We’re all guilty of it. You find out that your friend is going to have a home birth and you immediately want to tell her what a terrible idea it is and that there’s no way she should go ahead with it! Or you hear a very pregnant woman on the hospital tour announce that she has a scheduled c-section for 38 weeks, and you instantly jump to conclusions and assume she’s a bad mother for this decision. We’re all guilty of pushing our strong attitudes on pregnant and birthing women. So the next time you feel like interjecting your opinion about someone’s birth choices, here are a few things to consider first.
1). Just because someone’s choice doesn’t line up with what is generally evidence based practice doesn’t mean it isn’t an evidence based choice for them in their situation. For the woman who’s had a “Classical Incision” with a previous cesarean (a vertical, rather than horizontal incision), scheduling another c-section is often the safest, most evidence based choice. So that mom at the hospital who said she’s scheduled for a c-section? Maybe she has a good reason for her early, elective delivery!
2). Everyone’s definition of a “good” birth is different. Just because you choose a home birth for you doesn’t mean that your neighbor thinks that’s what will make her birth “good”. Maybe for her, a good birth is having the security of emergency equipment close at hand in a hospital setting. That doesn’t mean you won’t have a wonderful birth at home. It doesn’t mean that your neighbor won’t have a fabulous birth at the hospital. It's about each person's medical situation and emotional needs.
3). Someone may have trauma in their past that has led them to their unique birth decision. Maybe you hear someone talking about their elective c-section and you immediately jump to conclusions about how she is making the “wrong” choice. But you don’t know what led to her decision. Maybe there is sexual abuse in her past. Maybe she’s been trying to heal from trauma for years. Maybe she’s agonized over her birthing decision, tried to prepare herself for a vaginal birth and in the end decided that it was just too much to handle. You never know what leads other people to their decisions.
4). The only way to change a mind is to change a heart. Sounds cheesy, sure, but it’s true. You can’t tell someone the best way to birth, you can only bear witness to your own experience. So instead of butting in with your opinions - even if you have facts to back them up - try listening to a new mom’s birth plans. Ask her if she feels comfortable sharing the experiences that led her to her decision. Ask her if she’s considered other options. Understand where she is coming from. Then maybe she’ll be open to a discussion with you. Give her resources instead of opinions, and try to keep it positive. If some of her decisions really aren’t evidence-based, then you might give her the opportunity to reach that conclusion on her own. And remember, the only way to change a mind is to change a heart.
As humans, we like to interject our strong opinions on others - we just can’t help it. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If you open a respectful, genuinely interested dialogue with someone about their birth choices, you may get to hear their point of view and kindly offer yours. You may not impose your beliefs on them but you can at least come to a mutual understanding and respect. Until we stop to find out why someone has made a particular decision, we have no way of knowing whether it is “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. And even when we do find out, it’s really not our place to judge, is it?