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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Thanks, Shari! I have loved being on PregTASTIC as well as listening to it for years now (I kind of got pregnant just so I could be on the show!).
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth is a lot like Spiritual Midwifery, but I think she wrote it to be more mainstream (it doesn't say "trippy" and "psychedelic" as much). The first half is all birth stories (mostly from The Farm), and the second half is all about labor and how to get through it, etc. I recommend it to everyone!
This is the book my Midwife recommended I read when she suggested I attempt a VBAC and asked me about natural childbirth--b/c it would increase my chances of having a successful VBAC. She told me "the more interventions you do or drugs you take, the more you interfere with the natural process of labor, and the less likely you are to get a natural delivery." That was a powerful thought and I went right out and bought the book. At the risk of sounding changed my life, my ideas on CB, and conformed me before I got to the last page. I went on to have a successful VBAC in the hosp, went home less than 24 hours later. For a hosp birth it was fantastic. I also had a HWBAC. I got to have this wonderful experience and become an informed advocate for Normalizing pregnancy and birth because of my MWs and Ina Mae's book(s) :)
I completely agree! I just started reading this book two days ago and absolutely can't put it down!
This is such a hard issue. I think the hardest part is letting go of what others will do. I am a birth professional and so while I feel I have some credibility to my name and know what I'm talking about, I have found people are going to do what they're going to do, even if I find creative ways to share the research with them. I've seen friends and family have unnecessary Cesareans and poor outcomes from it, and it does suck because I could see the train coming- I knew what would happen, and yet, I have not found a way to be effective. I've shared my empowering homebirth story with people and while a few I know have been able to survive an unmedicated hospital birth, I have yet to inspire anyone to have a homebirth. It's frustrating, but I just have to let it go. The one thing I never stop doing, however, is sharing my knowledge and love for birth. It's pretty much that if you know me, you know I've had a homebirth. It's central to who I am.

I think it's just very hard for women to wrap their mind around anything different than what they know. Not one person has ever criticized me for having a homebirth, but no one will consider it for themselves. The fear of birth and the trust in a doctor is just so pervasive. Hopefully, someday this will begin to change.
Well said, Elizabeth, and a very reasonable attitude to adopt. But you're right it's so hard!
Good question! The thing I often run into with more conventionally minded friends and family (especially since it tends to come up because I'm a Maternity Reiki practitioner) is a mental and emotional "lock down" when they begin to feel threatened by information that tells them the people they THOUGHT they could trust (doctors, medical industry at large, etc.) are actually untrustworthy.

Unfortunately, I've learned that nothing works worse than trying to force information on people when they don't want it. It doesn't matter how good your numbers or stories or facts are, they'll block it right out. However, pregnant moms love to talk about babies, so if you recommend the movie The Business of Being Born, they'll probably watch it (especially since you can stream it on Netflix!)

I also hear that Babies is a good movie, but I haven't seen it yet.

I think that the best you can do is listen closely to what your friends are saying (people often say what they really think, just disguising it in joke or exaggerated form), and show by example. When you tell wonderful stories about experiences you've had or heard with more natural methods, ears will perk up the way they won't if you're seen as badmouthing a "trusted" resource.

Hope this helped!

Charis Brown Malloy
Maybe you should respect their wishes and mind your business. If your friends want your advice, they will ask, and then you can tell them whatever you want.
I am telling you this because I did not appreciate people trying to "educate" me while I was pregnant, and got so tired of this interference (even if well intentioned) that I ended up avoiding women all together. (easy to do in the all male industry I work in!) I had a relaxing and NICE pregnancy surrounded by MEN who weren't always trying to second guess my choices.
Just because YOU don't trust modern medicine, OBs and want to be unmedicated don't mean this choice is afro everyone. I thout this site was for CHOICE???
Just sayin'..........
Hmm, Staceyjw, I've just read several of your recent posts, and you seem to be a bit upset with moms who give birth at home, with women midwives, and moms who question c/s....I think that for the majority of us who advocate home birth/birth center our friends DO ask for advice, and then are shocked when we tell the truth. :) It is always about choice, and ours are gradually being taken away. My friends who have had abortions have all the choices in the world, but each time I give birth I'm told that now the AMA is against midwives because of this, and that, and now I can't have the birth I want because of this and that, etc,'s pretty amazing how much they try to strip away everything peaceful and wonderful about birth.

