Labor Repose

Labor Repose
LaborPayne during her 6th homebirth (9th baby) at age 44

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Knowledge vs Wisdom

Healthcare is full of knowledge. This is not synonymous with being wise. We revere physicians and other healthcare providers for their knowledge, as 'authorities' even as they wield their power in an unwise fashion. As a culture, we value knowledge (the knowing of facts and figures) over wisdom (the prudent appropriation of that knowledge). Like children with matches we are enticed and mesmerized by the glow of technology. When the use of one birth technology proves detrimental, we create another technology to offset the effects without it ever occurring to us to disband or modify the use of the original technology. Pit inductions lead to fetal distress? Cesarean to the rescue. Epidural anesthesia causes a precipitous drop in blood pressure? Inject the mother with another medication to bring it back up. The immobilization of fetal monitoring leads to increased pain sensory in the mother? Then inject her with systemic narcotics that can inhibit oxygenation of the infant. We replace one inadequate technology with another, all the while patting ourselves on the back that we have the knowledge to fix what we ourselves have broken. What has been lost in our 'progressive' quest for a better way of birthing, is wisdom. It's still quiet voice has been drowned out by the shouting of that young upstart, technology. It is not my wish to disband technology, but to make it a servant instead of the served.Women have actually forgotten that they know how to give birth! This astonishes me. When I birth in my home without the paraphernalia, without the shoulds and should nots, without overseers directing my every move, my body shows me how to proceed. Herein lies the conflict. Women's bodies express one thing, and the 'giver of care' tells her another. Amazingly, she listens to and obeys that which is outside of and apart from her, rather than her own intuitive knowing. The body in birth becomes at war with outside forces. The woman's body says feed me, I need sustenance for this journey. The 'providers of care' say, no, you mustn't eat or drink, if everything we do doesn't work, we'll have to do surgery on you and you'll need an empty stomach (they don't say this, but this is why you are refused food and drink) even though giving you food and drink may prevent the need for that eventual surgery by giving you the strength to endure labor and pushing! Incredibly, they cling to the technology (surgical intervention) when the simple wisdom of listening to the body would have circumvented the need for the technology in the first place. This was my greatest frustration as a nurse. The wisdom of the body is not valued at all. The knowledge of technology is overvalued. (Indeed it is all that is taught and therefore all that is learned.) I observed in total disbelief on one occasion, when a mother could not have an epidural because of a pre-existing medical condition. She screamed, cried, and writhed in agony for her entire labor while her family complained on her behalf to hospital authorities. Her 'givers of care' explained over and over that their hands were tied, they could not use their technology because of the risks. It absolutely never occurred to them to use nonpharmacologic comfort measures. How could it? They didn't know any. They had no other tools for helping this mother. (By the way, I begged them to allow me to go in and help the mother, but I was denied. The family was too worked up and the mother too out of control, I was told. They simply didn't believe that what I had to offer could replace technology.) Instead of the body peacefully yielding in birth, it is forced to fight. It fights the bullied affects of medications forcing it to do what it is not yet ready to do. It fights the unnatural implications of being on someone else's artificial time constraints (who says that birth should be 15 hours long and that the woman should dilate 1 cm every 60-90 minutes???) The body even fights itself when the woman's mind tells her to obey authoritative others, and her spirit tells her to obey herself! Have you ever heard a care provider say, " Okay honey, I'm going to tell you when to push..." This is an absurdity. If the mother has an epidural and cannot feel when to push, the care provider places a hand on the mother's abdomen to feel when the contraction starts. The care provider then relays this information to the mother. The mother's body is speaking, but the mother needs an interpreter to interpret the message because the technology has come between her and her body!

The Bible states that 'knowledge puffs up, but love edifies- 1Corinthians 8:1. In the healthcare provider quest to make ourselves indispensable, we have fluffed up our feathers to make ourselves look bigger and more powerful than we really are. We have forsaken the glories of wisdom (and the wise use of technology) for the simple self adoration of appearing all knowing.

No comments: