After a few comments made on our facebook page, I feel I should clarify that this post is not intended to cause offence, or to ‘bash’ true natural birth advocates. When I talk here about trusting birth, I am talking about the kind of blind trust that leads women to take ridiculous risks, as well as encouraging others to do so based on incorrect facts and the assumption that birth can be trusted no matter what. This post was never intended to discredit those who have worked so hard to try to erase the modern-day fear of birth.
Do you trust birth? I don’t. But apparently, Trusting Birth is kind of a pre-requisite to being an advocate for natural, gentle birth. If that’s the case, perhaps I should hang up my Birthie Hat. The thing with birth is that it cannot be trusted completely. Yes, it’s natural. Yes, it’s beautiful. And like everything in nature, it doesn’t work perfectly 100% of the time. Many advocates for natural childbirth would argue that the reason why birth doesn’t work perfectly 100% of the time is because the complicated birth isn’t/wasn’t unhindered. They would also argue that women, if given space and time to listen to their bodies, will know if and when something is going amiss, so that they can seek medical help.
The above sentiments sound terribly romantic, and I can see the argument. But please, think about it – In what world could birth possibly be unhindered for most women? In what world do women not have to deal with any stressors in their lives that could possibly complicate a birth? Furthermore, blaming birth complications on the birth not being unhindered is pretty unfair to the mother, who may well already be feeling guilty that her baby didn’t get the gentle welcome to the world that she had planned. Many of us seek to compare humans to the animal kingdom – well, animals and their young die in childbirth too.
Childbirth is not inherently safe for any mammal on the planet. Complications in normal, low-risk, not-interfered-with birth are rare, but they do occur. Not every complication is due to somebody else’s interference – sometimes it just happens. Any good midwife will tell you that.I am all for natural birth. Do it at home, in the hospital, in a birthing centre, hell, you can do it in a forest if you want. I am all for erasing the fear that is instilled in our society about birth. Fear has no place in birthing. What I am not ‘for’ is blatantly ignoring the fact that sometimes birth DOES go belly up and that it’s not necessarily anybody’s fault. It makes me hopping mad when people pretend that high-risk pregnancy and birth doesn’t exist, and that everything is just a variation of normal.
Risk factors do exist. This is why I just cannot advocate for unassisted birth. I just can’t do it. I will always, always defend a woman’s right to choose to birth unassisted but it’s just not something I can get on board with myself. It just doesn’t seem to be worth the risk (but of course, I know nothing of other people’s situations. If someone chooses to birth her baby unassisted it really is no business of mine).
I think the phrase “Trust Birth” is to natural birth advocacy as “Breast is Best” is to lactivism. At best, it is unhelpful and inaccurate. Breastfeeding is normal, the physiological standard, not “best” – and birth is normal and natural, and therefore not 100% infallible; we are not machines, after all.
Sometimes, things don’t go to plan. Mother Nature is an unpredictable animal. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t trust our bodies – we absolutely should. A complete lack of faith in and fear of the female body is, in my opinion, causing a lot of the problems we see in our world today. Having said that, it wouldn’t hurt anyone to have a little more respect for the process of birth.
Having respect for the beautiful, incredible journey our bodies go through to bring our babies into the world doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind and simply hoping that everything will be fine, any more than it means micro-managing it. We must ask ourselves, if birth can be wholly trusted, why was there ever a need for midwives? Why did those wise women of days of old oversee the births of the villagers? It is likely that these midwives were doing exactly that – overseeing.
They probably would have stood back, allowing the birthing woman as much privacy as she desired. They would only have stepped in if the woman appeared to be in trouble – and as she would have witnessed many births in her time, she would know what she was looking for. In all honesty, I think the phrase “Trust Birth” is to natural birth advocacy as “Breast is Best” is to lactivism. At best, it is unhelpful and inaccurate.
Related Post: What trusting birth means to me
Breastfeeding is normal, the physiological standard, not “best” – and birth is normal and natural, and therefore not 100% infallible; we are not machines, after all. And, most prominently, it’s yet another stick for mothers to beat themselves (and each other) over the head with. If you’d only Trusted Birth, it would have been fine. Well, to anybody reading this who feels (or who has been made to feel) as though it is their fault that their birth didn’t go as it “should” have, heed this – IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. You can prepare yourself, read reams and reams of empowering literature, have a great doctor or midwife, hire a doula and all that jazz… and birth will still be birth. Birth will still be that beautiful, intoxicating wild animal worthy of individual respect.
We continually talk about how our doctors just won’t treat us like individuals and yet we don’t treat our births as such. Birthing 2 babies without drama doesn’t mean the 3rd will be drama-free, just as 2 prior intervention-filled, trauma-inducing births doesn’t mean the 3rd will be devoid of calm. Each baby is different, and so each birth will be different also. I don’t trust birth, and I don’t fear it. I respect it. I trust my body to work as best it can in an individual situation and with an individual baby, and I trust my midwife to look after our best interests; keeping us safe and doing her best to allow us to have the experience we desire, also. What do you think? Can birth ever be trusted?