Bet you never knew that there are entire on-line communities dedicated to different “styles” of birth. The natural birth community is fairly enormous and has many sub groups – vbac groups, birthing after trauma groups, homebirth and freebirth groups and hospital birth groups. The anti-natural childbirth community appears to be much smaller, but I can’t be sure as I’m not terribly active in that area. I accidentally joined one of their groups (which is why you shouldn’t join groups late at night after drinking wine…) and thought I’d stick around and see what it is all about. I love learning about different ways of thinking and viewing things and I thought it would be a great opportunity to see if I could put my principles of respect into practice while I was writing this article.
In some ways I wish I had just removed myself from the group immediately. And in some ways I have learned a few different things. This group is similar to natural birth groups in that it is made up of women (although I believe it also has some men…which is unheard of in natural birth groups) who have had a huge range of birth experiences – positive, traumatic, vaginal, surgical, medicated, unmedicated. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end…
In natural birth groups we often talk about the problems with the current maternity care system and LINK http://wholewoman.hubgarden.com/vicarious-birth-trauma-when-your-friend-is-induced/ how other births can leave us feeling.] We very rarely attack the women who have those births though. In the anti-natural birth community it is exceptionally common to see comments and posts about how awful women who have “natural” births are. Because women who have natural births only do so so that they can make other women feel bad, right? Now we are back to that philosophy that being positive about your birth is bad - unless it was a medically managed birth and you are singing the praises of your OB, of course!
The natural birth community don't make fun or disrespect women who have caesareans. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
I’ll never understand why speaking positively about your natural birth is bad! We live in a nation (Australia for those who don’t know where I am from) where our heroes are men who can kick a football, run really fast or hit a ball with a bat. Sure they often put their bodies on the line to do this, but at the end of the day all they have really achieved is to kick a ball, run fast or hit a ball with a bat. Some time towards the end of the season there’s a big gala dinner and ball and the guy who did the best job kicking a ball, running fast or hitting a ball with a bat gets a medal. Yep – true story. If a man gets to be proud of his achievement of kicking a ball the most times this year, why can’t a woman be proud of her childbirth achievements?
And remember that these sports people – they get paid to do their thing. They receive regular training and have access to experts in nutrition and fitness to help them. Women choosing a natural birth face many challenges. Our maternity care system and society in general is just not set up to adequately support those women who wish to plan a natural birth. Women find themselves pushed into tests they didn’t know the risks or consequences of and face ridicule when they say they want to birth naturally “No epidural hey? Are you after a medal?” Planning and achieving a physiological birth in our current birth climate is a challenge – and shouldn’t women be proud when they meet and overcome a challenge?
Planning an epidural free birth? You must just want a medal! Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
All these natural birth groups encourage women to share their birth stories. And because we live in a nation where 1 in 3 women will end up with a caesarean there are a lot of stories of births that would not be considered “natural”. I’ve NEVER seen anyone rubbish someone else’s story. No-one tells a woman that she should not be happy with her birth (if she is) or that she must be happy with her birth (if she isn’t). No-one tells a woman that she is somehow “less” because of anything that occurred during her birth. No-one tells these women that they mustn’t love their child because they made a decision they consider unsafe. Because here’s the thing: Most natural birth groups aren’t really about natural birth…they are about positive and empowered birth. They are about ensuring that women make informed decisions, take responsibility for their births and feel good about themselves and their birth. They are about discussing ways to make the system more conducive to natural birth and to informed decision making. They are not about making fun of women.
Natural birth communities welcome all birth stories without ridicule. Image courtesy of my own library.
But do some women out there tell others that a particular choice is bad or that they “should be ashamed of themselves” for making that choice? Of course. To quote a friend “People are people. Some are nice. Some are arseholes”. Another true story. Some people in the natural birth community are arseholes and go out of their way to make other women feel bad. This is NOT okay and is not a practice supported by the vast majority of the natural birth community. Just as some members of the anti-natural childbirth community are arseholes and go out of their way to make women choosing natural birth feel bad by telling them that they are putting themselves above their baby or by telling women who choose a homebirth that they mustn’t love their baby. Or by calling women who experience stillbirth after a homebirth “murderers”. So here’s the 60 million dollar question: If it’s not okay for the natural childbirth community to “judge” certain choices, why is it okay for the anti-natural childbirth community to do it? Remember that respect isn’t just for those who make the same choices as us.
The natural childbirth community generally seems to have a more positive vibe about it. Women are complimenting, praising and yes, bragging. They talk about birth a lot! They get excited about birth. They share positive affirmations with women who are afraid or over it. If a woman asks a question they answer with their own experiences or with an article that helped them or with an article from a medical journal. There is a lot of kindness and compassion. Even conversations about birth trauma and birth complications are more about building up the women experiencing these than running down others. And yes…we are not all about the unicorns and fairies. We have conversations about “when things go wrong”. Women share their stories of trauma, tearing, prolapse, unwanted interventions, sick babies and stillbirth. And we don’t tell them that “if only you’d done what the doctor said your baby wouldn’t be sick”. Nor do we tell them that it doesn’t matter if they (the mum) are ill or not coping, we never tell them that the baby is all that matters. We comfort them and offer our own experiences in healing and moving on. If a woman has a caesarean and feels positive about her experience we rejoice with her. If a woman has an unmedicated birth and wishes she had an epidural instead we offer sincere words of comfort and regret.
The natural childbirth community doesn’t tell women that there is only one “right” way to birth. I’ve not seen anyone suggest that an unmedicated vaginal birth is the best option for every woman (okay…I did see one woman say that in a group I manage and she was asked to leave the group pretty quick smart!). I’ve not seen anyone suggest that homebirth is the best option for every woman and baby. We celebrate diversity and individuality. Because we are all unique – we have unique backgrounds, experiences, beliefs, cultures, knowledge, hopes and goals. And that is something that the anti-natural childbirth movement seems to forget. Because just as homebirth or natural birth isn’t the best option for all women, neither is hospital birth with an OB.
No-one loves a baby more than its mother. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
So let’s all start remembering this: No-one loves a baby more than its mother. No-one has a greater interest in the wellbeing of a baby than its mother. No-one is better qualified to decide what makes a positive birth than the woman giving birth. Women deserve real choice, real autonomy and real respect – regardless of what their birth plan is.