This weeks material on childbirth was really important to me as I actually plan on becoming an OB/GYN and have spent many hours shadowing OB/GYNs because of this. Therefore I am very much aware of the westernized or medicalized version of childbirth. Which also means I am probably more biased towards this version of childbirth. However, learning about the Inuit and the Hmong is a very different perspective on childbirth and provides insight onto what I think is a more spiritual relationship with the natural process compared to how Americans/ American physicians view it.
To start I was curious about the statistics about home childbirths in America which lead me to a paper that claimed 1/300 Americans birth were a result of a planned home-birth, or inversely that over 99% of childbirths in America occur in hospitals. Which lead to the question of why? Also in the paper was a story about in a doctors office a poster hung claiming “Home delivery is for Pizza” which tells a very clear message and also insinuates the negative thoughts about home births. Which was also a brief insight into why home births are no longer common in America- Science has classified it as to put it simply”unsafe”. But after reading about the Inuits and Hmongs I began to think that there is another side that a lot of people, including myself forget. Which is that even though hospital births are dawned as “safer” , many cultures view it as less emotional, and that it may even be traumatizing.
For cultures like the Inuit and the Hmong where childbirth is something almost sacred, the medicalized childbirth is so foreign. In America after birth typically the child is taken away so the mother can get some rest. But for the Lee’s, a traditional Hmong family, the women pride themselves on giving birth in their homes and quite literally catch the baby as they come out and then remaining cradled with the baby for hours following the birth. Therefore, it is probably not a far stretch to assume that by being in a sterile environment with few family members in the room is not as special, and that taking the new baby away so the mother can get some “rest” is not what the Hmongs want. A possible bigger ramification is the handling of the placenta. The Hmongs believe that after death one must find their “jacket” in order to carry on in the after life. So when they came to America where doctors can refuse to give the placenta back, and rather incinerate it, such events would cause great distress for the remainder of life.
Additionally for the Inuit since medical access is a literal plane ride away making them give birth under the medicalized childbirth is more than a slight inconvenience. Like the story discussed in lecture about Elisapee who had to leave her child behind, which lead to an injury that caused her to spend all her money and go home, just to be shipped back. And there is really no choice in the matter as to where to give birth, it is no surprise that the Inuits are petitioning for reverting to their traditional methods of childbirth.
I think in general what I think is that the biggest ramification is the depletion of family and spiritual connection from giving birth in ones home away from ones beliefs. Hospitals do not have a lot of room for religion and beliefs because they are so based in science.
Joseph Wax, “Home Versys Hospital Birth – Process and Outcome” Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey 65:2 (2010): 132-140.
Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. 2006. “The Inuit Way: A Guide to Inuit Culture”
Gabriel, Cynthia. “Inuit Birth.” ANP 370 Culture Health and Illness. 2015. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp370-us16/lecture-videos/inuit-birth/
Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.