What if there was no pelvis? What if it was as insignificant to how a child is born as how big the nose is on the mother’s face? After 20 years of watching birth, this is what I have come to. Pelvises open at three stretch points—the symphisis pubis and the two sacroiliac joints. These points are full of relaxin hormones—the pelvis literally begins falling apart at about 34 weeks of pregnancy. In addition to this mobile, loose, stretchy pelvis, nature has given human beings the added bonus of having a moldable, pliable, shrinkable baby head. Like a steamer tray for a cooking pot has folding plates that adjust it to any size pot, so do these four overlapping plates that form the infant’s skull adjust to fit the mother’s body.
Every woman who is alive today is the result of millions of years of natural selection. Today’s women are the end result of evolution. We are the ones with the bones that made it all the way here. With the exception of those born in the last 30 years, we almost all go back through our maternal lineage generation after generation having smooth, normal vaginal births. Prior to 30 years ago, major problems in large groups were always attributable to maternal malnutrition (starvation) or sepsis in hospitals.
Twenty years ago, physicians were known to tell women that the reason they had a cesarean was that the child’s head was just too big for the size of the pelvis. The trouble began when these same women would stay at home for their next child’s birth and give birth to a bigger baby through that same pelvis. This became very embarrassing, and it curtailed this reason being put forward for doing cesareans. What replaced this reason was the post-cesarean statement: “Well, it’s a good thing we did the cesarean because the cord was twice around the baby’s neck.” This is what I’ve heard a lot of in the past 10 years. Doctors must come up with a very good reason for every operation because the family will have such a dreadful time with the new baby and mother when they get home that, without a convincing reason, the fathers would be on the warpath. Just imagine if the doctor said honestly, “Well, Joe, this was one of those times when we jumped the gun—there was actually not a thing wrong with either your baby or your wife. I’m sorry she’ll have a six-week recovery to go through for nothing.” We do know that at least 15 percent of cesareans are unnecessary but the parents are never told. There is a conspiracy among hospital staff to keep this information from families for obvious reasons.
In a similar vein, I find it interesting that in 1999, doctors now advocate discontinuing the use of the electronic fetal monitor. This is something natural birth advocates have campaigned hard for and have not been able to accomplish in the past 20 years. The natural-types were concerned about possible harm to the baby from the Doppler ultrasound radiation as well as discomfort for the mother from the two tight belts around her belly. In l999, the doctors joined the campaign to rid maternity wards of these expensive pieces of technology. Why, you ask. Because it has just dawned on the doctors that the very strip of paper recording fetal heart tones that they thought proved how careful and conscientious they were, and which they thought was their protection, has actually been their worst enemy in a court of law. A good lawyer can take any piece of “evidence” and find an expert to interpret it to his own ends. After a baby dies or is damaged, the hindsight people come in and go over these strips, and the doctors are left with huge legal settlements to make. What the literature indicates now is that when a nurse with a stethoscope listens to the “real” heartbeat through a fetoscope (not the bounced back and recorded beat shown on a monitor read-out) the cesarean rate goes down by 50 percent with no adverse effects on fetal mortality rates.
— Gloria Lemay
Excerpted from “Pelvises I Have Known and Loved,” Midwifery Today, Issue 50