You’d think there would be birth centers all over France. Natural birth advocate Michel Odent, is, after all French! This report on last night’s 8pm TF1 news shows that maisons de naissance (literally birthing ‘homes’) are fairly new in France. I suppose, if natural birth was encouraged for healthy pregnancies in more North American hospitals, there would be less of a felt need for a non-conventional birth route here too. At least one of my readers gave birth in a traditional French hospital equipped with ropes and slings and balls and swings – pretty cool!
There are at least 100 birth centers in Germany (which works out to be an incredible per capita number) and lucky for the Genevois, there are at least two new ones in Geneva: Maison de Naissance de la Roseraie and Dix Lunes (thanks Chris for tracking them down!).
Back to France, the maisons de naissance are few and far between. Here is a rare glimpse inside the Parisian birth center called Comme à la maison (‘just like at home‘) for those of you who understand French:
If you keep watching, the following segment links the birth center concept to the attachment parenting (AP) movement: maternage.
Natural birth is usually linked to AP in the States as well. However, in this report, maternage essentially boils down to baby wearing and sleeping near babies (not necessarily even co-sleeping) and maybe on demand nursing for six months, and staying at home with your child for the first years in rare cases.
I have my own reservations about some aspects of the AP movement. Still, for a significant segment of the French population, even these things seem extreme. These so-called ‘ancestral practices’ (wow!) go against many years of fighting for women’s rights, emancipation and equality. The tormentous conflict between sacrificing career to care for your children vs. self realization is hardly unique to French women. This is a conflict all educated women must face. (The fabulous article in the Atlantic Why Women Still Can’t Have it All comes to mind.) Still, for many French people, it’s as if all of the sudden, we were refusing progress and accepting voluntary servility by caring so intensely for our children. “Many say that the choice of maternage poses a serious threat to a woman’s freedom and her free will” one article writes. “Feminism and maternage don’t go well together” it says.
So, what do you think? Why aren’t there more birthing centers in Europe? Is there still value birthing centers can bring in a healthy hospital environment? And, can one still be a feminist and an attachment parent?
*The AP movement I am more familiar with, is linked with co-sleeping, nursing for at least two years, baby wearing as long as possible, baby led weaning (letting your child feed themselves from the time solids are introduced), elimination communication and cloth diapering.