072: Rebecca Dekker – Babies Are Not Pizzas

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Rebecca L. Dekker, PhD, RN, is the author of Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered. Aside from being an amazing mother of three, Rebecca has built a strong reputation in maternal and infant health circles for her pioneering work as the founder of Evidence-Based Birth.®

The mission of EBB is to raise the quality of childbirth care globally, by putting accurate, evidence based research into the hands of families and communities, so they can make informed, empowered choices.

What We Discuss with Rebecca Dekker:

  • The impetus behind her advocacy for evidence-based birth
  • Looking at the warning signs during labor and birth
  • Cultural remnants of the “twilight sleep” era still seen in hospitals today
  • How to advocate for yourself to avoid a traumatic birth experience
  • Ways to prepare yourself when your baby is on the way
  • How your partner can take part and use your voice
  • The importance of finding the “golden ticket” for a successful and safe birth
  • How she came up with the title Babies Are Not Pizzas
  • The book writing process and the grace of receiving feedback

[01:10] Behind Her Advocacy

Rebecca had her baby at 28 while finishing up her Ph.D. in nursing. She was required to give birth at the hospital where she was a student at its affiliated university.

She had a traumatic childbirth experience which prompted her to do research on what really happened to her. She wanted to find out if what the hospital staff had done was helpful or harmful based on her research.

She found that the majority of things that happened to her during childbirth weren’t evidence-based. The care given to her by a “modern” facility was 20 years outdated.

Her compiled research was put out to the public for free. She then created the Evidence Based Birth website. It took off with more than a million visitors to the website in just a year.

[05:10] Noticing the Warning Signs During Labor and Birth

Lack of education is a big factor that women fail to identify the warning signs.

The problem is two-fold. On one hand, they’re practicing outdated medicine that puts the baby and mother at risk. On the other hand, mothers fail to educate themselves.

We have this human instinct of wanting people to like us. We don’t like people to dislike us because then we won’t feel safe. And so we have this instinct of protecting our baby by making sure we stand on everyone’s good side. This is the wrong mindset.

[08:15] Why Even Modern Hospitals Are Still Stuck in Old Practices

Back in the ’60s, a woman about to give birth would be given a cocktail of drugs called “twilight sleep.” A mask was put on during the second stage of the delivery and the baby would be pulled out with forceps. The baby was then separated from the mother for 24 hours. And the dad wasn’t allowed to be there.

Doctors were the king of the room. Mothers didn’t have control. They had to do what the doctors said.

Over the years, there were only tiny changes made. We could still see some cultural remnants of the “twilight sleep” era (1919-1970) in hospitals today.

[11:20] How to Advocate for Yourself to Avoid a Traumatic Experience

One coping strategy humans use when they’re afraid of something is they avoid learning about it. A lot of millennials are terrified of giving birth. One factor for this is how birth is portrayed in movies and the media. So they avoid learning about it.

Educate yourself about your options. A lot of the childbirth classes taught in hospitals are more about teaching you how to become a passive recipient. Evidence Based Birth offers free research-based information on their website about your different options.

Going in prepared is half the battle. Make your plan and your backup plan and your backup plan for your backup plan.

You also have to build up a great support team and the right care provider. Giving birth in the right setting that’s supportive of your wishes is very crucial.

An example of a simple practice that could make a huge difference is cord clamping. Clamping the cord immediately would prevent the baby from getting a third of their blood. You need to leave the cord unclamped for at least 3-5 minutes in order to get most of the baby’s blood back into the baby’s body. Otherwise, it can put your baby at a higher risk for anemia. Unfortunately, there are still hospitals around the country that practice this.

Stand up for what you want. A lot of doctors aren’t even up-to-date on the research of delayed cord clamping. So you have to really know what you want and be willing to stand up for it. Or have somebody there to help you advocate for yourself.

[17:37] Ways to Prepare Yourself for Safe Birth

Figure out who you want your provider to be. The default choice is an OB. Research shows that most people choose their care provider based on who takes their insurance. Midwifery care is a good option. But you want to find somebody who practices evidence based care as part of your routine.

Find the golden ticket – the best provider and the best birth setting.  It’s important to find someone who’s a good fit for what you want. When they’re already doing at almost every birth what you want, then you’re going to get that kind of care.

Ask open-ended questions during your appointment. Listen to what they say about what they normally do without telling them what you want.

[21:21] What Your Partner Can Do to Help

Take a childbirth class that involves partners and make them part of the process. These classes make sure that the partners are prepared, confident, and that they know how to speak up.

Learn how you can use your voice. Especially when this is your first time, this could be challenging. Hence, joining classes that teach you how to use your voice can be life-saving. You’re going to have to learn how to speak up for the rest of your journey as a parent. Birth is just the beginning of that journey.

[24:30] Rebecca’s Amazing Second Birth Experience

Rebecca found her golden ticket the second time around. Knowing what she wanted, she found a midwife who was the right fit for her and the family.

She also took a childbirth class with her husband. Rebecca used techniques like medical-grade self-hypnosis, water immersion, massage, comfort, privacy and support.

Nobody separated Rebecca and her baby. She reached down and grabbed her baby and put him on her chest.

She felt she was respected as the parent of her baby because she had autonomy in choices. Everybody was there to support her. Whereas in the first birth, she felt like she was just a cog in the wheel.

Whatever type of setting or type of birth you have, you should be respected and the bond should be respected.

[27:44] What the Family Can Do

Understand the fact that birth trauma is very common. And just keeping this in mind can be helpful.

Doctors and nurses can be the “walking wounded.” Understand that trauma is why doctors and nurses act the way they do because they witnessed trauma as well.

[29:57] The Idea Behind the Title of Her Book

Rebecca created a T-shirt called Babies Are Not Pizzas several years ago. Then it would have the punchline, They’re born, not delivered. Everywhere she goes, she would get reactions from people.

Then this too became the title of her elective class that became so popular. So she knew there was something with that saying.

In writing her book, Rebecca used two options in testing the title. And they chose Babies Are Not Pizzas.

[32:00] The Book Writing Process

Tell your story. Rebecca had different people initially read her book. One of them gave her honest feedback telling her that she wasn’t able to connect with it as a reader. But she was able to connect with her personal stories wherein she even got emotionally involved. She advised Rebecca to just tell her story. So she completely re-wrote the book.

Writing a memoir is not being selfish. We have personal stories that people can relate to and learn from.

Take a writing retreat. Rebecca took a writing retreat to get the last two chapters of her book done.

Storytelling is important. Research-based evidence is not what changes people. But it’s how you tell your story. Human beings just love a good story.

Episode Resources:

Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered

Evidence Based Birth

Follow Evidence Based BIrth on Instagram @ebbirth and Facebook @evidencebasedbirth

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