The problem with recommendations
Probably one of the biggest decisions we make very early in our pregnancy is deciding where we will have our baby and who will look after us. To further complicate the matter, this decision may have the greatest impact on how our baby comes into the world and how we are prepared for and supported in our mothering (or fathering).
In Australia, there are a number of options for women, all have strengths and limitations that can be very difficult to navigate, and depending on your location, financial position, and birth-place savvy some options may not be available to you.
So how do we make our decisions? A bit of web-searching? Maybe some well meaning recommendations from friends or family? If it is our first baby the chances are we don't really know what is "normal", what a "good" birth is like or a "bad"one.
We expect the worst, accept to be frightened, dismissed, disrespected and damaged and are thankful when the basic kindness is shown and we and baby are alive to tell the tale.
Childbirth has been painted a certain way in modern culture by film and tv. We see women experience one never ending contractions(false), usually followed by an urgent dash to the hospital (usually not necessary at the first twinge), and more often than not some random, frightening emergency takes place where - mercifully - just at the climax a woman and/or her baby is saved from certain death by a doctor, possibly surgically.
Is it any wonder then, that when our friends and family experience anything a fraction kinder, gentler, less terrifying they are eager to recommend the person caring for them as a hero in the birthing world. We expect the worst, accept to be frightened, dismissed, disrespected and damaged and are thankful when the basic kindness is shown and we and baby are alive to tell the tale.
- What if a doctor or midwife is nice to you, smiles and listens to your question - does it matter if you don't get a clear answer?
- What if you meet a care provider and tell them clearly your thoughts and plans for your birth, but months later as your 'due date' looms you find your impending birth looking less and less like what you signed up for?
- Are you wanting a drug free, active birth but keep getting recommendations for a doctor that has a 50% cesarian section rate? (Pro-tip: Unless your doctor exclusively cares for women with high-risk pregnancies, their cesarian section should not be higher than the national rate of about 33%. If for some reason a doctor is avoiding/dismissing/irritated when you ask for these statistics read between the lines).
What if a doctor or midwife is nice to you, smiles and listens to your question - does it matter if you don't get a clear answer?
When childbirth is shrouded in so much secrecy, like it is in Australia, is it any wonder we accept the crappy care we are offered (and pay for) with a smile. Unfortunately, when people working in childbirth have the view that the only thing that matters is a live baby, and vaginal birth is irrelevant at best, there is no surprise when you are offered a limited set of options and it's called choice.
Many women in our modern culture don't even hold a newborn baby until they have one, forget feeling familiar with childbirth. Women are whisked off to "the hospital" and returned back to us with a pre-wrapped baby and only murmurs of the mysteries of motherhood ("what do you mean you poo??" "did you tear your vagina?" "your boobs leak milk anytime a baby cries?") that quite reasonably leave us more anxious than when we started.
OK, new and expecting mother, where the hell does this leave you?
First, hopefully, a little more inquisitive. I can give you some of the options available in Australia, but in your specific area, some options might be more difficult to source or simply unavailable.
Second, and this is difficult because I know you have a lot going on, but if after perusing the options you find the options lacking/absurd/depressing please write a letter to your local member of parliament/congress. In Australia alone, we have over 300,000 women a year having babies. We are a powerful force, and we 'spend' a lot of money, our own and the governments. Don't feel for a second that your opinion isn't really important.
Third, you might benefit from some support. Connecting with a doula or local childbirth educator early in pregnancy might be helpful. These are often the people who are noticing trends and patterns in the area you live.