If you had asked me a year ago where I stood on women’s reproductive rights, I was adamantly, militantly on the pro-life/anti-abortion side. I am adopted, the product of a sexual predator grooming a teen, waiting until she was statutorily legal before coercing sex from her. I am Christian, believing life begins at conception. There was no argument, no wiggle room. To me, abortion under any circumstance was murder, and murder should be stopped.
Until I, together with my husband, planned a home birth. We had done our research. We had selected an extremely competent and experienced midwife who had also delivered most of her own offspring at home. I had undergone medical tests to ascertain whether I would be a good candidate for home birth, and I had 4 previous vaginal births. My husband and I felt the topic had been thoroughly analyzed and we had made the best decision for me, for us.
But then, well-meaning, concerned, opposing voices began speaking to our personal choice. “Isn’t it dangerous?” “Why don’t you want a doctor present?” “Why wouldn’t you want the safety of a hospital?” “What if something goes wrong during labor?” “What if something is wrong with the baby?” “I’m scared to death for you; I really wish you’d reconsider giving birth in a hospital.”
Frankly, I found it insulting. Did these people actually believe we had just decided on a whim to give birth at home without doing any research? Did these people actually believe they had a right to decide where and how I was to give birth? Shrouding their criticism under the guise of concern honestly made it worse for me; my loved ones apparently did not trust me to make a choice that so profoundly affected not only my life, but the lives of my husband and children.
The absolute worst, most hurtful comment I received was when someone told me she had been unsupportive until she found out my husband was committed to a home birth, too. In her words, "You come up with some crazy ideas, but your husband is so level-headed. If he's on board, I know it's probably safe." To be honest, the attitude that someone other than me knows best and should have the right to decide for me still hurts.
Had the previous four hospital birth experiences been satisfactory for me, I would never have considered a home birth in the first place. But all the protocols hospitals have to follow, things like
- mandatory hep lock/IV
- denying me food (and water!) during labor
- mandatory monitoring
- nurses randomly coming in and out
- strangers poking their fingers into my most private of places to measure my progress
- being told when to push (as if I’m a dolt and can’t figure out the vise-like pain combined with pressure on my pelvic floor means my baby is coming out!)
- what position to push in (flat on my back - with back labor, no less)
were counter-productive for my birth experience. Not to mention, the first person to touch my baby was a relative stranger and then my baby was taken away from me at random intervals for this test or that, to who-knows-where in the hospital, only to be returned up to an hour later sound asleep, when my breasts were telling me it was long past time for a feed.
All that to say, I was fed up with being told how to handle my body. I was sick and tired of strangers making choices that weren’t best for me and my life. No one knows me, or my body and its needs like I do. How dare these people make such important choices for me!
Hmm. That sounds an awful lot like pro-choice rhetoric, doesn’t it? My body, my choice.
The process had begun...