Giving birth differently: Laboring naturally or consciously?

Something that characterizes the visited BCs is that the women who attend them do so absolutely voluntarily. Because BCs cannot be advertised, the woman who finds a BC must have deduced its existence from subtle information provided on the internet, or else had followed the recommendation of another woman who had given birth there. BCs have no signs on the doors that might indicate the kind of services offered there. Some women find a BC fortuitously, by first accessing other services such as yoga classes.

The interviewed clients of the BCs in this study were middle-class, highly educated (postgraduate), heterosexual residents of urban areas. All had low-risk pregnancies, according to the BCs’ midwives. These women had chosen to birth with midwives who had BCs, but also offered the homebirth option. All of the interviewed women were between 28 and 38 years old at the time of the interview, had children younger than four years old and had found the BCs through other women they knew.

Saying no to hospitalized birth

Three of the interviewed clients of the BCs had chosen to birth in a BC in order to (and specifically to) refuse medicalized birth, and even more so the possibility of a scheduled C-section. They made quite clear why they did not want to birth in hospitals: they shunned what they saw as the cold, technical, impersonal hospital environment. This perception was based on the experiences of family members or friends.

AMARAL: I didn’t feel like going there [to the hospital], so the first appointment 1 made was with a midwife, who attended me and she gave me a lot of confidence so it was easier in that sense. I know how the health system in this state is and it was not the place to which 1 wanted to go to.

When a woman’s first birth is via C-section, doctors often impose a C-section automatically for each of her subsequent births, despite the solid scientific arguments for checking her general health and the time space between her births to assess whether she could still give birth naturally (see, for example, Ortiz and De Marcos 1998; Campos et al. 2007). However, women who seek a non-medicalized birth do not hesitate to inform themselves about these issues. Such is the case of an interviewee who had her first baby by emergency C-section, during which she was completely anesthetized. She did not have her first contact with her child until 11 hours after the birth. For her second birth, she desired to have a natural and conscious birth.

ÁMBAR: [After having my first child via C-section] 1 wanted to have an experience of a natural birth, not a medicalized one, without needing to go to a hospital. We inclined towards a BC because the conditions were more straightforward. Somehow for me and my partner being in a place filled with gadgets and extremely sterile, for us it does not equal greater safety, 1 mean that it would [not] automatically be better. It’s for that reason that we said that a natural birth can be better, precisely because it will allow more positive things [to activate] in my body and in the baby than in a hospital. All the women in my family, who are there in the North of Mexico and in the United States, have had C-sections, none of them has asked themselves if they wanted to do it naturally. When their babies are born, they are given formula, they don’t breastfeed. So, seeing all these things and also knowing the experiences of other women, well, here I defend myself, it will be simple for me, simple for my baby and to give the newborn breastmilk, and to be together.

Here, Ámbar did not want to repeat her first experience of a C-section, and she did not attribute the symbolic value of “safety and security” to the technical health spaces. She wished to experience breastfeeding her baby—an act that a C-section often complicates, thereby becoming a gateway for use of formula to feed the newborn (Caballero et al. 2013). Her desire to breastfeed contributed to her desire to birth vaginally the second time, with as little medical intervention as possible, as she understood those processes to be interlinked—which, of course, they are (Kroeger and Smith 2009).

In another woman’s narrative, we perceive her fear that the birth could present complications, and that she might end up in hospital or require an emergency C-section:

ARLET: If I went to the hospital, they would probably recommend a C-section and no, I didn’t want that...

Two factors made these women averse to going to hospitals for their deliveries: (1) the women’s recognition that that environment deprives them of the personal, intimate experiences that should be part of birthing; and (2) the women’s desire to keep from falling into the routines of medicalized hospital delivery.

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