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Listen, learn, communicate, support - A man's place in birthing choices

by lizzi (follow)
Helping plant the seeds of positive birth. www.sproutbirthing.com.au
Birth (105)     
So I wrote this article the other day. It was written in response to a particular incident. I was angry. The article has a very angry tone. And, of course, because it’s written very emotively it gathered a lot of emotive responses. There was so much feedback that I feel I need to write a whole article just to respond to the main points. Which brings us here.

I would like to clarify here so everyone is SUPER clear as to which men and women the article was aimed at. It was aimed at the men who refuse to listen, learn, research and communicate yet believe that their opinion on birthing choices should be final. And it was aimed at the women who are constantly telling us that we need to “just listen to him and compromise”. It was aimed at those who believe that a man has a right to assert his authority over a woman’s body and force her to birth how he chooses. It wasn’t aimed at the men who engage in dialogue and research and respect their partner’s right to bodily autonomy.


“It’s his baby too!”

Yes. It is his baby too. And you know what that means? He SHOULD be involved in discussions and conversations and research. The men that the original article was aimed at are, however, not doing this. They are closing off dialogue because “Birth doesn’t matter” or “A caesarean would be easier for me” or “What will our families think”. They consider the birth terrorism beamed to us by the mainstream media to be research and have no interest in learning a new perspective.

So, men, here’s your big chance to show how much you care about your baby by ensuring that you are knowledgeable and informed. You can show how much you love your baby by ensuring that its mother is treated with respect and dignity. You can help to provide a great foundation for your family by supporting your partner to be a confident and empowered mother who is healthy in every way. Doesn’t your baby deserve a healthy mother?



Father and child
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


“But if the woman dies he’s left holding the baby”

Yep I got this comment a few times. Now…I’ve never been a single parent and I’ve never been dead. BUT I’m going to make a huge assumption that dying sucks more than being a single parent. Seriously. If anyone out there HAS been a single parent and dead please feel free to weigh in on this.

The fact that most men are not pushing women into an option that is actually less likely to result in their death kind of puts me off this one. Only one woman has died during a homebirth in Australia in the last 20 years or so. A woman who has a caesarean is 3 times more likely to die than a woman who has a vaginal birth and by birthing in hospital a woman has a 25 – 80% chance of having a caesarean depending on which hospital and care provider she chooses. Then there's the fact that suicide is a big killer of women in the year following birth - how many of those are due to traumatic births that perhaps could have been avoided had her wishes been respected?

While women are routinely held responsible for negative outcomes occurring during a homebirth I want to know: If a man forces his partner into a hospital birth or surgical birth and there is a negative outcome will everyone treat him with the same contempt as they do the homebirther? If a woman dies as a result of the man’s choice to push her into a situation she didn’t feel was safe will it be his fault?


“Just listen / talk / don’t discount his fears / can’t you compromise?”

This comment makes a few assumptions. Assumption one is that the woman hasn’t been listening to her partner and that she has been fobbing off his fears. The other assumption is that when a man and a woman disagree it must be because the woman is being unreasonable or not listening or refusing to communicate. I’m not saying that this is impossible…but it seems unlikely.

This really brings us to the reasonable woman syndrome. We want to be seen as reasonable so we discuss and talk and share our research. We encourage other women to “be reasonable”. Compromise. Keep the peace. Let him believe that he’s the boss so that he can feel good about making the decisions and taking care of you.



Lovers
Women should be supporting each other, not encouraging oppression. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


When a man says “My wife wants to birth at home but I want her to birth in the hospital” where are the people asking HIM to listen to her reasons, acknowledge her fears, do some research, compromise.


I often wonder how different the conversation would be if the man was trying to push the woman into vaginal birth or homebirth when she wanted a medically managed birth. Would so many other women still be telling her to “be reasonable” and “it’s his baby too”? Would she be encouraged to compromise by having the baby at home with a trained midwife instead of freebirthing? Or would she be told that her husband has lost his marbles and of course it’s her body and she should do what she believes is safest?


So my take home message is:

To the men: Your partner loves you enough to have a baby with you. When you don’t support her in her birthing goals she feels sad, she feels unloved and she feels alone. She wants you to tell the world how proud you are to have an amazing woman who is informed and strong and empowered. She wants to be able to tell the world what an amazing birthing team you make and how safe she feels with you by her side, loving her and advocating for her. She feels ripped off that she can’t.



Pregnant couple
Your partner wants you by her side. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


To the people shaming these women: My original article was really aimed at you. You are the ones I held the most anger at. Shaming women for making a choice or feeling differently to you is not okay. If you don’t know how to support a woman who is experiencing these issues that’s okay. You don’t HAVE to make a comment on every single thing that you see on the internet. Just sayin’.


To the women in these situations: You have my love. You have my support. I really can’t offer you anything more, except a promise to keep fighting for awareness of this issue. I’m sorry.


Further reading:

The vessel
Just one day
But I don't want to birth in a hospital
Motherhood: Risk and sacrifice
Why we see caesareans as the easy way out
How the hospital environment hinders physiological birth
Yes, your but looks big in that hypocrisy


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