With all the debates about women’s choices that have been happening lately it’s become more evident to me that it’s not about what’s actually “safe”. It’s about control. Big groups of doctors and surgeons all rally against the idea that women should be allowed to say “thanks but no thanks” to any and/or all of the medical services they are selling. I say selling instead of providing mainly because they don’t get paid for merely suggesting something; they get paid for actually doing what it is they’re suggesting. So for us to say “actually, you know what? I don’t really feel like doing that test, because of reasons,” it’s a threat to their business.
So what do they do? They try to hit us with facts and statistics. And when the smart and well-educated women do their own research and call their bluff, they hit back in the most childish way possible; they try to shame us into compliance.
That’s right, ladies. No matter what research you’ve done or how credible your sources (ie: midwives and doctors who practice evidence based care) you really don’t know what you’re talking about. “Sorry, but no, just because those tests I talked you into doing have shown that your baby is in fact doing extremely well and there’s a chance I could be wrong, I’m still going to ask that you scrap your entire birth plan and just trust that I know what I’m talking about.” “No, you shouldn’t be allowed to choose the circumstances or even the way in which you birth your child because I don’t think it’s safe.”
Maybe they don’t use those exact words. Maybe they cite “risk” and “safety” as a big concern, and very few would think to ask the question I’m about to pose to you. Risk according to whom? The mother or the doctor? Whose choice really matters in this case? Who is the person who will have to live with that choice for the rest of their lives? Who will recall that day every year and be reminded of it every time they tell the story of the day that child was born?
The fact is that different people perceive risks in different ways. I may not want to risk the discomfort of being pressured into compliance with hospital policy and someone else may feel that the risk of something going wrong and being at home unable to cope may be a greater risk for them. But certainly neither choice is right or wrong, unless the choice is being made for you and it’s something you don’t want. Which is exactly what is happening every time this tired debate occurs between doctors and midwives and other people that may have gone to school for this stuff, but who are still not qualified to decide what YOU think is right for YOU.
Let me make this perfectly clear, in case you’re new to this blog and haven’t had a chance to read my other posts on this subject: Only YOU can decide what’s right for YOU, and by extension your child.
But I’m not going to get into yet another discussion about choice because I’ve done that. Now I’m going to address the reactions to those choices that we dare make about our own lives and bodies and babies.
So you’ve gone ahead and done your research and you dared to question the ‘expert’, and now that tactic #1: Throw Statistics At Her didn’t work it’s on to tactic #2: Fear.
“What if something goes wrong?” they’ll ask. “Did you know it takes less than 5 minutes to (insert horrifying and fatal complication here)?” “I know you think everything is fine now but how would you feel if you were wrong and you or your baby died?”
Many of us (myself included, regrettably) have caved under such a deceitful tactic, which has been coined “the dead baby card”, only to later discover that they were right all along and had complied for no reason other than fear. And in some cases that fear could extend to threats that the doctor might call child protective services on you for simply “endangering your child” by going “against doctor recommendations”.
But we know all this, and when we’ve been through it and know what to look for we become immune to those lowly tricks. So there’s really only one tactic left after we’ve done our homework, learned our rights and stood up to say “we are not children and you have no power over us”, and that’s Tactic #3: Shaming and Name Calling.
We are no longer just ‘misinformed’ or ‘ignorant’. Now we’re terrible mothers for ‘caring more about our birth experience than our babies’. We are putting our babies ‘at risk’ by ignoring the very medical professionals trained and certified to minimize those risks. We’re all perpetuating the “Mommy Wars” by daring to snub modern interventions or modern “conveniences”. We’re told that our protesting against overuse of a procedure or by informing other women, we are spreading lies and misinformation and our cause is ‘dangerous’. That our simple message that women are in control of their own health and the health of their babies, and that medical professionals should be relegated to the roles of consultants rather than sole decision makers is not in our best interests.
