Sometimes it's not a choice

There's a bumper sticker I've seen around a few times during the last few weeks that's been irritating me. I actually don't mind politically motivated bumper stickers, and sometimes they even make me laugh (like "Who would Jesus bomb?"). But this one just bothers me: "My child was born at home." It's a simple statement, but I hate it because it just seems so divisive.

I'm certainly not against home birth. I was born at home, as were my three younger siblings. I think it can be a great option for many women, and I wish we were a little closer to the British system in which home birth with a midwife is the default option. I wish more states would license midwives that attend home births and that more babies could be born peacefully at home without unnecessary interventions. I also think it's sad that the current climate of insurance costs and lawsuit fears has pushed doctors to do whatever it takes to produce a healthy baby, even at the expense of the mother's health (see here for more on that).

But, I wish those on both sides would tone down the rhetoric. I'm tired of the "culture wars" that seem to take place over every little thing in life these days. I don't think that home birth will ever become a good option because of the emotional fear-mongering on either side. A more balanced approach that recognizes that some home births don't go well, and that many uncomplicated births could take place at home. Unfortunately neither side wants to give in and so each one digs in further. Although I'm an advocate for home birth and I feel that many things in our medical system could change, my children were born in the hospital. It wasn't really a choice I made, since our lives were in danger due to complications. And that's something I wish people on both sides of the issue would realize. During the last few decades everything I've read about birth sets it up as something a woman is in charge of; it's your body and you are in charge. But birth is a natural process, and it is in charge. I think we do ourselves a disservice as women by promoting this idea, because I know many woman who struggle because they didn't have the birth experience they had planned for themselves. I guess that's why the bumper sticker bothers me. I'd rather have one that says "Home birth is a positive choice" or "Home birth works". Or maybe I should just get my own that says "My baby's life was saved by an OBGYN. In a hospital."


Earth Sign Mama said…
Wow, that is an "in-your-face" bumper sticker. I mean, many bumper stickers are meant to be that way. But, truly, birth isn't something you control. Even though we ultimately succeeded in our desire to have you all in the relative calmness of our living room, we were prepared at any moment to abandon it and go straight to the hospital. I agree that the message there is unnecessarily confrontational. Sheesh...the baby is the goal--not the journey from in-utero to out-utero.
Jenny said…
I just had this conversation, minus the bumper stickers, with a friend last night.
Cricket said…
I like your bumper sticker!

But I also don't think the other one was as in-your-face as you may be percieving it.

When I read it (before reading your personal comments) it felt as harmless as a "my child is on the honor roll" sticker.

Now, if it had said something like "My family is better than yours because we home-birthed" I would be a little honked-off too. But I don't think that's what they meant by it, personally
M said…
Not to mention YOUR life being saved. :-) Your babies are very important, but I'm really glad you're still here, too.

I like your observation on the whole thing. Words mean so much more than what we see face-value. I soapbox about how great midwives are (because my first experience has been great, and the new one I met for a hopefully upcoming pregnancy has seemed good so far, too) but I certainly don't look down on people for not seeing them.

My favorite part of your post is the idea that a woman isn't in charge...birth is. I can definitely second that observation. Anyone who's ever tried to stop a contraction should be able to, too.
Courtney said…
I totally agree with you. I have read so many arguments saying that you can't have a positive birth experience in a hospital, but honestly, I felt more safe in a hospital. I think people should just do what they feel best about and no one should give them a hard time about it. Hmm, maybe the whole world would run better that way.
Emma said…
well said.
Having just experienced the birth of my 3rd child I can definitely say the birth is in charge!!! But it was by far the best of the three.
Lady Steed said…
Yes, make that bumper sticker--people need to hear that side too.
Lindsay said…
"I'm tired of the "culture wars" that seem to take place over every little thing in life these days."

AMEN! Why can't people just agree to disagree and move on with their lives? I'm getting tired of the pettiness of it all. Where you have your baby, like so many choices in life, is just that: a choice. It's not right. It's not wrong. It's just there. I wish people could be more accepting and less argumentative about that.

Anyway, lovely post. You've verbalized well what I've been thinking about a lot recently.
I just love you. I should send you my with a midwife but in a hospital birth story. I mean, if I really knew how to send you something personal.
Desmama said…
Excellent observations! I second what many here have said. I, too, think you ought to have that bumper-sticker made. I'd certainly be a taker!
JB said…
It seems like so many issues have become so black and white. More often than not, I find people are actually somewhere in the middle, but everyone wants to be on a team or something and the television news isn't helping any when they pretend to have worthwhile debates that are actually just people barking at each other about how their side of the issue is better.

Recently two of my friends gave birth. One was willing to get an epidural if the pain overrode her fear of needles and the other absolutely wasn't getting one no matter what. The former didn't get one and the latter did. And I don't think anything's wrong with either scenario! I think you have to go with what works for you and the situation at hand. It did bug me, though, when the husband of the girl who didn't get an epidural said that she didn't need one because she was doing it right and if people just did it right they'd be able to go without it too. I really think each situation is too different for broad statements like that.
Seeker said…
Thank you for writing this. The pressure both ways just makes me more terrified of giving birth - not that that's on the horizon. I have friends who would freak out no matter which option I chose. I wish they'd just accept that some choices work for some people and another path is better for others.
AmyJane said…
Amen. I'd buy that bumper sticker.
Jennifer said…
I don't mean to be disrespectful at all. Maybe it is because it is in the middle of the night, but I just don't get it. What is so wrong about them saying their child was born at home? Maybe they just want other moms to know that having a baby at home is a choice that can be made. It is probobly just me since it is so late at night.

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