I have not met Donna in person but I can tell that she is someone I would invite to my baby shower.  I love this Southern gal who doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is. -Robyn

As the author of Banned From Baby Showers, I’ve often commented on how difficult it is for me to be “vanilla” or neutral.  I have strong opinions on many topics, but natural birth and breastfeeding top the list.

 

Allow me to tell you a bit about myself before diving into my topic.  I was raised in the Baptist church, but religion wasn’t terribly important to me.  I was kicked out of my house when I was 16, smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day for many years, and was about the last person you’d ever think would join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!  I met a sweet Mormon boy when I was 21 and he was 18.  It was love at first sight – at least for me!

 

He served a mission in Montreal and we were married in the Salt Lake Temple two days after he got home.  That was over 17 years ago now.  We have 4 beautiful children that keep us on our toes.  We live in the Fort Worth, Texas area and are incredibly blessed with an amazing life together.

 

I graduated from college in 1993 with a degree in Broadcasting and never gave one thought to childbirth, except that it must be terribly painful because that was all I had seen on TV!  When I became pregnant with our first baby, I saw a very busy OB in Provo.  My husband wanted me to see a midwife, but I wanted nothing to do with any “witchdoctor”!  I wanted the drugs because I was scared of the pain.  I didn’t care how the baby got here.

 

Fast forward 9 months.  I narrowly escaped a c-section after a typical epidural birth, but I had a baby boy in my arms.  A few months later, a close friend gave birth without drugs and I was in complete shock!  I had never known anyone to give birth naturally, and I had been convinced throughout her pregnancy that she couldn’t do it.  Between that one experience, reading a few birth stories and a bit about the history of childbirth in America, I knew I’d do things differently the next pregnancy.

 

I had my 2nd baby in a hospital with a CNM and it was an amazing life-changing experience!  I knew when I did it, anyone could do it!  That, really, is my message to all women.  I am not special.  I do not have a high pain tolerance. I am just a woman that got educated on the process of birth and trusted my body.

 

My next two babies were born at home, one water birth, and one “on land”.

 

I taught The Bradley Method Of Natural Childbirth from 2003-2011, obtained another certification from ICEA (International Childbirth Educators Association) in 2009, and most recently, wrote my own curriculum called Birth Boot Camp, a 10-week program for couples wanting a natural birth.  Classes are online and we are also training women to become Birth Boot Camp Instructors.

 

Enough about me!  When Robyn asked me to write this post, I must admit I was a bit apprehensive.  I have written about my religion and birth on my blog before, and while many women agreed with me, plenty were offended.  If you are interested, here it is again.  The Brigham Young quote really riles people up!  For the record, I believe Brigham Young was an inspired prophet and I believe he really did see our day.

 

Simply put, Heavenly Father created our bodies.  He wants us to have joy and replenish the earth.  He loves His daughters as much as He loves His sons.  I don’t think any of us would dispute any of these statements.

 

I have spent nearly a decade (almost 16 years if I include my own births) teaching about and witnessing how women’s bodies functions in labor and birth.  It is an amazing and remarkable system that works because He designed it that way:

  • In most cases, mom gets breaks between contractions.
  • When she does not have drugs in her body (pain-relieving or augmenting drugs), her body will release endorphins to help her cope.
  • After her baby is born, a woman’s oxytocin levels are the highest they will ever be in her life.  This helps her bond with her baby.
  • Her breasts, when labor starts on its own, are prepared to and designed to nourish her baby.

 

The system works because Heavenly Father made it that way.

 

I have no interest in taking away anyone’s free agency to decide how or where to give birth.  My goal is to help women believe in themselves and in this process.  Birth is amazing and I’d love to see all women embracing this experience instead of fearing it, like I did with my first.  Repeatedly over the years I have heard lessons in Relief Society that fear is from Satan, not Heavenly Father.  I believe that is absolutely true.

 

I was at a Stake Young Women’s meeting yesterday morning and the theme was “Believe, Obey, and Endure”.  If you have a Young Woman living in your home or are a Young Women leader, you likely attended the Young Women’s broadcast the week before General Conference.  This was also the title of President Monson’s talk.  While we can see and abide by this counsel in reference to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can also believe in our bodies to function the way Heavenly Father created them using these same guidelines.  I mean no disrespect to this powerful talk given by our Prophet.  Please indulge me:

 

Believe:  Either you believe that Heavenly Father created a way for you to grow a baby and for the baby to get out, or you believe that doctors and epidurals are blessings from God.  I’ve heard this statement many times from my Sisters.  I admit that it makes me sad, for I believe that Heavenly Father wants us to experience labor and birth the way He created it.  Have faith in your body and your baby.

 

Obey: To quote President Monson, “Obey the laws of God.  They are given to us by a loving Heavenly Father.  When they are obeyed, our lives will be more fulfilling, less complicated.  Our challenges and problems will be easier to bear.”  Sisters, women all around us are going against the laws of nature as created by God, being induced, forcing their babies out before it is time.  The cesarean rate is 34% in the US.  More complications arise with breastfeeding when a woman is induced or has a cesarean.  Our bodies do not work as they were designed when these laws of nature are broken. True, there are times when medical intervention is necessary and is a blessing in childbirth, but this should be the exception rather than the accepted standard of care.

