A posting by Barb, “The Navel Gazing Midwife” helped me crystallize something that’s been rolling around in my head for the last few weeks. She also gave me the term for it – Realistic Childbirth Advocate. She gives us a pretty good idea of how a dogmatic view of childbirth can be problematic.
As a Lamaze Childbirth Educator and a Prenatal Yoga Instructor it is often assumed that my personal beliefs strongly lean towards natural childbirth (NCB). While it is true that generally speaking, allowing labor to begin on it’s own, labor to proceed without medical intervention, baby to be born and the cord clamping delayed, breastfeeding to be established before any tests or procedures are to be performed, etc., are best practices… these aren’t always the best choices for all mothers. Yep – you heard that right. These are choices.
Now, there is strong scientific evidence with many, many studies backing up the choices listed above. But what we need to remember is that, as every woman is unique, and every birth is a unique event with many variables, saying “This is the best way to birth” is an untrue statement. This may be the optimal way to birth, given a certain set of circumstances – but if your labor and your baby don’t fit those circumstances then these may not be the best choices for you.
There is no “right” way to give birth. Medical interventions, when used correctly, prevent injury and are life-saving; medical interventions, when over used, can cause iatrogenic complications and can endanger the health of mother and baby. C-sections can be performed when non-medically necessary, resulting in physical complications for mom and baby as well as emotional distress for mom. They can be life saving when there are complications present before labor begins or discovered during labor. They can also be emotionally life saving for those who are survivors of sexual abuse, or for those with an intense fear of birth or for other emotional reasons.
Do I support and encourage natural childbirth? Yes. Do I support and encourage informed choices in childbirth? Yes. Will I support you in any informed choice you make regarding your pregnancy, birth and parenting? Yes.
Why? Because I don’t believe that there is any single prescription for birth or parenting. I believe that as long as there is no harm done**, we need to respect the differences in the way another mother chooses to do it. Too often, I see women judging others’ choices. Too often I see wounded, guilt ridden mothers defending their choices to the death because others attack them relentlessly.
There are very few black and white issues with regards to pregnancy, birth and parenting our children. Cultural norms, family norms, religious beliefs, peer pressure, media, etc. will all help us determine what is “best” for our births and our families. These multitudinous aspects influence our choices. So, how can you say someone else has made a wrong choice? Why should you be able to criticize when you don’t know the whole truth surrounding the other mother’s choices in parenting?
My teacher, Gurmukh, has a bit to say about judging others, and knowing ourselves. (The first 3 minutes or so is all you need to watch.) https://youtu.be/XWX-ipxaQxQ
Going back to the Yamas and Niyamas for just a moment. Remember Ahimsa? Ahimsa: Non-violence; not harming other people or other sentient beings; not harming oneself; not harming the environment; tolerance even for that which we dislike; not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.
It’s about autonomy and choice. As a mother, I have the right to choose to do what I feel is best with regards to my birth and my parenting. As a childbirth educator, it is my duty to inform my students so that they can make the best choices for their births and their families. It is my duty to support the choices my students make.
**There’s a difference between actual harm – example – physical abuse, and the potential for harm – allowing a 6 year old to walk 3 blocks alone. I’m talking about actual, direct harm. This is not subjective.