“I’m hoping for an unmedicated birth.”
“Trust me, you’ll be begging for the epidural once you find out how much it hurts.”
“I’m planning to have a home birth.”
“My friend planned a home birth but she ended up with an emergency Cesarean.”
“I’m having a scheduled Cesarean.”
“Why don’t you want give birth the normal way?”
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s the golden rule. It’s pretty simple. Unfortunately, there’s something about being pregnant that seems to invite all kinds of input – nice or not. Almost all pregnant women have a story like this: an unexpected conversation with someone who felt mysteriously entitled to an opinion about their pregnancy and birth. I’ve noticed these unsolicited commentators fall into a few categories:
- People who trivialize the value that others place on “natural childbirth”. They say things like “No one’s handing out medals in the delivery room…don’t be a hero” and “Believe me, you can’t handle it” and “Do you think you’re better than the rest of us?”
Response: you do you, boo. If you loved your epidural and had a great birth experience, everyone should be thrilled for you! What matters most is that we’re all respected, supported, and nurtured.
- People who pass judgement about “medicalized childbirth”. These people say things like “Just remember, some medications cross the placenta” and “Women’s bodies are built to birth” and “How could you do that to your baby?”
Response: it’s not your body, it’s not your baby, it’s not your birth. Most adults are fully capable of making informed decisions about their birth choices. It’s not up to friends, family members or strangers at the gym to educate parents-to-be or to “save” other people’s babies.
- People who endured incredibly long or challenging births. They say things like “The pain was ten times worse than I could have ever imagined!” and “I laboured for 72 hours without drugs and after all that, I still had a Cesarean” and “Do you think your mantra is going to save you if your baby turns breech?”
Response: giving birth, no matter how it plays out, is a huge accomplishment! In a perfect world, every parent would be proud of their birth. Conquering unexpected challenges and having stamina are great but to expecting parents, these stories can cause stress and fear.
- People who hold disappointment from their own childbirth experiences (and possibly want to protect you from your own potential disappointment). They say things like “My episiotomy ruined my body” and “I wanted to avoid an induction but then I ended up with an Cesarean” and “Don’t you think you might regret that if X/Y/Z happens?”
Response: this is a tough one. Birth trauma is real. Postpartum depression and anxiety are real. It’s healthy to work through disappointment and grief but it’s important to take the audience into consideration. Expecting parents are not the ideal sounding boards for these stories.
What if expecting parents want to consider the “what ifs”?
Of course, expecting parents might want to think through the “what ifs”. You might want to talk about Plan B and even Plan C. If so, great! Discuss with your care provider, your doula, your partner, or anyone who will allow you to safely explore your thoughts and give you unbiased information and support. You can discuss risks, complications, negative outcomes or trauma without losing sight of your vision.
Outside of these close personal or professional relationships, however, I believe that pregnancy calls for #goodvibesonly. This is not a time for others to wear their own birth stories like badges of honour or to be realists or saviours. There are many ways to be supportive; they can say “It sounds like you’ve really thought this through” or “I hope you get the birth experience you’re hoping for” or “I’m happy for you!” They can share positive stories and encouraging tips. At the very least, if they have nothing nice to say they can say nothing at all.
As your doula, I will absolutely support your vision and help you to make it a reality. I will also be right by your side if things change. I will never judge, question or doubt you. You are capable of incredible things! Unless you ask otherwise, I will offer you good vibes only.