Written by Mothering contributor Sarah Clark.
I know there is a lot of this mentality out there:
“I’m OK. You’re OK. There are no wrong choices, just choices. Do what works for you.”
You are going to hate me, but that just isn’t how my mind works. I have a more black and white view of the world.
I know, so old fashioned, I still believe in right and wrong. This isn’t to say that I think I am better than somebody because I think I did the right thing and I think they did the wrong thing. Quite the contrary. I am fully aware of the FACT that I do the wrong thing all the time. I know this because A) I believe in right and wrong so I see how wrong I am constantly, and B) my husband likes to point it out. BOO! (That sucks by the way.)
Things get funny when it comes to birth. To be truthful, though I am pretty passionate and opinionated about birthy type stuff, I don’t think most of it has a moral basis. It isn’t morally wrong to schedule a c-section and bottle feed, just like it isn’t morally right to have a natural birth and nurse on demand. At least in my mind. To me these are choices- but not something that you could burn in hell for. (I just realized how totally wacky this post is.)
BUT- even though I don’t believe choosing one mode of birth over another is grounds for heaven or hell, I do believe that there are “better” choices in these matters.
(Get prepared to hate me. Are you ready? Good.)
I think that natural birth (real natural, not just “I birthed without medications but I was forced on my back and everybody was staring at a monitor and yelling at me how to do it and the doctor yanked on the babies head” natural) is superior to medicated birth most of the time. I think that drugs interfere with the normal physiological process of birth in a negative way.
Sometimes I can prove this with studies, sometimes not. I can admit that. But even if there are studies out there that say that epidurals don’t increase c-section rates or that hospital birth is tons safer than home birth (yes I have read those ones too), I can’t say I am too concerned. Why? Because I believe something. I believe in natural birth.
Now, we like to think that we believe stuff because we can prove it. This is often not the case. Actually, it seems like most of us just believe what we WANT to believe, evidence be darned. (Yes I just said darn. I am working on my swearing problem.) I am no different, and frankly, you probably aren’t either.
Sometimes people tell me I am too opinionated on this birth stuff. Sometimes it is mentioned that I should be more accepting of various birth choices. “What is right for you isn’t right for everybody” gets thrown out there. Maybe people think that I am being judgmental when I say, “Natural birth is better.”
Here is the thing though- I really do think it is better. I think, if possible, mothers and babies are better off if they birth in a supportive, loving, environment and do so without the “aid” of drugs to speed or numb them or fill their veins with fluid or drain their bodies of urine.
I can’t always prove it, but I still believe it. Why? Because I have done it, and I know what it can be like. I try to communicate that to people. In fact I try so hard that I spend (waste?!) hours slamming away on these plastic letters in an effort to tell people how birth can be awesome.
Does this mean I think women are somehow less or morally remiss if they choose or enjoy surgical, medicated, or induced birth? Actually, no it doesn’t. But understanding why people sometimes make choices I disagree with doesn’t mean I have to agree with them.
Can’t I “get” why epidurals are used and still think they are lame? Can’t I understand the desire for induction and still think babies should come when ready? (Have I mentioned my two babies a week and a half late? It sucked.) Can’t I see why somebody would desire a c-section and still think that this is riskier?
I guess I could say things like this,
“I support women in all their birth choices, a planned medically unnecessary c-section might be right for you. We are all on different paths.”
Except, I don’t really believe that. I DO believe we should all have choices. I do not want my choices taken from me or from you. I do think we are all on different paths. I just think a healthy natural birth is an freaking fantastic choice and I think it is safer and healthier.
I could try to sound supportive of all the choices out there, but I would be lying. I think there is TONS of support out there to get an epidural. Most hospitals have epidurals of what, 80%? If you want to find somebody to tell you that they love epidurals, you won’t have to go far.
But I am not going to tell you I love epidurals. I could say that a scheduled c-section is a viable choice for a woman who has had a traumatic birth or who is afraid of birth or who has been abused. Guess what, I totally understand why people make these choices. (Holy freak people, I have real life friends who had and loved epidurals! I don’t think I am better than them! I am not totally nuts! I just like natural birth!!!!)
OR- I could tell women that they CAN do this. I could tell them that they are strong. I could tell them that they are powerful. I could tell them that they are capable of things beyond what they know. I could tell them that overcoming the pain of birth and pushing past their own weakness, will give them inner strength that they had no idea they had. I could tell them that they should try like hell to change the system rather than submitting to it- – even though it is easier to submit.
I would rather change the system so that women could have good natural births more easily and more safely. I would rather we learned to fight than give in. I would have us know triumph over a legacy of machismo and paternalism rather than submitting to that system and calling it a choice. (Woah, got cheesy again. Oops.)
To me, supporting THE epidural and THE c-section and THE current obstetric model of care is NOT supporting women. It is a backwards way of saying, “You can’t do it on your own. You just are not that strong.”
I think we are that strong.
So let me break it down.
I believe that natural birth is the best way to birth when possible.
It doesn’t bother me when people disagree. (Except for Dr Lisa and another so called doctor online, but I digress again.)
I don’t think less of people when they choose differently even though I think some of those interventions are lame.
I understand why people choose differently and I understand why somebody might think I was wrong.
But I still am sure I am right.
Yeah, that’s about it.
(This post appeared originally on Mama Birth on November 13th, 2011)
Sarah Clark is a mother of four naturally birthed children. Wife of a chiropractor, she lives in northern California and is mostly a mom but also a writer on her natural birth blog (Mama Birth), a natural birth teacher, and a natural birth teacher trainer. She also is on the management team for Birth Boot Camp, a natural birth education company offering online and in-person birth classes.