As a natural birth/home birth advocate, do you feel like you are always on the defensive?

And I don't mean from people who want to go on about how dangerous it is. I can deal with those people. Let the facts speak for themselves, right? I am talking about women who seem threatened by other women who choose to birth naturally. The ones who take it as a personal attack against them when you talk about the benefits of NCB, or get offended when you say that home birth is just as safe, if not safer than hospital birth in certain circumstances. The ones that claim you are looking down on them.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because it has come up on another forum that I belong to. Kind of like the "crunchy" moms vs. the mainstream moms. I hate that it is like that, and I have tried very hard to make it clear that I don't judge other women for their choices, but I feel like a broken record lately. Always prefacing everything I say with "Just because I home birth doesn't mean I judge those who choose differently", or "I don't think you are less of a woman", etc. It just doesn't seem to help. There was also an issue when I posted this quote as my status update on facebook the other day:

"If you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Most pain is in the mind, and when a woman absorbs the idea the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful-when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician-that woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony"- Stephen King

One of my friends posted and said she hated these discussions because they are so one-sided, and also replied with this "All I'm trying to say is: women have enough pressure on them...making them feel like they are less of a woman because they chose another way to birth their children is disheartening to me. We should really stand up/support each other" That is what I try to say all the time! I have never been anything but supportive of other women's choices, even when I don't agree with them. Why are women so offended? Is it because deep down, they are disappointed in themselves and their experiences? Are they unhappy with their choices, and just don't want to admit it? I am interested to hear other perspectives on this, thanks!

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You know I've changed a lot since first having a baby at home 5 years ago. Then, yes, to everything your saying. I was frustrated by everyone's ignorance and I thought I absolutely knew the best way to do pregnancy, birth etc.

When my first son was one I went back to nanny for a family I had worked for previously and whom I loved. I had a great relationship with the mom and I really respected her and her world perspective. I was bringing my son to work with me everyday and she never batted an eye at my homebirthing/extended bfing and actually went out of her way to accommodate me. I was surrounded by people who were constantly questioning the way I birthed, parented, and fed my baby, and she was this ultra-supportive woman in my life.

Fast forward a year or so later and she becomes pregnant again. I am in her home every day during her pregnancy. Towards the end she tells me she's scheduling a C-section and a few weeks early at that. My heart broke and how I wanted to shake her and tell her what she should read and tell her she was doing something irresponsible. But as I reflected before acting (she was my employer after all) I realized that she had given me a gift. She had respected my choices and trusted me to be informed about my decisions and I remembered how empowering that was at a time where everyone else was telling me I was, "messing up my kid".

I realized that I would be just as bad as the people who mocked my parenting decisions if I didn't respect hers. I knew she was educated and informed. I knew she scanned my Mothering mags I left around the house. I knew she was aware of the natural birth movement, so who am I to think I know what is best for her and her baby?

It was such a huge life lesson for me. I showed up the morning of the C and too pics of mom and dad getting in the car, waving good-bye.

One of my professional goals is to help bridge that gap between the crunchy vs mainstream moms. Our healthcare system is really hurting right now and we need more of a unified front of woman expecting respect and informed consent from their caregivers. I think it's a waste of energy for us to argue amongst ourselves about what is best when I do not believe any person can make that decision for another person.

I think that by respecting, empowering and supporting each other women make the best decisions.

I know you might not be pushy to your mainstream friends, but know, historically, the natural birth movement is very, "This is the *Right* way" to birth, parent whatever. So you have to know when someone who has done it differently sees that they are defensive and turned off.

It is a tough space to cross respectfully and mindfully and I enjoyed thinking about it and responding.
You did good!
I agree with what both of you have said and Kasie, I am sure you are right. I've been trying to communicate this same sentiment on the natural birth thread at

On a personal note... My friend's hospital birth recently, very predictably at that, ended in a c-section. I was rubbing her back and feet during her pitocin contractions, and while she knew she would like to get in the water, it wasn't an option because she had IV's. It was painful for me to see the whole hospital scenario play out with my friend. Eventually, after a 40 hour protracted labor, I bet the c-section was a relief.

