The Birth Culture
One of my favorite things about being a parent that travels and lives overseas is that I can avoid almost all the drama of living in the States. I avoid discussions about homeschooling or free range children or whether kids should be “allowed” in restaurants. Sometimes I read the NY Times parenting blog, but not often, the Mommy wars just get me riled up, and I want to take everyone into a big room and say:
“Listen, just by the fact that your kid was born to you, a parent who cares enough to fight online about whether you should breastfeed or formula feed, your kids are going to be just fine. You care. You have the time, education and resources to go online and argue with people. It really doesn’t matter, sweeties, because you love your kids. Everything else is just cake.”
Even extremely poor families take pretty good care of their kids, from what I’ve seen, because we all love our children and even if you’re yelling at them (like they do in some cultures, but in a paternal way) or if you’re hovering and praising everything they do (like they seemingly do in others) ultimately, my theory is at least, we end up raising kids who act quite a bit like us. The Egyptian kids yell at each other and gesture wildly like their parents, and the Chinese kids play silently in the park with their very quiet parents. I hear a lot of parenting myths when I travel, like don’t give pregnant ladies ice water (Bali) or babies should wear six layers in 90 degree weather (Colombia), but despite all of our interfering, as an outsider it’s easy to see how much kids just pick up the culture around them, regardless.
Whatever, it’s all good.
So I found out this week that I have at least until Friday to stay pregnant because my blood work came back and it looked good. I would like to avoid a c-section or induction, but if I develop full-blown pre-eclampsia, like last time, there’s no avoiding it.
Here, in Mexico, there is no birth culture that glorifies not using a doctor when you’re pregnant. Midwives are available but are much more common in rural areas. In Thailand going to a private hospital is a privilege. In Beirut, my OB had a line out the door of women who were thrilled to see her.
I don’t have a problem with natural childbirth — that was the plan with my first, I used a midwife in Oregon — but this time around it’s not an option for me, at best I’m having a VBAC, which means I’m no longer low risk, so I’ve opted to have a hospital birth with an OB.
It’s pretty common, right? But there’s this judgey earthy crunchy element (not all, obviously) that likes to cluck at women like me, to encourage us to fight for our natural births. It’s so frustrating to me, because of course I want that too, but I’m not willing to take the chance.
Question: don’t I get to make this call without suffering the faux sympathies of women who took different paths?
Yet, every once in a while, this segment of US birth culture finds me, even though I don’t read birth boards or ask for advice from friends back home, it still sometimes slams me upside the head. I should know better than to be happy about avoiding a c-section for one more week, because the next thing I know I’m getting sent advice from a well meaning person on how to naturally treat my condition through diet and herbs. Essentially how I could avoid medical intervention if I just ate better (juicing) or soaked in epsom salts or took some homeopathic meds. Implying my looming medical interventions were unnecessary because I just hadn’t taken the steps to nurture my body correctly.
The advice? It made me cry.
I wish it was that easy. I have no doubt they intended it as helpful, but it stung. I had my defenses down, I had been candid about the fact I would happily get a repeat c-section if needed, and I hadn’t cloaked my language in any naturalistic terms. I was simply going for a healthy mama and healthy baby, not trying to set myself emotionally by focusing too much on the method. And this woman gave her advice and literally laughed at me in her message, for what, I don’t know, for not “getting” birth and not “trusting” my body and baby “to know when it’s time”.
Bite me. If my blood pressure spikes, the baby comes out. Period. It’s time.
Yet here I was crying because it does make me sad that I may never have a natural birth. I know that a second c-section means that the doorway to experiencing birth, that Ricki Lake, Business of Being Born, empowered-woman-catching-her-own-baby-as-she-gloriously-embraces-her-strength-as-a-woman version would be closed to me forever. I’ve never had a contraction, been in labor, felt any of those things. It’s secondary, of course, but yes, part of me wants that too. I cried because I felt terrible, a little sorry for myself and I knew no matter what I said I’d come off looking defensive. I do wish my body handled pregnancy better. I would like to experience all of it. I just don’t know how to do that and not put myself or child at risk.
This is what drives me crazy about parenting and making babies in the US. It’s so competitive. It’s kind of hurtful. And no matter what we do, we’re doing something wrong according to someone.
It also makes me furious. I mean when did natural birth become the holy grail of motherhood? Listen, having a c-section is equally awesome. Outcomes matter. Healthy baby = winning. You want to talk about motherhood achievements, talk to a woman who planned for nine months to have an all-natural birth but when presented with complications, didn’t flinch, she did what was needed to be safe.
This was me, three years ago: Is there a risk to my baby? Then take me instead. Cut my body open, take this baby out and let’s get this done. I will be sore for a few weeks. I’ll have a scar. I’ll breastfeed that child laying on my back with an IV in my arm and a blood pressure cuff on the other and a machine that beeps every 15 minutes throughout the first night. I will do this happily and without ever knowing for sure what would have happened otherwise. I’ll live with the uncertainty. Sometimes I’ll cry about it because some other women will make me feel like I failed, but if presented with the option a second time, I will still take the same path. I’m not giving in, I’m fighting back. I’m not doing too little, I’m doing everything I can.
Or something like that. Then I remind myself not to talk to people online about birth or babies or pretty much anything controversial pretty much ever. Like gun control. Holy crap, when did the US lose it’s mind? (By the way, I still don’t know how this second baby will come into the world, but we’re working closely with our OB).
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Date: February 20th, 2013 @ 18:06
Categories: Independent Travel