Informing and Educating Family About Your Birth Choices

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How do you deal with family and friends who don't approve of your home birth? 

Never fear- I have the answers!

*Warning, please take this all with a grain of salt because I am oblivious in real life and don't usually notice if people disapprove of me.  Plus, my family and friends expect me to be wacko.*

Rule 1- Your personal choices are not public property.

I think many of us want to share our home birth plans with everybody, but we don't have to.  This is a personal choice and nobody really needs to know about it except for you and your partner.  Honestly, you don't even "need" to tell your family.

I am not advocating being dishonest, but don't assume that everybody has a right to know about your plans-- they don't.

The truth is- people probably won't actually ask where you are birthing.  Most people assume it will be in the hospital.  If they do ask outright, you don't have to tell them if you don't want to.  "Where did you have your baby?" can be your comeback. 

You will need to know how to change the subject for later when you have a toddler anyway.  Consider this good practice.   

Rule 2-  If you choose to tell people or already have, you may get some flack, but don't take it too personally.

Home birth is really pretty rare- only about 1% of women do this, so it is quite possible that you are a little ... strange.  Yes people may mention their friend, acquaintance, relative, etc whose baby was born at home and something went wrong.  Luckily their EMT father was dropping by at the time so everybody was OK (or some such story).  (If an EMT knows more about birth than your midwife, then you have bigger problems than your friends disapproval.)

Everybody has heard a bad home birth story.  Everybody thinks you need their advice when you are pregnant.  I think this is just a cultural NORM today, and I am not sure you can do much about it except just accept it and not take it too personally.  

If people openly disapprove or tell you horror stories, there are a few ways to approach it-
A) Recognize that they are probably just worried and are not trying to be mean.

B)  Ignore it

C) Recognize also that many women have horrid birth stories that they have experienced.  They can't even imagine a good birth.  They are not mad at you- they have just been hurt.  Not only that, sometimes talking about it can be therapeutic for THEM and they may not realize how stressful it is for YOU. 

Rule 3- Do your friends the favor you would like them to do for you, and keep your opinions about how "educated" you are and what poor choices they made, to yourself.  

I know this was a hard one for me when I was having my first because I am a total know-it-all.  But, it makes sense that if we don't want to hear criticisms about our choices, others don't either.   This can be hard when you are just brimming with new info and excited to share it.

The thing about keeping your mouth shut is this--  it can prevent some of the negative feedback.  When we start spouting off about natural birth it can offend OTHER people and they stand up for their choices sometimes by attacking yours. 

So if you don't want to hear it, just talk about the natural stuff to people who you know want to talk about it already.  Your birth class teacher, other people in your class and other friends who are supportive are some options.

Rule 4-  You are not obligated to "prove" to anybody that this is a good choice.  

People usually have strong opinions about birth and parenting.  They are by their very design deeply emotional issues that leave an indelible mark on people.  Many of us don't even realize how deeply we respond when these subjects come up.

Still, I frequently hear women wondering what research they can show their friend/mom/co-working to assure them that you will have a good home birth.

There is research showing home birth is safe.  There is also research showing that it isn't. 
The fact is that things CAN go wrong in a home birth and they CAN go wrong in the hospital.  There is no birth choice that is risk free.  There is some inherent risk.  Being aware of what risks exist for either choice is important.  Minimizing them if you can is nice.  Accepting it and doing your best to stay low risk is a must.  

In the end, where you birth is a personal decision that has risks no matter where it is done.  You can assure your loved ones that you have made it thoughtfully, that you are sure it is the right choice for YOU and for THIS birth and that it isn't a judgment on any of their experiences.  And then, you get to walk away and let them think whatever they would like.

"I appreciate that you care for me and my health and my baby, but this is my decision, not yours.  It is not up for debate.  We will not be discussing it further."  (I bet you can say it nicer than me, because you are nicer.)

Sound harsh?  Maybe it is.  But I don't think it is appropriate for other people to dictate where and how you birth. 

Do you? 
(I think that this stuff applies to any non-traditional birth or parenting choice.  The End!)


Jessica Dimas said…
I am a know-it-all too, so it was very hard for me to keep my mouth shut about the fact that I was going to birth at home. It was even harder afterwards, because I had SUCH a great experience that I wanted to share the news with the world, but unfortunately the world didn't want to hear it. Especially those who had negative birthing experiences or those who told me pre-birth that I was crazy and wasn't going to be able to do it. I lost a few "friends". Since I'm a know-it-all and get crazy when challenged, I have to take the option of keeping my mouth shut now unless I KNOW someone wants to talk about the subject. Love this post!
ExpatMuslimah said…
Yeah i only mentioned it to 2 friends that i was thinking of having a homebirth. and i mentioned it to dh too.
then while in labour i asked myself a number of times should i stay or go in? each time i was calm, felt fine so sontinued at home. then i called my friend and asked her if she could come over, which she did, good thing too as baby arrived about 40mins later and i hadnt gotten much of anything ready!
then after all that i did tell a few ppl here and there baby was born at home, just so ppl would be aware that it can and does happen!
mama of 2 said…
Such good info. I'm not birthing at home, because my husband and I have very different views on childbirth, but I am birthing at a hospital that specializes in natural birth. And I'm feeling lately that I'm having to defend my choices to my in laws, which always leads to frustration on my part because they think they know more about labor than I do simply because their labor was longer, or they don't think I can deal or what have you. Its nice to hear that I don't have to defend my decisions, and that I can simply change the subject.