Which is it – childbirth is safe, normal, natural or dangerous, wild, and unpredictable? Do we really need to draw a line in the sand like that? Isn’t childbirth all of that – normal, natural, wild, unpredictable, sometimes just fine, sometimes not?
No, childbirth is not always safe. I work with a gal who has nearly died in childbirth several times. She lost one child along the way. She birthed at hospitals under the care of a high-risk obstetrician, and that was a necessary reality for her. A friend of mine recently birthed a baby still. They don’t know why the baby died during birth. Another friend of mine suffered an uterine rupture. Her smart baby was blocking the artery that was compromised, and that is why she is still alive today.
But often pregnancy and childbirth is normal and uneventful. (Well, it’s always a big life event, but it’s not nearly as dramatic as Baby Story would have you believe.) It seems like it is more fun for people – some natural birthers and some who want all of the technological bells and whistles – to hype up childbirth. “Ugh, it was SO PAINFUL I just HAD to have my epidural.” “No one is going to take away my VBAC.” “Oh my gosh if I hadn’t had that c-section, I’d have died in childbirth.” “I’ll have to be dying before I let anyone take me to the hospital again.” (For what it’s worth, I said that last statement following my October miscarriage.) Drama drama drama. Me me me. I want I want I want. I’m being a bit extreme here, but I read so much selfishness and self-indulgence and self-glorification on both sides of the proverbial childbirth fence. Does this help women? Does this empower women to make informed choices that “make” childbirth safe?
Let’s come back to that term “safe” as it applies to childbirth venue. If you don’t believe homebirth is a safe choice, then it’s not . . . for you. If you don’t believe that you can have a natural non-interventive birth in the hospital, and that’s important to you, then you probably won’t have a good experience in the hospital. If you don’t trust anyone but your self and perhaps your partner in childbirth, you will probably prefer unassisted childbirth. We’re only “safe” when we believe we’re safe. I honestly don’t believe that MOST women are safer in the hospital or safer at home or safer at a birth center. They perceive a level of safety and psychologically, and even physiologically, respond to that way of thinking. Certainly there are plenty of “yeah, but” scenarios out there, but I very clearly wrote “MOST women” above.
Be afraid to birth at home. That’s fine. But don’t call a woman crazy for choosing to feel safe at home, especially if she is surrounded by well-trained and caring support. You can be afraid even when someone else isn’t. Be afraid to birth at the hospital. That’s fine. But don’t criticize the woman who chooses to deliver at a hospital, especially if she is surrounded by well-trained and caring support.
It is an unfortunate reality that babies die in childbirth . . . that women die in childbirth. I think doctors, midwives, and other childbirth support providers are all interested in reducing negative outcomes in childbirth. I just wish, hope, and pray for the day when these parties can meet and work from a point of mutual respect. That’s when we’ll have a maternal-child healthcare system that is woman-baby centered and certainly safer for all involved.
We can’t make changes if we don’t talk. Debate is not talk. People who debate don’t listen. I think people who get caught up in debating issues without stopping to listen and learn are afraid. They are frightened sad unhappy people. I have my own set of fears just like anyone else, but I strive to run my life from a place of power and trust. I don’t want to pass fear along to my children. I don’t want to be remembered that way. I don’t want to approach God that way.
May you find power, faith, and love, now and forever.