In this excerpt from an interview, Robbie Davis-Floyd shares her inspiration for the book “Birth Models That Work” and gives one beautiful example of a holistic and continuous model of birthing care in Brazil. Just three people working together – an obstetrician, a midwife and a doula – this model creates a birthing cocoon that often includes cooking and dancing in the expecting mother’s home.
Birth models that work
After many years of critiquing the obstetrical system and protesting the overuse of interventions and technologies in birth out of fear, I have traveled the world giving talks about childbirth, and around the world I have encountered marvelous birth models. It occurred to me several years ago that somebody ought to do something showcasing and highlighting the great birth models that do exist. There are wonderful islands in the middle of the technocratic ocean where women are giving birth in truly physiological ways, normal birth is valued, and women are supported to give birth normally. So I put together this book with my co-editors Lesley Barclay, Betty-Anne Daviss, and Jan Tritten. We found about 16 fantastic models from around the world. Each chapter of the book “Birth Models That Work” is about a different model that works.
A holistic cocoon in Brazil
One of the chapters in the book is about a birth model that is as simple as three people: an obstetrician with a very holistic philosophy, his wife who is a nurse midwife, and a doula. The three of them have a car and they have all the birth equipment that they need that fits in their small car and they go to the mother’s house in labor (they’ve already visited her at home of course and done her prenatal care in his office). When she goes into labor the doula shows up first and knows when its time to call the obstetrician and the midwife, which is when they both get in their car and they come to the woman’s house.
Their primary criteria for what to have on hand is: chocolate cake. It’s a great thing for the mother to do during early labor because of the repetitive kneading movements to keep her up and moving because the most important thing in labor is movement. Labor is all about movement – that’s how you get the baby out of the cocoon, you un-cocoon yourself and you become a mother. It’s by moving – not by laying there flat on your back strapped up to machines – so moving, making the chocolate cake, and dancing (they always bring a lot of great Brazilian music). They are there for the whole labor and birth, and normally the baby is born at home.
The obstetrician, his name is Ricardo Jones, considers his primary role at home birth to be to hang around and read books and take pictures – he’s a great photographer, so he takes these beautiful birth photos. He figures birth is really the work of women, as it’s the mother who is doing the work, and the doula and the midwife who are supporting her. Usually his wife – the midwife – catches. But if there is a complication of any kind, he is there to help diagnose it if necessary and then go to the hospital where they recreate their model in the hospital – a little holistic cocoon around the mother. If she needs a cesarean, he can do the cesarean. This is complete continuity of care. It’s just three people.
The obstetrician doesn’t really need to go to the home births, because the doula and the midwife are perfectly capable, but these are the only people within a thousand miles in Brazil who are doing home birth. So legally he goes to add his obstetric license as a protective shield for the midwife and the doula. He goes there just because the legal status of it isn’t totally clear – yes its legal, but its more legal if he’s there. They have a beautiful birth model that’s all about this three person practice – that’s all it takes is three people to create an island of enlightenment in the middle of a technocratic ocean of birth.
Robbie Davis-Floyd, PhD, is a medical anthropologist specializing in the anthropology of reproduction. She is a senior research fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage, and lead editor of 10 collections, including Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge: Cross-cultural Perspectives (1997), Mainstreaming Midwives (2006), and Birth Models That Work (2009).
This excerpt from an interview with Robbie Davis-Floyd is transcribed and posted here with permission from Mindful Mama Magazine.
Image Source: Faces of Birth