Childbirth, like raising children, is one of those subjects on which nobody can resist sharing their opinions or imparting their wisdom upon you – regardless as to whether they have actually had children or not.
Luckily, when I was pregnant, I rarely received comments that were negative or patronising. However, from reading forums and facebook pages that deal with matters of birth, it’s clear that my experience is in the minority.
So, for anybody reading this who knows someone who’s planning a home birth, here are 5 of the things you could say that are neither helpful nor productive. So, um, don’t say them.
#1 – “But what if something goes wrong?”
Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence. –facepalm-
Seriously, though. Why do people seem so determined to terrify you with all of the things that could possibly go wrong at a birth? The fact is, there are only a handful of possible complications that would require immediate medical attention at a hospital. Assume that the person planning a home birth has informed and educated herself, because she most probably has. Lets face it; the majority of people willingly go to hospital to give birth because it’s standard. It’s the ‘done thing’. I’m willing to bet that a large majority of those women haven’t actually researched anything about the safety or the risks of hospital birth (hell, if they did, the home birth rate would probably be a lot higher!). I will just clarify that I am fully aware that there are many women who *do* fully research the hospital as their chosen place of birth, it is just in my own personal experience that the majority of women I know who have birthed in hospitals have put little to no thought into it, mostly because they think they aren’t “allowed” to birth anywhere else.
Related Post: 10 Reasons to Choose Home Birth
And besides, why assume that this woman’s body is broken? She was built to give birth, and unless there is some medical reason that could cause things to go wrong, it is safe to assume that she and her amazing body can handle it. And you know what? She and her body will likely be much better equipped to handle it at home, where she is most comfortable and not feeling like a patient; like a sick person who needs medical care and assistance.
#2 – “You won’t be able to handle the pain; you better go to hospital in case you want an epidural.”
Unfortunately, I –was- treated to this little gem, after telling an acquaintance of my plans to have an unmedicated home birth. What a shame that some people feel the need to ensure those around them are terrified.
I believe that pain during labour is exacerbated by fear. Indeed, my own experiences confirm this theory, and I’m sure many other women who have birthed multiple babies in different locations would agree that their medicated hospital births were a damn sight more uncomfortable than their home births.
If you ever feel tempted to undermine a woman’s ability to cope with her labour sensations, DON’T. The media will have already taken care of that for her. The best thing you can do for her is to tell her she CAN do it, and that she WILL do it. A little old-fashioned encouragement goes a long way.
#3 – “Well, I was glad I was in the hospital for my (induced/augmented/heavily medicated) birth. I would have died if I had been at home.”
Maybe. Or you might have had a wonderful, safe experience due to avoiding the interventions that caused those problems in the first place.
Yes, I know that sometimes complications are unavoidable, and yes I am grateful that modern technology has provided solutions to those complications that have saved the lives of many an infant and their mothers. I also know that births are interfered with in hospitals every single day, and this lack of respect for the normal birth process has resulted in a caesarean rate in the US of more than 32%. 32%!! That’s almost a third of all births. Of course, a necessary caesarean is an amazing and wonderful thing! An unnecessary one can be a pain in the backside at best, and at worst can have serious ramifications.
#4 – “Ugh, what about the mess?!”
Birth isn’t actually all that messy in most cases. Other than a gush of waters (which could happen at home even if you plan to deliver in hospital), and some bleeding around the time of birth and afterwards, there is usually very little mess. A few sheets or some disposable incontinence sheets usually suffice to protect ones floors. And if you choose to have a water birth, your mess will be contained within the tub!
#5 – “You’re selfish to plan a home birth. That might be what you want, but what about what’s safest for the baby?”
Yes, yes, I am incredibly selfish to plan a home birth… that is pretty much as safe as a hospital birth. ACOG recently published their ‘opinion’ on home birth, and said that that home births aren’t as safe (although they didn’t cite their sources…). However, the studies I have found on the subject certainly contradict this statement. One large study in Canada (google it, it’s there) concluded that only 0.35% of midwife attended home births resulted in the death of the baby, in comparison to a 0.64% morbidity rate in physician attended hospital births. In fact, the one study I -could- find that does seem to show home birth as statistically more dangerous is one that has since been torn apart for bad research practices, such as including unplanned, pre-term and other high-risk homebirth scenarios in their findings.
Home birth isn’t for everyone, and I’m not trying to convince anybody that it is. This post is simply here to empathise with mothers who have felt frustrated at the judgements of others over their plans.
I would love to hear what gems you’ve heard whilst planning your home births, or indeed your natural hospital births! Please do share in the comments below :