|Photo compliments of google images|
We have had several births at Casa Compasiva lately with many more on the docket for the coming months. Through these births we have become aware of a disturbing phenomena among some of our Oaxacan women. Although some births have been lovely and normal, in other cases the mamas have labored valiantly and sometimes for twenty-four or even forty-eight hours, yet those babies simply refuse to come out!
Coming from a Canadian/American midwifery perspective, I had previously viewed the frequent diagnosis of 'cephalo-pelvic disproportion' (baby's head too big to fit through mama's pelvis) as simply a tired excuse by doctors too eager to perform a Caesarean. Surely, I reasoned, if they (the doctors) would only employ correct techniques, including patience and the freedom to labour and birth in whatever position the mama desires, then surely most of those babies would birth just fine. Alas, we are finding that it is not as simple as all that...
Something is going on here in Oaxaca that I was totally not expecting to find, and this is what we are concluding: Over the course of the last 20 years or so, the profile of the Oaxacan women has changed. Their mothers and grandmas used to eat what was grown in their own gardens or what was available at the local produce market -- simple food but nutritious. Their mothers and grandmas walked to the market, walked to their fields to work, walked to the grain mill to get their corn ground for their tortillas, and walked pretty much anywhere else they wanted to go. Their lives were hard, but the women were strong and hardy. All of that has changed for many of the city women of Oaxaca.
The majority of the lower- to-middle-class city women that we serve are now eating a diet heavy on carbs but sadly deficient in other vital nutrients. Gone is the former diet of beans, rice, and corn tortillas along with the occasional vegetable! Now we are seeing plenty of fats, white flour, and white sugar. It could be said that Coke is the national drink of Mexico. Ice-cream, chips, and other cheap junk foods are now readily available and not easily resisted.
To make matters worse, in the city the women no longer walk everywhere they go. Easily accessible and affordable public buses, while a blessing, have effectively reduced the only form of exercise that many women get. In addition, with the advent of the ubiquitous moto-taxis, many women no longer even walk to market. We are finding that these lifestyle changes are having ominous consequences for this generation.
Essentially, these women are eating an American-influenced diet without the balancing influence of constant exercise to offset the calories. Consequently they are growing American-size babies in tiny Oaxacan-size bodies, with the result that those babies either grow too big to even enter the pelvis (hence far too many post-due babies) or, once in the pelvis, they cannot get out. We at Casa Compasiva have been absolutely flabbergasted to observe too many women unable to birth naturally due to these factors.
So what can be done? Shall we give up and simply capitulate to the dominant Caesarean culture,since obviously those babies can't get out any other way? Not on your life, baby! Casa Compasiva is now developing an aggressive nutritional counseling program with detailed diet recalls an obligatory aspect of our pre-natal care. In the works are also exercise and cooking classes! We are teaching that while natural births should be the norm rather than the exception, unfortunately the pitiful diets and sedentary lifestyles of this generation preclude natural births in many cases.
If women want to give birth at the Casa, they must learn to take responsibility for their bodies and their babies and reject the bad habits of their culture. A natural birth at Casa Compasiva therefore becomes a privilege to be earned through diligent attention to instructions, rather than something to be easily taken for granted. The upside of this, of course, is that through all these extra classes we at Casa Compasiva will have all the more opportunities to share the love of Christ with the pregnant mamas and their families.
Pray for us as we develop the teaching materials and prepare our staff for the extra work that this entails! And pray that our Oaxacan mamas will have the courage and the determination to go against the temptation to super-size it!