Pregnancy: Everyones An Expert (Not)Meredith Carroll
More than halfway into my current pregnancy with no major issues to speak of, and one healthy (if not currently mildly irritating) child already by my side, I thought I was doing pretty well.
Then I started writing for this site. I had no idea there were so many pregnancy experts out there. Not to be rude or ungrateful, but not a few of you have succeeded in driving me slightly crazy.
I previously had no reason to believe my current method of obtaining pregnancy advice and information (namely my doctor and nurse and a few highly regarded books and websites on the topic) wasn’t to be trusted. But so many readers have let me know what I’m doing and planning is wrong on one level or another, and what my medical team is doing wrong, and in some cases, illegal (!).
Which has made me wonder who, exactly, should really feel qualified and comfortable doling out advice on a subject that can literally be about life and death?
The answer as far as I’m concerned is this: No one, short of someone with a Doctor in front of their first name or a comma and an RN after their last. I mean, what layperson, exactly, really feels it’s OK to dispense what they characterize as concrete, black and white information on a topic in which they don’t hold a degree? If I did that, I think I’d be up at night with worry wondering about the far-reaching effects of my words in the event that I were, in fact, wrong.
It’s one thing to offer an opinion or a personal anecdote, but what I’ve seen in so many (so many) comments on my posts is people telling me I am wrong and they are right. Not offering opinions, but facts.
And I wonder — do you really want to take the responsibility of telling a woman that her c-section isn’t necessary, or that an epidural is going to harm her unborn child just because you’ve read it somewhere (or several places), or you’ve had conversations with other friends who’ve also said, read and heard the same thing? Or because you’ve participated in a really good birthing class, or have taken a few childbirth educator classes yourself?
I don’t discount the value of certified childbirth educators, even though the birthing class I took ended up being a waste of time. I also don’t doubt that countless women have tremendous experiences with midwives, even though a couple of bad visits office visits with one lead me to decide I’d rather not see any.
On this site I’ve chosen to write about my experiences, feelings and offer my opinion on a few pregnancy-related conversations. And much of what I’ve received in return is a serious lashing because the way I’m going about my pregnancy in some instances is very much science-based in terms of medication and medical procedures. I’m hardly alone in my choices, but on this site you’d think I were a leper.
The thing is, I could care less if someone looks down on me for making lemonades out of lemons because I’m choosing to give birth at a hospital that — quite legally — doesn’t perform VBACs (want more information on this? Just ask me). And yes, I’m choosing to not uproot my career, my husband’s career and my daughter’s life to temporarily (and expensively) relocate 300 miles away for an undetermined period of time just so we can wait until I go into labor in a larger city where VBACs are safely performed, particularly since my medical team believes I will end up needing another c-section for medical reasons anyway.
And despite what you have concluded about me, by choosing an epidural during my first birth experience doesn’t mean I’m too fancy or spoiled or selfish for natural childbirth, but if it makes you feel better about your choices to accuse me otherwise, then I think you should continue to do so. I really am perfectly happy with my choices and I’m happy if what I do helps you reach the same level of satisfaction with yours.
I’m also comfortable with the qualifications of the people giving me advice, but the amount of people who aren’t on my team (or, frankly, on my side) who are offering other advice and labeling it fact is astounding and dangerous, I think. Good conversation makes the world go round, but speculation, rumors, conspiracy theories and old or untrustworthy research presented as fact is frightening.
There is more than one side to every story, but I find it shockingly irresponsible realizing how many people out there try to discourage, shame or boast of “factual” information in reference to someone else’s health and pregnancy. Unless you’re ready to step up and be accountable for what you’re sure you’re presenting as gospel, I would either cushion your words with lots of extra padding or think twice about speaking up at all.
Do you think too many people out there are unqualified pregnancy experts?
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