Monday, September 17, 2012

When Trusting Birth Goes Wrong

There is nothing inherently wrong with trusting birth, with believing your body can deliver your baby.  A certain amount of trust and confidence in yourself is a good thing for any woman preparing to give birth.  The problem I have is when die-hard natural childbirth advocates and midwives build up the trust in birth so much, that the ideal resides comfortably on a pedestal.   

When does telling a woman to "trust birth" go too far?  Is it in following up that statement with "your body was made to do this" or "mothers know how to give birth and babies know how to be born".  Or perhaps the line is crossed in telling women, "you can't grow a baby too big for your body to birth".  I'm not sure what the line exactly is, but filling women with these ideals sets them up for serious emotional trauma when things do go wrong.  

What do you tell the woman whose body fails to intuitively know how to birth her baby safely, whose baby dies as a result?  Really, what do you tell her?  Did she not trust birth enough?  Did her intuition fail?  Was her perfectly healthy child not meant to live?  Or what do you tell the woman who needed to have a cesarean, but feels so traumatized afterward, that she isn't able forgive herself for years, maybe a lifetime?  Did she not try hard enough?  Did she not intuitively not do things right?  

Instead, why can't we be honest and tell women to trust birth and their bodies, but that you can't really control how things go sometimes...that sometimes women and babies need help to be born safely.  We should further that discussion by telling cesarean, forceps, or vacuum extraction mothers mothers they did not fail, and that they are no less loving mothers regardless of the way their babies came into this world.  We should tell loss mothers who were left alone with their intuition, that their bodies did not fail, but their caregiver failed to properly assess, and recognize signs she needed help.  And to the loss mother whose caregiver did everything possible to save her baby, that she did not fail either, that she's still a loving mother that did everything right.  

The truth is that sometimes we trust birth, and our bodies, and things still go wrong.  We should tell them it's okay to ask for/accept help if that is what keeps your baby safe.  Women deserve to know this truth long before labor sets in.   Painting a mirage that trusting birth and body in a worship sort of way, sets women up for a very hard fall if, for any number of reasons, that woman isn't able to give birth the way she was taught she ought to, the way it was "meant to be".  People who approach birth in this way, are inflicting unnecessary guilt and trauma onto other women by filling their heads with unrealistic expectations of themselves and birth, and by not telling the whole truth.  Teaching women to trust birth at all costs, without helping them understand that things don't always work that way,  is irresponsible and cruel. 


  1. Great post, thank you. As someone who believed in my bodies ability to birth my baby, I was certainly more than a little bummed to end up with a c-section. Thankfully, I had a wonderful OB and support system who were able to get through the "trust birth" nonsense that filled by head, and make me realize that I didn't do anything wrong. Yes, women are made to birth babies. But sometimes it doesn't work out. Just as my thyroid was made to function properly, but it doesn't. Had I choose to "trust" my thyroid to do its job properly, I would be a very ill person, who likely never would have even gotten pregnant.

  2. Thank you Sara, this was well put. I can't trust a process, there are too many variables that effect the result of any given process. I just want to be able to trust the people that support me through the process.