But you know what? I say LET THEM call us bad mothers. Let them say we’re selfish. Let them say we’re ignorant or any number of other things. Does it really matter? Unless you believe it, it really doesn’t matter what someone else calls you. It doesn’t matter if someone says you’re selfish for wanting a home birth or to simply avoid any intervention you deem unnecessary. It doesn’t matter if someone calls you a ‘bad mother’ for refusing to raise your child the way others think you should. I’m not ‘endangering my child’ by choosing to co-sleep with him instead of forcing him to sleep in his own bed. I’m not a ‘pushover’ because I’m choosing to let my child lead the weaning process or choose when and if he wants to eat. I’m not ‘spoiling’ him. All I’m doing is what’s working for me and my family, and if you don’t like it, well, that’s on YOU. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will not apologize for my choices. And you shouldn’t either.
Parents, let’s stop questioning ourselves when others tell us what we’re doing is selfish or wrong. Let’s stop putting down pregnant women who decide they want something different for their birth experience and instead say “hey, if that’s what you want, GO FOR IT!” Instead of telling women to work WITH their doctors in ‘shared decision making’ (which doesn’t work, by the way) let’s remind them that THEY get final say. Always. Doesn’t matter what the risk is or rather the “perceived risk” since tests can be wrong (especially ultrasounds) and don’t tell the whole story. And if she decides that she doesn’t want a certain test or exam, instead of telling her to ‘do it for the baby’ we should support her in that too. Because no matter what we think or feel about a situation, whether or not we had a negative experience or know someone else who did, it’s not about us. And if WE make a choice that others disagree with, it’s not about THEM either. So when thought about in that context, does it really make any difference if someone ELSE thinks our choices are selfish? NO!!!! Because WE know the truth! WE know that what we’re doing works for us and that to just do what others think we should do would likely NOT make sense for us or we’d regret that choice bitterly.
Case in point, my ‘choice’ to give up on my home birth. That wasn’t a choice I made on my own and I know it. I KNOW it was made out of fear. I KNOW it was made out of deference to family members who were worried about the “what ifs”. I KNOW that I will regret the fact that I gave in even long after my second child has been born at home and grows up and I hold my first grandchild by them. I KNOW that I can never take that choice back. There is no do-over. I will have a home birth with my second baby, of that there is no question or even discussion (it’s happening; accept it, people) but I can’t go back and have a home birth with my son. He will always be the baby that was born in the hospital and my memory of being pregnant with him will always be tainted with those moments when I allowed someone else to dictate what I could and couldn’t do. And while I KNOW that those things happened to push me in this direction and speak out against the culture of compliance and fear, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that his birthday is not a day I celebrate easily. And yet, for those who are against home birth and deem it ‘unsafe’ and the mothers ‘selfish’, they would say I made the ‘right’ choice in the end. The only problem is that their ‘right’ choice was the WRONG choice for me.
Even now, almost 2 years later I find so many of my parenting decisions being questioned and criticized. I keep being told that my son needs to learn to sleep without Mommy in bed next to him. That he’s almost 2 and needs to wean. That if I just tried harder at something they suggest that it would somehow work for me. But here’s the thing; it might work for them. It doesn’t work for me. And it certainly doesn’t work for my son. I sleep next to him because it’s how he manages to stay asleep for longer than an hour or two. I sleep next to him because if he starts whimpering from a nightmare or because his gums hurt from cutting teeth, I can stroke his hair and whisper that he’s safe and he goes back to sleep in seconds. SECONDS, people! He doesn’t even wake up fully before I have him fast asleep again. And plus, I LIKE the nighttime snuggles. I LIKE having little arms around my neck. I LIKE waking up to toddler hugs and kisses and snuggling in bed for up to half an hour before we decide we’re ready to start the day. I LIKE going for naps with him because *I* get to nap too! And as for nursing, it’s far easier than trying to find a pacifier or carry a stuffed animal with us everywhere, and gradually he’s weaning off on his own. He’s still nursing, but not as often and because we’ve been going at his pace I’m not suffering from engorgement (OW!!) or worrying about whether he’s getting adequate nutrients on days when he’s not up to eating because of teeth coming in. When he’s sick he gets over it in less than a week, too, thanks to the antibodies in my milk.