Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The War Over Childbirth

Note: I wrote this post about halfway through my wife's pregnancy.  Our son Ollie is now 11 weeks old and is doing great.  I saved this post for me to reconsider after Ollie was born and I feel as strong right now about my thoughts expressed here as I did when I first wrote this post.      

There’s a war brewing.

It’s a battle backed by good intentions waged in documentaries, on the Internet, in books and in classes. It’s a war that men for the most part stay out of but are inevitably effected by whether they know it or not. It all boils down to one simply question: what is the best way to take care of your baby?

The prominent conflicts are:
  • Vaginal childbirth vs. Cesarean section 
  • Natural childbirth vs. birth with narcotics or an epidural 
I first became aware of some of these issues was when I watched The Business of Being Born.



When I watch this trailer I get angry. Here’s why.

The film makes the argument that the medical profession’s approach to childbirth is not in the best interest of the mothers and the babies. The use of drugs and the pervasiveness of Cesarean sections is a symptom of a profit driven industry. The alternative is birth centers, home births and the use of mid-wives to provide a healthier and more meaningful experience for the mother and the child.

This is the argument that this films makes, it’s fairly one-sided which is fine. As a film presenting issues that no one seems to be talking about, taking a more extreme point of view is appropriate to get the conversation started.

What makes me angry and uncomfortable is the idea that a woman who chooses not to have a home-birth, has a Caesarean section or utilizes narcotics is an inferior mother and a weaker woman. This implication is so upsetting because it implies that woman have complete control over the circumstances of the birth of their children.

There are woman who do everything right and plan to have a home-birth who end up having a Caesarian section and there are also woman who make every effort to get through birth without narcotics but just can’t take the pain. It’s not these women’s fault that they couldn’t follow through with their birth plan.

They didn’t do anything wrong.

The best advice that I’ve heard about childbirth is to learn how to control what you can control and also learn to let go of things that you can’t control. You can do your pre-natal yoga, eat a perfect diet, and do all the things that you can imagine to make your birth plan happen but at some point things may happen that you can’t control, and that’s okay.

I refuse to believe that mothers who don’t have a natural childbirth experience with their children don’t have as close bonds with their children (which is an argument that is made at the end of The Business Of Being Born). I’ve witnessed incredible bonds of love and family between parents and their adopted children and to diminish this bond because they didn’t share a natural childbirth experience is absurd and insulting.

The other thing that I have difficulty with is the argument that the medical field doesn’t have the mother’s best interest in mind. I’m sure there are morally corrupt doctors and hospitals but there are also some amazing doctors like ones who are in my family, who are 100% focused on their patients needs and their health.

I’m not trying to make an argument either way on home births, the use of narcotics, or Caesarean Sections. What I’m saying is that woman need to be thoughtful, consider the different sides of these arguments and make an educated decisions about this process. The conversation about childbirth is a great discussion that our society needs to have and I’m grateful that The Business Of Being Born got this debate going. Neither side has this thing down and they both have a lot to learn from each other.

The problem is that instead of accepting a plurality of ideas as being valid the different sides of these arguments are battling each other.  This leads people to make judgments on other people and individuals, questioning the validity of their childbirth experience because of circumstances completely outside of their control.

As a husband and my wife’s best friend, I am very worried of the childbirth process. I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself for this event, but it’s hard because I know that there is so much outside of my control. My wife jokes that I’m a boy scout because I often pack things to be prepared for a variety of situations.  However  I’ve realized that I simply can’t prepare myself for all of the things that could go wrong and all of the beautiful things that hopefully will go right as my son enters the world.

I fear that my wife’s childbirth experience will be judged by others and that Diana will have to answer for the choices she has made to others who disagree with her. On some level, it’s already happening as people are already asking her about her birth plan.

So to quell my concerns I've told her this sentiment multiple times:
I love you and I'm so proud of the mother that you have been throughout this pregnancy.  I know that I will be so incredibly proud of you whatever path we take as our child enters our world.  Nothing can change that.  Before you know it we will have a beautiful baby boy in our arms and while we don't know exactly how he will come to us, I will be proud of every step we take on that path togehter. 

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