Honoring Women’s Childbirth Choices

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I’d like to honor women who make childbirth choices that make them vulnerable to judgment in their social circles, like planning a repeat cesarean or a home birth.  While no one is obligated to defend any of their family’s personal healthcare decisions, I’d like to open the conversation about the complexity and diversity of individual situations that create the context for such an important decision as how to give birth to one’s child.

1.)           Support: While it may be easy for an outsider to say, “Screw your family member or provider,” most people rely on support within their relationships long after the birth of their children.  For some women, it may be worth it to avoid conflict around their birth decisions knowing that they will not have to heal wounds in the future.  Relationships are complicated and based on a history that predates this event.

2.)           Timing: Babies arrive on their own schedule, paving the way for the unpredictability of parenthood.  Unfortunately, modern life is not always so flexible and accommodating.  Wanting to schedule the birth of a child around the availability of the one person you cannot imagine not having by your side at the moment of birth or in the weeks to follow is rational.

3.)           Tradition: Some choices are normalized in a family.  Other times, we seek to not fall into the footsteps of our foremothers.  Carrying on or rebelling against a historical family pattern are both common and natural reactions.

4.)           Economics: What a family can afford is often the driving factor behind their reproductive decisions.  When the top choice is not feasible, compromises are inevitable.

5.)           Experiences: Our individual experiences with birth are unique.  Negative past memories, whether personally or vicariously lived, sometimes impact us more than facts.

6.)           Values: What each parent holds dear will influence their decisions around birth.  Filtering our options through our values helps us move from knee-jerk to more conscious decision-making.

From the outside, someone’s choices may seem completely irrational or even self destructive, but under the surface lays the foundation for their actions.  For example, many people will judge someone who chooses to stay in an abusive relationship without trusting them to best know how to stay safe in the face of adversity. Imposing strong opinions or even facts that dispute another’s choices does not honor our diversity. Instead, we can strive for confidence in our own decisions while respecting the choices of others.

Have you every felt frustrated by the choices or judgement of others?  What helped you reach a greater understanding?

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