The Web is full of stories of births gone wrong. Whether it is of the mother who sought a routine hospital birth only to end up with an emergency c-section or the woman hoping for a peaceful home birth whose child fails to receive proper medical care. No matter where the birth took place or how it went down, these women are putting themselves out there hoping their stories will inspire women to seek a better birth experience. And while generally the response to these stories is overwhelming supportive, there are always those who question why the women didn’t stand up for themselves, or claim they would have done things differently.
What these people may not understand is just how difficult it is for a woman to make sound decisions when she is giving birth. This is especially true during the last phase of labor. As someone who experienced a fast first labor, I had barely processed the fact I was about to have a baby when my body entered this phase. I was dehydrated, delirious and scared. I could barely move and was convinced I would have the baby on the way to the elevator. In that state, I could have agreed to participating in post partum bungee jumping. I certainly was in no state to make sound medical decisions.
I am thankful I had my husband with me to help me physically and mentally make it to the hospital where I delivered my son without complications. I am lucky that we weren’t forced to make a tough choice when it comes to childbirth. But it might not have been that way, and I will not be so arrogant as to say that we would have refused to give in to the pressure of the moment and stick to the birth we wanted.
What I do know is that I wasn’t alone. My husband was there, giving it to the hospital staff when no wheelchair was available to me and refusing to fill out paperwork to make sure he was with me for the birth. Later on, my mother, who as a nurse has an insider’s understanding of the medical world, was there to speak up for me when I was too tired and scared to do it myself.
Like most women I know, admitting that I needed help was hard. I like to be in control of what is happening to me, and to relinquish that control is terrifying. Yet, that is what happens during childbirth. Your body takes over and you are no longer the sane, rational woman you were days earlier. You cannot be expected to weigh the consequences of your birth process.
You need an advocate. Someone who will help you get through labor and will do his or her best to ensure you have the birth you want. Your advocate will know the difference between a medical precaution and an emergency. Your advocate will work with your midwife or doctor to do what’s best for you and your baby. Your advocate will defend you when everyone else dismisses you as the crazy pregnant lady. Your advocate will have your back.
The next time you hear or read a story of a birth gone wrong, think about how you can be an advocate for mothers. Offer words of kindness and support. Let the mother know you acknowledge her feelings, even if you disagree with her choices. Save your criticism for another forum. Judging someone directly for how she gave birth won’t do much to further your cause and will just make her feel worse. She just needs to know you’ve got her back.