Talking to Friends who Totally Trust the Birth Industry

I am not a birth professional, just a friend who wants to help my pg friends.

I need your input!  I know a lot of Moms who want to "go natural" at the hospital with their first baby (the holy grail!)  I also know many, many more who look forward to maximum pain relief with great anticipation.  How do we who have "wised up" through some eye-opening birth experiences lovingly approach these Moms with resources in a way they will be interested? 

When I try to open the topic for discussion, too often their reactions make me feel like a jaded kook with a pocketful of conspiracy theories.  They seem to think I am foolish for respectfully questioning my doctor, which instantly discredits me.  I am well aware that most Moms just don't want to hear about it, so I don't often assert myself except with close friends and family.

Many first-timers or those who have not yet had a cesarean that they question in hindsight trust their OBs implicitly.  They have no healthy skepticism about the birth industry; no idea how the OB/patient power differential will be used to control them.  Worst of all, they don't yet realize that the system in place prioritizes health of mother and baby much lower than they might expect since there are so many unseen players.

To assist those parents who do not yet cringe when they hear the red flags "allowed" or "not allowed"...  How can we get them inspired to question and learn?

Shari W

2003 Son, Cesarean: induced nearly 42wks, "failure to progress"
2004 Daughter, VBAC: induced at 41wks, draining battle with staff but worth it
2009 Son, HBAC: gestational diabetes, age 41. Switched to home birth plan at 36wks, labor started with acupuncture near 42wks.  Healthy and peaceful!

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I completely understand your problem. I also would never suggest to a friend (or even a stranger!) that her c-section was unnecessary. Statistics can help women understand the birth industry. A nation-wide 7% c-section rate in the late 70's, versus what it is today. Or how pitocin can lead to so many other interventions--that can be discussed--and frame it as how it could potentially be dangerous FOR THE BABY, a wording which will at least make most mothers pay attention for a minute or two. I don't know though. When people's first response to what you're saying is about how they love their doctor and believe hospital birth is the way to go, it's disrespectful to poke at them after that. I generally don't try to convince people after 1-2 conversations.
Carrie, Yes - It's unkind to ever make a woman feel that having a cesarean was possibly unneeded. If they are satisfied, we should never try to make them question it. First, how can we truly know and second it is only destructive not constructive. I saw from one of your blog entries that you've had the same struggle - how to bring it up to someone who probably isn't interested. An idea that crossed my mind is to buy a bunch of copies of a good book that tackles the issue and send it as a pregnancy gift (Henci Goer's books or the like). They are more likely to dig into it on their own terms than to sit and listen to us preach! Or maybe make up a short list called "My Favorite Pregnancy Reads", and send it in a pretty note card with a few quick facts that won't put them on the defensive. (Can someone write up a list like that and share?) I hope we can all come up with lots of ideas!
What a great idea! You must be a very thoughtful, compassionate person :) I would put Dr. Marsden Wagner's "Born in the USA" on the list.
THANK YOU! It IS VERY rude to tell a women, or even hint, that their Cs was unnecessary, ESP if you were not there and are not her doc or midwife. I have had several people insinuate my Cs was unneeded and this is irritating, as they know nothing about my situation.
I understand you completely. I also have friends who think that you should be able to trust your doctor completely, because they are the professional who went to medical school, and you're just the patient. I approach everything in life with a healthy dose of skepticism, and doctors are no different. They are just people too! A friend of mine was recently told at a prenatal birth preparation class that most labors will need to be augmented with pitocin. I tried to explain the risks of pitocin to her, but her answer was something like "well, the professionals know best!" What a shame. However, I've learned to stay out of other peoples' decisions. It mostly does no good. Of course, if someone is interested, I share the information I have. But if they are happy with their decisions, who I am to question them?

This is a great question, Shari. I wrote my novel, Aliisa's Letter, describing various birth scenarios. The plot of the book includes women's health issues, birth with an obstetrician that tries to schedule his practice, birth with a midwife, birth in a Finnish sauna. Historically many Finnish women gave birth in the sauna because it is was a clean and healthy place for the subsistance farms. One theme in the book is physiological birth.

