I am pregnant with my second baby. After a lot of thought and research, I finally made the decision to have a home birth this time around. I feel great about my decision, but I’ve been encountering so much grief from everyone else! I’m not sure I can spend the next six months defending my choice to people who seem to think I’m crazy, selfish, reckless, etc. Any ideas about how to deal? – Defending The Home Front
We have no doubt that your choice was made with the utmost consideration. And as educated birth consumers, we know that home birth with an experienced midwife is a totally valid and safe option for low-risk pregnancies. Still, enthusiastic Ricki Lake documentary or no, home birth is considered a pretty fringe, radical idea in this country. In America, hospitals are normal and not being in a hospital is often perceived as weird and scary. You can holler from the rooftops that 30% of women in the Netherlands give birth at home and they have better fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality rates than we do, but people here may not change their minds that easily. Women who have home births sometimes find that they simply get too tired of throwing themselves into the den of nay-sayers, and pretty much stop talking about it. This is one way to just focus on what you’ve got going on and shut out some negativity. As a second time parent, you may have some experience with this technique of opinion-avoidance. The downside of this approach is that you may feel sad about cutting friends or family out of an important and meaningful part of your life. Secrecy can lead to resentment or reinforce the us-against-them feeling.
Here are a few ways to avoid as much negativity as possible:
There are very long answers about safety in birth. Many books have been written on the subject. If you’re criticized about your choices, let people know that you’ve done a lot of reading and you’re happy to suggest a few books or websites that include research supporting your decision. You may not want to engage in the full debate at every turn – and the person on the other end may not either.
When you’re talking to women who made different choices in childbirth, accentuate the positive (and personal) aspects of your choice rather than the negative aspects of theirs. Far too often debates over controversial topics become personal attacks. And even well-meaning discussions can provoke insecurity and defensiveness. But we all have different reasons for making our choices – it’s important be able to talk about those different reasons respectfully.
Find good listeners
One of the hardest parts about making a controversial choice is that you can end up feeling like a spokesperson. You may want to find a sympathetic ear for expressing doubts or irritation with aspects of your experience – just because it’s hard to wave the banner high all day and night for anything. Mothers who have had a home birth are often really good at sharing their stories (including fears, pain and how they dealt with both) as well as listening to your thoughts. Or you can try finding others who are not toeing either party line but are able to offer support without judgment.
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