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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Hey Kasie - reading your Stephan King quote (his babies were all born at home, right?) makes me chuckle. I completely agree, but considering the lack of promotion of prenatal education about childbirth in our society, I can see why some women would be scratching their heads over that one! Ha.

It's tough...birth is touchy. Gee, everything is touchy! United Statesmen are sensitive...no one likes to be told what to do or how to do it or that they were wrong or that they could have done better or their doctor lied to them about the risks, yada yada.

Both ends of the spectrum, via hospital: "I had a great hospital experience and loved my epidural!" and the other being, "I hated my hospital experience and my rights were completely violated." And then both ends of home birth: "home birth was the most peaceful and sacred way to welcome my baby into the world," and "my baby and I almost died during our home birth and had to be rushed to the e.r." are valid and real.

I wish people didn't get defensive of their experiences. I wish people didn't try telling people they were wrong or that their choices were better. I wrote about this a while back (here on MMB) called "Who am I to Judge?"

Mmmk, that's all I have to say for now. I might be back :)
Thank you Cherylyn and Kaitlin, for your perspectives on this!

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 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?

Cherylyn, I totally agree.
Great topic Kasie! I don't usually discuss NCB with women that I don't already know support it. I have found that it avoids alot of the "awkwardness" that always seems to happen when the more medical minded women find out about my beliefs regarding NCB & the general "over-interventionist" attitude in our maternity Care System. But sometimes...

One of the ladies at my son's preschool is pregnant too. There are 2 hospitals in my area. She told me where she was having her baby and asked me which one I was delivering at. I told her I was not having my baby at the hospital. She looked at me dumbfounded. Clearly confused, she said, "What do you mean". I smiled and told her I was having a home birth. "Like at your house" she responded, still dumbfounded. "Yes, at my house" I replied. Her response "But how will you get your epidural?" I told her I choose to avoid drugs and work really hard to avoid what I feel are unecessary interventions during childbirth. She seemed genuinely perplexed. She asked about my OB and I explained that I have a MW. Clearly the fact that this scenario was even possible was foreign to her. Since then she has asked me several questions about MW & HB, with no judgement, she is clearly just very curious. I did recommened Henci Goer's "TWGBB" & Ina Mae's "GNCB" but have not really discussed it further other than to answer her questions.

That conversation sums it up for me. We all know how many hospital births occur and how many women get an epidural. Thats just the way its done today. All the mainsteam media, most of the readily available books, and most birth stories women hear follow the status quo. If a woman is interested in NCB she has to search out the info, sift through all the mis(ssing) information found about pregnancy & birth, and fight against a system that has no place for NCB.

So IMO...Considering all the medical procedures they (most likely) went through to have their births and safe healthy babies, the idea that we avoided that experience and have positive memories and feelings about our births and still had healthy babies threatens the "rose colored glasses" they use with which to view their experience. They believe thats what it takes to have a healthy baby. And they (often) don't want to entertain the idea that its not.

Women that support NCB are part of a very small minority and, as in most things, when you buck the status quo you are seen as different/difficult/weird. It causes an "us against them" mentality from the outset. I think non-NCB feel like NCB judge them (and a lot of the time they do, we are a very passionate bunch :) However, often NCB feel judged as well (which we all know we often are :(

Also, I have noticed that women who are informed about NCB and interventions and decide (or have) to have a medicalized birth anyway are often not as defensive as those that honestly never knew there was any other way (like the woman at my son's school) and went along with the dr only to find out later it could have been different. Maybe they feel robbed (thats how I feel about my first (medicalized, c/sec) birth. Then they have to choose to 1)defend their experience (these are the defensive ones) OR 2) become open to another way and deal with the feelings that causes about the way previous birth experiences were.

The saying that comes to mind is "Knowledge is Power but Ignorance is Bliss" (and by ignorance I mean lack of knowledge/information not stupidity). Maybe our knowledge/information threatens their bliss........
Wonderful response, Sara. Very well-put. Thank you!
hi kasie,
this forum, along with other natural birthing outlets, is what saves me from quitting my job. i am a l&d rn. i work in an urban hospital (birthing factory-as i often refer to it). we "deliver" almost 5000 babies a year and have about a 30% c-section rate and a near 70% epidural rate. and i am a very strong natural birth advocate. before i was an rn, i was a doula. i have had three births myself. the first being an unmedicated "land" birth in the hospital, the second was an unmedicated water birth in the hospital, and the third was at home.

i have worked at this hospital for 3 and a half years. time after time, i get flack from my colleagues ( nurses, doctors, midwives)... something to the tune of... if you believe in homebirth, how and why can you work here?! i am the brunt of many jokes and teasing. when i advocate for my moms and dads and babies i almost always get eyes rolling. although i do care about my co-workers, i feel like i need to watch my back most of the time.

basically, what it comes down to is that i too believe in "bridging the gap" between the natural birthing world and mainstream birthers and practioners. but, it is mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting to say the least. i do think my beliefs that 'birth is safe and normal the vast majority of the time' does tend to illicit defensive attitudes. and i do believe that most of the time the defensiveness is based in fear and guilt.

in my experiences i have learned that optimizing outcomes, regardless of practioner and women's choices in their plan of care, is the best goal. for example, i challenge women who come in with the determination of getting an epidural as soon as possible(!) to go as long as they can to help the baby get in the best position possible for birth- first (instead of trying to encourage people to not get an epidural). fortunately we have science on our side when it comes to teaching evidenced based practice of minimizing intervention!

