This afternoon i invested several uninterupted hours catching up and reading, my various and long loved birthing/preggo/parenting blogs, resources and fb groups. It’s something I have been wanting and meaning to do for a few months now. My interest these online spaces had piqued especially of late, as there is some serious and pretty hardcore anti home birth, midwife and doula propaganda out there at the moment. It’s also not a solely led US conjecture anymore. Some of the ‘medically based’ anti home birth stuff is appalling, i was looking at one UK based website run by a female doctor (obgyn if i recall correctly) and the vitriol is just unbelievable. Not even going to dignify the site with a link, it is 100% accusatory, blaming and hyperbolic. How it is ever appropriate to tell a grieving parent, publicly, on the Internet that their daughters death was caused by their choice to home birth and that ‘you killed your child’. I shit you not! I weep for humanity at times, I swear to fucking Babs. And here I thought the whack job Todd Akins and Republican platform were the general spaces (in the Western world, that is) that promoted and led the attack for 3rd party ownership over women’s bodies and fetuses!
This afternoon one particular post on modg blog transfixed me, it sucked me in and completely blew my mind. (linked below) Its a really amazing, honest and in parts, vulnerable post but unashamedly so, regarding her fears and desire for a VBAC with her upcoming 2nd birth. What is incredible about the way modg writes is the way she strips away the bullshit, niceties and mommy-expectations and opens a safe, articulate space and dialogue for others to share in turn. This particular post has 250 comments and 3/4 of which are women recounting and sharing their birth experience/s, most of which are honest and open accounts, with varying levels of detail and information. I read every single comment. There is definitely some pro natural childbirth sentiment but on the whole I found a wealth of anecdotal experiences about so many different facets of pregnancy, childbirth, recovery and boobie milk. I have gained a much greater insight into the seemingly universally and often crippling concept of the ‘perfect birth’. It was also pretty fucking cool to read about loads of ladies eating their placentas or planning to and for the most part without the PPD qualifier. Heaps of open discussion regarding the mental and emotional demands and risks faced too.
In all the time I have spent researching and reading about what it’s like to actually make another person, this particular post and consequent sharing of stories, hopes, regrets, knowledge and future plans in the comments, has by far been the most insightful and meaningful piece of information i have accessed so far. What really struck me the most was the overwhelming support and love and validation. I have some small and still fairly undeveloped ideas about women centric communities and networks for pregnancy, birth and parenting but hadn’t really seen that element come together in an online capacity and certainly not in Australia. It is especially unique to find a space where lots of women were sharing lots of diverse experiences, beliefs and ideas.
Something I have noticed, at length, is that different modes of childbirth values or beliefs splinter away from each other and become islands. I have always been able to see the clear divide between medical and non medical childbirth camps, but the more I read and research, I see a pattern of trauma because the labour and birth don’t fit predefined goals of the chosen birthing values. It’s also really difficult to approach any of this sort of stuff as it is so deeply personal, beliefs and values have been thought about and invested in, post partum there is also often a heady mix of regret, sadness, trauma, disappointment, stress plus a hell of a lot of pressure and expectation from various sources in a women’s life.
What I find continually appalling and just flat out unfair is the vocal, self entitled vitriol aimed at parents and their parenting. In saying that, most of the loaded, judgey, shaming stuff is leveled at women. I also see much of the judgement and righteousness directed at pregnant women and new mums about their choices is coming from other women and mums, which is terrifically sad and so horribly counter productive. Then there’s the natural or home birth experts and of course the cries in the media from the medical experts, whose opinions and advice actually vary wildly depending on where you go, who you see and sadly, how much money you have. On top of that you’re trying to work out what is best with your partner, but both your families are also often going to chip in their 10 cents, sometimes more. Government and society definitely have their legislature in your womb and body autonomy, not to mention if you hold and practice religious beliefs and of course your immediate and wider communities affect and color us as people, parents and families.
New families are grossly under supported and isolated within our communities, especially in non-urban areas, but yet every single area of your life will have something to say (loudly, too) on what you should and shouldn’t do, what is and isn’t ‘best’ and what is flat out right and wrong. No wonder 85% of new mums in Aus experience some form of post natal stress leading through to severe PPD, post traumatic stress disorder and total breakdowns.
I do believe there is a huge amount of new parents and bubbas out there who are massively judged and criticized yet grossly under supported. I too have been just as guilty of this seeming righteous ease we have in society when addressing pregnancy, childbirth and parenting choices.
Not actually that long ago I would spout my crunchy bs about my all natural, home birth, in water with my doula by my side practically from the moment of conception. When realistically that’s only an option I would choose, if it was safe to do so, I have no way of predicting whether I will have a low risk pregnancy that can engender this sort of birth. Also, the more I read the more I think it’s foolish of me to have an anti epidural stance, I’m really just removing one of the tools I may need to access in birthing, despite what I think when I’m pregnant or even actually heading into labour. So many birth experiences cite having an epidural as the difference between getting through a vaginal birth and having to section. Especially with epic long labours and induced births. No, I still don’t really want a c section, if possible I would love to have a vaginal birth, but when it really comes to down to it, no matter how my baby is extracted from my body it will be super-bullshit-amazing-awesome that I gave birth, whatever giving birth ends up meaning for me. I have realized the crux of childbirth, for me, it to get the ginger doom child out of me as safely and best I can. I don’t see a rigid agenda surrounding my birth experience a pathway towards keeping myself calm, in control and empowered to make decisions if I do need to.
Its heartbreaking to me that so many mammas feel robbed of their perfect birth or that they failed as a biological woman and mother. There are layers of guilt, shame and self blame all based around the physical birth not achieving what was wanted or expected. I can in no way, even begin to fathom what this scenario would be like or do not seek to dis value the loss, sadness or trauma that is felt surrounding unwanted medical interventions. It does sadden me that sometimes the pressures we heap onto ourselves to reach these heavily constructed and idealized births only serve to further compound the stress of deviating from what is wanted and planned.
What I am driving at and realize more and more is that those whom are heading into pregnancy and child birth need infinitely more love, support, understanding and active, meaningful, immediate community networks and resources. We most definitely need to find more ways for women to connect, share and bond about their experiences, whatever mode of birth they chose or ended up having. The different camps, ideologies and practices for childbirth need to come together at least enough for information and options to be available to address on a scale, rather than having to basically pick a team and either pretend the other side doesn’t exist or that is so undesirable its not even worth knowing about.
All of this stuff is hard and scary and unpredictable so lets stop making unhelpful and self interested comments and instead provide as much information as we can, offer help and resources, listen wholly to fears and concerns but most importantly we need to open our hearts with as much compassion and understanding as possible. No one really actually knows the answers, that’s precisely why it is so bloody frightening. I hope we can, in future, create environments with the support, information, expertise, connectedness and lots of other mums and dads of all backgrounds engaged and involved in. Then new parents can be empowered to work out exactly what is available to them, organize their network effectively around themselves and to clearly address what birth really means to them.
Sending a bazillion kudos to all the brilliant parentals out there. I have bonkers levels of respect and love for you folk. Big squishy love shaped cuddles. You guys totally fucking rock!!