Lots of brain dump ahead.
Homebirth: a simple word that elicits a whole range of emotions, from outcry and fear to passionate love that borders on berating.
Me? I’m passionate about homebirth (and midwives, or natural births in the hospital under the care of those with more natural philosophies). But I don’t think less of a mom who chooses to birth in a hospital (in fact, I was one of those moms two times out of three).
But for those who so passionately decry the entire profession of midwifery and declare mothers who birth at home “stupid,” or “more focused on their own enjoyment in the experience than their baby’s life,” I have what I believe to be an important message to share:
I’m not the only one “taking a risk.”
While I have never had anyone outright scold me for choosing a homebirth, I’ve had naysayers and those who expressed a whole lot of nervous caution (along with their nervous laughter). And I’ve read so many hateful things on almost every article on homebirth that has ever crossed my radar it makes my stomach turn. There’s actually an entire blog run just to villify homebirths by someone who gives doctors a bad name. She hates homebirth so much that she’s made a joke of it with her “homebirth bingo.” Because, you know, if homebirth is SO dangerous and stupid like she insists, the best thing to do is make a hilarious game of it. (I would link to it but I can’t stomach giving her any attention).
The themes are always the same: the mom is dumb & selfish and the baby is going to die.
The would-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-sort-of-depressing point I have to make is that it really doesn’t matter where you birth your baby: you are taking a risk. Did I take a risk having my baby at home? Yes, I did. I took a risk that something freakishly rare could happen despite having two healthy and normal pregnancies and labors under my belt and we would not have been able to get to a hospital in time. Did I take a risk having my other two babies in the hospital? Yes, I did. And so do you. Hospitals are places filled with sick people. Babies get infections in hospitals. Moms do, too. Sometimes they die. You’re much more likely to undergo interventions in hospitals, and interventions lead to raised risks of death. You’re more likely to be induced if you are under the care of an OB, and induction in and of itself is inherently more risky, but particularly an induction based on convenience and not valid medical reasons.
I also risk my kids’ lives every time I take them out on the road and get behind the wheel. Yes, I take into account safety statistics when choosing a car so that I feel I’m making the least risky choice, but such is the same in birth (picking a good midwife is extremely important, and no time to slack on your research skills). The truth is that our lives are filled with risk, every second of every day. Rather than live in fear or judge each other because we determine risks in different ways, can we agree to do the best we know to do? By all means, I advocate for knowledge because I believe knowledge is power and I think if you’re knowledgable and read the literature, more women would opt for homebirth when factoring risks, but that’s just my personal opinion and I’d be a hypocrite if I said that a homebirth is the only way to have a healthy baby. Or that it’s always the right choice. I’m the first to admit that for a high-risk mom, the best place she can be is in the hospital. The risks that the hospital carries would be outweighed by the risk of whatever condition mom or baby has.
There’s this quote floating around on Pinterest: “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” While I excitedly pump my fist in the air every time I see it because I love it so much, it always makes me think the same of birth. ”Don’t judge me because my risk-taking looks different than yours.”
Enough studies have been done over the years to prove that for healthy, low-risk mothers, there is no increased risk by birthing at home. I’m not “stupid” because I chose to birth at home. I took a risk in Landon’s birth in the same way I took a risk deciding to go to the hospital to have Adalyn and Ben.
I risk, you risk, we all risk. Don’t judge me or hatefully tear apart a decision I made with a lot of heart and thought and love poured into it because it looks differently than the decision you made.
I think the world would be a much happier place for all of us, but moms and women in particular, if we could learn to judge less and encourage more. I always try to encourage my friends who choose hospital births. Because I am passionate about birth and I chose a homebirth and have shared that experience here, I am often afraid that others may think I judge them for choosing a different path. The truth is, I may think, deep inside, “Oh, it’d be so cool if I could get her to see how AMAZING a homebirth is!” because I truly did have my world completely rocked by my experience and would love to see every friend who is eligible get to experience that, but I don’t think less of my friends who choose a hospital birth. I completely believe that feeling confident and safe and secure in your birth is going to get you a good outcome, and for some women that can only come from a hospital birth. I’m not here to judge that.
As women, I think we’re prone to sensitivity. If someone offers an opinion, we often take it as an attack. Just tonight, I found myself getting defensive and ultimately feeling like I must be the worst mom ever when a decision I made was questioned. I’m sensitive, and I often see things in the most negative light. I can’t see that the intentions were probably good; I just see that I suck. I’m not a good mom. And it’s times like these that I wonder if others have ever thought of themselves as bad moms because I share an opinion about homebirth (or organic food, or what have you) and they think that means they’re lousy because they do something differently. That breaks my heart. I really hope I never have.
Social media is a tough world to navigate. It’s a great way to collaborate with others who share the same viewpoints, and it’s a great avenue by which to share the things we feel everyone just HAS to know. When something means a lot to us, of course we want to share it with the world! But there is a fine line there: sharing an opinion can be, well, sharing an opinion. It can be gracefully executed, though that’s not always easy. And it can also be done in poor form, casting judgment on those who do something differently. I always find myself sighing when people feel the need to describe their dinners on facebook like this: “Organic, free-range chicken breasts with a side of organic green beans and organic corn with a sprouted & soaked whole wheat biscuit and organic kombucha.” First, um, could kombucha could ever be anything but organic? Personally, I think that’s borderline snobbery and comes off pretty judgmental. I eat healthy, I enjoy eating healthy and I really enjoy helping others eat healthy who want to learn. But I don’t feel the need to shove a label in front of every item of food that enters my mouth to proudly share with facebook. I suppose I would consider that poor form. And you’ll never find me telling my friend sitting directly in front of me eating a Big Mac that I think the only way to eat is organically and she’s, you know, killing herself with those Big Macs. It’s poor form, and I’m betting most of us wouldn’t. But the internet offers this glorious little sliver of anonymity (though most of the time we really aren’t even anonymous) and when you can’t stare directly into the eyes of the person you’re talking to, it’s so much easier to say something utterly judgmental. Social cues are a glorious, beautiful thing, and along with social media comes a lack of social cues. In person, we pick up on little facial movements or body language of those we’re talking to and oftentimes without even consciously thinking about it, we alter what we’re saying in response.
I don’t have a magic formula to all this stuff I go on and on about (Mommy Blog syndrome, sharing our opinions, etc.), I just see a downward trend in the way that social media and blogs have impacted our generation of women. Though it offers a lot of good, there are some pretty heavy and sometimes depressing side effects and it has opened up a can of comparison like none other that has ever existed. As if normal, day-to-day comparison of those around you wasn’t bad enough, now we as women have about a billion people we can compare ourselves to at any given time, all of them with pretty blogs who eat the right foods, have the right births and buy the right carseats.
Ladies, we are all awesome and beautiful in our own, unique ways. And don’t think that was an accident. Being cookie cutter is boring.
I hereby declare to see the positivity and find the good in any situation in which my first instinct would be to judge. Because I’m human, and I do that. I judge. But I love people and friendships more than I love being judgmental.