Maternity Weird

Robrt Pela ponders pain-free childbirth and says "Ouch!"

Lee Blumberg swears that the way we're brought into the world can affect every minute of the rest of our lives. That's why she's crusading for hypnobirthing, a drug-free, painless means of popping out babies. Recently appointed by the Pennsylvania-based Prenatal Parenting Institute as Arizona's official hypnobirthing practitioner, Blumberg is planning something called the New Life Awareness Center, where women can focus on prenatal issues and reprogram their thinking about the trauma of childbirth. We meet in the bar at Eddie Matney's, where I slug down iced coffees and munch tortilla chips, at least until talk turns to placenta and I lose my appetite.

New Times: Hypnobirthing seems like a very post-hippie approach to childbirthing. How is this revolutionary?

Lee Blumberg: It puts people back in touch with what they're actually capable of. Women don't understand what they can do with their own bodies because they've been misled by the medical community.

NT: I read a quote on a birthing Web site: "Pizzas are delivered; babies are birthed." What's the difference?

Blumberg: Hypnobirthing is done in a very quiet, calm place. The baby is birthed onto a bed; there's no catching the baby like he's a baseball, which is how it's done in most hospital deliveries. It's not a baby factory, where the message is, "Let's get the kid out of there." The parents are in control.

NT: Do you dangle a stopwatch in front of your clients and chant, "Look at the speculum . . . you are getting sleepy . . . when I snap my fingers, you will dilate to seven centimeters!"?

Blumberg: No. Hypnosis is only one technique that's used in hypnobirthing. We use it to get rid of pain and fear. We're not there with them in the birthing room, but we're teaching couples how to do self-hypnosis -- how to use hypnosis from beginning to end in the birthing process.

NT: So you're teaching them to block pain.

Blumberg: The Prenatal Parenting Institute, which I represent, says that there is no pain. Our founder, the late English obstetrician Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, couldn't understand why Americans were having such trouble giving birth, while women in other countries were breezing right through it. It had to be the programming about pain that American women were receiving. You go in thinking it's going to hurt, and so it does. We teach how to get rid of stress and fear, which makes the birthing process less difficult. Dr. Dick-Read says that the uterus of a frightened woman in labor is literally white with fear!

NT: That sounds awful. So does Dr. Dick-Read's name. But isn't pain a necessary accompaniment to a normal birthing?

Blumberg: No. Your body knows how to deliver a baby; you don't need a lot of intervention. In hypnobirthing, we go back to pagan times, back when women weren't fearful of childbirth. Some people believe that the pain of childbirth is a rite of passage. And then people tell me it's painful because it's the curse of being a woman. Childbirth doesn't need to hurt.

NT: Come on! You're talking about shoving a watermelon through a pinhole. Of course it's going to hurt.

Blumberg: But a woman's body was designed to deliver children. When she learns to relax, her body takes over.

NT: Is that what happened for you, during your own birthing experiences?

Blumberg: My first one, I went in thinking, "Get me an epidural!" It took five hours for me to deliver. My next two kids I delivered with hypnosis, and I was in and out of there in less than two hours.

NT: How is hypnobirthing perceived by the medical industry?

Blumberg: I haven't had a doctor I've worked with yet who doesn't see the benefit of it. The problem is that anyone who takes charge of her own pregnancy gets in the doctor's way, which is frowned upon. Doctors want to be able to direct a birth like a movie and to schedule patients in a way that's convenient for the doctor.

NT: Doctors are mean!

Blumberg: It's mostly that they're loaded down with patients. That's why 21 percent of all births are done by Caesarean section today. Doctors are overbooked and, in order to stay on schedule, they scare women into inducing. It's amazing what they're doing to these women, and the woman are falling for it. Some women will believe anything. I'm embarrassed to tell you that I know a group of women who think that if they have a C-section, they're still virgins.

NT: And I know a group of men who would like their phone numbers!

Blumberg: The trouble is that we've become used to giving up so much power about so many things in life. We think, "Well, he's a doctor. He must know what he's talking about." Which isn't necessarily always true when it comes to childbirth. There's no proof that inducing a normal labor is ever beneficial, but doctors scare parents into rushing the procedure along, and parents want birthing to be convenient. If the doctor wants to speed up the birth, he might break your water, even if that water bag wasn't ready to break. Once you let a doctor intervene, that's when the problems begin. Women have to change it; they're the ones having babies.

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