adventures in birthing

We keep our birth experiences secret.   One of the reasons is because of Moms Judging Moms.  If I say I had no interventions during Aaron’s birth and it was awesome or I say I had an epidural with Isaac’s and it was awesome, I’m going to get killed either way.  So I just keep my mouth shut.

Motherhood is a very defensive profession.  The fact is that my experience being a mom does not reflect upon your own experience being a mom.  Prenatal testing v. no prenatal testing!  Breast v. bottle!  Cloth v. disposable!  Stay at home v. work! Public v. private schools! Inclusion v. segregation!  Even the terminology around our choices is war-like.

I’ve been reading the Twitter responses to Andre Picard’s recent piece in the Globe and Mail, It’s time to stop treating pregnancy like a disease.  I happen to agree with his sentiment:

Similarly, put a perfectly healthy pregnant woman in a hospital and she becomes a patient – someone to be monitored, sedated, drugged, “assisted,” operated on and so on.

But if you do not agree with this, or this has not been your experience, THAT IS OK.  Everybody calm down.  Picard has swirled up a Twitter storm with both parents and physicians, who cite cases of women who needed interventions to save the lives of their babies.

My work at the Stollery showed me that this is true.  Medicine does save lives.  I was honoured to meet families who had very premature or sick children, and were grateful for the good work done by health professionals in the Labour and Delivery Rooms and NICUs.  Their birth experiences did not go as planned.

A percentage of moms do require monitoring, sedation and surgery in order to give birth.  This is true.  But I believe that any interventions that happen to women prenatally and postnatally are traumatic on mothers’ bodies, and on their hearts – and this includes how a diagnosis is disclosed to families by physicians.

Sometimes the birth experience you expected is not the birth experience you got. Sometimes the baby you expected is not the baby you got.   New mothers who have unexpected experiences are in desperate need of maternal mental health services to help heal.  This recognition is sadly lacking in our health care system.

Picard’s piece speaks to the vast majority of moms who do not require intervention to have baby.  I wrote an essay about Aaron’s birth in a book of essays called Adventures in Natural Childbirth many years ago.  There I expressed my gratitude for having birthed him with no interventions.  I feel that doing it all on my own helped put me on a path of strength to deal with his Down syndrome diagnosis.   But that was just my experience.  My experience does not negate your experience.

For those women and babies who needed  interventions, I’m glad that the health professionals were there for them.  I believe that for most women, the health system should get their sticky fingers off the steering wheel.  Please, let’s all get off our pedestals and stop judging other women and their experiences.  There is no one right way to have a baby.

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