Taking Back Birth: A Rant

Here’s a common refrain I’m seeing a lot of these days in the online world: “I’d love to have a home birth, but my husband is against it, so how can I go about having a natural birth in the hospital?”  The husbands seem to usually be against it because they’re “afraid of something going wrong.”  And the women seem to throw in the towel so easily!  What’s going on here?

When did we women allow men to take over birth and birthing decisions?  I know the whole history of modern obstetrics becoming medicine’s most lucrative industry and virtually obliterating midwifery and woman-centered birth practices; it’s outrageous enough that we’ve been conditioned as a society to believe that pregnancy and birth are inherently pathological, and best-managed by a male-dominated medical specialty.  But it goes beyond that: not only does a mostly male population of doctors control birth in Western culture, husbands and male significant others are apparently dominating the decision-making at home, some even going so far as to push their wives to get epidurals because “it’s not fair to make [him] have to watch her suffer.”  Are you fucking kidding me?  There’s something really wrong with this.

I understand wanting one’s partner to be on board with whatever big decisions need to be made in the life of a couple or family.  I understand having enough respect for one’s co-parent to want him to be part of the decision-making effort.  Why in the world, though, would his opinions and fears (which are unfounded, by the way) trump?  He is in possession of neither a womb or a vag; he will never grow a baby in his body, and he will never, ever give birth – neither in a hospital nor in a bedroom nor in the woods, with or without drugs.

I’m just going to say it: men need to shut up and let women choose how and where to give birth.  Birth is women’s business.  Ladies, would you let your husband decide if you use pads or tampons when you get your monthly?  We deserve autonomy over our bodies.  Isn’t that something we’ve spent years and years fighting for?  Assuming we women are in our right minds and have all of our faculties about us, you, Men, need to respect us enough to trust that we won’t make decisions concerning the well-being of our offspring lightly, that we are not being reckless, and that we actually do know best – certainly better than you, oh wombless, vag-less man – about our reproductive and birthing capabilities – about something so intrinsically female.

Before you put the kibosh on how the mother of your offspring wants to give birth, before you make a decision based on fear (and possibly negatively impact what will be a life-altering experience for her, potentially influencing everything from how she sees herself as a woman and mother to how she bonds with her baby), do yourself a favor and do your homework.  You are almost certainly basing your feelings on misinformation.  Really.  And even if it’s still out of your comfort zone, respect her enough to trust her.

Ladies, take back birth.  It’s your body that’s going to go through this, not anybody else’s.

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5 Comments on “Taking Back Birth: A Rant”

  1. meriahnichols
    November 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    *chuckle* I love that you say “fucking” !
    I’ve never heard of a guy telling his wife she shouldn’t have a home birth… when I told my Mikey that I wanted one, he told his boss and his boss found and paid for a midwife and doula for us. Of course, the midwife and doula left placenta in me that came *this* close to ending up with me having a hysterectomy, but that’s another story.
    What did you think of the “Business of Being Born”?

    • Lisa
      November 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

      Absolutely loved it! I think everyone planning to have a baby should see it so they’re at least getting the whole story. You can’t make a truly informed decision without all the facts.

  2. Amy Heyde
    November 29, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    I agree…def should be up to mom…our bodies, our birth…our decision. For me…due to past history…Im afraid its my own fear that keeps me in the hospital. Ive just had some really odd things happen…and because of it…I feel like having the “just in case something goes wrong” covered. I hope you have a wonderful birth again! And I hope I do too…even if it is in the hospital 🙂

  3. Stacey
    November 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I had a feeling we’d be seeing a post like this from you soon! I’ve had this exact same conversation with so many women both IRL & online, and it never ceases to amaze me how much power women are giving the men in their lives, and the sad thing is that they don’t realize it. I love Dr. Michel Odent who said every first time mom should give birth at home and that men need to stay out of the decision-making, and if the mom doesn’t like that experience, there’s always a hospital the next time.

  4. Michael
    November 29, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    I remember these conversations with Lisa early in her pregnancy with our twins (before we knew they were twins) and being fearful at the notion of giving birth at home because it’s so easy to go into the “what if something goes wrong” mode. I was never a “you’re going to do it this way” guy about giving birth, and not to be a suck up or anything, but at some point I had to rely on her judgment because she had done the research and I hadn’t. And I’m guessing that’s where a lot of women would get the pushback from their male mates–getting them to look at the research and information. If you can get them to do that, I’d say you’re more than halfway there.

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