Monday, April 18, 2011

When We Want our Friends and Family to Birth Like We Do



Natural birth advocates get a bad name sometimes because people perceive us as cramming our opinions down their throat.  The same could be said about all the folks who tell you to "just get the drugs!"  They often encourage a pregnant mom to be induced, find out the sex of their baby, and of course, get the epidural.  Rarely do I have people sitting in class who say that everyone in their life is supportive of their natural birth choice.  Often, class is the only "safe" place where they can talk about their desires for a natural birth and prepare accordingly.

I used to encourage friends to have a natural birth and talk to them about my class.  Some cases have worked out great, but more often than not, it backfires.  I have learned over the years that the desire to have a natural birth must come from within.  I have a friend from church who says of "the other side" that they just aren't ready to hear "the gospel of natural childbirth!" 

I heard of a couple recently that took a Bradley® class, hired a doula, and birthed with a group of CNMs in a hospital.  She has family members that are natural birth advocates and encouraged her to do all the "right" things as listed above.  Now, I don't know this woman, so I am speculating.  She ended up with a c-section, one that was very likely not necessary based on what I heard of the story, but I don't think her heart was in it at all.  In hearing the story, I've heard the midwives blamed and also the Bradley® teacher.  I don't think either is at fault.  The mom just wasn't committed to having a natural birth and was subconsciously looking for a reason to abandon the natural process.

I believe that when people want you to get the drugs, it's because it makes them feel better about their own birth.  I did this with my friend, Alisa.  I had given birth to one baby with an epidural. I didn't feel a thing and narrowly escaped a c-section.  Alisa was planning an unmedicated birth.  I wanted her to fail.  Somehow, that would justify my birth choices.  A bit twisted, I know.  I think that a lot of women that have c-sections want others to have them as well.  They would never come out and say it, but I think it's there.

I love it when women have a natural birth and everyone says to her how lucky she is that her labor was only 3 hours (the hardest 3 hours of her life!) -- "If my labor had only been 3 hours, I could have done it too!"  I had someone in my class a few years ago who said to me after her labor, "I just think my labor was harder than everyone elses, so I had an epidural."  Women who have natural births are working hard and are committed to the process!  They aren't lucky, have high pain tolerances, or have easy labors!  It comes from within.

It is interesting to ask people on the first night of class why they have chosen to have a natural birth.  Rarely is the answer, "My friend had one and so now I want one."  I will admit, however, that was a factor in my decision to birth naturally with the second baby.  I knew that if Alisa did it, I could do it too.  I don't remember her telling me that I should do it though.  Reading the birth stories of Martha Sears in The Birth Book played a big role in my decision, and also the history of childbirth in America.

Ultimately, I believe the reason we want our friends and family to birth naturally is because we have seen how powerful it has been in our own lives.  In most cases, it was probably the hardest thing you have ever done, but the joy and empowerment that followed was unbelievable!  We also know that they can do it but are choosing not to.  That's the most frustrating part of it all.  If they would just give in to the process and let go of the fear, they too could have this amazing experience.

Our reasons for wanting our friends and family to have natural births is anything but selfish.  We want this experience for them, to feel that they accomplished this amazing goal -- one that most of us will only experience a few times in our lifetime.  If they didn't grow into teenagers, I'd have a dozen babies!

So, my natural birth "junkies," lead by example, like Alisa did.  Give your friend or sister a book to read full of good birth stories.  Be available for questions.  Let her borrow your copy of "The Business of Being Born" or "Orgasmic Birth."  Everyone is coming from a different place.  Sometimes we have to have our own (bad) experience to start listening to other options.

17 comments:

Tinalouise said...

I would like to stand up and admit that as a first time mom with what I believe was an unnecesarean I get jealous when I hear a mother talk about a natural hospital birth. I am happy for momma & baby, but I do feel a twinge of jealousy every time. I can totally see how some women indulge in this feeling and 'wish' anything but natural childbirth on expectant mothers - because there comes a feeling of justification.

I would never wish my birth experience on another mother. And I do fully rally behind a mom choosing natural birth. But I often find myself wondering "She did it, why couldn't I?"

I do applaud women who have given natural birth, and I am fully immersing myself in information as I prepare for round 2.

Our Life With Two Boys said...

as a doula, i see this all the time... i can usually tell which of my clients are truly determined to have an unmedicated birth and those who are wishy washy on really doing it without meds...

i've come to learn that they have to want an unmedicated birth more than i want it for them... i can help them either way... those who've had unmedicated, i try my best to help them through the rough spots... and those who end up opting for medications, i support the feelings they have (negative and positive) about choosing the medication...

anyway, great post!

