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Pack your bags, we’re going on a (childbirth) guilt trip!

15/08/2009

This is another post I’ve also posted in my pregnancy blog.

A couple of months ago, I was watching BBC world news and a crawl at the bottom of the screen caught my eye, so I followed up on the story online. It was an article about a British midwifery expert’s claim that women who have epidurals miss out on the supposed benefits of painful childbirth. I read on The Skeptical OB that this “expert” has made a career out of touting the supposed benefits of enduring the pain of “natural” childbirth.

Again, this is one of those situations where I feel I am being told lies to sell me something I already want to buy. Like telling me that a necklace will protect me from cancer, when was ready to buy it just because it was pretty. I am planning on having a “natural birth,” assuming everything is normal. If things go wrong, I will accept that it may not be possible. I’m not going to lose my head if I need to be rushed to the regular birthing suite, and if I’m in enough pain, I’m not afraid to say, “Bring on the drugs!”

A day after I heard the article, I watched an episode of Supernanny (it’s a bit of an obsession, please don’t judge me) in which a British mother was having trouble disciplining her youngest son. The woman finally revealed, tearfully, that she felt that she was constantly disappointing him because she had been unable to have him “naturally” and had to have medical intervention in his birth. As if somehow, his behaviour was a conscious effort to punish her for being a “bad mother.”

These two things together made me very, very angry at the sanctimonious environment surrounding “natural birth.” The idea that needing medical intervention to SAVE THE LIFE OF YOUR CHILD is somehow construed as bad mothering is absurd. The midwife in that article (which almost every headline felt the need to point out was a MALE) is part of this problem. Creating an atmosphere of guilt is not conducive to creating an educated public. Furthermore, he presents this opinion, not backed by any facts, studies, figures or evidence, just simply his personal opinion as an “expert” as if it is supposed to be convincing. So, I’m just supposed to take his word for it?  Pfft. As if.

There is so much nonsense specifically aimed at one of society’s most vulnerable populations: pregnant women. Women are made to think that letting a doctor anywhere near them puts them in the position of a victim, when really, the peddlers of non-medical, alternative treatments, (aromatherapy, homeopathy, etc.) are really victimising them by selling them treatments that don’t work. Yes, a normal birth is a healthy part of life. But remember, back when everyone had a natural birth, many women died as a result, or their babies died. One of the main reasons our life expectancy is so high is that fewer infants die in their first few days out of the womb.

Yes, I’m planning on having a natural birth. I’m also planning to breast-feed for at least the first six months. I may even want to heat up a little dish of essential oils to help me relax during labour or drink raspberry leaf tea to help ease and speed up labour. I am NOT doing any of these because I would be a bad mother for having the baby in the birthing suite rather than the birth centre,  using a bottle or accepting drugs to aid or induce labour. You don’t need to sell me on the “benefits of pain” the “evils of formula” or the “effectiveness of alternative medicine.”

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