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Wednesday
Jun292011

Why I've been afraid to share my home birth story

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By Patrice Nichole Byers

 

When I birthed my baby this past January I thought I’d be dying to write about the birth and share it with everyone I knew, but it’s been five months and I’ve yet to really share it with anyone. Yes, I’ve given a few details here and there to a few choice people, but something has been holding me back from really putting the experience out there. I’ve been telling myself, it’s being busy with my work, research, four kids but the truth is it’s been fear. I’ve been fearful of sharing it for two reasons: I’ve been worried what affect my birth story might have on others and I’ve been concerned about negative feedback.

If you know me, those fears probably sound crazy to you. I am after all the woman very fond of using the quote: “Opinions are like assholes; every one has one and they are usually full of shit”. Yet here I am, fearful of sharing my story. The really crazy thing is I am beyond proud of my birth. I am extremely happy with it, as it was the best birth I’ve had and I think that is the big problem. For you see, I am not afraid of scaring other women with a horror story of a birth, but instead somehow shaming them or worse, giving them false hope with a story of what was in my mind a perfect birth. I know, I know.  It’s ridiculous. First off, nothing I can say or do regarding my birth experience can cause shame in anyone. If there is shame, it’s already there, it comes from within. I strongly believe in this, but somehow that notion still had a hold of my heart. The idea that something other than good, positive feelings could come from sharing my birth just held me back.

So we come to the false hope part. When I stepped out of the fake illumination of denial and really allowed myself to address why I hadn’t shared my story, the idea that I felt this way horrified me on many levels. If I really thought that sharing my wonderful story would be perceived as giving some women false hope, what did that mean? Could it be that deep down I didn’t believe in home birth (or natural birth) as much as I thought? No, that wasn’t it. It’s a different issue. I believe that somewhere deep inside, I was worried that sharing my birth was wrong because I might be hurting the feelings of women who can not do what I did. Then I also wrestled with the idea that somehow I may even be bragging.

I’ve seen this fear when other women share their stories. It manifests in the “if’s”, “ands” and “buts”. How many times have you read a wonderfully inspiring story, but at the same time see it qualified by the author with the “I know not every woman can”, or “natural birth isn’t for everyone”. Worse still are the comments that often follow the story of those women who want to defend their births that are different than the one they read about: “But if I’d birthed at home my baby would have died”, “I had to have a c-section, epidural, pitocin, because…”.

So where did these feelings come from? Is it a need to sugarcoat things? Be politically correct? Or is it bigger?  Is it a part of the fear indoctrination culturally ingrained that surrounds birth? Is there a part of me that feels lucky that I birthed my baby at home and everything was okay? I really feel deep inside that isn’t case, but I can’t deny that I’ve felt afraid to share? Maybe I am just being a control freak by wanting everyone to feel inspired by reading my story. I can live with that explanation. It’s very silly of me, but what the hell, nobody is perfect. Whatever the case, I threw the shackles on myself, and so I can remove them. I am proud of my home birth. I will not qualify any of it with any kind of warning or disclosure. I will share it because I was inspired by others stories and I want to do the same. I will share it because I want to make my mark in the world of home birth advocacy. I will share it because I am proud. I will share in hopes that other ladies will also share their experiences as well. Good or bad. It’s how we learn. It’s how we grow!

My birth story can be viewed here.

 

 

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Reader Comments (13)

Thank you so much for posting this. I feel the same way about sharing my homebirth story. I've told few people the whole story because someone initially said, "well, that's great for you, but..." and went on to share their own negative ideas on birth in general.

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTina Rahkonen

This sort of thing pops up all the time, not just when it comes to birth. I think for women it has two sources:

1. We are taught not to brag or make others feel uncomfortable because we did something awesome, and when we forget, we get flack for it.

2. Women get so much judgement, every single day, for everything we do (looks, health, marriage, raising kids, jobs) from so many random people and TV shows and magazine articles who feel entitled to tell us how we're wrong, that we're kind of defensive and twitchy. It's really easy to see someone else's happy story as an indictment of your less happy story. Because we're always striving to be the Best Lady in Ladytown, and if some other lady had a better birth/is skinnier/has a happier marriage, it's triggering. We either want to take her down or feel the need to justify *not* doing whatever she did.

But I'm glad you shared your story. As someone without a happy story, I can say, my resentment of other moms was pretty short-lived; I kept my anger for the people who deserved it, not for women who had better luck than me.

Also, on days when certain people show up on this blog and elsewhere to inform us we're all stone-cold baby murderers because we're selfish bitches who don't want to let the nice doctors cut us open at 37 weeks, it's nice to go read the story of someone who had a nice, normal, healthy birth.

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

I dislike that we live in a culture where a positive birth story can't be celebrated or acknowledged. Sadly, much of the this world seems to be in unnecessary competition. I'm also saddened that many women make choices during their pregnancy and birth due to fear.

Beautiful birth story although I do disagree with one statement you made: Is there a part of me that feels lucky that I birthed my baby at home and everything was okay? I really feel deep inside that isn’t case, but I can’t deny that I’ve felt afraid to share?

