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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My personal believes

I was asked to think about some questions in preparation for the panel on Thurs., so I thought I'd write them out here. Just to warn you, this panel is pro-natural (but without the intent to try and change people's minds). The moderator explained it this way: "I am more interested in how and why our opinions about natural childbirth are an extension of or divergence from a LDS communal background". So these questions are obviously pro-natural, but with the intent of exploring our own cultural background and how that has applied to our own pro-natural philosophy. I will say up front that, while I feel like natural birth is the better way, I give credence to others views, opinions, and believes and in no way feel like I should enforce my own ideas on others or feel like I am better than anyone else out there(though, I would love for all moms to find the joy and fulfillment in birth and motherhood that I have found, and in some ways feel that birthing naturally has helped me personally find that). I am interested in others comments that differ from mine as long as they are respectful. OK that are the questions and my thoughts and ideas.

1. Do you think there is a difference between the birthing philosophies/expectations of
LDS and non-LDS women? Or do you think LDS women simply reflect the national and cultural norms of the United States? (Please bring statistics to support your views if you have access to them.)

It's really hard to answer this one, as not much research has been done. As was seen by my previous post, the research out there is not very well done or isn't done at all. All I can say about this is based on my own experience. Even that just reflects how things are here in UT. So really, my experience does not say much about the LDS population as a whole. With that in mind, here is what I think.

I don't feel like the culture of the LDS reflects upon their birthing choices. I think, for the most part, that they probably follow the main culture in this respect. I do think how they interpret their birth choices and subsequent births, though, shows a reflection of our culture. Many women pray, are given blessings, look for guidance from God, and assume that whatever the outcome is, it is God's will. The LDS religion seems to play the comforting part rather than dictating their choices.

One that I've thought more on recently is being non-judgmental. We do that too much in birth.

For me, my religion played more of a role afterwards. I didn't really use it to help me through labor, (though looking back now, I wish I had), but rather I feel like I have gained a greater understanding of my religion through birth. These are things that I feel are very sacred to me and have come to mean a lot. Most of the things I have learned have come, not during labor, but looking back and contemplating it. This is perhaps one of the greatest gifts I feel I have been given. I accredit this to my religious culture as well as the birthing culture I have come to embrace.

2. What specific doctrines in the
LDS church support or contradict your birthing philosophy? Is it surprising to you that more LDS women are not interested in researching /implementing natural childbirth as an extension of their LDS beliefs?

This scripture has become the backbone for how I view birth. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. (2 Tim. 1:6–7.)

When it comes to making choices, God has given us power(the priesthood, prayer, faith etc.), love, and the ability to think and reason. Used together, I feel like we are better able to navigate birth and the beginning of motherhood. I really feel like fear should not be the guiding factor. I've talked a lot about this on my blog before. Here is a link to one entry that specifically mentions this scripture:

I think one of the doctrines that has begun to impress me of late, is that of the importance of the family. The family is central to God's plan. Believing this, I feel like how our family begins is of up most importance. Not only that, but labor and birth are a great example how women and men work together to help support and sustain each other. This can be wonderful to watch and be a part of as families begin their lives together. I blogged about that here:

Our bodies are sacred and we are children of God. This idea influences greatly how I perceive my own role in giving birth, but also the role of other women that I work with. I believe all women deserve more respect, gratitude, and appreciation for giving of themselves to bring children to this earth. I think this is often overlooked and forgotten by those working in labor and delivery. Yes, the life and safety of the mom and baby is our guiding factor, but just as important is the realization that what these women are doing is sacred. That bringing forth that life is sacred, and in my opinion we are on sacred ground when we are with them to help, not only because of them, but because of what they are doing.

