I read an article the other day, which irked me beyond comprehension. This article labeled women who prepare for a natural birth, or who want a positive experience of birth as smug. It also suggested that these women were intentionally putting their babies at risk in order to fulfill their own (selfish) needs. Besides being incredibly obnoxious, the article got it so, so very wrong.
Women who make positive preparations for childbirth are not putting their own needs above the needs of their baby. By wanting a good experience for birth, by wanting to learn about ‘normal’ physiological birth, by wanting to feel empowered, by wanting to feel part of the decision making process, women who prepare their mind and body for the birth of their baby are doing so with the well-being of their baby at the forefront. Of course the well-being of the mother is also paramount; and to be clear, the well-being of the mother involves not only physical/physiological wellness, but also psychological wellness. A healthy baby and body is not enough; mama needs a healthy mind too, in order for her to proceed into motherhood with confidence, conviction, and vitality. Motherhood is bloody hard! Sending a woman away from her birth, mentally wounded, with a baby neatly wrapped up in a little bundle and proclaiming, “At least you got a healthy baby” is not good enough. NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH.
Being prepared for birth with knowledge, understanding of the physiological process, knowledge of the risks and benefits of common maternity interventions (including pain relief), good support, and the ability to make decisions in sometimes difficult situations seems like an obvious choice to me. Not a smug choice, but rather a choice that sets mama and baby up for the best possible start to their lives together outside the womb. I don’t think going in to birth blindly and handing all power over to ones caregivers is the safest option for mothers and babies.
So, do not tell a pregnant woman that she is smug for preparing for her birth. Instead, perhaps try respecting her for working towards the best outcomes for herself and for her baby.
You are not smug for being proud of your birth experience.
You are not smug for preparing for your birth.
You are not smug for making informed choices about how you’d like your birth to go.
You are not smug for wanting to birth “naturally”.
You are not smug for choosing to home birth, or to birth in a birth centre, or for changing care providers at 40 weeks when you realise that their policy does not align with your preferences.
You are not smug for choosing a physiological third stage.
You are not smug for wanting to feel empowered.
You are not smug for wanting not only for you and your baby to survive (surely we are at a point where we can expect more than this!), but also for wanting to feel mentally good and positive – ready to face motherhood with confidence and conviction.
No. You are not smug.
You are a woman. You matter. Your baby matters. Your birth matters. How you feel about your birth matters.
There are positive birth preparation courses ALL over the world. Search for your local Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner, get along to a Positive Birth Movement meet-up, or even start by reading some positive birth stories. Knowledge is power.
Elyse Jamieson – Hypnobirthing Practitioner & Doula