I had to bite my tongue when she later smiled and said that she was glad that it went the way it did. I realized that she said this because she did NOT want to discuss it with me. Of course she did not want to hear it from me! I, who trumpeted the glories of natural birth for months before and after my baby was here, am not probably the best person to talk with about her true feelings on the matter. I can accept that. It's not like I'm an "I told-you-so" person or anything, but still, she obviously didn't want to discuss it.

I focused on the fact of her beautiful baby being here instead. Maybe someday I'll broach the topic of how it could have all gone so differently. Maybe not. The truth is, I'm sure she knows it.
Thanks for your input, WeBloom. I'm not talking about being frustrated by people's ignorance here (although I am, at times). I would love for all women to be informed about all their options, but I realize that being ignorant is also a choice. I also realize that it is probably silly for me to think that I could completely wipe away any negative feelings that a woman might have about the NCB/home birth movement with my attitude, when she has probably dealt with those feelings and influences a lot longer.

WeBloom, this is off topic, but I see you are from Ithaca. I used to live in Sayre, PA, then in Skaneateles, NY (where I had my UC). I have a few friends from Sayre that go to Ithaca all the time! Did you by chance have Monica Daniel as your midwife?
I had my first two in Boston, but Monica is my midwife right now! I'm 16 weeks preggers! She is wonderful! It's a great birthing community here and we're actually all worked up trying to push some midwifery legislation. You can see more about it here:

Back to topic. Yes, ignorance is a choice and I see it as my challenge to really get into a place of trusting other people's choices. I find that I can say I'm supportive, but really, in my head I'm still believing they are making a mistake and if only they knew x, y or z. I think in general that is the underlying energy of the NCB movement and I don't blame women for turning away.

A few of my friends were interested in NCB, but they were turned off by the all or nothing type of attitude that can be seen around. So instead of reaping the benefits of this awesome empowered birthing community they stuck around where their choices were respected and ended up with a host of (possibly) unneeded interventions. I'd like to think we could let go of the NCB label and focus more on empowerment and support and then unneeded and/or harmful birthing practices would fall away as a result. A woman wouldn't feel so alone, so scared, or be so uninformed. I feel like so many women are missing out on the great information the NCB has to offer because it is intimidating.

I remember in college there was this radical vegan cafe. They had awesome, healthy food, but everytime we went in it was so awkward. No one was friendly unless you were part of the inside group and to be a part of it you needed to be a radical vegan. You couldn't just be striving, or enjoy healthier foods or vegan fare here and there. They ended up closing b/c no one went. I sort of see the NCM like that. We're not really helping the whole if we stay inclusive.

(This by no means is directed to you--just thinking out loud about NCB and that huge gap!)
Well said WeBloom! I agree :)
I remember in college there was this radical vegan cafe. They had awesome, healthy food, but everytime we went in it was so awkward. No one was friendly unless you were part of the inside group and to be a part of it you needed to be a radical vegan. You couldn't just be striving, or enjoy healthier foods or vegan fare here and there. They ended up closing b/c no one went. I sort of see the NCM like that. We're not really helping the whole if we stay inclusive.

That analogy totally makes sense. That is what I try hard NOT to do.
To be honest, I've run into very little of this...I had a birthing center birth for my first and a home birth for my second. I'd say I'm only semi-crunchy, but I have strong views on birthing and the way it has been made into a very non-optimum "medical procedure". I think it's a pretty touchy subject for a lot of people for a lot of reasons but I've always tried to respect other peoples' views and realities on the subject. I try not to put bits of information or things out there that are so far off their reality that it creates an issue, if that makes sense. A lot of people would have a hard time comprehending something like the quote you put up. It's not real or something they can relate to. Even I don't necessarily agree with it and I'm all for a drug free, natural child birth. But there are also people that know exactly what you are talking about and completely agree. I guess it's just knowing your audience and when trying to impart your experience and knowledge deliver it in a way that they will be able to think with it and relate to it. I don't know if I'm making sense and I'm typing this with one hand so it's coming out a lot more slowly than I'm used to, hopefully it helps.
Thanks for the reply, Monique. I agree that it's a touchy subject for a variety of reasons. I have always tried, above all else, to respect other women's views. I don't really broach the subject of NCB or home birth, unless someone asks for my opinion or experience, or there is a specific forum for it. And with the quote I posted, I didn't feel like I was being "in your face" about it, so it took me aback a little when my friend (and to clarify, she is an online friend, not someone I know IRL) had such a strong reaction to it. Honestly, most of the strong reactions I have had are from people that I know online. I guess that also speaks to it being difficult to judge tone when you are reading something online as opposed to hearing it in person. And the fact that they don't really "know" me the way my RL friends do. I have plenty of friends who are of the epidural, c-section, hospital birthing variety, and this has never been an issue, as far as I know. They know me, know my beliefs and views on childbirth, and see the things I post on facebook. Maybe they are happy with their choices, and my online friend is not, and that's why she reacted the way she did. I don't know...
Yeah, that and some people will speak a bit more forcefully online than they really would in real life, it feels safer and easier. I don't know why she'd react that way unless possibly she had already gotten flack from somewhere else beforehand and your post just touched on a raw nerve?
I don't know why she'd react that way unless possibly she had already gotten flack from somewhere else beforehand and your post just touched on a raw nerve?

