Monday, July 2, 2012

I'm Just Gonna Say It... So Don't Hate Me!

The Farm was great and I believe there will be some great things come out of the First Birth Activists Retreat.   I met so many wonderful people doing amazing things all over North America.  One thing I will point out right now is The National Rally for Change.  There are many cities and states participating on Labor Day.  Find out if your city has signed up to take part in the rally.  If not, consider becoming a coordinator for your city. 

Birth Activism will continue to be a big topic here, but I wanted to talk about something that has been driving me crazy.  A couple of things have led to this blog post.  First, someone sent me a link to a post titled "Mind Your Own Birth" by a CNM.  I hate the title.  But I'll come back to that in a minute.

The other occurrence was after posting on my Facebook page about a 16-year-old girl who found out she's pregnant and was turning to her young friend for advice.  The friend sent me a message and I asked if I could share her question/dilemma.   Let me just say, I am not trying to turn this into a pro-choice or pro-life discussion.  Some people went a little crazy, but as usual, I didn't edit.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

But often it's hard to have an informed opinion when you don't understand all the options and/or information.  Let's go back to this idea of "mind your own birth" for a minute.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, I had never known a single person (at least that I know of) that had given birth without medication.  Hindsight is 20/20, but I have often wondered if I would have been receptive to their message.  I had the epidural, didn't feel a darn thing, narrowly escaped a c-section, and was blissfully unaware of what I had missed out on!  That is, until I had a friend have a drug-free birth. 

There are very good choices that have been placed before me throughout my life by people who love me.  I am so grateful for their positive influence, which includes sharing information.  Again, hindsight is 20/20.

I've talked to dozens of women over the years who say that the reason they sought out an unmedicated birth was because someone else had encouraged them by sharing their stories and experiences.   

Once someone has information about all their options -- the risks and the benefits -- fine.  But don't just assume that just because it's their birth, you can't share your experience about natural birth.  It did strike me as very odd that at the end of her post she said, "Birth is not a competition. You don’t get extra points for going without an epidural, for choosing to breastfeed, or for choosing to avoid labor all together with a primary c-section.  None of these things make you a better woman or mother than anyone else."  No one who chooses natural birth is expecting a medal or doing it because it's a competition.  Evidence has shown time and again that there are risks to epidurals, countless benefits to breastfeeding, and "avoiding labor" and going straight for the c-section is rarely a good idea.  That is what is called a fear-based cesarean.  Oh my word.  OK, maybe just not the midwife for me.  I want someone by my side who gives me correct information and tells me I'm strong.  Not someone who gives me an out before I've even started the race!

As for our sweet little 16-year-old...  I was an idiot when I was 16.  I was in no way capable of making an informed decision had I found myself pregnant at that age.  This girl may be sharp as a tack, but I suspect, as Brad Paisley sings, she "can't see past Friday night."  Several people, in the comments, said that she should make her own decision and not have anyone else's opinions forced upon her. 

I disagree.  She needs someone with more life experience to help her understand all of her options -- the risks and the benefits -- each choice would bring.  Ultimately, it is her choice, but the parents can't be taken out of the equation either.  The entire family would benefit from counseling, if you asked me!  My heart goes out to this girl and her family.  But like it or not, she needs guidance and support.  I hope she finds it.

So, I guess I'm just annoyed with the whole it's-her-life-don't-share-your-opinion attitude that I've seen so much of lately.  Since when did we stop caring about what happens to those around us?  It doesn't have to be a banned-from-baby-showers moment either, but just show you care about the people around you.  

You never know who your life/opinion may touch.  You could change their life for the better all because you shared information or your experiences. 


Kippy said...

I so wish someone would've shared their encouraging natural birth experience with me when I was in that situation. I wish I'd have cherished every moment of my pregnancy, birth, and the short time with our daughter that I had before placing her with her forever family. I wish I hadn't have decided to avoid the pain at the time by numbing myself with the epidural (which I believe I was scared into) and not breastfeeding because I'd bond with the baby and it'd be too hard to let go. Those are moments I'll never get and now that I've had them with my other three children I'm sad I missed out on that with her, in those short days when she was mine. Now, hindsight is 20/20 and I'm such a different person now than I was then. Maybe I couldn't have handled it all but I suspect I could have.

Caryn Allen said...

Thank you for this. I was so sad at the way the direction of the thread was going, pitting women against each other, rather than giving advice to this struggling young girl and her friend.

Sabrina M Bowen said...

