Your Safety Is More Important Than Your Birthing Experience
I am disheartened by the number of women who now subscribe to the notion of planning the perfect birth. For one thing, this is not your wedding. The day is not just about you. There are also so many other considerations: the baby, your spouse, and other children you may have at home. All of these people are counting on you to bring the baby safely into this world and to keep yourself alive and healthy while doing it. Yet, for so many women, the risks of childbirth have taken a backseat to their desired experience.
When my husband and I toured the hospital for our third child (we had switched insurance and hospitals; otherwise I would not have bothered with the tour), we learned that many people had multiple page birth plans. One nurse had apparently seen a five-page, single-spaced plan. Seriously? Even if you are having a scheduled c-section, there are many things that don’t go according to plan. Just like the rest of motherhood, flexibility is the key to the best experience possible.
In recent discussions, I have discovered that one of the major problems is that the “natural” industry has worked overtime in convincing mothers that birth is completely safe and “natural”, that their bodies know best, and that doctors have formed some kind of nefarious conspiracy to force women into “unnatural” interventions. None of these assertions are true. Clearly, your body does no always know best. If that were the case, no one would develop diseases like diabetes or cancer, or have need for medical interventions like glasses or dialysis. Nor is birth a safe venture. In the glorious “olden days”, women were dying by the thousands in childbirth. Thanks to medical advances, women are dying less in childbirth. But even today, birth is not a completely safe activity, usually due to things like hemorrhaging or eclampsia.
More and more, however, women are shrugging off these risks to follow their perfect birth plan and to have their “womanly birthing experience”. (I wish I was making up that phrase, but someone actually used it on Facebook). In fact, I got into a serious debate with some of these women, and was skewered for being tactless and judgmental. In particular, the woman in question was distressed that her obstetrician would not perform a vbac (vaginal birth after c-section) after two prior c-sections, including one where she had given birth to triplets. The mom-powering on there was shocking and disgusting. Most encouraged the mom to go for it, telling her to find a doctor that would do it, and citing to vbac statistics that would not apply to her in this scenario because of the prior triplet birth.
The commenters included another mom who happily boasted that she had left a hospital in labor and against medical advice, to drive to another hospital over forty miles away, because the first hospital refused to perform a vbac since she was over 42 weeks. Again the moms cheered. When I pointed out that this was not a triumph but shameful and selfish I was eviscerated. The mom tried to justify it by stating that she had only been one centimeter dilated, but she had also stated that initially her contractions had bene three minutes apart then had slowed to twenty. The slowing contractions, of course, could have been due to fetal distress, but she would have had no way of knowing that since I doubt she was hooked up to a monitor while driving herself somewhere else. She asserted that nothing happened to her baby. Yay, I guess? I’m sorry, but I’m calling a spade a spade. She risked her baby’s life just so she could have the birthing experience that she planned. That’s not the epitome of triumphant; it’s the epitome of selfish.
In defending this zealotry, another mother posted a link to an article entitled “A healthy baby isn’t all that matters”. I am not including the link because I don’t want to give it press but if you want to laugh your way through it, go ahead and google it. While there are things in the article that I can get behind (who doesn’t want to make birth safer and more respectful for mom and baby?), the idea that the experience is more important than the safety of mom and baby is one I cannot abide. The gist is that the day of birth is something that sticks with moms forever so it should be this wonderful preplanned experience.
I brought up the article to my husband and mused that perhaps I was simply different than other women in that I don’t hold up these kind of days to be the beginning and end all of my life. I loved my wedding day, but it was not the best day with my husband. I have had (and hope to have) many days with him that surpass the wedding. Likewise, I remember my first two kids’ births fondly, but I have many special memories with them that have surpassed those days. (My third birth was a mess if you refer to previous posts). In short, these days were important, but my emotional stability is not entirely predicated on what happened just at these events.
In addition, I don’t see how the experience can ever supplant safety. To use flying as an example, it is certainly nice when airlines have better food, nicer stewardesses, and more leg room. But if there is turbulence and the pilot has to eliminate the beverage service so everyone can be strapped in, I am not going to lament that I didn’t get my ginger ale and pretzels. The airlines’ top priority is, as it should be, safety. This is the same with labor and birth.
I think the problem is that too many women don’t understand the risks and try to supplant their limited knowledge and “research” for that of the physicians. On another site, one to which I am not giving credit because it is ridiculous, the author, in promoting listening to your own body, stated that women should see doctors as a “great resource, but not to trust them blindly”. A great resource? They are not a freaking encyclopedia. They are the actual person providing the service and your care. If you don’t trust them, then that’s a whole separate matter and indeed you should find a different one. But to simply consider the doctor’s point of view on par with googled “research”, on-line articles, and advice on Facebook is absolutely insane. The worst offenders are the ones who go on-line and ask questions like “My doctor said I should do X, but do you all think I should do Y?” Your health care is not the game “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” where you poll the damn audience.
Yet, this precisely what too many women are starting to do. It is one thing to be an advocate for yourself and the health of you and the baby, and completely another to view the medical care provider with suspicion and mistrust as an enemy of your preconceived birth experience. As for me, I had a very simple birth plan: I wanted to be given pain meds, I wanted to formula feed in peace, and I wanted myself and the baby to be taken care of safely. Apparently this was too complicated for the hospital, though, so if there is a next time I will just shorten it to “don’t kill me”.
I am mediocre mom!
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YES!!!! I want to reach right thru this screen and give you a high five! Several times I’ve tried to communicate the same things you’ve pointed out, but I was quickly reproached. I don’t like being made fun of, or getting ganged up on, so I have learned to just be quiet. Thank you for having the guts to say it out loud!