Stop Judging Birth Choices

Ok, this post is going to be the kind of rant I usually keep to myself because I don’t groove on needlessly pissing off other women. However, my reaction has been simmering just below the surface for long enough without abating that I’m just going to come right out and say what I’m thinking.

As you all probably know, I’m a little overly dialed in to mom-centric social media. That has its plusses and minuses. The plusses all involve meeting awesome women and learning a whole lot of great stuff. The minuses are finding evidence that not all women are as tolerant of other women as I think they should be. One of the areas most rife with judgement and snotty crocodile tears about other women’s experiences is birth choices.

I follow a lot of natural birth advocates because they tend to be smart and really informed about issues of women’s health, breastfeeding support, positive parenting and generally groovy stuff. But occasionally, someone will unload a line of bullshit that goes a little like this: My BFF is pregnant! I’m happy for her but I just know that she’s going to get an epidural. That makes me so sad!

Why? Why would you be sad about that? She’s getting an epidural, not chopping off her own hand. Her body, her birth, her choice. Epidurals are legitimate, safe, proven methods of pain management. Yes, they have risks but so does crossing the street. Do you feel sad every time your BFF does that? I doubt it.

Added after talking to someone smart on Twitter: Now, if you’re upset that the friend isn’t getting all the info about birth options, that her doctor doesn’t support unmedicated birth, that she only has half the information she needs to be truly informed, that’s a different thing. And asking a friend politely if she wants information beyond what she has is helpful and kind. Advocating to fix the system so all choices are informed choices is valuable. But judging an informed individual for how she goes about her business? Uncool.

What women who snivel about other people’s births are doing is trying to elevate themselves at the expense of others who are doing nothing wrong. It’s obnoxious. It’s tantamount to saying that they know what’s best and everyone should be just like them because they are so darned enlightened. It’s birth chauvinism. And I’m sick of hearing it.

What happens in labor and delivery is intensely personal. Every woman has her own unique birthing experience and no one gets to tell her it was right or wrong. Expressing pity over a c-section or pressuring a woman to consider natural birth when she wants medical intervention is just as bad as pushing interventions on the woman who wants a natural birth. Those choices are between a woman and her care provider and your job – as a friend or observer – is to support her choices and her sentiments about them. Your feelings about her birth are not relevant. If she’s happy, be happy for her. If she’s sad, help her with her disappointment.

I’m lucky that no one has ever come out and judged my two c-sections to my face. Or rather, judgy types are lucky they never said anything because there would have been a major HULK SMASH moment if they tried. I have two kids who entered the world and I love them insensibly. The way they entered the world was safe and effective. I do not give even a single shit about what anyone else thinks about it.

Women should be a sisterhood, y’all. For good or bad, we’re are in this together. Getting snotty about labor and delivery means we’re all wrapped up in the little stuff and not getting each other’s backs about the big stuff. Instead of judging the mom who wants an epidural and taking to Twitter to extol the value of midwives, howsabout you talk to your state medical board about authorizing midwife assisted births in hospitals so all women have all the choices they want? Instead of sighing over someone’s c-section, take that breath and go advocate for better maternity leave policies so that mom doesn’t have to go back to work 6 weeks after surgery. Instead of lamenting about hospital policies, lobby insurance companies to expand coverage to birth centers.

There are big battles to be fought, friends. Let’s fight them together rather than fighting among ourselves, m’kay?

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10 comments for “Stop Judging Birth Choices

  1. Mama Melch
    February 2, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Spot on, as usual! I lost a friend for suggesting such a radical notion to her once. I don’t really miss all her judging.

  2. Sherrie Hussein GG (@SherrieGG)
    February 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I was 40 years old. I went into labor on Wednesday, son was not born until Sunday afternoon. By Sunday morning if he didn’t stroll out reciting the Gettysburg Address and offering to do the dishes when we got home, I didn’t want to KNOW him.

    Anaesthesiologist FINALLY said “Well, I can give you a shot but it will involve putting a needle in your back.”

    I said “I don’t care if it involves putting a jackhammer in my EYEBALL, do it and do it NOW.”

  3. @ABittersweet1(Dawana)
    February 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Preach, girl.

    This is why I haven’t posted my “birth story” and have no intentions to. The Mommy beasts can keep their opinions to themselves. At work the other day someone asked me if I was overdue with my latest and I said no, but I was induced because…. (and I explained why) and she’s all “OH NO, MY BABY IS GOING TO STAY IN MY WOMB AS LONG AS S/HE CAN BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT’S BEST FOR THEM.”

    Oh, I’m sorry. Are you an OB/GYN with over 20 years of experience and 5 kids? No? Cause my doctor is and together we made a plan for my birth. I don’t want anyone talking to me about my choices cause like you said- my kids are here, healthy and loved.

  4. amy
    February 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I love this line “your Body, Your birth, Your choice” so very very true. Well said. We should support one another regardless of how you actually feel about how the person is giving birth.

  5. February 2, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    I love this line: Expressing pity over a c-section or pressuring a woman to consider natural birth when she wants medical intervention is just as bad as pushing interventions on the woman who wants a natural birth.

  6. anonymous
    February 3, 2013 at 12:28 am

    I don’t really buy the “I just needed to inform her because her doctor doesn’t support unmedicated birth” gambit. In no way do I believe there is a conspiracy amongst medical professionals to withhold information about birth choices. Making the assumption that you know more than a woman’s doctor is arrogant.

  7. Tracy
    February 4, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Love that you lay out the important issues we should really be concerned about!

  8. February 4, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I agree with the sentiment completely. Both my babies were born at home and I felt really demonized when I made my well-informed, perfect-for-me and my partner choice. My close friends instantly said “that’s awesome, and totally you”, but many friends said off-the-cuff remarks that were definitely intended to make me feel guilty, unsafe, and selfish. Most of the mainstream media on this issue is profoundly biased, as are the laws in most states. I honestly don’t care where you or anyone else gave birth, I just wish everyone could give birth where they wanted, with the type of provider they feel is best for them.

  9. February 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Oh yes to all of this. If your birth is safe for you and your baby, the details do not matter and are NO ONE’S business (and if it’s unsafe, the details really only matter to your doctor, if we’re being picky). My MIL still makes snide remarks about my epidural. Lucky for me I have not a single regret about it and I know, unquestionably, that it was the right decision, so it doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother engaging with her on it. I’m not sure what it is about motherhood that makes us all want to press our opinions on one another, but boy is that urge strong for some.

  10. February 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Thank you! I’m sick of feeling like I’m being judged by my two medically necesary c sections

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