Thursday, July 22, 2010

Normal Birth at a Local Science Museum

Yesterday I visited Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) with my children and our friends. When we arrived at the "Amazing You" human body exhibit, I was greeted by the statue of a pregnant woman who, albeit notably missing some anatomical details, was portrayed as a loving mother. I was optimistic.

One of the first displays we came to was a video booth with four options: stages of labor, normal birth, cesarean delivery and birth of twins. While time and children did not permit me to watch all four, I wanted to at least view this institution's idea of normal birth. Overall, I was very pleased. Sure, the woman giving birth was in the hospital standard lithotomy position, and I can assume from her demeanor that she was given epidural anesthesia, and there was a lot of manual obstetric manipulation happening during the pushing stage--but the mother and father were alert, present, and afterward, they described their experience as euphoric.

When the baby in the video was born she was placed immediately on her mother's chest. The cord was clamped a bit early, but the care providers encouraged breastfeeding (successfully) right away. I left the video booth pleased that the young women visiting MOSI would view this rather gentle birth experience with a sense of normalcy. There was absolutely no fear embedded into the piece.
But then I saw this daunting tunnel in the kids' play area. The Birth Canal Challenge was dark, angular and menacing--albeit intended in good fun, I couldn't shake their implication that birth was an intrinsically dangerous event.
So while we are coming a long way, there is still an undertone of fear in our society surrounding birth. I have read its evolution and understand its roots, yet I feel it is time to replace it with trust, love, knowledge and information.

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