How we see ourselves & others: changing the conversation about birth
There is an article that recently appeared in the Globe and Mail, written by Leah McLaren, called Birth shaming is about controlling women, not helping babies.
The conversation about birth, and about moms, has really gotten out of hand.
We can do better than this.
To summarize the article, in an effort to speak out against the shaming of mothers who have medicated births, Leah shames and discredits mothers who give birth naturally and anyone who supports or promotes natural birth, even calling it “detrimental” and a “bourgeois indulgence”.
The article abounds with misinformation and missing information. Leah uses words like the “dark ages” and “summersaulting in a field of daisies” as analogies for natural birth which feels more like an attempt to ridicule than engage in the conversation in a helpful way.
So, I’m using this space-this non-judemental space–to try to present a different way forward in our conversations about birth.
It’s interesting that this article was released so close to “Women’s Equality Day” which celebrates women winning the right to vote in the United States. The right to vote is all about having a voice, having a say.
And THAT is the conversation we need to be having about birth.
Interestingly, I journaled about this very thing earlier this week. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote in my journal this past Tuesday:
The truth of it is that birth, like everything else in a woman’s life, is something we need to fully participate in so that we can come away from it feeling whole and empowered. We are not merely the passengers. We are participants with the power to influence birth.
We give that power away when we don’t get informed, don’t actively make choices, don’t prepare our bodies and our minds for this human rite of passage.
“Don’t be a hero. Take the epidural.” some will say. But, birth is not about heroism. It’s about human strength, connection, dignity and compassion. And, we can find all of that in a well-supported birth, whether medicated or not.
“Do the right thing. Don’t take the epidural. Natural is the right way.” others will say. But, the epidural is not a moral choice. It’s flawed to view it as the “right” or “wrong” thing and doing so can feel coercive and limit a woman’s choices.
We need to change the dialogue about birth and women’s bodies. It’s more about helping a woman participate in her birth than it is about the specific choices she makes. The fact is, when she is making choices, she is participating. When she speaks up, she is occupying her birth space instead of shrinking and trying to make herself small, compliant.
My computer won’t let me shrink the size of my text here, but maybe this needs to be in giant letters anyways.
Birth professionals are not there to shame you, to pressure you or coerce you. They are there to guide you towards a positive experience through education and support, helping you find your voice and your strength, no matter how you give birth.
Research in the field of childbirth has been lacking, and largely focused on medical interventions. In light of this, it’s never a good idea to make sweeping generalizations about birth.
Whatever choices you make along the way, your voice matters, your choices matter, you matter. The truth is your birth process matters just as much as your birth outcome. IT ALL MATTERS.
Don’t let anyone shame you for the way you gave birth and most importantly, don’t shame yourself. Birth shaming has no place in the conversation about women and birth. Instead we must focus on how to better meet your needs, hold space for you and honour your choices and your experience. And, by not shaming yourself, you contribute to that process.
And, finally, when you read articles like this one in the Globe and Mail, just know that there are those of us who are here, who will keep showing up, to contribute to this conversation with grace, dignity and inclusion so ALL of you can have a stronger voice at your births and after your births, without shame.
Certified Professional Birth Doula
Perinatal Support Worker (student) PNSW