Contrary to what I believed for many years, I ditched home birth, and I ditched judging other women by their birth stories.
When I talk about why I ditched home birth, I feel like a horde of angry women bearing pitchforks will show up on my doorstep, or at least, skewer me online. Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case, and people have been pretty kind — even though I ended up on a totally different path than the one I started on.
When I talk about how I used to judge other women by how they give birth, I cringe. I can’t believe I was that person.
A few years ago, I was totally the crunchy type that picked all-natural everything and secretly judged other people’s birthing choices. I would smile and nod at other women’s birth stories, silently disagreeing with just about everything they said.
That all changed after baby number three. See, my first daughter was born in a tiny cabin in the woods (no, I’m not making that up) and delivered by an incredibly inexperienced midwife who had never delivered alone before — it was a pretty bumpy ride.
In spite of that experience, we learned from our mistakes and checked references upon references for our next home delivery (which went incredibly well) and did the same for our third. Whew! I had done it! I was a super-crunchy granola mommy who avoided hospitals, sugar, and Red Dye #40!
Then everything changed. With my fourth baby, I had hyperemesis gravidarum, which basically feels like a nine-month combo of a hangover plus the worst food poisoning you’ve ever had. The baby wasn’t doing well, and no midwife would touch me with a 10-foot pole. I was in the hospital more times than I can recall, and when she was finally born, I was too sick to deal with labor pain and was given an epidural.
One of my friends joked, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen!” and I learned then that natural isn’t always best. I needed (and wanted) medical intervention. I was so stressed about the baby’s distress that I didn’t have regular contractions until the pain went away and I was able to relax.
Giving birth is as personal as it gets, and after that experience, I literally had zero desire to be up in someone else’s…er, business — of any kind but especially that kind.
I have always said that I feel very strongly that women should be able to decide how they deliver and make medical choices that are best for them and their babies. But now I have finally – finally! – quieted that smug inner voice that used to feel superior for delivering naturally. Because, guess what, having babies without intervention did not make me a better mom — not in any way. I am the same parent to my youngest two kids as I was to my older three (hopefully better!). In all five instances, I made birthing choices that reflected what I truly believed to be best for them, and for me, and thankfully, I didn’t get it wrong.
Basically, I learned to relax. I learned that medicine can serve an amazing purpose, like keeping tiny babies healthy when they are at high-risk. I learned that it’s OK to give my kids goldfish crackers once in awhile (OK, we eat the gluten-free puffy kind, but it’s because of a legit medical condition), and while I will never stop encouraging women to research and make informed choices about birth and hospital care, I know that women need to make their own decisions about childbirth.
In my case, I don’t think my body handles pregnancy as well as it used to, and I’m no longer certain that home birth is the best option for me. So, although five seems to be all my husband will agree to, if I were to have another baby I would happily pack my bag and head to the hospital for a luxurious two-night stay in an uncomfortable bed with hourly interruptions because that’s the best thing for me now.
And if I go to a birth class and meet a home birth mom or a hospital birth mom, I would give her a high-five (OK, I totally wouldn’t. I’m an introvert. So let’s say an imaginary high-five and an imaginary “Good job, mama!”) because they both made choices that were best for them.
And if I meet either of them at the park, I wouldn’t care about how they gave birth because it truly doesn’t matter to me. And that’s how it should be.