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Open Season: A Survival Guide for Natural Childbirth and VBAC in the '90s.

Nancy Cohen's latest book Open Season fairly sizzles in your hands. She pulls no punches in her analysis of birth in America and concludes, "If you don't want to have a cesarean, don't go where they do them." The book goes beyond describing birth as it is currently practices, concluding that giving birth at home with midwives should become the norm rather than a rare alternative. Not just for VBACs, Open Season reaches way beyond the cesarean dilemma in its scope and adrresses all aspects of giving birth, ending with the joyous stories of women who have birthed unfettered by institutional procedures. It is "required reading" for anyone who is pregnant or who works with pregnant women.

Cohen's choice of title for her work is a wry yet entirely serious metaphor resulting from her many years of considering what is done to birthing women in American hospitals and her realization that even game animals, let alone endangered species, are protected by more regulations than the American woman. She states, "The rules that protect the quail, pheasant, raccoon, opossum, trout, ruffled grouse, and even the chipmunk afford them far more extensive protection than childbearing women are granted.... There is no limit to the number of women a doctor can section without being challenged, fined or jailed.... And they aren't even required to wear orange hats."

"Women in our culture are "bagged" the minute they walk into a maternity unit. They are welcomed and all but trussed for delivery. (I was astonished to learn that there are still hospitals that give enamas to women in labor.) The pregnant woman often feels confused: while she is being targeted, braceleted, and confined, she may be unsure as to whether she is in the presence of her hunter or her savior."

Despite its sometimes scathing indictment of the American way of birth, the book is compassionate as well as humorous and considers the solutions as well as the problems. It moves from chapters like "Caught, Red-Handed!: The Status of Cesarean Section in the United States, Revisited" through "Not for VBACs Only" to "Voices Raised!" with its stories by women who achieved the kind of birth they wanted.

The chapter on Childbirth Classes in the '90s, "Learning as We Live" is extremely valuable for Cohen's description of her goals and methods in teaching her classes for pregnant couples. Her opening comment during the first class it, "Hi! I'm really glad you are here! Okay, so what are you scared of? What ware you scared about?" Whatever concerns and fears come up are discussed, so that even before couples have introduced themselves, they're talking openly and honestly and preparing a space for birth.

Next she discusses "Why are you here?" and then "What do you need from being here?" A discussion of what support means and how it would be to feel supported follows. She doesn't use demonstrational charts or discuss making birth plans. The emotional clearing and inner work that go on in the classes prepare couples for the real work of giving birth. One person told her, "You teach a vision of childbirth. These classes are not just for birth, they are classes for living."

In a chapter called "Birthcrap!" Cohen discusses "the power of parphenalia," everything from the Heparin locks to electronic fetal monitors and having an episiotomy. Each intervention is considered and seen for the ways in which it hinders the process of normal birth for healthy women.

Just as you wouldn't call in a plumber to wallpaper your living room but would call the right man for the job, Cohen concludes that the right person for birth isn't a man at all. She states, "It never ceases to amaze me how someone without a vagina can be such an authority on them That we listen to men, who have never been pregnant, never felt a contraction, never felt a baby move inside -- and that we follow their instructionss and take their word as the gospel truth--is pure folly! It no longer makes any sense to me whatsoever."

However, in her discussion of midwives, she is equally opinionated about midwives who have been trained in the medical model and who practice in hospitals. "What they see as normal birth is the American (warped) view of birth. If they really believed that birth was safe, they would be convincing women to stay out of hospitals. They wouldn't be agreeing to ridiculous protocols and hospital/doctor ordained rules. They'd never be able to sit by and watch IVs dripped into laboring women's arms."

According to Cohen, "The vast majority of women in this culture birth their babies either as if they were stars in a science fiction movie or casualties of war." If they read Open Season, they will be much less likely to line up like sheep for the slaughter. Just as Suzanne Arms' book Immaculate Deception galvanized the awareness of a generation of women giving birth in the '70s, it is my hope that Open Season signals a new "call t consciousness" which will be a counterforce to the cesarean and epidural epidemics which have dominated the '80s. It is my hope that Open Season will be not only a survival guide for the '90s, but a contributing force to a revolution in childbirth that will be as sweeping as the revolution in Russia and Eastern Europe. If the monolithic strangle-hold of Communism can crumble so rapidly, there is hope that the strangle-hold of the A.M.A. on women and birth can also be overcome!

There is tremendous power in the vision and the word of Open Season. Hats off to Nancy for writing a book that "tells it like it is" instead of being "politically correct." We are pleased that Informed Birth & Parenting Books is one of the first to be able to offer this book to you, due off the presses October 18th. Order your copy by sending in the form below.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Baldwin, Rahima
Publication:Special Delivery
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1991
Words:992
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