Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a couple of bad eggs make us all look bad

Today I feel the urge to talk about judgment and assumptions.

I've spent time on a few Natural Childbirth-oriented message boards, and there is a lot of talk about judgmental people. Apparently most people who are planning a natural birth get a lot negative comments from naysayers. Things like, "just you wait, you'll be screaming for the epidural" and "you don't get a medal, you know" and "why be a martyr?" And there's confusion - why do people think that NCB'ers are judgmental when we're the ones who are always getting judged?

I can honestly say that nobody has ever said anything like this to me. Maybe because I don't go around telling strangers at the supermarket, "I'm planning a drug-free birth using hypnosis!" I get weird enough looks when I say that my due date is almost four weeks away, and that's something that's not exactly open to debate or influenced by opinion. (Well, to some doctors it might be, but that's another rant that's best taken up by others.)

However, I have had people say harsh, judgmental things to me regarding birthing...people on the NCB boards. It's happened twice, once towards the beginning of my pregnancy and once a couple of weeks ago. Both times I asked a question about fetal positioning, briefly explaining that I was concerned about having a posterior baby due to my having had a very long posterior labor with my first baby. I didn't tell the whole damn story of my first birthing because it's crazy long and, well, it didn't seem necessary. (Although the first time I did mention that he was anterior before I started labor and turned around when the contractions started, because it was pertinent to the question I was asking.)

Both times I got a beautifully condescending response from someone along the lines of, "your baby was posterior because you labored on your back in a hospital bed." If it wasn't so presumptuous and rude it would have made me laugh because that is the OPPOSITE of what happened! I'd been having regular contractions - and yes, back labor - for over 24 hours before the hospital would even admit me. And at NO TIME, even after I got the epidural, was I laying on my back! (Until the pushing phase, which I was not happy about, but I was too focused on pushing to argue.)

We are told so often, and so emphatically, that one intervention leads to another, that laboring upright and actively are so important, that common hospital practice A often leads to complication B, that people seem to think that if something - anything - went wrong, it HAD to have been because of something you let the doctor do to you. And some women not only make this assumption, they also take it upon themselves to judge and criticize you for doing what they assume you must have done. The thought that the complication might not have been caused by what they assume caused it never seems to cross their mind. That a malpositioned baby could be caused by psychological issues, or a retroverted uterus, or tightness in the pelvic ligaments caused by the way a woman usually sits...these reasons are not considered. Because laboring on one's back in a hospital bed can sometimes cause a posterior presentation...well then, if your baby was posterior, it must be because you were on your back. How dare I ask a question about any of those other possible reasons? They are far-fetched and stupid, I know nothing about my own body or my own birthing - I had back labor because I was on my back in a hospital bed! Of course. That hour of pushing on my back at the very end caused my baby to turn to posterior 36+ hours prior. Why didn't I see it before?

So here's an idea: how about we don't make assumptions, and even better, let's not make judgments based on those assumptions. How about getting all of the facts before we criticize? And how about, if somebody asks a question, we answer the question they actually asked? Like if somebody says, "does anyone know how to do a sacral release?", don't answer with "your baby was probably posterior because you were on your back." Sound logical, reasonable, like the decent thing to do? Okay, let's all try it for a while and see if maybe, just maybe, people stop thinking of NCB'ers as judgmental and didactic.


Mother Hoodwink said...

I know it's hard not to, but don't let such ignorant people get to you. But I agree, what's the point of being rude when someone is just asking an innocent question?

For the record, I never thought NCBers came off judgmental. Just very confident in what they wanted to do with their body. Never once have I heard a NCBer say their way was the best way for all women. In fact I would think they would be more open minded about a woman's right to choose her birthplan. But I have heard people say, "Oh, just wait..." when I say I want to parent a certain way. As if my plans just won't work. I've decided that anyone who uses that phrase to prove someone wrong is a douche.

Dianne said...

I find judging and assuming to be out of control in all quarters. Few people just listen. It's as though real life has taken on the tone of reality shows or Fox News. Just endless head butting and sound bytes and I'm right and you're not.

I hope you don't let any of that affect a single moment of your experience.