Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oh the Dichotomies!

With my due date ticking ever closer, I've been thinking a lot about labor and delivery. As I mentioned in previous posts, my ultimate goal is to go med-free. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I've been trying to prepare myself the best that I can.

This preparation has included talking with other women (on messages boards, I don't know any real-life women) who had med-free births, reading (Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and Sarah McMoyler's The Best Birth, among others), watching videos of natural births, watching The Business of Being Born, and talking with my husband about our plans.

I feel mostly prepared, but I also feel somewhat helpless. There is so much that's beyond my control. What if I don't go into labor "on time" and the doctor wants to induce? What if my blood pressure sky rockets? What if the baby is breech? What if I can't handle the pain? I know these are questions that every mother faces, but they make it hard for me to be as confident in my  birth plan as I feel I need to be. I can't go around saying "I will do it this way" when I don't know for sure how things are going to go.

I can say, however, that I plan to give birth naturally. And while doing that planning, I've been running into both sides of a very thickly drawn dichotomy.

The two sides go more or less like this:

Side 1: Doctors are evil. They are only concerned with making money and they are just puppets of the big business that makes up our health care system. They force you to do things that you don't want to do out of sheer convenience and so they can bill your insurance company (which is also evil) for more money. They don't care about mothers or babies, and most of the time they don't even know anything about natural births. In fact, doctors are bored by natural births because there's nothing for them to do, so they try to intervene. They also want you in and out of the hospital as quickly as possible to clear up the beds. Plus, they want you to have a c-section because it makes them more money.

Side 2: Those crazy natural-birthers have no idea what they're talking about. They are a bunch of granola-eating hippies who are willing to put their bodies and their babies at risk. Not to mention, those women are obviously trying to impress us all with their holier-than-thou attitudes, and it's ridiculous to think that a woman should have to endure that kind of pain to be a mother. I'm no one's hero, and all that matters is a healthy baby. These women are crazy.

Surely, there is some middle ground here.

I like the idea of giving birth in a hospital where I can get help if something goes wrong. During my delivery, my mother labored for 36 hours without progress. I was born via emergency c-section. They later discovered that a previous (non-pregnancy-related) surgery had left her unable to push in the right direction. If she hadn't been in a hospital, I might not be here. I had some complications early on in this pregnancy that left me with a 50/50 chance of losing my baby in the first trimester. It was terrifying, and I was comforted by the medical advances that let me see my baby's heart beating well before I could feel her move. I trusted my doctors to give me the best advice and took all of their restrictions to heart, working as hard as I could to make sure my baby would be okay.

That said, I know where the ideas about doctors and the medical system being money-driven and corrupt come from. We have a messed up medical system. I think most of us realize that. That doesn't mean that each individual doctor, nurse, etc. is caught up in that corruption. I'm an educator, and I would hate for people to look at me as a representative of the American education system. I'm a good person who does my job for the right reasons, and I know there are plenty of doctors and other medical staff that are the same.

Most of the books I've been reading say that women are "forced" into interventions they don't want, and they may be. But after interacting with other pregnant women in my local area, I realize that most of them aren't going to have to be forced into anything. They look forward to induction dates and have a epidural waiting for them when they get to the hospital. They are making choices (probably some informed, some not).

That brings me to the other side: in my experience, other pregnant women are pretty harsh about natural birthers. A group of women at a breastfeeding class (who didn't know I was planning on going natural) spent a good chunk of time bashing another (absent) woman from their birthing class for planning to go med-free. They made fun of her and talked about how she was "out there" and "trying to be a hero." They then used this as a platform to reinforce each other that their decision to use medication is the right one.

Then, I looked at the Amazon reviews on the McMoyler book, which supports medically-assisted births as well as natural ones and purports to give women the tools to have the birth they want (with flexibility for the unexpected) at a hospital. It has several good reviews, but it also has several one-star reviews. Almost all of these bad reviews focus on the fact that McMoyler doesn't mention support for doulas (instead, the book is a huge proponent for a highly involved father at the delivery). I have nothing against doulas, but not everyone has access or resources for one. And not everyone is comfortable delivering in a birthing center. Shouldn't there be resources available for these people?

Look, informed decisions based on individual needs and realistic scenarios are the right ones. We don't have to battle over this. My (hopefully) med-free birth isn't an attack on your epidural. My choice to go to a hospital isn't trying to dismantle the home birth.


  1. I gave birth med-free, if you want to chat shoot me an email. I don't think I'm holier than thou, in fact my labor was only 4.5 hours and though it hurt it wasn't anything I couldn't handle. I hate it when people say, "Wow! You didn't use meds!"

    I read a post (that I am unable to track down right now) that suggested using the word "prepare" to describe your future hopefully-med-free-birth instead of "plan." Life throws wrenches into plans, but no one can fault you (or say its a bad idea) for preparing.

    However your birth goes (as long as its not traumatic), remember its only the beginning.

  2. I have found similar things, as I am currently pregnant with my first. I was really surprised in my prenatal class when I met women who have such different attitudes towards birth and interventions than myself. I have done a lot of reading about birthing without medications and interventions, and that is definitely the way I hope to go. When I speak to women who have made other choices, it is so easy to dismiss them as uninformed. I always have to try really hard to think that these are choices that we, as adult women, are making, and I definitely wouldn't want anyone to treat me like I cannot make my own decisions, so not to treat other mothers-to-be that way. We all have our own life experiences and priorities (other than healthy-mom-and-baby, as that one is a given, I think) that lead to the decisions we make, which we need to acknowledge, rather than taking the all-too-easy path that you have outlined of making caricatures.

    *amy :)

  3. Imagine my identity crisis as a doctor who loves giving birth without intervention and tried to have a home birth for my second child. I ended up in hospital for the main event (I still managed to avoid intervention, even in the "evil institution" filled with those demon doctors) and endured the tuts of colleagues...
    Sounds like you have a lovely balanced view, the best way to have a chance at being happy with your birthing experience
    No horror stories from me and I have done it twice and been in the room of probably about 100 births, many with little intervention (We have a much lower rate of intervention than the US and Australians are not all raving hippies).
    It is an amazing fete of the human body that never fails to impress me, no matter if it is watching a baby emerge at a C-section to look across to mum and dad, or watching a mum reach between her legs to pull her baby to her chest and look into their eyes for that first magical time.
    Taking home the baby that you gave genetic material to and incubated for 9 months is something to be celebrated no matter what happened on their "birth" day!
    Best of luck

  4. Meghan, I tried to take you up on that email offer, but it told me your profile was private when I clicked to get the address. If you have any tips to share you can email me because I'd love to hear them!