I'm helping my doula trainer retype her training syllabus and put it in a digital format. Yesterday I spent a good amount of time retyping a magazine article by Penny Simkin that was printed in Birth magazine in 1991. I wish I could give you a link to the article, because it's so good, but I haven't been able to track down a copy of it online yet.
It's called "Just Another Day In A Woman's Life?" and it outlines a case study done by Penny Simkin about the impact of giving birth. She worked with 20 women, all of whom attended Penny's childbirth education classes between 1968 and 1974 and gave birth to their first baby during that time period. Penny interviewed each woman prior to birth, just after birth, and again 15 to 20 years later.
Regardless of outcome and satisfaction ratings, what the article focused on was the long-term impact the birth experience had on the mother. All of the women had vivid, specific memories of their baby's birth. The perception of these memories (positive or negative) had an ongoing, seemingly permanent effect on each woman and her life. Women who had high satisfaction ratings (were happy with how the birth went and the outcome) were happier in general and had higher self-esteem, and the birth had impacted their lives in positive ways, even 20 years after the fact. Women who had lower satisfaction ratings (feeling disappointed, sad, upset or angry about their birth experience) had suffered long-term effects from their negative feelings about their birth experience. In many cases, the satisfaction rating of the first birth impacted the woman's desire to have more children.
What the article points out is something that I think any woman who's given birth has felt. Birth is NOT just another day in a woman's life, and success or failure is not simply based on physical outcomes or survival. There are deep emotional footprints left after a woman gives birth, whether they are positive or negative.
Another important finding to point out is that each woman's perceptions of her birth experience are just that: perceptions. In the study, there were women who were highly satisfied who had had the same complications or birth experiences as other women who were less satisfied, yet they were able to come away from the experience feeling happy about it. In many cases, this had to do with the support or lack of support they had during the birth.
This article supports why I'm becoming a doula. I've learned from my own birth experiences how much of an impact childbirth can have on a woman, and how important it is to have the right support in that very special time. I want to help women everywhere know they can get the support they need, and they can have a positive birth experience regardless of the interventions they choose or need or the circumstances of the birth. Birth should be a wonderful, happy event, and each woman is entitled to this, regardless of where or how she gives birth.