Homebirth or scheduled c-section? Epidural or no? Hours of labor or out the chute? We moms have so many choices to make, so many unpredictable outcomes to consider, and so many worries that everything we do will have the worst-case-scenario consequence of somehow hurting our babies.
Well, here’s some good news: A recent study finds that regardless of the level of intervention, there’s very little difference in the health of hospital-born babies once they’re out.
Some are hailing this as a sign that there should be less intervention. I think it says just the opposite -- that we shouldn’t feel that we must choose something that feels wrong because it’s supposed to be best for baby.
I can think of very few things more personal, more intimate, than giving birth. Yet I was perfectly happy to do that, twice in fact, in a roomful of people. Despite my tabletop poop, my embarrassing owie noises, my throat-throttling fury at my midwife -- I like being in a hospital, and I trust my medical staff.
On the other hand, I live in a wealthy city with amazing hospitals, particularly the one where I gave birth -- a teaching hospital well-attuned to the needs of moms, families, and babies, and totally well-versed in the latest medical options. Hence my “walking epidural,” which allowed me to stand, squat, and feel when I needed to push even though it took the worst of the pain away.
But I’m keenly aware that many women don’t have access to such great facilities, which is why many worry that their births will be medicalized, their wonderful experience turned into emergency surgery unnecessarily, the power of this amazing moment taken completely away. So when Dr. J. Christopher Glantz commented in The New York Times that this study shows that hospitals with high intervention rates did not share a corresponding higher healthy-baby rate, which means more intervention is not necessarily better -- I say, great.
But I also say there’s an additional lesson. If a mom has a serious phobia about childbirth and chooses a scheduled c-section, as a friend of mine did, that’s her business -- it won’t hurt the child. Or if a mom finds herself locked in a nightmarish labor and is told “we should do an emergency c-section,” she can be as frightened as she likes, but shouldn’t worry that coming out the side-exit will negatively affect the health of her baby.
As my husband puts it, “You can’t stand on a playground and point at the kids, saying ‘that one’s a c-section. That one’s a home-birth. That one there -- definitely an epidural baby.’” Things will happen as they happen, and you’ll do your best to have the birth you want -- but if you don’t, as long as you have the right care, your kid will fare the same regardless of the level of intervention.
Believe me, I know about shitty birth experiences. Having my second kid healed a lot of the wounds from the terror of my first kid’s birth. But having a healthy kid each time was, in the end, the most important thing.
So forgive yourself if you don't or didn’t have the uber-natural birth you wanted. It almost certainly won't mess up your kid.
Does this ease some of your birth worry?
Image via SarahHashGoodman/CafeMom