 

Midwife Ina May Gaskin is an example of a care provider that trusts the process.  She does not intervene unless absolutely necessary, and as a result, her cesarean rate is less than 2%!  Dr. Robert Bradley was another example.  He did not induce labor and he gave women the time they needed to labor and birth their babies.  In over 24,000 births, his cesarean rate was 4%.  They both respected and obeyed the laws of nature.

 

Endure:  President Monson used this definition for endure — “to withstand with courage”.   Labor, for many women, might be the hardest thing they are ever faced with, but the reward at the end is so great!  You find that you are strong and capable, not succumbing to the pain.  When you overcome the challenge of labor, both you and your baby benefit.  Think of the promises made to us by our Father in Heaven if we will but endure to the end.  They are rich and so worth any sacrifice we may make here on Earth to return to live with Him someday.

 

I prefer to use the word “embrace” instead of “endure”, especially in reference to labor and birth.  Remember, fear is from Satan.  Embrace your labor.  Enjoy it!  These are the last hours before your baby comes Earth-side and you meet him/her for the very first time.

 

Labor and birth serve as a bridge between pregnancy and becoming your baby’s mother and father.  Dad’s role in labor is important for him too in becoming a father.  I guess that is a topic for another day, however.

 

I am grateful for this opportunity to reflect on the wonderful God-given privilege of bearing children. I hope what I have written has touched your heart.  I have a tendency of getting people riled up, but that truly is not my intent.  I do not wish to make others feel defensive.  I simply want them to believe in themselves and trust their bodies to do the work that Heavenly Father created them to do.   I am proud to be a daughter of God and for that sacred “Gift of Giving Life”.

 

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13 Comments

  1. Donna, it was so fun to learn more of your history. I love the idea of withstanding with courage in childbearing. The entire process requires courage doesn’t it? I wish Birth Boot Camp the best!

  2. Love it. I live in the UK, but fear of birth is rampant here, too. I wish all women, particularly LDS women, had more faith in the process.

  3. Donna, I agree 100% with this post! I especially love how you said that “embrace” could be a better word. With my first baby, I had a lot of fear. Not necessarily about the process of birth, but just about becoming a mother in general and how could I possibly live up to the responsibility? As a result, I tensed up with contractions and had a long, difficult labor that nearly resulted in a c/s (it was also partly due to my misplaced trust in my doctors). With my second baby, I learned to trust. I embraced the experience. That labor was very, very different from my first. It was awesome. (Actually, what I did to prepare for that birth, on my own, sounds almost exactly like what it sounds like you teach in Birth Boot Camp. Someday, I’d love to be an instructor.)

    • Thanks! Right now it’s mostly a time/money thing. My kids are still really young — my girl is too young to be left for more than a couple of hours at a time (and I still don’t like to do that, haha). I’d like to do it when she’s a little older but before I have another.

  4. Yeah, people do get riled up when somebody conflates her theories with the gospel. I know it makes me cranky. For instance, using Brigham Young’s quote to support your thesis. Brigham Young also reportedly called interracial marriage a mortal sin, but that, like your quote, is not a statement of doctrine. (If you want an official quote from Brigham Young concerning doctors, try this talk by Elder Oaks: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/healing-the-sick?lang=eng&query. The quote is right after the part that says, “The use of medical science is not at odds with our prayers of faith.”) There is no doctrine or Church policy to support the idea that Heavenly Father wants women to experience birth “the way He designed it.” There is, however, indication that He wants women to take advantage of modern medicine in order to get His spirits here safely. Current Church curriculum says “Have regular medical examinations. A woman should visit a doctor or a health clinic as soon as she suspects that she is pregnant” (The Latter-day Saint Woman, Part B, 185). Then there’s this: “Many advocates of home delivery emphasize that the birth process is a natural one and simply a matter of faith. It is true that the Lord expects us to exercise faith when faced with any medical problem, but, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie points out, the Lord also expects us to use our God-given intelligence in preventing and treating medical problems” (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/01/staying-healthy-welfare-services-suggests-how?lang=eng).

    You say, “Either you believe that Heavenly Father created a way for you to grow a baby and for the baby to get out, or you believe that doctors and epidurals are blessings from God.” Doctors and epidurals are blessings from God, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are President Kimball’s words: “Much headway has been made, and mortality tables are encouraging; more infants survive, more mothers go through childbirth successfully . . . We are grateful to all those hardworking scientists who have contributed to this great accomplishment” (http://www.lds.org/new-era/1981/10/president-kimball-speaks-out-on-administration-to-the-sick?lang=eng). President Faust said, “I hasten to add that scientific knowledge . . . and the wonders of modern medicine have come from the Lord to enhance His work throughout the world” (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1999/11/of-seeds-and-soils?lang=eng).

    As for the first part of your statement, it’s obvious that Heavenly Father created women’s bodies to grow and deliver babies. Our bodies are miraculous, but they’re not magical. They were designed to be fallible. You say, Have faith in your body. I say, Have faith in the Lord and His ability to help you through the inevitable difficulties of having a mortal body.

