giving a wide berth to birth

i continue to read the back-and-forth on local womens’ birth experiences at a variety of local hospitals. for every person who has had a positive experience at hospital A, there is someone who has apparently had a near-death experience there. while it is safe to say that there are certain hospitals i would avoid, either due to inconvenient locale or political policies which i oppose (i read somewhere that a local catholic hospital refuses to terminate pregnancies, regardless of the circumstances, which (of course) is its right but not something i would want to support), in general, if you are having a baby, you will need some sort of help. as one who spent two weeks getting treated for a freakish illness recently, i can tell you that there are worse places to be than in a hospital.

while i appreciate the whole birth movement and respect women’s decisions to use midwives, or have babies underwater, or experience the blessed event while skydiving (ok, so i made that last one up), i often wonder about women who obsess over the whole birth planning process. they make lists about what interventions they will or will not accept; they take classes on how to give birth and hypnotise themselves into a calm state; they psyche themselves into planning the perfect birth. they are usually first-time moms-to-be. (these are probably the same women who spent forever planning the perfect wedding.)

you really can’t plan the birth. sure, those women who plan a birth that happens perfectly, trouble-free, they’ll think they made it happen that way. but honestly, they merely lucked out. the truth is that birth is messy, scary, excruciating, and wonderful, all at once. and you really cannot predict how it will all go until the baby comes out and cries and passes his apgar screen and all is (hopefully) well. i cringe when i hear a mom tell me how depressed she is because, after all this planning, she had a c-section, as if somehow, she failed in the big birthing competition. what is wrong with a c-section, i wonder, if that is what you needed to keep yourself and your child alive? (and don’t even get me started on how i feel about the term natural childbirth.)

suffice it to say that these same women who try to plan their birthing experiences down to the last second will be very distressed to discover that they cannot plan their child’s life down to the second.


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