The Birth Wars (Part 2)


Because I’m a nurse in the labor and delivery arena, I follow a lot of organizations on Facebook that post links to articles about birth. Last week, my midwifery school posted a link to an opinion article about the benefits of non-intervention in uncomplicated pregnancies and births. The actual article  isn’t what bothered me, it was the epic comment section.

Enter Dr Amy Tuteur, a woman who is fed up with the natural childbirth movement.

Reading the comment section was like staring at a car wreck as you pass by, or following Charlie Sheen‘s meltdown, you know nothing good can come of it, but you just can’t seem to turn away. I read for at least two hours; first I read the comments, then I went to Dr Amy’s blog and read her postings and I was just sick. Not because I disagree with her opinions because we’re all entitled to our opinions, but because of the lack of respect or compassion for women who may have a different philosophy of birthing than she does.

Some of the inflammatory things she said included that natural childbirth advocates are uneducated, that midwives learn everything they know from obstetricians and how it doesn’t take any skill to catch a baby that’s coming out alright anyway. In one fell swoop dismissing an entire profession of caregivers and the work they do. Now, I can understand her bias towards the medical model of care, and I don’t fault her for that. Hell, most women agree with her if you look at the numbers. But why the rhetoric? Why the nastiness? Why not try to talk to your audience in a way that makes them want to learn more, instead of fanning the flames of discord?

Don’t get me wrong; I know there are plenty of people on the other side of the argument who are just as inflammatory. They minimize the great service OBs do for women who have complicated pregnancies or emergencies during labor, characterizing them all as greedy and unfeeling about the women they care for and that is just as despicable.

Can’t we all just get along?

There is a huge spectrum of birth choice out there with a planned unattended home birth at one end and a planned c-section (without a medical cause) at the other. My guess is that your birth (or your wife’s or partner’s or whatever’s), like mine, fell somewhere in the middle. I tend towards the “crunchy” end of things in that I birthed with a certified nurse midwife in a hospital based birth center. I have friends who would have gotten their epidural placed at 8 months pregnant if they could have. I don’t think my births were better or more special or more gratifying than theirs. I think my births were the births I wanted.

An open discussion and trying to figure out why we gravitate to the models of care we do is a fascinating conversation, and here is where I get passionate. I don’t care what you choose for your birth, and you should never feel judged for the birth you had.  What I care about is that all women have access to good information which will guide them in the direction that’s right for them, and that when they decide on a hospital, birth center or home birth, they are supported and encouraged instead of being made to feel like they are already screwing up as a mother. Not only that, but that a full range of choices are actually available to them. What is more personal than how your baby comes into the world? Why would we ever think that one size fits all? Yes, we all want healthy moms and healthy babies, but there is more than one way to get there and “health” has many meanings including emotional and psychological health.

So next time one of these topics comes up and you feel yourself getting defensive or feeling threatened, take a deep breath and remember someone else’s choices have absolutely no impact on who you are or what you’ve chosen and if you’re ever tempted to dismiss someone else’s choices as just plain crazy, stop a minute and listen to why they did what they did. It will probably not change your mind but it will give you a new perspective to consider. Even I learned something from reading the hateful commentary of Dr Amy; I realized how important it is to me to make sure I’m informed about the latest research guidelines so that I truly know what I’m talking about when I recommend something to a client or get into a debate with someone about the risks and benefits of  an out-of-hospital birth, but most of all I realized that I could have a part in stopping some of the spite and name-calling and help us be gentler to ourselves.

And here I am, blogging because of it.

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8 thoughts on “The Birth Wars (Part 2)

  1. Cathy says:

    I like your view here! I totally agree–we all have babies, why judge each other about how? Aren’t we catty enough with each other, why do we need this, too? And, suddenly, everyone becomes an expert when you talk about this subject, too. If you want to know the gory details about my birth, then for God’s sake, I don’t need you to judge me on it.

    Your next blog needs to be about breast feeding!!! This is such a hot button issue for so many. It’ll be interesting to see other people’s take in it.

  2. Thanks Cathy! I’m moving on to politics next, but I promise to talk about breastfeeding soon!

  3. MLE C says:

    Hateful? Really? Did she do any of the following?

    Call someone “Dr. Farts-from-her-mouth”?
    Create a pseudonym saying she was “sick” of any individual?
    Imply that anyone was disturbed because of their low self-esteem?
    Call anyone evil?
    Accuse anyone of having a God-complex?
    Call anyone pathetic?

    No, that is what several of the commenters said to her, in addition to the more mundane insults.

    To attack someone’s level of education, skills, or ideas is not to attack them as a human being – as she was attacked. Now, you say that you know there are inflammatory people on both sides of the argument, yet you seem to have entirely overlooked them in these comments. Can you explain that?

    The best way to deal with a real “troll” is to ignore them. The fact that the NCB community cannot ignore Dr. Amy is because what she says is too threatening to their cherished beliefs.

    • Emily,

      I agree with you about the personal attacks, in fact that is the whole point of my blog. Name calling is inexcusable on either side. I didn’t get into the entire thread of comments, because it would have been way too long and anyone could go to the article and read them if they were so inclined. What struck me right from the start was Dr. Amy’s comments and the thoughts she shared on her blog then as I read the back and forth arguing in both the original article and on Dr Amy’s blog I felt compelled to put my two cents into the debate by asking why we have to justify our choices by belittling the choices of others?

      Don’t misunderstand me, she can think what she wants and write what she wants; I’m not trying to be the thought police. What I don’t understand is the tone.

      As to your last statement, I don’t think that is fair. First of all, lumping every person who desires or advocates for Natural Childbirth in one group is the same as any other stereotype, one size does not fit all. There are many highly trained and educated men and women who support women who want to birth as free from intervention as possible. I noticed there were several comments from other physicians who disagreed with Dr Amy’s stance, as well as blogs in which they do the same (including the one I referenced). So there is room for different interpretations of current research and guidelines.

      My point in all of this is that woman who want hospital birth with every technology available should not be made to feel badly about their choices and neither should women who want something different than that.

  4. angelicp says:

    I just found your blog and absolutely loved this post. You stated it all so well. As moms, as humans – we need to simply support one another; we don’t’ have to agree, but we don’t need to judge either. But it’s all gotten so judgey – from our healthcare choices to our food choices. It feels as if someone shares their own personal point of view on any topic, then someone who thinks differently takes it as a personal assault on their point of view. It’s just gotten so darn silly, but more than anything, it’s gotten harmful. My choices have nothing to do with someone else’s choices. I don’t think my choices are better than anyone else’s – they are simply mine..period. Anyway, thank you for this post, especially on this topic. It’s near and dear to my heart.

  5. Rachel says:

    I love this post and couldn’t agree more. Sometimes I worry that people will think I have no business becoming a CNM because I chose to give birth in a hospital, with an epidural, at the hands of an OB/GYN. What could I possibly know about childbirth??? But what I do know is that labor can be scary and hard, and I did what felt right for me in the moment. I like to believe that is what midwifery is about, supporting a woman in one of the most difficult moments of her life, allowing her to safely labor in whatever way she feels most comfortable, without fear she will be judged for it. Thanks for the great post!

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