These are things that I think guide my birthing philosophy, but birth itself has led me to understand important doctrine. These include: the atonement, the value of opposition, a greater understanding of joy, the joy that comes to us at the end of this life, how life may be during the second coming (it is often compared to labor) as well as after the second coming, how to love others, how to overcome trials, the relationships between man and wife, the power of creation, our love of God, the importance of each soul, the connection that can and should exist among people, the value in motherhood and families, forgiveness, what it feels like to be in the depth of sorrow and return again, how to persevere, the value of hard work, and how to work together with someone else to bring about a common good. (Just as a side note, I definitely feel that these things can be gleaned in other areas of life and are not exclusive to birth. These are just things that I learned from birth itself and value).

I think women do research natural childbirth, but then decide they don't want to do it. I think this has more to do with our mainstream birthing culture than our own religious culture. Our modern medical culture views pain and the pain of childbirth as something to run away from. Now I know that will make most people think, "well of course", but we only think that way because it is our culture. There is a great article about how we become oblivious to our own culture and how it affects us when we live in it, yet can appear very strange and different to others. You can find it at:

I'm not sure how many women actually view this as something that their religion should play a part or if doing in natural should be an extension of their religion. I would hesitate to put it in those words. After all, I don't think that after this life it's going to matter how we give birth. In a different mindset, though, I do think it matters what we make of challenges, difficulties, and experiences. In that regards, I would think more women should take their childbirth choices more seriously. As LDS women we regard life as sacred, we regard our bodies as sacred, we understand that we are given the opportunity to make choices, we understand that we are able to learn much from the choices we make, we also understand that we can receive guidance. It seems to me that if that's a given, as LDS women we can and should regard our birth choices as something to be taken seriously. (As well as many other choices we make in life).

4. What specific cultural attitudes in the
LDS church support or contradict your birthing philosophy? Is it surprising to you that more LDS women are not interesting in researching /implementing natural childbirth as an extension of their LDS cultural upbringing?

see above

5. I have often felt that motherhood is the rite of passage into legitimacy within the LDS community (versus a mission for the men or even receiving temple endowments). Do you agree? If so, how does our choice of a natural or medicated birth define our "successful" acceptance into the adult community?

I think motherhood is sort of viewed this way, but I'm not sure it should be. I also don't feel like how you give birth should make you acceptable or not. In fact, I like to steer away from discussions like this because it seems very superficial. How you give birth should not decide how you are viewed in a culture. This does happen in all cultures, but really should not be the focus of why we give birth the way we do.

6. Do the majority of
LDS women feel empowered by their birth experiences? Why or why not?

I think to some extent most do. Though, I can think of numerous times when I see lots of fear, failure, and hopelessness reflected in mother's eyes. And this is with all kinds of births. I do see the most energy and light(sorry, I don't know how else to describe it) with good natural births. But there are natural births were the above mentioned negative emotions are seen also. Most studies will say that a positive birth experience is determined by how in control a woman feels. I tend to agree with this. The thing that disturbs me the most are when women feel these negative emotions and are are not able to work through them.

How to help with that has been my challenge and personal desire. All I can say now is that it depends on their feelings of control. How to give that to every mom while still maintaining safety is the challenge. I would love to hear any thoughts or ideas on this one.

7. What suggestions do you have to bring the discussion of natural childbirth into more of a focus within the
LDS community?

I think we do need to do this, but I'm a birth junky:) I do think it would be useful, though, for moms to hear different perspectives from people who have done birth differently and why. In wards that have a younger population it might be useful to do an activity around this. Part of the problem around these issues, though, is the amount of tension and judgment that goes on. That I think would be more of an issue. They used to have classes in RS that was taught during their block of time that involved taking care of yourself while pregnant. Something like that might not be a bad idea depending on the population.

8. Other personal theology, pet peeves or SOLUTIONS?

We need to encourage women to use what we are given in our religion to help them through birth. I also really believe that having other woman present who are willing to help, as well as a spouse who is supportive there, helps a lot. I had one woman tell me that what helped her through her unwanted natural labor, was a blessing her husband had given her just a few days before. I think we could be turning to the Lord more often when making birth decisions as well as asking for his help and guidance. We have so much that we can utilize to help women.