*Warning as this might be triggering to some. Baby loss mentioned*

I had a beautiful labor and home birth with my daughter. Unfortunately, her heartrate was lost 5 minutes before she was born and although they were able to get her heart beating again, with the help of the NICU she lived one very precious day before she passed away. I'm not saying this to scare anyone. I still believe in home birth. I still think it's a viable option for low-risk women who make that educated choice. Our situation was a complete fluke. My pregnancy and labor with her was completely normal and healthy up to the last 5 minutes. Her NICU doctor went through everything that *didn't* cause her to pass away but they simply can't figure out what DID. Not a placenta or cord issue or even a physical anomaly (that we know of). Our NICU doctor said it her outcome wouldn't have been better had we had her in a hospital. He was completely impressed that the midwives were able to even get her heartrate back as the local hospital just had a very similar situation where the baby's heartrate was lost on the continuous fetal monitoring just minutes before delivery and the baby wasn't able to be resuscitated. Each of my births has taught me in a different way that we can't control every aspect of birth and some of that is just good or bad "luck" (or whatever you may call it). My family and many other families who don't get to take home (or keep at home) healthy babies got dealt just plain bad luck. So, yes, luck/mother nature/powers that be is part of the equation when we're talking about the opportunity to grow and deliver a healthy baby. Thankfully, many women do get lucky, and I'm so grateful you have a positive story to share as a result.

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnon.

Patrice,

Thank you for your courageous and unabashed re-telling of Simone's birth. We all have our own stories--each one unique, and worthy of telling. I'm so glad you chose to tell yours.

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimmelin Hull

Thank you for sharing your inspiring birth story! I'm pretty much just waiting to go into labor with my 3rd baby, and even though I've had 2 natural births, the last being a water birth at a birth center (as this one will be), I have been a little apprehensive about the labor. It was good for me to read a reassuring story!

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWrangler Mama

Hey Patrice,
I can really identify with that! I had an awesome water birth at home just under 2 weeks ago, and I have been dealing with the same issues and asking exactly the same questions you have. I decided to put it up anyway, and I have been so encouraged by the people who have contact me to say how encouraged they were! I think you are right in saying that everybody always wants to share the dramatic horror stories - and 'normal' birth is becoming the massive exception - sometimes people just need to hear a 'normal' birth story! If you are keen to read mine you can find it here.

June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh

Patrice, I have had 2 awesome births too (both at the hospital) and, this is really messed up, I feel guilty about it. Like, I don't talk about it or minimize it around other people because I don't want them to feel bad. Thanks for sharing your story and the intro above.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercailyn

I find it fascinating that women who have had good births feel guilty about it. I wasn't aware of that possibility. I have had an awful birth. And, sure, I am envious of your good births. They are alienating to me. (My mom always tells me that when my brother and I were born were the two best days of her life, and I so can't relate, as really my son's birth is the very worst event that has ever happened to me, by a long shot.)

But, you know what? I want more stories like yours, and less like mine, to happen.

And for this hope to come true, good stories need to be heard. Ideally, every woman would understand what she needs in order to get a good birth and have the option to fulfill these needs. And for these options to become more widely available, the first step is to know they exist. There will never be any guarantee. But this understanding would be a good start. So, thank you, Patrice.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCato

Thanks for this post Patrice.

I find myself more willing to share my recent CBAC story (HBAC turned c/sec) than my HBAC story. I've had many of the same feelings about my HBAC story as you outlined in your post. I even bought a "VBAC Baby" onesie at one point, then I only put it on him once because even the birthy people I know had had CBACs at that point, and it almost felt like bragging (even though the real reason for the shirt is obviously advocacy). I have put it on my CBAC baby though...he was a VBAC baby, he just didn't exit through the vagina :-( And it's covered w/a bib anyhow since he spits up all over.

I do like sharing my CBAC story alot b/c it never became an emergency. You know, the big thing they scare you with re VBACs is how if you have to have an emergency c/sec the outcomes are worse than ERCS. My CBAC was a MUCH better experience than my scheduled c/sec for breech, and I recovered much more quickly, but it was never an emergency. My CBAC also shows how a planned homebirth should be dealt with when the birth becomes much higher risk than anticipated. The midwife, the hospital, we all did the right thing and took care of the issue. So I LIKE telling that story because it shuts the HB naysayers up...it answers the question, so WHAT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG????!!!!! Of course, things can go wrong in a HB and be an emergency, but more often than not, you have time to deal with them.

Well now I've started preaching to the choir.

Patrice, I'm glad you shared your story. I hate that we feel for some reason that we are bragging or whatever. I'm not sure where that comes from...I know I shared my HBAC initially because I was so stoked and wanted to shout to the world that it can be done and it's fabulous, but then when the next woman shared her CBAC, I felt like maybe I should have just kept quiet. Why is that? I know I tear up sometimes when I hear stories of 2nd VBACs (mine was the CBAC), but I sure don't feel like they're bragging...my little guy just had his own plans (beginning with conception but that's a whole different story).

Well, thanks for sharing the story and your inner wrestlings.

June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Thank you for sharing. I believe we need to give women hope with good and insightful information. In this culture," a woman must be well prepared and well practiced to have a natural birth or even a vaginal birth."(M. Lipton, CMN). We must share our stories and be there for each other no matter what kind of birth one has or one chooses. Keep the stories coming. Let's get out of our fear and into our hearts! Elizabeth Jones-Boswell, M.E.d, Author of "Exercise for Pregnancy and Beyond, a Pilates Based Approach for Women," and the companion DVD.

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