A certain member of the anti-natural birth community recently asked the question: “If you give birth in a forest, and there’s no one around to tweet it, video it, live blog it or create birth announcements that proclaim it happened outside the hospital, is it still a homebirth anyway?” The point of her article was that women only have homebirths so they can tell the world how awesome they are and “brag” about their birth on social media. But social media plays a really huge part in many different births. Maybe we should ask: if you give birth ANYWHERE and no-one announces it, has a birth still taken place? But what a strange thing to be asking.
I take issue with a couple of points here, but they sort of all lead to the one major point which is this: Why is it okay to shame women who are proud of their birthing achievements? Sorry…Why is it okay to shame home birthing women who are proud of their achievements? Or women who birth without medical intervention? Is it only women who have an induction, epidural, forceps or caesarean who are “allowed” to be proud of their birth? Once again the anti-natural birthers have taken a situation which happen in ALL birthing environments and are ridiculing homebirthers for doing the same thing as hospital birthers.
Many women are sharing their labour and birth details on facebook. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
There is a HUGE myth inside this question: That it is only homebirthing women who are tweeting, videoing, blogging and announcing their births on social media. Maybe we should ask: If a woman gets an epidural but doesn’t announce on facebook: “Thank god my epidural is in!” did she still get pain relief? Or if a women doesn’t announce “I’m so over it and so pleased I’m being induced tomorrow!” is it still an induced labour? What if a woman doesn’t announce that “contractions are 3mins apart so I’m off to the hospital now!” – did she still go to hospital?
Women are constantly announcing their labour and birthing details on social media. And it’s really not just homebirthing women who are doing it!! To be perfectly honest, in my experience, women birthing at home are LESS likely to be facebooking live updates during the birth. I think that this could be because of a couple of reasons:
1) Women birthing at home tend to be busy, you know, birthing! They don’t have epidurals and therefore tend to be more focused on their labour.
2) Homebirthing women and their care providers seem to have a more developed understanding of how the labour hormones work and the need to “switch off” to external distractions. Women laboring in the hospital have so many distractions from the business of labour and birthing that facebook seems like a fairly minor one!
3) Women birthing at home are surrounded by love and support – they don’t need to find the support they crave on facebook because it is there in their birthing environment.
I run a vbac group and I see updates from women in hospital all the time. Women asking for prayers and well wishes as they head out the door to hospital, women seeking support during the early stages of their inductions, women asking for support as they make a decision to have a caesarean, women asking for support once they have their epidural in; women asking for ideas on helping labour to progress when it has stalled and women proudly proclaiming “I did it!!!” from their hospital bed.
Let's be proud to share ALL birth stories. My own image.
Maybe a question we should be asking is: WHY? Why do women feel the need to seek support from their on-line communities at such an intense time? Why are they not getting the support and care they need and deserve from their “real life” support team? Is it because women don’t have a real life support team? For myself I was very strongly advised by my doula to switch off and stay away from facebook in the early stages of labour, but in some ways I wish that I had had my online cheer squad with me. It would have been lovely to have their support and encouragement and advice as I labored away. Because, aside from my doula and my partner I had no-one in my birthing room who believed in me. And I was finding it damn hard to focus on laboring and birthing effectively anyhow, what with being squished by a bloody monitor around my belly, people talking at me constantly, and having to be on the look out for the midwife sabotaging my vbac plans…the distraction would have been nice. It’s a pretty sad statement to say that our maternity care services are such that laboring women feel more comfortable chatting on facebook and asking advice of their facebook friends than being present in their birthing room and asking advice of their care givers.
Homebirth women are also not the only one’s sharing their professional birth photographs, montages and videos either. I’ve seen MANY beautiful videos of hospital births and caesareans. Women are, quite rightly, proud to share their birth experiences and the arrival of their baby with their friends and family and those in their support groups. I know many homebirthing women who have also shared their videos or montages and for the most part their reason isn’t so that they can brag about not birthing in hospital. If anything they often comment about how they are unsure about sharing because of the negativity surrounding homebirth. But they share their experiences to help “normalise” birth and homebirth. On a day to day basis I see far more sharing of hospital births than homebirths. Yet the anti-natural birth community aren’t making fun of them.
As for the original question posed in the first paragraph – of course a woman birthing in the forest isn’t having a homebirth…unless that is where her home is she should be referring to it as a “forest birth”.
What a beautiful place for a "forest birth"! Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.