I AM grateful I never had to have a c/s, and I haven't had twins, because that would limit my birthing choices even more. No mother should ever be told she can't give her child a great intro to the earth because she "has a small pelvis", or she's "high risk", or the doc or hospital has "rules".

I hope you caught the respectful tone of my original post in which I expressed the desire to share my experiences but not to step on the feet of expectant mothers. The problem is that if we experienced Moms don't have a voice, then the only voice is the OB's and I don't feel that's good enough. Most of us were not looking for alternatives and information outside our OB's advice until AFTER one bad experience or AFTER one questionable cesarean. I would just like the opportunity to help Moms avoid that first bad experience. The whole reason for my post was to find respectful and palatable ways to share information.

This website IS about choice. But how can there be a choice if you are only aware of one option?

This site is not just about choice...its about informed choice. Which is what has been taken away from Moms in our current Maternity Care System. In The Birth Survey done by CIMS over 80% of women believed their right to informed consent had been fully respected by their caregivers. However, those same women didn't know most of the risks for the procedures they had consented to. Our right to informed consent has been hijacked and we don't even realize it.

When I had my VBAC I had to sign a VBAC consent form that was 1 1/2 pages long talking about the risks. The c/sec consent form they wanted me to sign (which by the way was presented to me at the office weeks before I was ever in labor and again at the hospital at admission even though I wasn't getting a c/sec they said it was policy to have one on file) was 1/2 page long. It left out most of the actual risks involved in a c/sec. How is that informed consent?

There is a lack of accurate information available to Moms from their OBs because OBs do not practice Scientific Evidence-Based Medicine. They practice Standards Based Medicine. In a study done on all the specialities in medicine and how much of what they do is based on Scientific Evidence-Based Medicine OB came in LAST. Much of what they do has actually been shown through research to cause more harm than good, yet they continue to do it. And we continue to let them. Mass media falls in line and perpetuates the inaccurate information..just watch any childbirth show on Discovery or TLC...

This is not about a PG woman getting tired of being given advice (we all know that IS very irritating). This is about a system that is broken and is putting women and babies at risk. If women actually knew their choices and the risks and made an informed decision then I respect that. If they are told their baby is too big and they have to have a c/sec and they believe it because their OB and "What to Expect When You're Expecting" tells them so that is sad.

I do not to force my info on women. I am an advocate. I put the info out there and they can do w/it what they want. I cannot say the same for all my friends and random strangers that follow mainstream maternity care. I was given more unwanted opinions/advise and critism on my decision to have a HB w/a MW than I have ever dolled out.
Thank you for this! It's always great to see others fighting "the good fight" :)

I agree with all you said, especially the last bit - I also consider myself to be a childbirth advocate. If the amazing experience that childbirth is were recognized as such, we'd live in a different world. We'd certainly be raising different children because they didn't start out their lives with such significant trauma that can so easily be avoided (not to mention the mother's trauma!)
I am a registered nurse, and I work in our local obstetrics department, both on the post partum ward and in the delivery room. I'm 30 years old, and am frequently a 'go-to' source of information for my friends, who are still in their childbearing years. I support natural childbirth, and it saddens me that so many women just do what they're told without question. The biggest thing I've tried to get through to people is the importance of informed choice - ie if you want an epidural, know the pros and cons. Know the risks of and indications for induction. You can't just blindly do what your told, and I can tell you I've witnessed with my own two eyes the lack of informed consent in modern maternity care. If someone has made an truly educated choice, regardless of what it is, it needs to be supported.

I find women frequently only want to acknowledge the pros instead of the cons. I've been asked by many friends "What can I do to avoid forceps/vacuum/c-section?" and they get quite put out when my answer is always "Don't get an epidural". You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. I'll state my opinion when asked, but mostly I just try to stress the importance of making a true informed choice.



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