Erinn said...

I think you've nailed this on the head when you said that we desire for our loved ones an amazing experience, and we know that letting go of fear can make way for that experience. The transformative power of an unmedicated birth is incredible.

One of the best things I learned in my DONA training, I think, was the idea of non-judgement: after helping her obtain and review the information she needs, it is a good thing to get out of a mother's way to let her make her own choices. It can be difficult to see someone make a choice which doesn't serve her best, but ultimately, this is her birth experience.

MarcieR said...

I think it is unfair to say that the mother who goes to Bradley classes, hired CNM and ends up with a c-section wasn't committed to having a natural birth. I took the Bradley Method and had always wanted a natural birth. I came from a family who all had natural births and it was just a fact of life, I was not afraid of birth, I was excited. My family also all had hospital births and it never even crossed my mind to hire a midwife (we are in Canada and OB care is 100% financially covered, midwives were very expensive). At a few days past my due date we found out our baby was breech. I was scared, and even though we had discussed breech birth briefly in the Bradley class, I felt like I had no time to prepare. The doctors told me my baby could die and as a first time mom that was the most horribe thing I could imagine. They also told me I had no time to wait, think about it or research because I was overdue and if my water broke my baby's cord could prolapse or a foot fall out and the baby would likely die. We tried to have her flipped but she was wedged in. I consented to the c-section even though it was my worst fear in birth. I WAS committed to a natural birth, but not ready to try a first time breech birth when all the doctors were telling me my baby would die. I decided that next time I would have a natural birth. Next time I was pregnant with twins who were both BREECH! But I had time to research breech birth and even though I had to be in the hospital with an OB (midwives here can't take twins), I did have a natural birth, and my first baby was born breech, the second flipped and was born head down. My 4th baby was born at home in the tub with amazing midwives.

I think you should be ashamed of yourself for saying that she wasn't committed. You were not there, you have no idea what she was thinking or feeling. I was devestated about having a c-section and also felt ashamed because there are people out there who think like you. I know now that I learned so much and without my first c-section I never would have delivered my twins breech which I think was what was best for them, plus I would have ended up recovering from a c-section with a toddler and twin babies to care for.

Birth is a hugely emotional moment and a women often makes decisions without really having time to think about it. She was dealing with a huge moment in her life and I am sure she did what she felt had to be done at the moment. If it did end up being unnecessary I am sure she feels bad about it already and doesn't need anyone to make her feel worse. Unless you are the mother you have no clue what it was like. I did what I felt was best for my baby because I was scared out of my mind that I would lose her. In hindsite I probably could have delivered her fine, I did birth her sister breech and they were about the same weight, but at the time it was just to scary, and like I said, I learned a lot from each birth so I wouldn't change it.

Miss Momma said...

I agree with parts of this post. One thing that absolutely does not hold true for me as a c-section mother (x3)that has attempted natural child birth all three times (the last one at home), I DO NOT want other mothers to have a c-section so I can feel better about mine. I grieve every time I hear about yet another one of my friends or family members having a c-section. This holds true no matter what the circumstances of the c-section. When my niece had a c-section I cried for days. It was like it had happened to me all over again. I know how hard it has been for me and I would NEVER wish that on any other mother. I would also like to say, letting go of fear will not overcome all problems. It will make it much easier for a woman to have an amazing birth experience but it does not conquer all obstacles.

MarcieR said...

Agreed Miss Momma. I too grieve when I hear other mom's have a c-section, and I have to hold my tongue so I don't impose my sadness about my c/s on them.

Momma2Angel said...

You speak MY heart!! I see so much potential in EVERYONE about ANYTHING and EVERYTHING...it is hard to keep it to myself!! The only reason I have learned to generally keep those things to myself is because others just aren't ready for it. It has taken so long to understand why I couldn't get through to certain people in my life about the deep truths of life. It has only been in the last couple of years that I understand MYSELF and the passions I hold so dear and the fire I have for shouting from the rooftops only to be flamed instead. Wielding Empowerment has a great deal more responsibility than I ever imagined...I'm learning to wield wisely ;-) Thank you for such an honest and enlightening post!!

Momma2Angel said...

