Warning: Opinionated Post
I was catching up on Facebook the other day and saw this article someone had shared, called 5 Reasons to Choose a Midwife. I didn’t actually click on it initially–I knew I wasn’t going to agree with it, so why bother?–but curiosity got to me. And so I clicked on it, and read it, and as I sorted out my response to it, I debated whether it was worth going there on this blog. After all, I doubt my opinion is going to change anyone’s mind, and I truly do believe that moms (and dads) have the right to choose how to parent, right from day one, without me criticizing them for it. I get to make my own decisions. As an adult, I ought to respect theirs.
Here’s the thing, though. First of all, as I’ve said before, it’s my blog. I get to be opinionated when I want to be, and sometimes, I confess, I really, really want to be. Secondly, I believe one can respect other people’s decisions (and in so doing NOT give advice where advice is not requested or desired) while not agreeing with them. It’s not wrong to have an opinion about what someone else is doing (and frankly, for me it’s often impossible). What’s wrong is to judge them, because it is not my job to judge. (It may be my job to use my opinions of other people’s actions to help me plan out my own course, but that’s an entirely different thing. And no, “them” and “someone” do not grammatically agree, and it’s incorrect, but it sounds so stilted to be correct. I was over it tonight.)
On that note, here’s my problem with Jessica Mason’s article. It’s one thing to present an alternative course of action as a positive experience–there’s nothing wrong with that. And if she grew up feeling that hospital births = pain and unpleasantness, well, okay. It’s another thing entirely, however, to paint that alternative course of action as comfy and cozy and wonderful because of the differences between it and the traditional option. And it’s quite a different thing to ignore history altogether. Here are my thoughts for someone who read Mason’s article and is considering making the same choice.
1)It’s totally up to you. I get that. You may even have a lovely experience, I don’t know. But for someone who hasn’t yet experienced childbirth to paint it as “joyful, spiritual, and natural” is a bit of a crock. You may find it spiritual and empowering; you may not. What I can tell you from experience is that it is messy (and can be VERY messy) and it IS painful. I had an epidural with my first, but the contractions certainly hurt before it took effect. Childbirth is painful. “Natural” childbirth–here meaning “drug-free”–is going to be painful. Nothing a midwife can do is going to erase that. (And by the way, I agree with Mason about not opting for a home delivery. I bled so much I could feel my legs splashing in it. That’s not something I want in my home, and that’s certainly a possibility for more people than just me.) Childbirth is also tiring, and in my case, the exhaustion numbed the joy. (It occurred to me later that the blood loss would have exacerbated the exhaustion.)
2)Your birth experience can’t be controlled by a birth plan, or choosing a midwife, or choosing a hospital (for that matter). In my case, I have narrow pelvic (pubic?) bones that force my babies out at an unfortunate angle–unfortunate meaning I tear. (Badly.) When my doctor mentioned that he was on the fence about recommending a c-section for my second because of that, I felt actual peace about having a second child for the first time since my first was born. (He also told me that research is showing that those muscles, if they tear that badly a second time, don’t completely recover. In that case, you may be–and I quote–incontinent with stool for the rest of your life. This is not something pleasant to hear in your twenties.) Once cannot control a baby that insists on being breech. One cannot control any one of a thousand possibilities that make the resources of a hospital important. My husband has always been impressed at how little my doctor pays attention to our babies once they are out. The nurses are there for the baby, and they take full and complete care of her (or him); my doctor is there for me and focuses on stitching me up well. (My only vaginal birth involved an hour’s worth of stitches, by the way. My c-sections have required fewer, and I feel SO MUCH BETTER after them than I did after the other.)
3)How do you note that midwives were “driven out of practice” in the early 20th century without admitting that childbirth was, I believe, THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR WOMEN UNTIL ABOUT THEN? (I couldn’t find a date for when that shifted; if someone knows for sure, please enlighten me.) Giving birth was the MOST DANGEROUS thing a woman could do for centuries upon centuries. And midwives have been around about that long, yes? I’m certainly not blaming midwives, you understand; I don’t doubt that they did the best they could with the knowledge they had. I’m well aware that the influenza pandemic and WWI combined helped get the medical knowledge ball rolling, and I imagine that that made the difference. My problem is with the tone of the article; it implies that hospitals and doctors made something scary out of childbirth. Friend, it’s always been scary. It’s a whole lot less scary now.
And there you have it–my opinionated post for the month. If you want the experience and environment Mason mentions, that’s your decision. The line between that and how she describes the hospital, however, is likely a lot finer than she realizes.