Unsupportive Family: You're playing Russian roulette - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 01:36 AM - Thread Starter
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My family thinks I am nuts about even contemplating homebirth. Granted, this is in Canada where they have strict standards for midwives, they are fully integrated into hospitals,etc. Essentially, they say I am playing Russian roulette here and that even in low risk normal births, things can turn bad in seconds. It doesn't help that my aunt is a L&D nurse who's daughter is pregnant and says that she 'loves her own daughter too much to even think of a homebirth". When people pull out the 'you're a bad mother' card, how do you respond to this? Throw facts and reason back at them? I'm afraid people have some a fear of what they don't know anything about, that no matter how much you try to inform them, their stubborness, pride, and fear block the truth. I want my in-laws to be happy about me having a baby, rather than thinking I am a horrible person by doing this. I'd appreciate other stories of mothers who's families refused to support their decision for a homebirth. How did you respond? Ignore it? Kill 'em with facts?
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#2 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 02:22 AM
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I am a UC mama in a place where even assisted homebirth is just unheard of, so I can completely relate to the types of criticism you are experiencing. My immediate and close family (mama, dad) I tried to reason with, and give facts to. I bombarded my dad with e-mails of facts, links to web sites where people he would "trust" backed up my ideas and the things I was telling him. Then, I gave up.

He was so freaky about the entire thing, and I think he really had every intention of calling an ambulance when I went into labor. (Which is exactly the reason no one knew I was in labor until my ds was here and we were cleaned up and resting.) My mama trusted me more, and listened and knew that I knew what I was talking about.

But, like I said, I really just gave up. When people asked me specific questions, as far as "What if _____" [insert any labor complication] I would tell them exactly what I would do to handle it. I was succinct in my answers, and it seemed to shut them up.

When they just wanted to rant at me or lecture, I would just smile sweetly and tell them that I didn't want to hear it, go find another pregnant woman to practice their fear mongering tactics on. Seriously, I would say that. I was pregnant, and grumpy!

BUT - After the birth, after everything went perfectly and my son was beautiful and healthy and I felt great, everyone wanted to brag about me. My dad, who was my biggest critic, tells everyone he meets what a cool, strong, smart daughter he has who birthed at home with no one there. LOL. Extended family is the same. I have a first cousin who is a dentist, and I walked into her office the other day and told the receptionist my name, and she said "Oh, you are the one who had your baby in the pool!"

I think you are right in your thinking that people are so set in their own ideas, most people, especially older people, just are not open to new to them ideas. But, I bet after its all said and done, and everything is fine, they will slowly start to change their attitude. It might not help now, but I can tell you from personal experience that it makes the second pregnancy much more pleasant!

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#3 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 09:33 AM
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Yes, I agree with LJ....

One option for you is to tell your inlaws that you are happy to show them the research evidence that supports the safety of homebirth, so they can feel more comfortable with the whole idea. If they won't read it, or just won't believe it, you can tell them that you have made up your mind, you realize that they have made up theirs--and tell them that you choose to agree to disagree. You can let them know you love them, and that you know they are concerned because they love you, but you and your partner have made a decision that you are comfortable with--and that you truly hope that they will also be comfortable with it in time.

Then, refuse to argue over it. This can be hard, but it can be done! As a homebirthing, cosleeping, natural-health oriented, non-vaxing/non-dr using mom, I have faced many an argument from my more mainstream family over the years. I learned not to argue--to say, calmly and politely--"sorry, this is not something I am going to debate with you. We disagree, and that's ok--I respect your considered choices. Please respect *us* enough to leave it alone" My family learned after a few repetitions to leave it alone But you have to stick to your guns; you can't let them draw you into further arguement with silly tactics like accusations of irresponsibility, dire threats of the harm you'll cause, etc--things designed to attack your confidence, push your buttons, get you riled up and willing to argue some more. You have to stay calm, and repeat the message--"sorry, I'm really not willing to argue about this. Please let it be"

My own mom at first just clenched her teeth and resorted to complaining to other family members when I wasn't around (fine by me!). Over the years, though, she didn't miss the fact that my kids tended to be very healthy....healthier by far than some of her other grandkids raised in a more mainstream way (not that she ever admitted that part)...and she kept her peace because she stopped worrying so much.
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#4 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 10:24 AM
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Well, they're correct in that what seems to be a normal, low-risk pregnancy can suddenly go very wrong. It's not okay, of course, to insinuate that you don't love your child or that you're a bad mother for making choices they don't understand or agree with. Either ignore it or say something like "I'm aware that things can go wrong quickly, but my midwife is experienced and trained to deal with complications if they arise" and leave it at that.
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#5 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 10:59 AM
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I definitely think you need to lead off with the research on the safety of HB and the fact that in many other developed countries with lower mortality rates than North America, HB is common.

