Stop “trying to be good” in your birth choices

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Andrea's son, Nico Boon
I thought some of you would super enjoy Andrea’s story of her second son’s hospital birth. She perfectly expresses the conflicts so many of us experience when making choices about birth:

A few days before I went into labor I had a long talk with a friend who is a doula. Given that I was past my due date and feeling anxious she was wondering if there was some kind of mental block that wasn’t allowing my body to relax and go into labor. She asked me a ton of questions about how I wanted the birth to go, what my hopes were, etc. What I appreciated most was that she asked these questions without any agenda.

I had an assumption that doulas and midwives had an agenda about delivering at home, are suspicious of hospitals and generally frown on any sort of pain medication. Turns out I was wrong, and I felt so relieved when it was clear that she really just wanted to know what kind of birth experience I wanted to have. The more I talked with her, the more I realized that not scheduling an induction, not having an epidural, etc. was me trying to be good. Trying to do it right… in the “natural” way that people do it here in Berkeley.

Read Andrea’s full birth story, and then come back and let’s talk about the machinations we each go through with birth decisions.

Birth is a complex issue, made especially muddy by the swirl of emotions, medical concerns and pressures, cultural trends, and health care issues. That said, I think the goal of any one providing birth support for a friend or client should always be supporting women as they make their own best decisions, and I totally commend Andrea’s friend/doula for exemplifying that support.

Obviously, as the daughter of the midwife, I personally support everyone who wants to have an unmedicated and/or at-home birth pursuing that option. I desperately wish that the American health care system was better equipped to allow more women to pursue that vision. I think the world would be a better place if birth was less medicalized.

But, I also support strong women, like Andrea, who know their options and make their own choices. I don’t think making a choice based on misplaced guilt or a dutiful sense of what you “should do” is any better than making a choice based on pressure from ill-informed family members or a woefully broken health care system. Ultimately, it’s about collecting as much information as possible, and making the best decision for yourself that you can.

Comments on Stop “trying to be good” in your birth choices

  1. I love this article!!!!

    I got into a HUGE facebook argument last week when a pregnant cousin of mine got comments ranging from an aunt saying “You’re a big girl, you don’t need an epidural, I didn’t have one.” to one of her friends who is currently pregnant insisting that she “Will absolutely not” have na epidural because it shocks the uterus and how she will hypnobirth and smile her way through labour blah blah blah…

    My argument was “Don’t listen to ANYONE other than what your own body is telling you” and don’t think you are any less if you need an epidural or any other sort of medical “intervention”.

    It seems these dayd that everyone thinks their opinions are the best and people assert so much pressure on pregnant women to make “Good” and “right” decisions. The way I see it, as long as the mom and baby come out of the birth experience happy and healthy, who really cares?

    My son is 10 years old now and I had a hospital birth, and he was born using forcepts because he was stuck, not willing to come out when he needed to, and had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. The choices I made regarding medication during his birth were my own and I do not regret them or feel the need to justify myself. They were what was right for me at that moment.

  2. I disagree. There isn’t anything wrong with “trying to be good”. People here are confusing doing the best one can (with the circumstances we have) with peer pressure. Andrea did what she thought was right not what anyone else thought she should do and I think that’s great. Home birthing or pain free medication mothers are doing the same any mother here is, the best they believe for themselves and their families. I don’t think it’s beneficial to paint them out to be the bad guy who makes everyone feel bad about their experiences. There are judgmental people on all sides, we all just have to learn to stand up for ourselves as Andrea did. I support every woman’s experience here but I really don’t feel the same in return. Personally, I want medication-free birth because I am concerned about the effects not because I am in anyway hardcore or competing against anyone.

  3. The one thing that people say that really bother me as someone who advocates for unmedicated, un-medicalized birth is “You don’t get a medal for going without meds.” That is as dismissive & divisive as women attacking other women for getting the drugs or saying someone whose baby was born via C-section didn’t give birth. In all cases, it’s an attempt to invalidate someone else’s birth choices. Most women I know who choose to go with unmedicated birth don’t do it out of female machoism. They do it because they truly believe it is best for themselves and their babies. I, for the most part, could care less what choice another woman makes, I only hope that they research and educate themselves to find the best options for themselves, their families, and their children, whatever those choices are, rather than simply going by what everyone else says.

    • If I can disagree with you moderately, I find the statement “I only hope that they research and educate themselves to find the best options for themselves, their families, and their children, whatever those choices are, rather than simply going by what everyone else says.” just as dismissive and problematic as, “You don’t get a medal.” Generally when someone says to me, “Well, I hope you did your research,” it’s from a standpoint of disagreeing with my choice and assuming that I didn’t research the benefit/risk appropriately.

      You may, in fact, not mean in that way — but it’s how it comes across to me every. single. time. I find it generally appalling how as parents, we tend to assume people doing it different are somehow ignorant or uninformed. How little faith we have in each other as people. (I’ll admit that I’ve done it, and I’m willing to bet at some point most of us have.)

      • What I meant by that is… don’t decide you have to go unmedicated because everyone you know says that’s the way to go and you think you need to be good, don’t decide you have to have a c-section because you are told you should, don’t decide to do anything based on “Well, X, Y, or Z said to do THIS”…without doing the research and making sure that it is right for you. I’ve known people who were making the SAME birth choices I am, but who fully admitted they didn’t look into it at all or research anything that could happen. So it’s not just something I think about in cases where I disagree with the person. Hell, I’ve done it too, in my first birth. I listened to things that I could have or should have at least researched. I purposely did NOT research other things that maybe I should have, because I was determined that my birth was going to go my way. My lack of research led me to make a decision I would NOT have made had I actually done reading beforehand. I have supported friends through many different type of birth choices, and I think there are different choices for everyone. The only thing I will constantly and consistently advocate is research and knowledge. It’s not an attempt to be dismissive or say that if someone makes a different decision than I do, they’re ignorant or uninformed. It’s just something I’ve discovered in talking to people around me–a lot of people don’t research and they just take the word of everyone around them. I know I did it. Hence, I don’t care if people make the same choices as I do, I just would hope they come from a position of knowledge, not “go with the flow.”

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