Sounds like an interesting story, Carol. Please link to a description of it or where it is available. Thanks!
More information is available at my website:
Did you have skepticism about the birth industry with your first child? I didn't. I got an OB who followed a mid-wife plan of care by accident. I thought they were all that way. Everyone I knew had babies in the hospital. The only reasons I had for not wanting an epidural were that my mom had 2 babies with and 2 without and said it was better without; and I was afraid of anything going into my spine. It wasn't until I had the baby, with the on call doctor and lots of pitocin that I thought it wasn't quite right, but I thought it must have been the circumstances of that particular birth. I had two more babies before I decided I wanted something radically different. I even had an aquaintance who had a homebirth, and I thought "really? why would you do that?"

Things that changed my mind? 1. Third baby's early induction for what turned out to be no good reason, with a long, unnecessarily painful labor 2. My (new) OB started coupling Botox with gyno, and I felt like the priorities were screwed up there 3. My town got a midwife with a birthcenter - I had an option. 4. My husband said it's your body.

By then I had the experience to understand what should happen and how my body reacted in labor. It gave me the confidence to know that I didn't need a hospital and a medical doctor. That, with some reading and BoBB sealed the deal.

The problem with people who "discover" something that's always been there, is that they feel the need to press it onto everyone they meet. It's like a Jehovah's Witness - I respect your beliefs, now please, remove yourself and you literature from my doorstep - because really, that isn't going to convert people, or make them accept Jesus as their Savior, or whatever, because there is no return respect. It's a Believe this, or you go to hell policy. So instead people get resistant and irritated. Too many people try to do that with birth and breastfeeding and all kinds of other parenting issues. Why not simply answer questions if people have them? As mothers we all get to share birth stories - they come up at every baby shower. By simply sharing, you have exposed more people to the idea that there are other possibilities. If they listen, then they have that information, what they choose to do with it should be up to them.
Megan, You really have me laughing! I totally feel like a proselytizer, at least by people's reaction and rejection! In my mind I am presenting a factual and balanced view and not telling anyone what to do. But to them, I must really seem like a radical just as I do when people approach me who are totally single minded on any topic. But that couldn't be me, could it? Funny.

No, I had no mistrust or skepticism with my first child. I did know I wanted it to go as naturally as possible and wait as long as I needed to, but I don't think the idea of a cesarean ever crossed my mind as a real threat. I was truly surprised when he suggested it after about 30 hours! I had no idea of the stats, either! I did have innate sense to question somewhat. I'm Jewish. Comes with the territory. When they said my fluid was low and I should go immediately over to the hospital, I had enough sense to ask if it was an immediate type emergency or if I could go have a leisurely lunch and chat with my husband, pick up a few things, etc. But I didn't have enough sense to sleep on it, research it, and come back with options.

I just can't help but feel that simple passive sharing is enough anymore. The crisis is getting worse. heaven forbid any new Mom doesn't at least have the simple information that there's a 1 in 3 or better chance they'll have a cesarean and be interested to find out why. But like me, I suspect many don't. If nothing else, I will at least be annoying and tell every pregnant person I know that one fact.

P.S. I'm a lot of fun at a baby shower - I have to espouse my rhetoric when it's my turn to toast the Mom to be!
=) I'm sure you're a blast at baby showers. And I'm not saying it can't be done, I just think people hear when they are ready.

One other thing I thought of is that once a woman is pregnant, chances are it's the wrong time for conversion. Ideas are set, hormones are haywire, emotions are running high, mother in laws and well meaning parents are interfering and anyone telling you how to do anything baby related can feel like an attack.

For there to be a good dialog, the conversation needs to happen pre-pregnancy and I think men need to be involved. First, people like time to mull over new ideas, and second, men need to understand so that they can be supporive partners, brothers, fathers, etc. Use Facebook to link relevant articles/books/documentaries - it's less in your face because you can choose to read it or not. Do you know teenagers? Ask them about "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" and see what they think about those births and then sneak the information in. Teens love to think they know stuff their parents don't and they typically are more open to alternative ways of doing things. Does your library show movies? See if they will screen Babies and the BoBB and other baby related titles as a series with a post movie discussion groups.
Jenn, You are lucky to be an educator - people coming to you with these questions. It must be wonderful to have the ability to nudge people toward helpful information. What is the Cochorane Collaboration? Is it something we can all access? Maybe I'll make a little care package of articles for Moms to be, and send it along with a nice card.



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