Courtroom Mama recently posted on The Unnecesarean regarding a blogversation between Colleen Oakley, who’s planning to use hypnobirthing to achieve natural childbirth for her first birth and wants to know why other women are so quick to judge and be the opposite of supportive, and KJ Dell’Antonia, who responded that other mothers “snort” because they have the wisdom of having actually experienced birth and its unpredictability.

Courtroom Mama asked how we would reply to both Oakley and Dell’Antonia, and my reply got a little long (shocking, I know), so I’m posting on my own blog.

To Oakley: You rock.  Your body rocks.  Don’t let anyone–not even me 😉 –tell you any differently.

Like you, I chose natural birth for my first baby.  I was then told by my two closest friends, who had just had their first babies, that I couldn’t do it.  They put me in the strangling position of choosing between re-explaining my reasons and thereby indirectly belittling their very recent experiences, or sucking it up and just saying “that’s still what I’m doing.”  I chose the latter; before their births I was quite enthusiastic about our local BirthNetwork and the information it helped me get about birth choices, so I had already talked about more of my reasons than they were willing to hear.  After my son was born (completely according to plan), and after I had listened to their birth stories over and over, they refused to listen to mine, interrupting with statements like “Well I’m getting an induction even sooner next time.”  (You know who you are. If you took the time to click through to this post, thank you so much for listening.  All I ever wanted was for you to listen, respect my perspective, and support my choices.)

As others have stated, the eyerolling and downright nasty comments are largely a matter of insecurity.  When a woman believes in her choices enough–and knows that she was informed enough when she made those choices–she can be supportive, offer information, and let other women make their own choices unhindered.  But when someone is bullied into her choices or didn’t even realize she HAD a choice, it can be very hard for her to step outside that schema and respect other women’s choices, because they are a reminder that she has more to learn (sad to say, since continuous learning is just part of being human).  It may help you maintain your own kind and supportive stance if you can feel sorry for rather than angry with those women who are afraid to open their minds to what you are choosing for yourself.

To Dell’Antonia (what an awesome name, BTW):  I was that “naive” first-pregnancy natural birth optimist and enthusiast.  In fact, I chose home birth.  It was harder and more painful than I could imagine!  But I was educated about normal birth, secure in my choices, and as prepared as possible–which is to say that I expected to feel unprepared.  And I would not give birth any other way without medical reason.  The fact is that birth works for a majority of women who are not hijacked in the name of medical “assistance,” because if it didn’t there would not be several billion people on the planet already.

So please, think twice before you snort at a mother, first-time or otherwise, who believes in herself.  She just might be right.  And you know what? If things don’t turn out as planned, she’s still right to believe in herself.  The point of planning a birth is not that everything goes exactly “perfectly” and that a woman gets exactly what she planned.  The point is that she has taken the time to educate herself and choose a set of ideals for how her body and her baby should be treated.  We don’t snort and say “I told you it wouldn’t make any difference” to a friend who works hard to be a good driver but still gets rear-ended by a jerk on his cell phone (that’s the medicalized hijacking), or loses control because she runs over a nail and suddenly gets a flat at 70 mph (that’s the unpredictable situation beyond anyone’s control).  We hug her and say “I’m so glad you were prepared and wore your seatbelt and had your penicillin allergy card in your wallet.  Would you like to talk about it?  Can I do anything to help you?”

So say it with me, everyone:
Would you like to talk about your birth plan or your birth experience?  Can I do anything to help you?