Marcie R. (((HUGS))) I have learned when I am emotionally attached to a situation that is then, even rather generally and even slightly "qualified", given a point of view that strikes that emotional chord, then I know I have some parts of a trauma to work through. Are you open to releasing more of your own personal guilt for your c-section? If not, STOP READING. Donna's post did not give ANY details on the circumstances leading up to the c-section and I feel that you are reacting to a personal judgment that you are shifting onto Donna. YOU WERE committed and your circumstances changed dramatically and your birth team should be ashamed of their fear mongering and emotionally abusing YOU!! Unless your daughter was actually showing signs of imminent problems and not just being overdue and breech, you had plenty of time to take at LEAST 24hrs to think and research the matter. Then after that 24hrs you could see if there wasn't an imminent need to go another 24hrs. Take it a day, or even an hour, at a time. You were ambushed with fear tactics and you do not have to carry that guilt. You were Empowered from the first experience which allowed you to be even MORE committed (to ANYTHING) than you ever thought you needed to be ;-) I hope you can see past the emotional trigger and finally let go of ALL guilt from your first birthing experience.

Tammy said...

Thank you for your post

MarcieR said...

Momma2angel
I know she didn't say anything about what led to the c-section, what she did say was that she doesn't know the women and she had only heard of the birth through others, but she still made a judgement. It is judgmental to say that the c-section was "very likely not necessary" and that "her heart wasn't into it" and to use negative words like "abandoned" her birth and "not committed". It made me feel sad for that women and for all of the women who ended up "not committed" enough to natural birth for this blogger.

I feel like she was probably "not committed" when she ended up getting an epidural and is projecting that on other women. My anger comes more from the fact that there are women out there who teach natural birth and then impose shame on any mother who ends up with a c-section that isn't warranted enough for her, that will lead many away from natural birth. Would she tell this mother to her face that she did not really want a natural birth and it is her fault for being so non committed that she failed at it? Does she tell all of her students that if something happens and they do not actually get the natural birth they want that they were just not committed enough and that they just abandoned their natural birth? If she had been there and saw how the mother birthed then I could understand but this is a public blog by a person who teaches about birth and to be someone who so openly judges a birth she has only heard of is very dangerous, she has the ability to negatively affect a lot of opinions. I know I am not the only person who finds that paragraph judgmental, it is being discussed on Birthing Magazines Facebook page.

I knew even then the doctors were fear mongering (I had taken the Bradley Method after all) and I am sure it didn't help, but at the time I did not feel like giving birth the first time to a breech baby when the doctors were not for it was a safe move. We made an educated decision, and yes a huge part of it was based on fear, most first time mothers are afraid of the death of her child, but it is a decision I would make again if put right back there again (obviously knowing what I know now I could have birthed her breech, but being right back there I still feel like it was the best choice for us at the time). You telling me that "I could have waited" is assuming I feel guilt and that I would change things or I didn't understand what was going on. We actually did wait, the c-section was 36 hours after the external version. I am not really sure I ever felt guilty, more sad at the loss of that birth and because I had wanted a natural birth so badly. At the time I also felt helpless because I didn't want to birth a breech baby, I wanted to have a natural birth with a head down baby and I was helpless to change that and did feel like the best option was a c-section given the recommendations of the doctors, which made me sad.

So yeah, not feeling guilty, just ticked off that there are judgmental people who are supposed to be the good guys In fact we should be telling the blogger that she needs to process her births because she is very clearly projecting her feeling of quitting in her birth onto others and she should stop and learn to be more supportive. I just feel a bit of protection towards the mother that she judges so harshly as another mother who was "not committed" enough for the blogger. It does nothing but harm the natural birth movement to tell people that if a natural birther ends up with a c-section she was not committed enough, especially when she gives no background info. Makes all of the people who are on the fence about natural birthing and who don't quite get how amazing it can be to look at a teacher as a birth Nazi and pull away from learning.

Momma2Angel said...

MarcieR Donna is voicing her inner most thoughts and processes that make up her current beliefs about the psychology of deep birthing commitments. She does not state that she tells the so called judged momma that she wasn't committed enough. She is simply sharing what she sees and experiences and gave an anonymous enough example. There is a point where you know that you set aside your personal views etc on a matter and you can successfully support a client/friend etc. There is also a point where you can voice thought provoking beliefs based on experience...without that ability to share such thoughts society would NOT be able to grow when their own beliefs are challenged with a question or point of view from someone else. I think that is one reason why she started her post regarding the bad wrap about wanting to share natural childbirth. Yes, there is a fine line to walk, but there's a point where it needs to be crossed for GROWTH. If someone isn't ready, so be it...but if someone IS ready than there's gratitude that someone was brave enough to ask the hard question or share a point of view that challenges a deep inner belief. Maybe I was wrong to assume you have some lingering guilt...but the continued sharing of defending for others mirrors something you are still working on. There's is nothing wrong with that either as we are all working on something and we are all in need of challenging our limiting beliefs - that is life school.

Brady said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Momma2Angel said...

My sister and I experienced this deep commitment issue several years ago. She admires my home birthing experiences and was inspired to have one herself with baby number three. She had a very supportive team of all relationships throughout her pregnancy and SHE introduced ME to HypnoBirthing The Mongan Method. My sister is a social butterfly and created a calm 'party' during her home birth. She got to a stalling point and I suggested that she hang out in her room while the others quietly stayed in the dimly lit family room. She was getting tired and not progressing, though she and baby was still doing fine, she was nearing her 24hr since her water broke time frame. After discussions, crying and working through the beginning feelings of "failure"...it was decided to just go to the hospital and all were in support. I was disappointed in myself for failing to help her meet her home birthing goal. The hospital birth was just fine and I was glad to have experienced that with her. For me, to have a bit more of a positive view of birthing in a hospital period. Months later, my sister and I were able to deeply discuss the experience and perceived failures. Though I did my best to be supportive and she said I was NEVER negative, too pushy or unsupportive...she put pressure on herself to be like me and she felt as though she had disappointed me. She also admitted that she never was too sure how comfortable she was birthing at home. It was a wonderful learning experience, tinged with sadness for having to experience a sense of failure when it should have been a more "pure" experience as with previous births. The lessons are cherished because we learned more about ourselves, each other and through it we grew closer. We are different people, with different personalities, different comfort levels, different views about support and we wouldn't trade this imperfect yet EMPOWERING experience. General communication and subsequent births, for both of us, have been more than we thought possible since that growth. When we are deeply honest with ourselves we are truly empowered and supportive of whatever level of readiness in ourselves and others.

Miss Momma said...

Another thing that I have been thinking about since I read this, is the motives that each side may have for wanting others to birth the way they did. You say you "believe the reason we want our friends and family to birth naturally is because we have seen how powerful it has been in our own lives." Then you say you "believe that when people want you to get the drugs, it's because it makes them feel better about their own birth." Have you taken any time to consider the other side may have the same motives as you. Maybe the drugs and various interventions went well for them and they want others to have the same "good" experience. Why is it you think a ncb advocate is the only one that can have altruistic motives?

Donna Ryan said...

Wow. OK, apparently some clarification is required. MarcieR, I've had a number of people over the years take my Bradley class who I had no doubt were entirely committed to natural birth, but for various reasons, had c-sections. I don't think any one of us would have made a different choice than you made with your first baby. Even with loads of research, it's scary to be told your (first) baby is going to die if you attempt a vaginal birth. Nearly all of us would have chosen the c-section. I have no doubt that you wanted a natural birth.

My point with this particular mom was that she was "pushed" into taking Bradley classes, hiring a doula and a CNM. Based on a number of things I've heard that she said , it is evident that her heart was not in it. She was afraid, but was only going the natural birth route because she was surrounded by people who wanted her to do that.

There were many good points brought up here today. I always enjoy reading your comments. I have this knack for people taking what I say and twisting it all around. That's ok. Despite how I come across here, I don't think anyone who has sat through my class and had a c-section would ever say they felt judged by me.

Tinalouise, good luck to you with baby #2. You can do it! No matter our experiences - good and bad -- we all learn from them and most of us wouldn't trade them.

April said...

What a fabulous post! Birth most definitely comes from within - at least, for me.
Often, I want to share my knowledge and experiences of natural birth, only to fear how it will be taken. As you said, I only want the best for those I am sharing with. I want them to have the great experience that I have and to learn from my mistakes.
Unfortunately, we all seem to have to learn from our own mistakes.

Joy@WhenDoesDaddyComeHome said...

What I gleaned most from this post is that I'm not alone in how my encouragements toward natural birth are rejected, sometimes vehemently so! It is just crazy to me that in the US meds are highly encouraged and natural birthers are made to feel alienated and unsupported by their own families and friends (in many cases).

Keep on keeping on, ladies! Leading by example is sometimes the only way. And sometimes a woman won't realize what her birth philosophy is until she's had a traumatic birth experience and desires a different outcome the next time around.