Then, I would just explain that their are risks of choosing a hospital birth as well as risks of choosing HB. You have weighed the risks of hospital birth (same chance of mortality, substantial certainty of risky interventions, risk of labor going slowly due to atmosphere antithetical to the conditions mammals labor the best in) against the risks of HB (not being close to an operating theater) and decided that in your case, the risks of HB are less.

I find the biggest hurdle is getting people to realize that having a baby in a hospital is a choice that poses risks which could materialize and lead to a terrible outcome...just like homebirth.
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#6 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 11:11 AM
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I'd say, "I love my baby too much to consider a hospital birth".
It might sound rude, but I don't think they deserve another kind of reply to "You're a bad mother".

I always say I'd do anything to minimize the risk of being cut, or having a forceps/vacuum delivery or getting an epidural.


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#7 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Rosie023 View Post
It doesn't help that my aunt is a L&D nurse who's daughter is pregnant and says that she 'loves her own daughter too much to even think of a homebirth".
Wow, what an incredibly offensive thing to say. I would have been beyond livid.
The fact is that the vast majority of people are really uneducated about birth. They have very little comprehension of how midwives are trained, what emergency equipment they carry with them (hint: not just crystals and herbs), and what emergency situations they can capably handle. They also don't understand the cascade of non evidence-based interventions in a hospital that can frequently lead to worse outcomes. And the don't understand that even when a C-section is truly necessary, the mother typically has a comfortable cushion of time to get to the hospital. It takes about 30 minutes to get the operating room ready, so if the midwife calls ahead as you're in route you likely won't even lose any time.
I really didn't have to deal with any naysayers. But one thing that can help is getting really well educated on the topic. It sounds like you've done a lot of research and you're looking for deeper-level information. Have you read Henci Goer's books? They're really detailed looks at the outcomes of hospital practices and the safety of homebirth.
Kind of responding to both this post and your other post about homebirth deaths -- life carries the risk of death. There is no way to remove all the risk from birth. Babies die in both home and hospital births, deadly malpractice can occur both at home with a midwife and in a hospital with an OB. But hospitals have similar rates of mortality with homebirth (assuming the homebirth is with a low risk pregnancy, with a qualified midwife, and within safe transfer distance from a hospital if complications arise.) And I also believe that homebirth has lower rates of morbidity -- things like epesiotemies, injuries from forceps, hospital-acquired infections, and of course unnecessary C-sections. In America, one-third of all deliveries are now via C-section. And C-sections are a major surgery, which carries risk, as well as a long an painful recovery and the possibility of disrupting breastfeeding.
Also, the Canadian system is really good for ensuring safety, because doctors and midwives work together so closely.
And for what it's worth -- and I believe it is worth something -- women almost always report much higher satisfaction rates with homebirths over hospital births.
So when dealing with unsupportive inlaws, you might have one go-to line, something like, "Actually, all the research shows that home and hospital births have similar safety levels, but with lower rates of harmful interventions."
And if that doesn't work, you can go to the old standby: "It works for my family. Pass the bean dip."

Jen, journalist, policy wonk, and formerly a proud single mama to my sweet little man Cyrus, born at home Dec. 2007
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#8 of 8 Old 06-20-2010, 04:00 PM
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I simply wouldn't discuss it with them. If you're up for the confrontation, you could tell them you're not interested in scare tactics and until they come to you with hard figures from impartial sources stating that homebirth is more dangerous (and no, AMCOG newsletters don't count), they can stuff it. The ones you care about, tell them to watch The Business of Being Born, maybe read some Ina May or Birthing from Within. The rest...whatever. Turn and walk away when they start their tirades, if you have to. You do NOT have to tolerate being bullied, no matter whether the person is a relative or not.

But I'm kind of confrontational and have no patience with people who try to dump their fears and worries on pregnant women. As if we don't have enough to worry about without their ignorant negativity and naysaying.

Seriously, just don't talk about it with them. If they won't drop it, walk away. You need support and encouragement, not bullying and fear. Protect your headspace, mama.

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