I love books about babies and pregnancy and childbirth. I love reading what others have to say. I love it when my mind opens to new information and I stand back and think to myself- Well, that’s a new way to look at it.
I spent so much of my first pregnancy devouring as much as I could and still feeling like I was missing out on something important. I felt talked down to at times. I felt pressured to “do the right thing” which amounted to whatever that author thought was best for me- for everyone, I guess.
I was already a stressed out, type-A personality, perfectionist, trying to do everything right. So why didn’t it feel right to be told what to do? I didn’t even like it much when it was my doctor. And it wasn’t the authority thing- I was a rule follower. Totally inside the box, I thought…
I recently came across a new book on homebirth. I had a hospital birth and a homebirth, so I like books that talk about differences, that give different sides to the whole birth story. I definitely preferred homebirth- but it turns out I’m a bit more “outside the box” than I thought 5 years ago.
When I went to Amazon to read some more and check the reviews, I was surprised by the number of negative comments about this particular book. The readers talked about the level of judgment in the author’s tone: that instead of being a positive “why homebirth is great” it was a judgmental “why hospitals stink” kind of book. I was disappointed and moved on to something else.
Then a bit later in the day, I saw a comment on Facebook where a woman said “there’s no such thing as a natural hospital birth.” Her opinion was that hospitals don’t do anything naturally, so there’s nothing natural about hospital birth- period. And it sounded like she might think there is a “right way” to birth, too.
Does it do any good to bash women over the head with opinions and judgment, when they make different choices?
I consider myself a homebirth advocate. I think it’s great. But it might not be for everyone. For example, if you want an epidural, you generally can’t get one of those at your house. To me, birthing naturally means going with the flow of your heart and soul and body. And if you feel safest in a hospital, you probably won’t find homebirth peaceful, because you’ll be all worried about the “what if’s.”
And if being in a hospital doesn’t bring you comfort, it’s time to consider alternatives like homebirth or an independent birth center. And just like the judgment of “hospitals are not natural” it doesn’t do any good to hear judgments like “you’re putting your baby’s life at stake” by choosing homebirth if that is what fits you best.
Truly, the most recent data shows homebirth to be as safe as hospital birth for low-risk mothers and babies under midwifery care. So I’m going to say that the other way too- hospital birth is as safe as homebirth for low-risk mothers and babies, especially under midwifery care.
And although the same study shows hospitals are likely to perform various interventions more frequently, I don’t think that was really ever questioned. It’s one of the criteria women use to make the choice of where to birth. Some women may actually want an intervention (like epidurals).
Here is my point: women who advocate choice in birth ought to applaud all women who consciously choose their birth place. Yes, it is often a default- not choosing, but for some women, hospital is their actual choice.
This whole argument about the “right way” got me thinking about how women are consistently told what to think when they’re pregnant. Like somehow people think that our brains are no longer capable of choosing for ourselves; we somehow lack the capacity for sound decision-making because of what? Hormones?
And educating women about fully informed consent, informed refusal, and consciously choosing options for birth can only happen when women can hear it. Judgment closes minds, creates defensive posture internally and shuts us down.
But helping a woman open to her own voice, validating the truth inside her- no matter what that looks like, respecting her as a wise and powerful woman, empowers her to be everything she is here to be; to choose the best way for her as an individual.
Most simply, I think of it like this: Although my experience giving birth at a hospital was a very negative experience, it gave me so much strength later on. I learned so much about myself because of that one choice. Who am I to assume that the opportunity for your personal growth in pregnancy and childbirth lies only in one specific direction?