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Viewpoint: The miracle of options

BY MACKENZIE HERON

Published January 13, 2014

Birth. It’s not a topic that many college students stress over. If we do, it’s probably because we’re stressing to avoid it, right? But for those of you (I’m talking to my male peers, too) who have thought about becoming a parent, have you ever actually considered how you or your partner would give birth? It may seem like a ridiculous question, but why? Most of us explored other colleges and universities before deciding to attend the University of Michigan. A number of us won’t choose our major until after our expected graduation date — hello, fifth year. And, let’s not get started on the countless hours we’ve all wasted scouring the Course Guide for that perfect three credit, Tuesday/Thursday, after-noon-but-before-4 p.m. elective. We dedicate our valuable time to researching options before making even the most trivial of decisions. So why don’t we spend a comparable amount of time exploring our birthing options? You’re only bringing a kid into the world.

Take the time to think about it. If you or your partner were to have a child someday, what would your child’s birth look like? The experience most of us picture is an agonized mother laboring on her back in a hospital bed, too many painful hours later a doctor decides to end the misery with drugs and pushing or drugs and a C-section. An image like this comes as no surprise because it reflects the reality of a typical American birth. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 98.7 percent of all births in 2011 were delivered in a hospital, and of this overwhelming majority, 86.1 percent were attended by doctors. It’s no wonder we don’t spend time thinking about birth. Our overall perception of the process is negative. There is good news, though. Childbirth does not have to be a feared or negative experience. This common perception is just that, a perception. Despite their rarity, there are other birthing views and options out there that are just as safe and definitely worth your exploration.

If you want children someday, you will truly be doing your future self a favor if you take the time to research childbirth. While a home birth with a professional midwife and doula might be the ideal birthing experience for one individual, a delivery in a birthing center with a certified nurse midwife may sound appealing to another. A laboring mother may choose to manage her pain with pressure point massage therapy, but a different woman could prefer the pain relief that a warm bath can provide. These birth scenarios may sound foreign to you, but that’s exactly why you should do some research for yourself. There are many options available to us in order to uniquely shape our own experiences with childbirth. In the end, the power you will gain when you know you’ve made an informed decision will become more valuable than the options themselves. Whether you choose to enjoy the birth of your child in your home, in a birthing center or at the hospital in the company of doctors, nurses, midwives or doulas, do so with the knowledge that you consciously chose your experience. We often overlook a parent’s experience with birth in order to ensure the safety of a new life, but one does not have to come at the expense of the other. Childbirth can be a positive and empowering experience if you just take the time to research the options that will be best for your or your partner.

Mackenzie Heron is an LSA senior.

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