I hopped on the treadmill yesterday at work. Typically, if I have 15 minutes to do this, I catch up on breastfeeding stuff or listen to a breastfeeding podcast so that I don't feel like a giant slacker, but yesterday my podcast wouldn't work. So I grabbed an old issue of Self magazine. And I found this article. For those of you who don't want to read it (but you should, it's good), it examines childbirth, mostly from the perspective of the author, who had a very traumatic birth experience. As I was reading it, I came across this quote:
"By now, one movie, two books, four doulas and approximately 15 mothers had told me that my traumatic birth was my fault, the problems all stemming from my not believing in my body...Would we ever tell someone whose liver has failed that it was because she didn't believe in it?"
THAT. That is the problem with labor and delivery and birth and judgment. Right there.
I mean, just take a look at some of the comments with this online version:
"I'm so disappointed in this article. The author is ignorant and ill-prepared to write on such an issue."
"she is not to blame for her traumatic birth (which to me sounds like every recount of any hospital birth I have ever heard) because she didn't trust her body but because she was VERY uneducated about the whole process. You researched this article more than you researched your birth (and that's not saying much) and you were unprepared and surprised throughout the whole process."
"Women just need to be more assertive with doctors and not let them scare you into the worst possible scenario. Just tell yourself, whose gonna deliver your baby after the apocalypse, its gonna be you and your mate. Be strong ladies and take back your bodies from doctors and the government."
If you don't get the birth you wanted or planned, it shouldn't be your fault. No one else should get to cast judgment on you for it not working out. That's bullshit, right there. I am SO INCREDIBLY SICK of the judgment that comes along with birthing a baby. My friend Summer has told me, several times, that she didn't feel badly about having a c-section at all - until the natural birth advocates made her feel like shit over it by telling her how it was all her fault. If you're reading this and you're one of those people, please note: you are not helping "the cause." You are, in fact, sounding like a huge tool and everyone but your equally judgy peers secretly dreams of punching you out. Fact. (This isn't the people who gently try to inform people that they should educate themselves, btw - it's the community that goes, "Well, if you hadn't done a,b,c, it would have worked out." YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING THAT SO SHUT UP.)
Should women be empowered and strong and educated? Oh, absolutely. But when you're having waves of contractions and in pain, it's NOT always easy to stand up for yourself, and all the damn research and reading and interviewing and doulas in the world may not help that. Instead of taking about how terrible women are, and how uneducated and untrusting of our bodies we are, why don't we point that finger right back at the practitioners who are taking advantage of this to push women into things they don't want? Why aren't birth advocates asking to speak at med schools, or talking to obs? In rape, if we blame the victim, it's terrible and shameful. In birth, if we do, it's normal. That has GOT to change. Birth is in a terrible state in the US, but we can't fix it by telling every woman how dumb she is.
Sometimes, I hear people advocate this whole idea of how every woman should labor at home with a midwife and everything would be amazing. Utopian but not at all feasible. Not everyone can do that, and, more, not everyone wants that. When I attended doula training, I remember the instructor talking about how, at her first meeting with patients, she had them sketch an ideal birth. Like, if money, and location and even reality weren't barriers, where would they feel most comfortable birthing? She had people draw clouds, and fields, and big giant tubs and plush beds. One woman drew a hospital. She told her that the idea of birthing anywhere else quite frankly terrified her. She had known her doctor all her life; family and friends staffed the hospital; she was confident and happy there. That was her happy place. She went in dilated to a 1 and did, in fact, have a drug free all natural vaginal delivery within 24 hours.
I'm gonna end this blog here, but I do want to leave it with one more quote from the article, from the author of my very favorite pregnancy/birth book:
"I don't understand this phrase 'take back your birth,'" nurse-midwife Pam England, creator of Birthing From Within, a popular book and series of childbirth preparation classes, tells me. "Who took it? What would a woman tell herself it meant about her if she failed to meet the criteria she made up for 'taking back' her birth? I am concerned that this phrase, meant to generate action and a feeling of empowerment, may actually be generated by or feeding the victim part of her."