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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