When it comes to pregnancy and birth it happens, all too often, that women are bullied. I know this because I have been one of these women. During my first pregnancy, I was bullied and disrespected with regard to my medical choices and it wasn’t until halfway through my pregnancy that I found my voice and advocated for myself. I also ended up realizing that a hospital environment wasn’t for me and ended up transferring my care and having a wonderful natural birth at an out-of-hospital birthing center. This post isn’t about natural birth and convincing you that you should have one, but rather about encouraging women to advocate for themselves during their pregnancies and deliveries no matter what care decisions they are choosing.
Here’s a bit of a back story so you know where I’m coming from… I am currently 16 weeks pregnant with my second child and am planning to have a home birth. But if you were to flash back to my first-time pregnant self nearly three years ago, I never would’ve dreamed of having a home birth. Before I was pregnant the first time around, my approach to health was pretty different. I was all for Western medicine. “Give me Advil, Nyquil, antibiotics and I’m good” was my mentality. I trusted doctors implicitly and never really questioned their medical recommendations. Doctors are here to do what’s best for us… right?
But, over the course of my pregnancy with my daughter, something changed. I started educating myself and I realized that maybe doctors don’t know everything and maybe medical care isn’t a one-size-fits-all mold for every person.
I know I’m going to get some backlash for that statement about doctors, so I would like to say up front: I am so thankful for doctors. I am thankful that they put in the time and effort to learn about the human body in order to help others. Especially after our recent experience taking our daughter to the ER, I am well aware of how important doctors are. But, doctors are human; they are fallible–just like you and me. Good doctors often have huge patient loads, malpractice insurance to worry about, and bad days just like the rest of us. They can diagnose things, but there is always room for error and when doling out advice and recommendations it is important as a patient to be sure that you are making informed decisions. That is just as true during pregnancy as it is during any other time of life.
It’s no secret to those who have read my posts that I am a huge fan of natural birth. I strongly believe that women’s bodies give us what we need to handle labor in most situations. That said, I realize that my choices are not for everyone and I would never dream of pushing those choices on anyone. I know plenty of women who have gotten epidurals, either because they wanted or needed them, and plenty of women who have needed c-sections. I absolutely do not judge their choices and realize that for many it wasn’t really a matter of choice. Every situation and every birth is different. What I do take issue with is when women do not take the time to educate themselves about their options and blindly wander through the health care system like sheep.
Ask questions! Know what’s in that epidural. Know what the risks of c-section are. Know what the risks of natural child birth are (yes, I realize that home birth has it’s risks as well and have absolutely educated myself about it). Know why you are doing what you are doing and do not be afraid to advocate for yourself. If you don’t feel like your wishes are not being respected by your current midwife or doctor, switch to a different one! If you don’t want this, that or the other test and it’s not truly medically necessary, then don’t be bullied into getting it. Know what your patient rights are and speak up for them.
And if after you have educated yourself and you want to have a hospital birth with your feet in stirrups while blissed out on an epidural? More power to you! If you want to labor for three days straight and give birth at home in a tub without drugs and encapsulate your placenta afterward? Great! There is an immense power to be had in taking control of your pregnancy and birth and being educated about it–no matter the decisions you make. This is what I want for all women–I want us all to be able to enter birth feeling confident and capable and to support one another in our choices.
I notice that we all have our biases when it comes to birth. My bias is toward natural birth, and in my mind hospital births are “scary.” I’ve heard countless horror stories about the “cascade of interventions” that happen therein. But, I am quick to acknowledge that there are many women who have had absolutely fantastic hospital births and who love their epidurals and have nothing but rave reviews for their care providers. Just because my experience receiving care from a hospital was negative, doesn’t mean that everyone else’s will be. My experiences are just that: my experiences and I cannot and should not project them onto others.
The same goes for the other side of the coin though. For women who are biased toward hospital births and drugs, please know that those of us who choose home birth are not “backwoods” or uneducated. On the contrary, we have done a ton of research and we know that there are risks involved, but are making choices that are best for our families. And just as not all hospital births end in a cascade of interventions, not all home births end with “babies being taken to the morgue” (a phrase which has been told to me multiple times by L&D nurses trying to dissuade me from home birth). I know so many women who have had beautiful home births… just as there are many who have had beautiful hospital births.
This my friends is the beauty of education and choice.
Know your options, advocate for yourself, and then make the best decisions for you and your family.
Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland Oregon. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble.