Why I Feel Betrayed by the Natural Birth/Homebirth Movement

This is the first time I have dared put these thoughts and feelings into words. I realize that this can be a touchy subject, and I am aware not everyone will agree with me. That is okay, but I ask that those reading this are respectful of my experience and opinions. I want to be clear that I am sharing my own thoughts and feelings because of my own very real experience. While I am no longer pro-homebirth, I am not totally against it either (but don’t expect me to recommend it). I am definitely pro natural birth, but there are some dangers I have realized in my own tragic birthing experience, and I feel it is important to share them. 

Some Background

My first 4 babies were born in the hospital. I was induced for all of them, not always by choice. I also had an epidural for all of them. These births were all pretty uneventful. I have stories about all of them, and about how they didn’t go perfectly, and things I wanted to change. I never loved having them in the hospital, but overall it was ok. With my 4th child, Levi, I felt I was coerced into (possibly) unnecessary interventions. I was lied to, and I felt manipulated. I also had a weird reaction to the epidural. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I didn’t feel taken seriously when I told the nurse about it. 

I didn’t want to deal with that again, so when I was pregnant with my 5th child, Owen, I decided I was going to do it naturally (as in without medication). The plan was to give birth in the hospital with a Certified Nurse Midwife. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I took a childbirth class and got a doula. When I was 35 weeks along, I was having so much anxiety about having my baby in the hospital. I was afraid I would be coerced again, and that I wouldn’t be able to find my voice and advocate for myself. I decided to have my baby at a birth center with a lay midwife (not certified, but had her own qualifications that I was okay with). Having a baby at a birth center is really the same as a homebirth. It is simply having a homebirth in a different place. This experience was beautiful. It wasn’t perfect, but it left me wanting to do it again, and wanting to do it at home next time. 

When I was pregnant with my 6th baby, August, I knew I wanted to go to the next level and have a homebirth. I immersed myself in childbirth info. I visualized his birth everyday. I did all the things I was supposed to do to prepare from the very beginning. I was much more prepared for August’s birth than I was Owen’s. It was going to be beautiful. But then it wasn’t. I felt like a failure. It took me a while to put it into words, but in a nutshell, I felt confused and betrayed.

Some Things Taught in the Natural Birth World That Were Dangerous For Me:

Birth isn’t Dangerous. It is a Natural Process, and the Interventions Used by Medical Professional are What Make it Dangerous.

This is taught to help ease fears of having birth. This is true in lots of cases. Birth isn’t always dangerous, and it also doesn’t always require intervention. The problem is that sometimes birth is very dangerous, and August’s birth happened to be one of those births. Throughout history, many women and babies have lost their lives during childbirth. Until more recently, births were performed without medical intervention. Mortality rates during childbirth have decreased significantly in the last 100 years due to medical intervention. 

In the natural childbirth community, birth is romanticized. It is described in a way that gives very high expectations. It is often described as orgasmic, and comes with feelings of ecstasy. The hormones that are released after birth do give you elevated feelings, and I have experienced this. 

But this romanticizing of childbirth can be very dangerous. Having an amazing birth experience was my priority. Of course everyone wants to have a healthy baby! I sure did. But the idea that a baby could be injured during birth isn’t something that is readily acknowledged. Possible complications are not discussed. In fact, it is a common practice to purposely avoid hearing about negative birth experiences to avoid feelings of fear. It felt to me like anything that could go wrong was in my control.  

Almost Anyone Can Have a Safe, Natural Birth if You Take Fear Out of the Equation

Fear is said to be the main cause of problems during childbirth. Your body responds to fear, so if you can get rid of fear, your body will allow your child to be born in an uneventful way. This is true to an extent. I will not refute that this helps many people avoid C-sections, etc. But I held onto this tightly. I did my best to deal with any fear I had, and also to process through previous experiences that caused me to have fear in childbirth. 

There is also the teaching that what you think about you will bring about. While I do believe that our thoughts are important, and that they do shape our reality, it is also important to realize that our thoughts have limits. I cannot control anyone else with my thoughts. That means that even though I am not afraid, and I have visualized a beautiful birth for 38 weeks, I don’t get to control what the midwife does when there is a concern. I also cannot control the genetic makeup of my baby with my thoughts. The fact is that my baby had a life threatening problem because of a genetic mutation we didn’t know about at the time. What happened had nothing to do with my fear or my thoughts.

Because I didn’t want to bring about any complications, I did not even create an emergency plan. I didn’t want to acknowledge that something could go terribly wrong because if I did, it was more likely to happen. I don’t know that things would have been any better if I had created a plan, but the fact remains that I purposely avoided making an emergency plan. That seems ridiculous to me now.

If You Had a Negative Experience it is Because You Created it

I had this photo on my vision board. I looked at it everyday as I visualized August’s beautiful birth, and the time following it. It took me 3 months to take it down after August was born. At first, I wanted to keep it up until I could come to terms with the birth and decide it was what I envisioned. Because if I admitted that the birth wasn’t what I envisioned, I would be admitting I failed. It would still be up if I had done that! Thankfully I had some good friends and a mentor who helped me feel okay with giving myself some grace and taking it down. I glued it in my journal with a journal entry about how it is okay to feel that August’s birth was a bad experience for the rest of my life. 

I struggled with this concept for years. I analyzed how I could have possibly caused the birth to go so wrong. After lots of work on this, I acknowledge that I don’t have control over everything. Bad things happen, even to the most prepared people with the best thoughts. Again, I will say that I believe that thought work is important, and that you create your own reality to an extent, but it is dangerous to believe that you create everything that ever happens to you. It is simply giving yourself too much power.

It’s Important to Avoid Extremes

If I could go back in time, my goal would have been to have a healthy baby over a beautiful birth experience. If I could have a great experience, that’s amazing! But in the end, my experience was the total opposite. My baby almost died. He has a life-long injury. I wasn’t even remotely prepared for the possibility something could go wrong. That is a lot to deal with. That is a lot of guilt and shame. I would give anything to be able to tell my former self this. If I could do it again, I would have had August in the hospital, despite all the negative things that can happen there. 

It is true that a hospital birth has its own problems, but so does homebirth. It is important to find a happy medium, make sure you are informed, and not get too deep into any way of thinking. I feel that I got into some extremes in my thinking, and the cost was high. The danger comes when we think in extremes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: