Tuesday, July 8, 2008

On the Subject of Freebirthing or Unassisted Birthing

There was an article about freebirthing posted in the UK (here) and this comment was one of the ones I found in response to it:

I can tell you what might have gone wrong.

I had a trouble free pregnancy, expecting a second baby with no health problems or suspected complications. As it happened, I went into labour twelve weeks early and my son's lungs had not fully formed. Immediately after birth, he went into respiratory distress and would have died if I had been 'freebirthing'.

Comments like this always make me want to pull my hair out and scream in frustration. How does an anecdote like that even make any sense? What woman in her right mind would purposefully try to birth a baby at home twelve weeks early, midwife or not? Comments like this I think are meant to show the base ignorance of freebirthers but all they really do is demonstrate the amazing inability for the commenter to think rationally. It disturbs me how the vast majority of people that hear about freebirth think that we are all idiots. Women do not choose freebirth because they want an adrenaline rush or because they desire to push the envelope. Women and their families who choose freebirth do so because they believe it is the safest option for them. They don't just wake up one morning and say "Ah, I think I'll play Russian Roullette with this one!". I have met only a very few ill-prepared freebirthers. I've probably spoken with thousands of "mainstream" birthers that are ill-prepared about birth/pregnancy and wholly ignorant of the process. Most of the women I know who choose to freebirth do so after hours upon hours of research and experience. We don't come this decision lightly and most of us have a much better than average understanding of how birth works. I have known freebirthers with more birth-knowledge than their midwives! I certainly had far more knowledge about normal birth than the first ob I ever had. I'm not suggesting I could perform surgery, of course, he was obviously far more qualified than I will ever be for such a task. But natural pregnancy/labor, normal variations and, I was appalled to discover, *female anatomy* were something he was grossly lacking an education in. (He actually tried to tell me that the excruciating, debilitating pain in my *symphesis* was "just pressure on my cervix". That really frightened me, considering they weren't even in the same location!) I certainly had an extreme experience with that idiot but my point still stands. Those of us that choose to "risk" birthing at home without a paid attendant aren't generally stupid, ill-informed or foolish. I don't know *anyone* that would stay home with a 12week early baby. That kind of assumptions being made about the freebirth movement makes me want to ask people if vapidity was a class they took in high school. That wouldn't be very nice, though.


Anita Ann said...

You hit it on the head.

publichealthdoula said...

There are so many stories out there just like that, although this is an especially blatant example!! I get tired of so many women saying "I had no complications and then if not for the hospital my baby would have died..." It could be true, but they never actually say why the baby was in danger.

For years my mother told me I couldn't have been a homebirth because of meconium staining. Only recently when we talked about it could I explain that if it had been necessary, she could have transferred to the hospital, and if the meconium staining was only minor the standard now is to not even suction. "Oh," she said. "I guess you could have been a homebirth."

Rebekah Costello said...

For years my mother...

Ah yes...how hard it is when the person we are trying to share with is our mother! My own mother is convinced, after 4 children, that her body simply was never meant to have babies. I grew up listening to her (mostly horrific, trauma-inducing, incompetence-ridden) birth stories and they are what inspired me to find a better way. It saddens me so much that despite how many times I've explained to her that what they told her doesn't match up with reality (in her case, she "needed" episiotomies because she never fully dialated...wtfbbq?!?!) and that her terrible births were not a reflection of some failure on her part, she just can't seem to believe it. In the moment she seems empowered, excited even a little sad...but the next day it's like it never really sinks in.

When I think about all of the women over the last 100years that have had their power almost ritualistically stolen from them, it angers me on some level I cannot even put into words. It's like a silent holocost, in a way. If you think about it, you and I and the rest of the women in our generation are scraping up knowledge bit by bit and piece by piece because our mothers and our grandmothers couldn't share it with us because THEY had it ripped from them. I truly believe that this wisdom of old is our birthright as women. And that wisdom I'm talking about is that confidence, that quiet inner knowledge that we *all have* in conjunction with common lore. Women the world over had had it for time immemorial and yet here we are, in a backwards twist of tradition, sharing it with our *mothers* instead of them sharing it with us. And unlike the eager child, sitting at her grandmother's feet, learning something new and fresh that she will carry with her the rest of her life and pass along...our mother's have a different imprint already. It's something most women in that age-group (that I've come across) can't seem to get away from. It truly brings me sorrow and heartache to see it, especially in my own mother's eyes.