I had three very enjoyable medicated labors. I now have my tubes tied but if I ever had to go back to having babies, I would again, have the epidurals. I can not labor without being induced - because of hormonal issues - and frankly am not interested in the least in having a natural birth... The pain of my monthly usually has my head in the toilet, contractions damn near killed me! But I wanted to say it's so nice to see a post that says "hey, you don't have to be perfect." I get so tired of all the "Oh, I pity you" comments when I say I had an epidural. I don't pity me, and I wouldn't change anything. My children are here and healthy, and that's what matters. Were there risks? Yes. But due to my hormonal issues there were also risks with other options...

Sarah said...

Excellent. I feel this way regarding circumcision, too. For me, I did not make an informed decision when I chose to circumcize my son nearly 9 years ago. When I was talking with the family dr we had chosen prior to birth to be our baby's dr, it was clear (esp in hindsight) that he was not a proponent of circ. He told us how important it was to make the baby comfortable and that used a 3 way analgesic (which i now know can't totally numb the penis, but at least more humane than nothing). In hindsight too, I see that our son has a very "loose" circumcision and have wondered if the dr intentionally did that to try and preserve a little bit of the prepuce function. But I also wonder how different things might have been if he would've said, "I understand you're wanting your baby circumcized, but have you had a chance to learn about how important the foreskin is? And it's a procedure that doesn't come without risk, I want to make sure you know what's really involved in the surgery." Sometimes all it takes is one person gently planting a seed.

Samantha said...

I hear you on the point of wondering when people stopped caring!!! I can totally relate to your viewpoint, the way you write, it all sounds very much like me, haha! So often I think society is sooooo caught up in making sure we don't judge, we don't question, we don't offend by asking people to stop for just a single minute before they jump off a cliff, that we've become the silent generation. I am totally fine with people making their own decisions, I will support you either way, whatever you choose (even if I don't agree), but I feel like part of being a good friend is sharing your good/bad experiences to maybe shed a little light on their decision process. I hate how society has now labeled doing that as being intrusive and judgemental, when we're all just trying to be caring and a good friend! Birth is birth and will happen, I get that, but let's be open to hearing good options :)

Cori Gentry said...

Ah that midwife! I just took a little mental journey back to how I made my decision to birth naturally and at every cross road there was someone who had given birth that offered me advice, encouragement, or a different perspective that I had never before considered. Some of us need to hone our advice giving skills so as to not come off judgmental, me included, but silence will benefit no one.

Kelly said...

I missed the thread, but I totally get what you are saying. Seems like a lot of people are so concerned about coming across as judgmental that no one wants to speak the truth. I fail to see how telling someone the risks of elective c-sections when they are planning one is judgmental. It is speaking the truth in hopes that the person will think twice about a decision that is not made with full disclosure. I get women snap sometimes when I go on about breastfeeding and formula...because they chose the latter. I am not trying to be judgmental, I am just speaking the truth.

Samantha said...

Yes, share your opinion. I had my first as a teenager and my birthplan was "go to hospital, get epidural, have baby." Natural birth was something that happened on tv in elevators during power outages. Imagine my surprise when I had a spontaneous birth and my son entered the world in the backseat of my mom's car?! I went on to deliver 4 more children and learned a lot about natural child birth along the way. I think it's important we share our experiences and what we know. Throughout history the art of birth has been passed from one generation to the next and usually through the town midwife. Modern science has robbed us of that sharing of experience and we owe it to our daughters and the women coming after us to share what we know, so it's not all lost.

Chatón said...

I had my daughter naturally, but I'm no hero. Instead I am someone who spoke to several healthcare professionals beforehand, as a friend not as a patient. All of the women had gone natural and they encouraged me to do so. Once you understand all of the potential complications, natural is the only sane choice.

Most women don't understand those complications. In some ways I envy that ignorance.

Some women don't have that option though because they require a c section to save them and their babies. For them, that's the only sane choice.

Still I am happy that I delivered naturally, and pray to do it again.

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Monica said...

I know someone who gets angry any time someone brings up natural birth and breastfeeding despite the fact that she never took any prenatal birth or breastfeeding classes and had an induction resulting in a long labor with a long time pushing and ultimately a csection. She supplemented from the beginning and set herself up to have supply problems, and rather than knowing that she did the best she could with what she knew and being open to new information she has built a wall around herself in terms of hearing any information that might not be anything beyond "whatever works for you!" I didn't spend enough time educating myself about birth and may have been talked into an unnecessary primary csection. Although it was a midwife practice and my condition is not common I should have spent more time educating myself. Perhaps I'll need another csection. Perhaps I'll be able to have a VBAC. That being said my situation is not the situation of the majority of women in the world who can birth safely and breastfeed exclusively. I find the idea that we should keep our mouths shut and never say anything is a bad idea. Every woman's choices should be respected, but they need to be informed choices.