twin pregnancy. He has such a calm and reassuring manner and I’m so excited to work with him until our babies arrive
As a mother of ten, all born vaginally and most without any assistance…two of first three minimal aide. Sixth one born breech without any problem. He’s an athletic 21 year old today
Definitely saw the “Lie” way back by the time the third was due.
Elizabeth Allemann, MD says
This is the kind of wisdom that gives me hope for my profession. Thanks Dr. Hartung for the courage to believe in women.
Kathy Morelli,LPC says
Hi there – I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Debra Pascali-Bonaro for over a decade. I took her doula and postpartum doula trainings long ago. And I still love going to her NJ classroom for retreats. What a wonderful story! thanks, Kathy
Gail Tully says
Dear Denny and Debra,
Thank you for making this post. Dr. Hartung is a treasure above and beyond that the medical world can produce. A few key individuals set the standard and in this day and age, those exemplary doctors are pushed out of the system because the others can’t bear the quality of care demanded by standing next to Doctors like Denny. As parents and colleagues, we can’t just let Dr.s like this be stopped from giving care to families with vaginal breech birth, VBAC after x many, homebirth transports, women with unique requests and needs because these are the births that shape the care for the rest. If the range of normal is narrow, the skills are lost. But in truth, the range of normal is wide and yet American doctors rarely can serve that range. But Dr. Hartung can and did and now he’s looking for a medical home to give this care to families who are literally crying for it! All my love, Denny and Debra! Thank you for this magnificent message.
Sarah Zematis says
I traveled 8 hours to birth my breech baby with Dr Hartung because he was the only doctor who didn’t want to intervene. I am so glad that I did. I had believed The Lie for my first 2 breech births, which I was told c-section was the only way. With Dr Hartung’s gentle guidance and complete confidence, I delivered my 3rd breech.
My hope for the future is that doctors become collaborators with other doctors AND their patients. There is much to learn from their colleagues as well as the people in their care.
Dr Hartung, thank you for the respect you have for the process of birth and for your patients. Your care is the gold standard!
Tracey Rose says
Fantastic article and I agree with it 🙂
Thank you for inspiring and assisting women in such an important process such a childbirth.
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