I consider myself a natural birth advocate. I believe women have a right to choices in their care and in their birth. The phrase, "All that matters is a healthy baby," is one that I find sadly dismissive of the experience of the mother. I am often reminded of the tragedy that ensues for both the mother and her child when a woman is treated as though she doesn't matter and is merely a vehicle in the delivery of a child.
In reaction to this dismissal of the mother and her role in the birth process we have the modern natural birth movement. We work to ensure that women know they do have choices and options outside the assembly line hospital/induction/epidural/cesarean section train wreck.
It is imperative that women realize that they have choices in childbirth.
Despite this importance, sometimes it seems as thought the natural birth movement has moved so far in support of the mother and her needs that we dismiss the child altogether.
I have seen people defend a woman's right to smoke cigarettes during pregnancy.
I have had readers simply IRATE when I suggest that smoking marijuana during pregnancy is a bad choice for their baby.
I have seen countless people encourage alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
And that is just the beginning. What it all comes down to, despite claims and excuses to the contrary, is that what mom wants, likes, or doesn't want to stop doing just because she is pregnant, has somehow trumped anything else- even the safety of her child.
I love natural birth. But one of the reasons I feel it is so important because it is usually best not just for mom, but for her BABY too. To act as though all that matters is a healthy mother is just as silly and hurtful to others as acting as though all that matters is a healthy baby. BOTH mother and baby matter. BOTH mother and baby are connected and dependent upon the health and happiness of one another.
This connection, in which we sacrifice some of our own wants (and even some of what we considered needs) in order to do what is best for another, is the ESSENCE of motherhood. If we can't sometimes put the needs of our children before our own, how can we really call ourselves mothers? To be a mother IS to sacrifice. A mother finds joy in this giving, not oppression.
I hope that as a natural birth community we aren't the other side of extremism. If one camp is screaming, "All that matters is a healthy baby!" and the other camp is screaming, "All that matters is what mom wants!" then everybody loses.
Let us be a voice of reason in a selfish world. Let us, as natural birth advocates, work not just for the safety, health, and happiness of ourselves, but of our children too. Finding that middle road of balance, common sense, and thoughtfulness isn't easy. We are prone to "pick sides" and square off and replace people that matter with simple catch phrases. But we must do better than that.
Mothers and their children are dependent on each other for so much. Let us remember both of them in our journey towards better care in childbirth.
Sarah Clark is a mother of four and a natural childbirth educator in Sonoma County. She is also an instructor trainer for Birth Boot Camp, a company specializing in modern birth education for couples. You can find her blogging at www.mamabirth.blogspot.com.