How to deal with all the opinions!
The last 6 months of pregnancy is a wild and wonderful journey. All the changes, mostly wonderful, preparing you for the birth of your baby.
But one of the less wonderful changes is that suddenly people come out of the woodwork with their birth stories. Sisters, mothers, aunts, girlfriends, old ladies in the grocery store...
These women want to impart their wisdom, but really they’re just scaring the bejeezus out of you!
If everyone and their neighbour is sharing their unsolicited advice + opinions around your birth, here are 5 big ways to stop it from getting you down:
1) Always follow your heart.
It can be tough to resist being negatively influenced or pressured into one birth style or another by friends, family or your caregiver.
Do not be birth brainwashed! You gotta do you.
Because here's the thing: your jaded bestie, opinionated in-laws, or intervention-pushing doctor aren’t the ones giving birth to your baby, with your body.
They’re also not the ones who are mentally, physically and spiritually TATTOOED by your birth experience for the rest of her life.
You are. So you gotta do you.
What’s your ideal birth scenario? Your heart immediately knows.
Whether you choose to labour naturally, with an epidural, or even an elective cesarean - I am here to say there is no WRONG in birth. Does this surprise you coming from me? It shouldn’t.
I always advocate, first and foremost, for positive birth experiences and for women having birth stories they love to tell.
And I have built my business around advocating specifically for Natural Vaginal Birth simply because I deeply trust and believe in the safety, health benefit and transformational power of an intervention-free birth.
That doesn't mean, though, that I judge you if your birth looks different than my ideal.
In fact, neither of my two births have looked like my true ideal!
Your birth is yours alone. Not mine. Yours. I can't impose my opinions on you. All I can do is teach you what I know from my personal stories, my doula experience, and my Naturopathic Doctor knowledge and skills so you are equipped with the facts when making your birth choices.
BUT, we are different people with different life experiences and so we may choose to give birth differently. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about what you’re doing.
Follow your inner voice. You gotta do you.
If you follow your heart and feel pulled toward natural birth and want to have an *amazing* experience, you can learn more about that here.
2) Know your stuff.
Whatever empowered choices your heart wants your birth, you need to own them and protect them, but...
You MUST be EDUCATED about them.
I absolutely do NOT recommend making birth choices willy nilly, by default, or because you're feeling anxious, guilted or pressured.
Worst of all, don't go into birth without considering your options at all!
Consciously design your dream birth. What will it include and exclude? Lay out all the options and interventions, examining them one by one. Research them.
- What is this option/intervention?
- (epidural, episiotomy, Nitrous Oxide [laughing gas], manual rupture of membranes, etc)
- What is its purpose?
- What are the risks?
- What are the benefits?
- What does the research say about it?
- Is this something I would consider for my birth?
- Is it only used in emergency situations only, or is it more routine?
- How will this intervention make me feel?
Educate yourself and decide what your ideal birth experience includes AND excludes. For straight-up current labour + birth research and resources, this is a great place to start.
By making educated, empowered choices around your birth, you are protecting your birth plan, and preventing yourself from being swept up in a medicalized whirlwind of intervention unnecessarily.
3) Make your choices and stand by them.
Okay so you’ve done all your research. Now sit down with your partner, discuss your options and make a birth plan. Your birth plan is unique to you and your partner - it may not look like everyone else's, and that will upset some people.
Whenever anyone tries to dissuade you from your birth plan - usually using fear - it can be hard to confidently stand by your choices with confidence.
Yes, it WILL be hard. But do it anyway.
Because unfortunately, birth is just the beginning of the judgement party! Parenthood is a very judgey place to be lots of times, because everyone's style is so different. Once again, different strokes for different folks!
So dealing with feedback and criticism of the choices you make for your birth is just building that muscle so that someday soon it won't be hard to stand by the choices you make at all.
In labour (and in parenthood and life in general) there’s those who strive for a more natural approach, and those who don’t. Decide which side of the line you’re on, and stand there tall and proud!
4) Focus on your experience.
I have given birth completely naturally. But, I've also had a c-section and the epidural that comes along with it. Birth is a rollercoaster and every ride is different.
Having experienced both my best- and worst-case birth scenarios has taught me to drop any attachment to the eventual outcome, and just support women in their experience of their birth.
Even though I had a c-section the first time, that doesn't define my birth experience. It may have ended in a c-section, but before that there was 24hrs of natural labour, half of which was cozied up at home with my bestie and my hubby, the other half was in the hospital working as a team toward a hopeful vaginal breech delivery. It was an amazing bonding experience, and my c-section turned out to be a life-altering teachable moment for me.
Your experience is what TATTOOS you, not the actual events themselves.
When moving through your pregnancy and piecing together your ideal birth, focus on the experience you want to have (how you want to FEEL) and the researching, birth planning, and birth-plan-protecting will be a lot easier.
5) No judgement.
When I was pregnant the first time and was planning a homebirth, people said WHY not just have the baby at the hospital? It’s so much safer! (That's not true, by the way...but I still ended up in the hospital anyway.)
When I was labouring naturally and attempting a vaginal breech delivery, people said WHY not just get an epidural, or volunteer for a c-section? There’s no way this is going to work! (...And they were right, it didn’t.)
When we were pregnant the second time and I decided to have a VBAC, people said WHY not just have a repeat section? It’s so much easier and more convenient? (That's also very untrue, 6wks recovery from major abdominal surgery is not easy or convenient! Been there, it sucks.)
I've been judged enough to know that it's no fun.
Which is why I am always conscious to accept, honour and respect other women’s labour choices + birth stories, even if they are not the same as my own.
I’ve been judged enough to have a little callous...and perspective.
I really "get it" now: everyone has an opinion, most ESPECIALLY around birth and parenting, and it’s theirs to have. It doesn't have anything to do with you. Honour their opinion. You gotta do you, so you gotta let them do them.
I've been judged enough to know that it's not mean-spirited.
Usually no one's trying to hurt your feelings with their opinions. Practice giving others the benefit of the doubt, if not for their sake then for yours.
Thats probably the real KEY to easily dealing with opinions: believe in your heart that people are speaking from a place of love for you.
It helps those conflicting opinions slide right off your back instead of rubbing you the wrong way. And it helps you to genuinely thank them for their concern...and then keep right on stickin' to your (educated) guns.
There is no wrong in birth.
The buck stops with you. If someone’s birth plan that doesn’t jive with yours, send her lots of good vibes, give her the benefit of the doubt that she’s doing the best she can with what she’s got...and then give her the link to my website ;)
This is the hardest job in the world, ladies. Let’s have each others’ backs...AND support each other’s births.