Along my Pregnancy Journey I’ve noticed a few things that appear to be quite common when it comes to women’s birthing choices. Hospital births are certainly the norm, so when people heard of my home birth choice I was met with both horror and claims of selfishness, on my part. Apparently wanting a home birth is selfish, because I’m risking my babies health not having it in a hospital. I’m also being selfish for having a ambulance on standby just in case anything goes wrong, because other people might need that ambulance. What I’m hearing from these statements is not concern for my baby, or the people that might need ambulances, but criticism for making a choice others don’t agree with.
First off, I’m not risking my babies life by having it at home, I’m trying to save our child and myself from a traumatic birth experience, one that could have been avoided if it weren’t for hospital policy. Because guess what? Hospitals treat birthing women the same, with a one size fits all attitude. Birth is not a one size fits all experience, all women are different, they all have different needs. And its also extremely inhuman in its attempt to bring life into the world. Hospital policies say that birthing women can’t eat, that they should be constantly monitored, that they don’t have a say in what happens. Hospital policies say that episiotomies benefit women and should be done routinely, even when there is no research to prove this.
All women should have their voices heard when it comes to how they want to birth, but this isn’t the case. In fact thousands of Irish women have walked into anti-natal appointments, birth plans in hand and confidently handed them over only to be laughed at and undermined. Even with extensive research done of cord clamping, breathing the babies out and skin to skin contact straight after birth, all of which are highly studied and proven to be of benefit, midwives in hospitals can simply say no we don’t do that here. Routine procedures are often done without explicit consent, and sometimes women are guilted into them with lines like ‘Your putting your baby at risk‘. And for what? Because birth in hospitals is on a time limit, if that baby isn’t out in a certain amount of time then its off for a C-Section, traumatic birth begins and the birthing woman is yet again treated like a piece of meat. Unnecessary intervention is rampant in hospitals births, which is why the C-section rate in Ireland is horrifyingly high.
So, no I’m not putting my baby at risk by having it at home, I feel I would be doing that in a hospital.
I’ve also heard a woman say to a pregnant woman planning a home birth that they aren’t safe, and the excuse that women have been doing it since the dawn of time is invalid because women were giving birth to babies in bushes and dying. Well lady…that comment is invalid and hugely false. Society seems to think that midwives are a new concept, they have only existed since hospital births. This is not the case. Midwives have been around for hundreds of years and were able to both understand and acknowledge the needs of the birthing woman as well as her babies. They and their knowledge was invaluable to the birthing woman, and their experience was passed down for centuries. It was only with the rise of hospital births that we, as a society, lost that power. The power to fully understand the needs of the birthing woman and baby. So yeah, women have been birthing at home since the dawn of time, with the help of women who understood, who listened, and most importantly, didn’t treat every birth the same.
Birthing is, after all, a uniquely female experience. So who better to understand these needs than women? And yet we have women shunning others for making informed decisions based on their individual needs. We have women who say things like ‘good luck’ or ‘how close is the nearest hospital?’ when they hear of my birthing choice, as if there are serious dangers involved when in fact the rate of hospital transfer is incredibly low, the mortality rate is under 1%, and that’s compared to hospital mortality rates where the HSE have had to investigate the death of 30 babies born in hospitals. And yet, some women are criticizing me for wanting to avoid that. And isn’t that really where the problem lies? That most women are so willing to give up their voices, to forget their research and simply allow doctors and nurses to tell them the opposite, only to be left silenced by the professionals. A lot of these women have awful birth experiences and are left with traumatic stories that only further perpetuates the idea that birth is dangerous. Then these same women are coming to me telling me I’m putting my child at risk, I wont be able to cope without medication, I wont be able to handle what my body was literally created to do, because I don’t understand the dynamics of birth. And that, right there is the real problem, we are taught not to trust our bodies, because we are women. We are taught to believe that our bodies will fail at the very thing it has been preparing to do since we hit puberty.
So yeah, birthing is a feminist issue, and if women are criticizing other women for wanting their voices to be heard when it comes to the way they birth, then misogyny has a more powerful grip on society that I wish to comprehend.