Response to the uproar over the “cult of natural childbirth”
I am not a cultist. I am not a home-birth advocate, although I think it can be done safely. I am not a highly medical intervention advocate either. Both extremes put our mothers and babies in danger. I have been witness to some train wreck births on both ends of the intervention spectrum. Women and doctors can become fixed on an idea and cannot be dissuaded from their perspective despite their current situation. This can lead to mistakes on both sides, resulting in poor outcomes.
I am a childbirth educator, advanced practice nurse and a mother. I am passionate about low intervention, natural childbirth and breastfeeding. I am an advocate for informed parents making decisions collaboratively with their provider of choice. I am an advocate of the use of the fewest medical interventions necessary for the comfort and safety of mother and baby.
If a mom plans on an epidural, formula feeding and an induction at 39 weeks my job is to educate her on the best way to make her plan safe and effective. I will ensure that she know that she has alternatives. Many women are not empowered to know that they have choices, relying on what their mother, aunts or friends tell them is appropriate. Likewise when a mother desires zero interventions, I will carefully explain the risks and benefits so that she can make an informed decision about her and her baby’s care. Women are influenced by media, social interactions, and past experiences. Doctors and nurses should not discount those influences, but add to it the knowledge that they bring, as health care providers.
Women such as Elissa Strauss and Amy Tuteur, M.D. have recently shared their outrage over extreme, natural childbirthers that are glorifying childbirth, sometimes at the expense of their baby’s life. I have seen that type of misguided activism and the sad outcomes that can occur. Although I agree that some advocates are taking the movement too far, care needs to be taken not to discredit and marginalize the natural childbirth movement as a whole. There is room in feminism for all of us women if judgmental ladies would move over.
There is power in childbirth. It is an amazing feat that only women can accomplish. Some women choose to exercise their power by having a scheduled, medicalized, epiduralized experience. Good for them! We should celebrate that we, as women, have healthcare choices and autonomy to demand that type of childbirth. Women who choose to have a more natural childbirth experience should also be celebrated and encouraged. I have been moved to tears watching women find strength, that they didn’t know they had, during natural labor and childbirth. I have also been amazed at the miracle of birth in the operating room. The bottom line is that women have choices. Women must not check their autonomy at the labor unit door. Women deserve be informed of risks and benefits to all medical procedures and their choices should be respected. Women need to respect other women’s decisions about childbirth. There is not a right or wrong way to give birth. Each woman, baby and situation is unique and options and choices need to reflect the details of each childbirth situation.
Let’s take a step back and remember what is important in this discussion. If women are happily foregoing epidurals and Pitocin, then why should the media and medical professionals discourage it? Identify, criticize and educate about the real dangerous ideas that are out there, like completely unattended births or home VBACs. When women raise such a huff over what other groups of women are doing it smacks of jealousy and esteem issues. If you are secure in your woman and motherhood then seeing a bunch of crunchy moms blog, about how they are potty training their 4 week old or how they didn’t make one sound in labor, will not affect you at all.
Live and let live sisters.
© 2014, Carrie Halsey. All rights reserved.