    You say “There are times when medical intervention is necessary and is a blessing in childbirth, but this should be the exception rather than the accepted standard of care.” If “natural” childbirth is the Lord’s way, there should be no exceptions. After all, there are no exceptions in the Word of Wisdom or the law of chastity. But childbirth is morally neutral. There is no most righteous way to do it. Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “The magnificence of man is matchless. But, glorious as this physical tabernacle is, the body is designed to support something even more glorious—the eternal spirit, which dwells in each of our mortal frames. The great accomplishments of this life are rarely physical. Those attributes by which we shall be judged one day are spiritual” (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1988/01/the-magnificence-of-man?lang=eng).

    Bringing children to earth is a sacred privilege which can provide a woman with many spiritual insights. The specific circumstances by which that is accomplished have no bearing (so to speak) on her standing with God.

    • Robyn Reply

      This post does not represent the views of the book’s authors and doesn’t reflect the message of our book, but represents Donna’s beliefs. Our book does not advocate for one type of birth, but encourages exactly what you have suggested… ‘Have faith in the Lord and His ability to help you’ with whatever challenges or questions may arise as you bring life to his precious children. The book includes stories of emergency cesareans, inductions, epidural births prompted by revelation, and other demonstrations of the blessings of medical intervention when necessary.

  5. I am really confused over the comments from Sue.

    First she talks at length about a quote not even included in this piece.

    I guess I could quote countless prophets about not getting offended at you too-
    But I don’t think that this is a forum for prophet debate or who knows more about conference.

    Donna (who I have known personally for over a decade) believes in her Heavenly Father. She did not make a moral judgement on anybody in the above article or how they choose to give birth.

    But she did say that she has faith in her body and in Lord who created it and that this played into her birth experience- and that it plays maybe too SMALL role in the birth experience of many women- some of whom are LDS.

    Of course personal revelation may show a woman that an induced or surgical birth is right for her. And of course there will be exceptions to the who “miraculously made” woman mentality- some of us, sometimes, need medical intervention in our births. And thank goodness that we live in a time where it exists.

    But WE ARE miraculously made. Are bodies have a DIVINE capability to bring babies to this earth. As the book itself (the one she is talking about) states- this is somewhat like the priesthood power that men have in our church.

    The message I got from Donna wasn’t “if you get an epidural you are doing it wrong” but that we should respect and trust and have faith in our creator and his creation- us.

    Of course there is a need for intervention SOMETIMES- but as Donna pointed out- those care providers who actually have faith in the natural process- find that this “need” is less than 10%- in fact far less.

    I think that Sue’s reaction was emotional and had little to do with the actual content of the article. It simply makes sense that God created us to birth naturally-

  6. God made our bodies to give birth; God also made our bodies to see, right? Both of those things work for many people; both of those things are problems for many people.

  7. “The system works because Heavenly Father made it that way.”

    So what about the (thousands) of women for whom the system doesn’t work? Did god not make them perfectly? Are they flawed because they can’t achieve a vaginal birth, because to do so would either kill them, or permanently maim them or their baby?

    I’ve known too many women who have ‘trusted birth’ and ended up with disastrous consequences. Dead babies, severely disabled babies who would not have been that way if they had been in a hospital, or had not been so darn afraid of the ‘cascade of interventions’ that their baby suffered because of it.

    You quote that Ina May Gaskin and Dr. Bradley had incredibly low cesarean rates. What were their rates of death, for either the mother or baby, during childbirth? What are their rates of severely disabled children resulting from oxygen deprivation or some other birth trauma?

    Birth is not to be trusted, it is to be respected. God did not make our bodies perfectly. Problems occur far too often that, thankfully, we can now deal with because of the wonders of modern medicine. He designed the brains that produced those marvelous interventions, too. Making women afraid of interventions or implicitly saying that interventions are negative is not helpful, and only kills babies and mothers.

    We are lucky to be in a part of the world where we have choices of how to birth. Birth is, as Sue said, morally neutral. If it’s a life-changing experience for you, that’s wonderful. But don’t pretend that god designed ‘some’ women perfectly and the others, whether they have a congenital defect or received interventions, are flawed. That’s pretty judgmental, and not very kind.

  8. Donna, I just ordered your book and am so excited to read it. After the birth of my 3rd child (first homebirth) my midwives told me I should write a pamphlet on homebirth for LDS women. I am a convert to the church of 8 years and consider childbirth the biggest blessing that has come into my life. As a church that promotes large families and is in support of women having so many children, I am always surprised at what seems to be a disconnect in getting them here! Childbirth has been hands-down the most spiritual experience for me, and when it happens in the home it becomes sacred. I have received a priesthood blessing before all of my homebirths, the first of which invoked “the powers of Heaven” that I knew were with me. I am grateful to have a body that handles it well. I believe doctors and hospital intervention can be a blessing, when used as they were intended, not to rob a woman of the experience. Education is key, and I bet your book does just that. The only women who would be offended by your words are the ones who are seeing they could’ve done things differently, and perhaps better. Your advocacy is a good thing, keep doing what you’re doing.

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