Year-round, we hear the question “how do I talk to my friends and family about my out of hospital birth?” But the truth is, this question really ramps up around the holidays. While the holidays certainly bring lots of love and joy, they can also bring a bit of added stress when it comes to talking to family about more unconventional choices when it comes to your pregnancy and birth.
Pregnancy tends to be something that everyone feels they get to have a say in. It’s a rite of passage and women have a tradition of sharing knowledge. But sometimes old ideas can be difficult to change, meaning your birth plan might seem a wee bit crazy to your relatives, especially if they aren’t down with the facts about out-of-hospital birth.
The fact is, out-of-hospital birth is still quite rare. Though the numbers are steadily growing year to year, most people are far more comfortable with hospital birth. Whether that’s based on their own experiences, a lack of information about home or birth center birth, or pure judgement, it’s not uncommon for relatives or friends, to have a hard time digesting the fact that you aren’t going to be laboring in a hospital attached to beeping machines and wires and doctors and nurses.
Hopefully, conversations surrounding your birth can be had respectfully, if had at all. But of course, you don’t need to justify your birth to anyone. One simple way to deal with an unwelcomed discussion about your birth is to simply say “thank you for your opinion, but I have made my decision and I hope that you can respect that.” You don’t owe an explanation to anyone and you shouldn’t feel that you have to defend yourself. Your birth is about your comfort zone and your belief system, not anyone (or everyone) else’s. So it’s important to make that clear when entering holiday conversations about your body and how your baby will come into the world.
Secondly, know that having confidence going into your birth is of the utmost importance. Don’t allow people to share “horror” stories with you. We all know everyone has them, and we also know that most of the time, those very frightening situations can be created by the hospital environment (the very place that is supposed to protect us). Keep that thought in your mind, but also don’t feel the need to sit and listen with a smile on your face as someone details their own horrific experience or, if they happen to work in the medical field, the experiences they may have witnessed. None of these things have anything to do with your birth and because you aren’t giving birth in a hospital, the likelihood of arriving in one of those situations is quite small anyway. Birth place is the biggest predictor of birth outcome, so you’re already one step ahead of the game.
If you do find yourself on the end of a conversation about your birth which isn’t pleasant, regardless of your best efforts to deflect or put an end to it before it begins, try and stay calm and composed. Understand that most people have your best interest at heart, even if they don’t have all the information (or if they really don’t have any idea what they’re talking about, even!). So breathe deep and try to keep your fiery emotions at bay.
It also might make concerned family members feel better to know that birthing with a midwife out of hospital is not the same as unattended birth, or squatting down next to a riverbank! We carry medicine, IV fluids, and all the things to ensure your birth is as safe as possible. While it might seem silly to bring up, some people’s vision of home or birth center birth is just so far from the reality of it. So giving these individuals a little more information can go a long way.
Finally, realize that the research is on your side. You can always point someone to an article or a statistic that demonstrates the safety of home or birth center birth for low risk women. You can also point them to stats about the over-medicalization of hospital birth and how it has led to women being less safe in that environment. New studies and statistics are being released often that clearly demonstrate that for low risk women, having a baby outside of the hospital with a midwife really is the safest way.
But the bottom line is, your choices remain your choices. Don’t let anyone make you feel uninformed or negligent for choosing to have your baby out of a hospital environment- you’re not. You’re simply a parent who is doing what she knows is best for her body and her baby. And no matter what time of year, you don’t need to justify your choices. Be bold. Be confident. And happy holidays!