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The Birth Wars - A distraction from womens issues. Do you belong in the grey zone

by Janelle Larson (follow)
I hear a lot of talk about expectations and birth. The focus is mainly on the birthing woman's expectations of her care provider, though.

Hasn't that been done to death? Ugh. The anti natural birth community would say our expectations are too high. The natural birth community would say they're too low.

Wait a minute...

So who are you if you don't exactly resonate with the vibe of either group? (I find the majority of them all to be judgy and extreme in a general sense, if I'm brutally honest. Which I am.) You belong in the grey zone.

The birth wars is a term I hear casually thrown around, too. Really? Wars? I find this simplistic idea that we're all at each other's throats over something as personal as our birth choices quite insulting.

This "war" isn't the main conflict. It's the symptom of a much deeper problem, and a distraction from the real issue. The lack of respect we're afforded by professionals. The degrading nature of modern birth. The overuse of medical intervention and the subsequent poor outcomes for women and their families.

What about supportive, balanced and non-judgemental groups? You'll find them in the grey area. Except, well, those women are hard to find. It's not that there aren't many of them. There's just so much focus on the extreme ends of the spectrum, that the rest of us are overshadowed. Drowned out. Those damn extremists are always hogging the spotlight. You may find that a confronting term..... but make no mistake, they are a force to be reckoned with. Both sides of this supposed war.



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It's got me wondering, though. With so much focus on the expectations we have of birth.... what about the flipside?

What does birth expect of us?

More specifically, what does our community, family and western culture in general expect of us? I can only describe the immense pressure to be superhuman as all consuming. No matter who you're talking to, they expect something amazing of you.

An obstetrician will likely expect you to be submissive. A husband might expect you to let him have a say in procedures happening to your body. Your friends might expect you to have a cesarean because that's what they think is safest for you. Your friends might want you to have a drug free, unhindered vaginal birth and openly mock you if you choose differently. Some will expect you to be fearless. Others will expect you to be vacant and docile, going along with anything and everything.

Most of them will expect you to endure a multitude of brutal and invasive procedures, and to come out the other side unscathed. (What?!)

Everybody has an opinion on your uterus. And if you're talking to an anti or pro natural activist- it's probably going to be an unrealistic one at that.



The widely varying ideals of "superwoman" are ridiculous, unattainable, and an detriment to all of us. Mixed messages and contradicting, conflicting advice are served up with a generous side of guilt and oppressive subtext.

Here are some common phrases you might have heard before. Oh come on, you know you've heard these.

"Don't be a hero. Take the drugs."

translation: "I would feel threatened by your ability to birth unmedicated so I'm discouraging you."

"Just do what your doctor says. They know best."

translation: "I have zero confidence in your ability to make autonomous and informed decisions for yourself and your baby."

"You're trying to VBAC? Why would you want to go through labour and ruin your vagina?"

translation: "I'm so out of touch with my body and am so convinced I'm defective that you must be, too. Or else I'll be jealous. Your birth is really about me."

"You're lucky you had a c-section. At least your vagina isn't damaged. All that matters is a healthy baby."

translation: "I was treated so abhorrently, and left so traumatized and stripped of dignity, that I view major surgery as easier. I have no self worth and no understanding that it's not meant to be like that."

These messages come in diverse forms and from both ends of the spectrum. Some marketing medicalised birth as superior. Some advising you to shun any type of technological assistance and judging you for refusing. All definitely NOT helping anyone. Just perpetuating a vicious cycle for their own selfish agendas.

No wonder so many of us are experiencing birth trauma and obstetric violence. The lines have become so blurred. Possibly the worst result of all of this though, is that there are many women quietly withering away inside. Those who experienced brutality at the hands of trusted professionals. Those who underwent terrifying surgery or painful procedures. Whether necessary or not- the expectation that a person can endure such a powerful and dramatic event and NOT be impacted negatively is absurd.



Nobody expects a cancer patient to be stoic about having to undergo surgery. They certainly wouldn't tell that person to "get over it" or to "be thankful because there are sicker people than you". Anyone who said such things to person undergoing major medical treatment would be labelled an asshole and pretty much crucified.

Why then, is it okay to deliver this kind of abuse to a pregnant/birthing/new mother and call it standard? Since when is that acceptable? I must have missed that memo.

If you've decided you belong in the grey area, good for you. Don't pick a side, and buy into this superficial catfight. Stay right there in the grey zone. And advocate for empowered, woman centred birth. Be it surgical, vaginal, homebirth, freebirth...... tap dancing tu-tu birth. We should be fighting for the freedom of choice and non-judgemental support every woman deserves. Not fighting amongst ourselves.

As Kimberly "Sweet Brown" would say: "Ain't nobody got time for that!"

Wise words.....
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