A few weeks ago, on someone’s blog, I read a comment which said something along the lines of all women who support home birth need to band together, rather than break up into somewhat antagonistic groups over things like unassisted birth; this commenter said we need to remember that we are all on the “same team.”
I’ve thought about that comment a lot since I read it, and while I agree with it in some ways, I disagree with it in others, and think it doesn’t go far enough in still other ways.
On one hand, I infer (perhaps wrongly) that a lot of people set up some goal or outcome as the paragon everyone should aim at, and those who aim at it and get it are the highest, those who aim and miss are next, and those who don’t even aim are lowest. This isn’t just in birth — you see it in everything, from people who get on the exercising bandwagon to those who go on certain diets, etc. But I get the sense from the UC people I’m exposed to that unassisted childbirth is considered the paragon of birth. This doesn’t mean that UCers look down on women who do not choose UC, necessarily (although I have heard disparaging comments made towards any midwife who does not wholeheartedly support UC as an abstract or who does not support women who wanted to have a UC; and somewhat casual denigration of women who choose hospital birth because they don’t “trust birth” enough, or whatever). Rather, what I remember most strongly is women who have acted apologetic because they just didn’t feel quite comfortable with UC — for whatever reason. Perhaps I was reading into it more than was meant.
But it goes both ways. There are more than enough ways for everyone to look down in some way on everyone else. And it’s destructive. So as far as that goes, we should realize that we are on the “same team.” But it might be impossible to be on the “same team” with some people, because of some basic philosophical differences, or perhaps even antagonistic behavior between some of the sub-groups of people within certain groups. But I think we should try.
And here’s how I think it doesn’t go far enough: the original analogy was that all home-birth people were on the “same team.” This implies that those who do not support or have home births are on a “different team,” and that we struggle against each other. In some ways, we do — specifically when home-birth or CPM advocates have to fight tooth and nail against the intrenched medical establishment for legislation that legalizes CPM-attended home birth. But can we not find some common ground, even in this area?
Here’s the “same team” idea I have — everyone who wants mothers and babies safe are on the same team. We may differ in what “safe” looks like, but we can all at least agree that whatever “safe” is, we want.
Among the blogs I read are those written by L&D nurses, CNMs, CPMs, doulas, childbirth educators, and other “birth junkies”. Some of the hospital-based nurses support home birth, while others think it is unsafe. We can all learn from each other. For my part, I get so into my “healthy, low-risk profile” women that I can easily forget that a lot of women are not healthy and low-risk, and bad stuff can and does happen, and home birth can be dangerous for some mothers and babies. Reading blogs written by nurses who see the not low-risk births is eye-opening for me. Contrariwise, a lot of L&D nurses can get their perspective about birth changed by a “refresher course” in normal low-risk births by reading about out-of-hospital births. Those who cannot understand why women would “take the risk” of having an out-of-hospital birth or a UC can read what these women have to say about the reason behind their choices, and then learn. Same goes for home-birthing women who don’t understand why women would choose to go into the hospital when they don’t have to.
Rather than just disparagingly saying, “I don’t know why they’d do that,” we can atually sit down and find out why and then we will know — and as the saying goes, “knowledge is power.” For instance, take an L&D nurse that can’t figure out why a woman would choose to give birth at home. She can read the stories of women who felt like they were abused (physically, emotionally, mentally) or coerced into unwanted and unnecessary interventions by those who were supposed to be caring for them in the hospital. And then she can learn from that more of the perspective a laboring woman has — of her care givers, her hospital, and herself — and the nurse can work on making her hospital unlike what these other women experienced. If she reads that a woman blames her PPD on her C-section which she believes was unnecessary, she can double her efforts to make sure 1) that the women she cares for do not have unnecessary C-sections or other interventions; and 2) that women fully understand what is happening to them and their babies, and why it is necessary. Because a lot of the thrust behind the home-birth movement is simply anti-doctor and anti-hospital — and this is because a lot of women believe themselves to have been taken advantage of by doctors or hospitals. A lot of the thrust is simply pro-natural, “back to the earth” philosophy, but there is a definite percentage of women who choose home births simply because of how they were treated during a previous labor or birth. The whole “god complex” of some doctors, and the inflexibility of hospital protocols (especially those not rooted in any sort of science or evidence-based medicine) contributes a lot to the home-birth movement. And people who refuse to listen to what home-birthers are saying, simply because they are home-birthers, do themselves a disservice. Also, if you believe home birth to be dangerous (or at least, that hospital birth is safer), then dismissing out-of-hand what home-birth advocates have to say, ignoring the experience of thousands of women who were traumatized by their hospital births, and trying to legislate home birth out of existence, is actually serving to increase the number and rate of women who will choose an out-of-hospital birth. And some of these women will be truly high-risk and will truly be putting themselves or their babies at risk by having a home birth with or without a midwife. Let this sink in — they are willing to take the risks of birthing without medical assistance, than to take the risks of birthing within a hospital — so what does that say about birth in a hospital? If you want these women to give birth in a hospital because it is safer for them or their babies, then change the system to accommodate them. By forcing them to adjust to the hospital, you are keeping them out.
So, let’s get on the same team and be on the same team as much as possible, shall we? Here is an analogy that comes to mind. In this country, we have several branches of military, and sometimes they fight and squabble amongst themselves (jockeying for position, prestige, money — whatever), and they even have football games or other sports matches in which they directly oppose each other. But when an outside enemy comes along, all differences disappear because they all understand that they are truly on the same team. In a similar way, we have several branches of people involved in birth, and sometimes we oppose each other on certain issues; but let’s always remember that we do have one common goal, and that is that we protect mothers and babies from unnecessary harm. We can learn from each other, and support each other in the common goal — even if we don’t always get along in other matters.