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.
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.