I think you're probably right on that. She mentioned that her mom had basically told her that she HAD to have an all natural birth with her first, and it was a horrible experience (she then chose an epidural for the next three). Also, she said that her brother thinks women who need an epidural are weak. I guess that put a bad taste in her mouth for NCB. Like I said, those experiences are probably so ingrained in her that my positive, non-judgmental approach isn't going to change her mind overnight.
Maybe it's just me, but anytime the topic of pregnancy and birth comes up I feel defensive. It's much easier for me to talk about it online than face to face. I WANT to talk about it all the time, but I can't because I've been rejected so many times either by people telling me they thought I was crazy or simply tuning out when I try to tell them my experiences or feelings. I've found more acceptance on the internet than I have from my friends and neighbors. Most of them just think you should trust the medical approach and not question anything or try to find a different way. They think anyone who chooses not to have medication just wants to feel pain, and that person must be crazy. Not everyone feels this way, but I see it a LOT. I live in a state where lots of people are having lots of babies (big families) but still 99% of births happen in the hospital, and the majority of those are completely medicated and full of interventions.

I wanted natural birth from the beginning, and when I didn't get that I was mad at myself for failing and mad at the people around me (including the doctor and nurses) for not helping me better to be able do it. At that point in my life if someone had tried to approach me about natural birth I probably would have thought they were crazy. I felt I had educated myself as much as I could have, and prepared myself how I knew how to, and I had still failed. I didn't see how it was possible for me to achieve the natural birth I desperately wanted. It took time for me to heal and be open to changing my perspective and accepting that I still had much more to learn. Once I did that and found the right support, I was able to move forward and find a better way to birth.

I wonder if other women just don't care about natural birth. Maybe they didn't have the desire to begin with. If they never wanted unmedicated birth to begin with, why would they change their mind and want it now? Maybe they just think medication is the best thing ever, and nothing is ever going to change their mind. If they've been conditioned throughout their lives (as Stephen King alludes to - LOVE his quote by the way) to believe that birth is inherently excruciatingly painful, and that medication is the only way to have a non-horrible birth experience, then why would they believe anyone who tells them otherwise?

If they did have the desire for natural birth and failed, then maybe they feel it's just impossible for them (as I felt). In that case, they probably do feel great guilt about "failing" to achieve what they had hoped for. In that case, I can understand their anger or defensive attitude, and I can only hope that in time it will heal and they can move forward as I did.

I have another thought that kind of goes into my religious and spiritual beliefs, so please bear with me and keep an open mind. I believe that our spirits were alive before we were born and they then joined with our bodies. I believe our spirit is older and wiser than our body and mind and it knows more than our body and mind know, and that our spirit has a higher understanding of what is right and good. I believe that on a spiritual level we all understand what is best, and I believe the best birth to be natural, unmedicated birth with no interventions. If our spirit understands this, but our body and mind do not, and we do something other than what our spirit understands to be right, then we will likely feel a deep sense of loss or guilt because of it. If this is true, then even women who intellectually oppose natural birth will feel this loss if they don't experience birth the way it was intended to be experienced. They may not realize on a conscious level why they feel that way, and they may be angry because of it.



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