I think having another woman there that we can connect with helps also because as women, we like the presence of other women(usually:)). In fact, I remember reading an interesting study about how women respond to stress (ie labor:)). They tend to gather around each other, rather than the flight-and-fight response we usually hear about. You can find this study here;

I also think we need to share more positive stories of labor and birth (and motherhood for that matter). So often we like to tell our horror stories, but I'm not so sure it's very helpful in preparing new moms. Fear does nothing for helping us grow. If there are bad things that happen, we need to share how we overcame them.

My only real pet peeve is the fighting that takes place among the various groups who choose differently. It is not productive.

I would love to hear anyone elses responses to these questions also, no matter if your for natural birth or not. I think it would be interesting to see how any of our decions in birth are a reflection of the LDS culture. So feel free to share.


Sheridan said...

1. I think they reflect society. No stats, just my observations.

3. I love that scripture too and blogged about it and birth.
I think that priesthood blessings are SO powerful and we should use them more regarding birth.

5. I think this is somewhat true, passage into adulthood for women. It is interesting that as a CBE I do talk to women about birth a lot. I love the women in my ward regardless of how they birthed. But I do have a special connection with the ones who have had NCB. I don't know if it is because we have similar views about it so we have a connection or if it is more than that. I just think of park day when a new mom moves in. Birth always gets brought up and if they are interested in NCB even if they have never experienced it, I feel a connection with them. It is probably just me. A normal mom may not have that experience.

I think it depends on their experiences.

I think a way to increase that would be if the moms educate themselves on their choices and CHOOSE what they want. Whether it be epidural or NCB, if they choose it, it is empowering.

7. What suggestions do you have to bring the discussion of natural childbirth into more of a focus within the LDS community?

They used to have classes in RS that was taught during their block of time that involved taking care of yourself while pregnant.

I love that idea!

I also would like to get the information to the Young Women, that birth is positive! I have brought it up to my YW leaders. They think it is a great idea. The YW president had 2 homebirths, but she thinks the moms would NOT like it.

8. Other personal theology, pet peeves or SOLUTIONS?

Share the positive birth stories! Have baby showers have more MEANING! It isn’t about getting gifts, it is about celebrating the birth of a baby and a mother.

Liz said...

Sheridan told me about your blog the other day - I am enjoying your LDS perspective on birth.

1. I think that, for the most part, LDS women are a reflection of society. However, I think that there may be less of a tendency to question accepted norms by LDS people. Sort of the idea that our doctor knows best and we should just "obey" his/her "counsel." No stats either :).

2. I really appreciate that the Family Proclamation states that: "the means by which mortal life is created is divinely appointed." To me, that means everything from conception to birth to breastfeeding was created by a perfect and loving Father in Heaven. So I believe that if we follow this divine design, we will find more joy in our birth and parenting experience.

4. From a cultural perspective, it is not surprising to me that LDS women aren't more interested in natural birthing. I think that, like any culture, there tends to be a groupthink mentality in which people avoid active decision-making and just go along with their group. From a doctrinal perspective, yes, I am surprised more LDS women aren't interested in natural birth. Our doctrine states that our bodies were designed and created by a perfect God. We also believe that after the fall, just as God gave Adam the opportunity to work to support his family, he gave Eve certain trials related to childbirth. Shouldn't we then believe that there is value for us as women in the mortal experience of birth?

6. I think this is probably a similar to the rest of society. Some women do, some women don't. Probably to the extent that they felt respected and supported and informed, they do.

For me, natural birth is just the first issue in a long line of more "instinctual"/natural parenting decisions that culminated in me choosing breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping with my little girl. I am very surprised that attachment parenting is not more common in the LDS community. I recently started a blog to compile some of my thoughts about LDS attachment parenting, just to begin spreading the word about these issues.

Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.