New Beginnings Doula Training

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Navigating in the LDS birth culture

This is a question I got from one of my readers.  I thought it would be good to share under my birth culture series because it really is looking out how to deal with a different culture around you.

"It's been tricky though, being LDS and being surrounded by girls in my age group who have 2 or 3 kids already under their belt and all having experienced epidural/pitocin etc... births.  They look at me like I have three heads when I say I'm delivering with a midwife and a doula, even though I'm delivering at the hospital and wanting to do this all non-medicated.  Any advice on navigating the Mormon Mommy Culture when your plan is outside the mainstream?"  This came from an e-mail I got and thought I'd post my response here.  And since I'm trying to be culturally competent.  I would love to hear from women who choose epidurals and feel the same way in their culture.  Also, how can we find common ground...something that unifies us in our birth culture?

That's a very interesting question.  It is really tough feeling alone in your decisions and yet feeling like you are trying to do what's best.  I know when I told my cousin I was going to have a natural birth, she said that was like having your arm cut off:)  I'm sure you've heard those kinds of comments too.  I didn't feel like it was like that at all.

I feel a lot like you in that our bodies were designed to give birth.  Beyond that, I also feel like there is a reason for that design.  It gives me great joy to feel the spirit as I contemplate the grand design of it all and just how much we are loved by our Heavenly Father as women.  While many women of the LDS faith don't feel like they would give birth without an epidural, there is some common ground that we can all find, and I think it helps to find this when discussing it with others.  For instance, most LDS women will use prayer or blessings during their pregnancy and labor.  I have found this amazing to be a part of.  One of my friends (who was not planning on an un-medicated birth), was going very fast and was unable to get the medication she wanted.  Something that helped her through that was a blessing she received from her husband prior to going into labor that told her that she would have the strength that she needed at this time.  There are so many stories like that out there.  I bet if you talked with your friends about it, they would have some also.  If you can find that common ground, then move on to how you feel about your body being designed by God to do this, it might not seem so strange or unnatural.  

One thing I have noticed, is that many lds women will go into labor wanting to at least try and see if they want to go natural.  They go in with much less preparation than it sounds like you have.  They experience labor and the hard work that it is, yet have no knowledge of how to work through it, or even have people around them that help them.  They are stuck in beds, on monitors, not allowed to move, and the only choice they get is whether or not to get an epidural.  Or they really just don't want to be in pain and the positives of getting the epidural outweigh the negatives.  So to them, the epidural is a blessing.  This is how the vast majority of lds women have given birth.  But, there is still a respect for life and our bodies and what they do.  So what you are doing will make your experience vastly different and allow you to use your religion and support in a much different way.  I'm not sure that you could convey this to those who have already gone through the system, but still there is this underlying belief that God will bless us during childbirth.  That's another commonality.

Also, having support from lots of areas is important.  So with that in mind, I have a list of many lds birthing bloggers and would be happy to share it with anyone that wants it.(also feel free to let me know if you want to be on that list:)).

Here's a few birth stories from my blog that are from LDS women:

On just a superficial level, many women are just not going to get it.  Usually if people look at me like I'm crazy and not much else is said, I just leave it at that.  I have seen and understand how the majority of women give birth and can understand where they are coming from.  I have also seen very difficult and trying births that leave them feeling out of control.  I wouldn't want to give birth that way either.  But, many people are also very interested in how I have done things differently, and those are always kind of fun conversations.  

One group of women that I have found have an interesting perspective are those who are in their 50's.  These women started having children as epidurals were being introduced.  You might strike up a conversation with some of them.  While many of them will fall into the epidurals are a wonderful blessing category, you may be surprised by the amount of women who actually don't get the whole epidural craze.  Another group that has sort of different view points are collage age women who are just started to explore what they think about these topics.  Both of these groups hold interesting opinions and ideas of what childbirth is or should be.  I think you may find it different than those who have already been through our current system.  

The last thing I would suggest is to use this time to learn the birth stories from the women who have come before you.  Women are truly amazing and I really feel like we are surrounded by angels from our own family when we are giving birth.  So while the women around you may not get it, I believe that there are those around us who have passed on, who know and understand who you are and want to help you during this time.  So you are not really alone in this.  This is not doctrine, but just my own personal thoughts and impressions.   So take that for what it's worth:) 


Brittany said...

I really like the response you wrote. I could have used this advice when I was preparing for my first birth when I lived in Utah. I'm not sure what it is about where I live now, but I have a lot of LDS friends here who have given birth without pain medication. I would love to be on your list of LDS birth bloggers. My blog is

Rachel said...

It's interesting because I live in Utah right now, but the area I live in is very pro-natural birth. But I know after working in three major hospitals here, that many, many women like pain medication:) I would be curious to know what other lds women have experienced, though, in their own birth culture:)

Enjoy Birth said...

You may want to also check out
too. It is a group of LDS women who are working together to make a spirituality and birth book. We are hoping to have it released in November! But there are great posts there and other LDS birth blogs too.

Brittany said...

I was at BYU when I had my first, and I think there is a very specific birth culture there because most of the moms who have had babies have only had them there, and most of the OBs practicing in Provo are very "old school" (I left an OB's practice and sought nurse-midwifery care in American Fork), and the OBs have little motivation to make their practice more choice-friendly because the majority of the patients are young and very compliant (I think the LDS culture embeds a certain "respect for authority" that a lot of people include doctors in)...but these are my impressions from the time I was there--I don't know if any changes may be going on there in the 3 years since I moved away.

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.