when postpartum women exclaim to me that they never could have done it without an epidural, i always lovingly tell them that isn't true. i explain to them that given their circumstances (ie baby position, no sleep for 3 days etc) that they "chose" to have an epidural because they really wanted pain relief or sleep at that time. i tell them that every experience is different, but most likely their next experience will be easier. i try to re-empower them in a sense and leave a door open to their next experience.

it is definitely challenging to not take things personally. when any single woman or baby is harmed because of unneccesary interventions, i feel hurt. i will do anything i can to protect/advocate for my families, but with the current birthing culture, i/we are up against very steep mountain.

but that's not stopping me from climbing!
Thank you, Lexi. What a position to be in. I can definitely see how frustrating it must be to have your job and try to balance that with your outlook on pregnancy and birth. But, you are giving a gift to every single family that you come in contact with. Whether they realize it at the time or not. You may be the one thing a mom remembers when she has her next baby, and realizes that she CAN do it.
Lexi,

Thank you for hanging in there! I know you are making a difference in people's lives as a result. I had a hospital birth for my first and I believe it was my L&D RN who saved me from getting a c-section. I was induced before my body was ready (based on my Bishop's score) - basically scared into it b/c I was told my baby was too big at 9 lbs (which I now know is not accurate, based on my physical characteristics).

Long story short, I was required to have an epidural after 12 hrs of pitocin and lack of real progression (only to 5cm in that time). I'm positive my nurse turned down (or off) my epidural when I was fully dilated so I would be able to push effectively. I was able to feel every contraction (but not my legs! lol) and only pushed for about an hour and 20 minutes (23 hours after I was induced). My midwife told me that this probably saved me from having to get a c-section. That nurse was WONDERFUL. She was so supportive, massaged my perineum to help with the birth, really encouraging, kept telling me that I was doing great, that we were going to have the baby soon. She made me feel like she was my personal cheerleader and completely on my team! My experience with her is the saving positive memory from that whole birth experience. This time I'm having a home birth. But, I will forever be grateful for that wonderful woman! So, thank you for being that woman for other hospital birthing moms. :)
I don't know how to handle it, honestly. I've gotten very tired of being the broken record, like you said. I have figured out how to pick out the people (by the looks on their faces) that will not be defensive. I only answer questions that have been asked and only with a direct, brief answer. If they ask me how I could do it (and, of course, say they 'couldn't do it'), then I just say, "I made my choice. This was my choice. I'm not sure what choice I would make in your position." I don't speak of the benefits unless someone specifically asks that question. I don't talk about the dangers unless someone specifically asks that question. I wish it weren't this way, but I remember being that mom. I really do, and its hard. The choices we make as parents are permanent, and we just don't know how permanent they are or how many choices we truly have (in birth) until usually after the fact. So, moms who are pregnant for the first time? I will let all my knowledge fly to them. Moms who have given birth medicated or in the hospital by choice? I do not push my luck. Its devastating to accept that a choice that you made for your own convenience may have been what caused complications in your birth or with your child. And to realize that just a little more knowledge or courage could possibly have changed everything. Pretty devastating...speaking from experience. Coming to that realization took me about 2 years of being brow-beaten in forums online before I actually began to accept it. Then, in June 09, I had my home birth. And I feel no need to defend it, explain it, or talk about it unless someone asks respectfully.

I've had a interesting time with this, not so much as having people yell at me, just the small comments.

Having a hospital birth doesn't mean you are less than a women who had a HB.  What I am starting to think is going on here, is that they DO feel a lesser women because they did, because their Dr and nurses may of made them feel that way. The big difference that I've noticed is how CNM don't talk down to you the way Dr's do.  And after having a hospital birth myself with my first, I can now see where that comment stems from.  Having nurses coming in and checking you, making comments about how you are progressing. It can be very demeaning mentally. The time crunch doesn't help either, you must dilate and deliver in such and such time period. Then when it is time to push, you are being told you are pushing hard enough or efficiently enough and are being threatened with a possible C-section.

It's quite a mental/ego grinder. Especially after being told throughout your pregnancy that you are doing great and that everything is going like it should.

I think it's sad that they probably are sad deep down about what happened during their birth. Now they are face to face with someone who has complete confidence in themselves and their bodies AND they have a midwife/ob who is the same. Not the demeaning one yelling at them during labor, making them feel like the lowliest mammal on the planet.

It's no wonder we now have a growing group of women who are becoming phobic about birth.

It's all so sad and my heart goes out to these women.

I do not feel like I am on the defensive at all. I had a medicated hospital birth with my first child. I was 17. I was scared and I was ignorant. Looking back I feel like my OB was dishonest with me about the risks of medications during labor, and nobody told me about childbirth education classes. I ended up with an epidural and vacuum extraction delivery in the hospital. My son was born swollen and bruised. I had receive an episiotomy - not even knowing what an episiotomy was or that there was a possibility the doctor would cut me without asking or telling me what he was doing.  It was very painful, emotionally and physically. 15 years later I am pregnant for the second time and I have spent the last 7 months talking to professionals and reading about options and risks. I have selected a wonderful midwife and I am choosing to labor and hopefully deliver at home. I know things can happen and I am fully prepared in case a transfer to the hospital is necessary. I make it a point to ask others who are expecting where they are planning to deliver and why. I do this out of a genuine concern for women who have not asked the questions and made an informed decision to take control over their situations. I do not think that having a medicated birth in the hospital is a bad decision, as long as it is a conscious decision based on research and weighing the risks. Maybe this is why I don't feel defensive - I am not advocating for home birth as much as I am advocating for research and informed decision making, which to me means "Don't just listen to your care provider. Gather as much information you can, study it, and decide for yourself what is best for you and your baby." 

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