Out of hospital birth has received a bad rap for decades. You don’t need to know the history of birth to understand that many folks are leery of anything beyond a “normal” birth.
But here’s the thing: a lot of what people think they know about birth is just plain wrong. As in unfounded and scientifically not correct.
The other thing is it’s really not their fault. The birth world is flooded with tons of false information being perpetuated by the media (hello water breaking scene followed by screaming agony and an emergency birth…).
And the stories we’ve heard from women we know haven’t helped much.
The sharing of birth stories has lost all grace and has instead become a time to share each teller’s most shocking or difficult moments. Talking about birth has evolved to resemble something more like tales of war than the precious moments leading up to the arrival of a brand new baby.
I get it. Not every birth feels peaceful from start to finish. But the point I’m making here is that your people have heard these horror stories, too. And they’re worried about you.
From the moment you shared you were pregnant, people who love you began forming opinions for you. Some from their own experience. More likely though, they’re coming from scenes in movies, articles on Facebook, or “that story” they overheard near the diaper aisle at Target.
Whether your loved ones are aware or not, they’ve got opinions about how you should handle this birth.
It can feel undermining to hear someone you love is concerned about the safety of your choices. However, there are many ways to hear the heart behind their concern, and to help them better understand your position.
If you’re up for having a conversation, consider the personality and communication style of the person (or people) ahead of time.
Check out these tools for chatting with the most common ney-sayers when it comes to out of hospital birth: Researcher Rita, Super-helper Susan and Fearful Franny.
Got a “Researcher Rita” in your life?
Rita needs to understand. She needs cold, hard facts to make sense of the world. Frankly, what she’s finding when she googles ‘home birth’ is hit or miss. We both know if you Google just about any topic, you’ll probably find just as much bizarre mumbo jumbo as helpful information. Rita has probably googled some things that sent her spiraling and folks who are spiraling aren’t dialoguing openly.
So, how can you help Rita?
Hit her with some helpful information!
If you’re someone who makes decisions based on cold hard facts, it could be so helpful to pass along info that’s helped solidify your decision to have an out of hospital birth. Share studies (I’ve linked a couple of readable and supportive medical journals below), send her the link to your provider or birth center’s website so she can see reviews & testimonials for herself. Give her a book recommendation or two and set up a time to chat after she’s had the chance to read it.
Pro-tip for your talk with Rita: Stay calm. Take regular deep breaths and choose not to take her need for verifiable information personally. For someone like Rita, facts and statistics can create a sense of security. When push comes to shove, what she truly wants is assurance that you and your baby will be safe. Give her space to digest the information and know that it’s okay to agree to disagree if she just doesn’t come around.
Have a “Super-helper Susan” on the scene?
Susan wants to be included. She wants you to consider her part of the team (fam, crew, you get the idea). She wants to feel like you value her opinion and role in your life. Whether or not you want birth advice from her, you can help Susan by connecting with her.
In my experience, much can be accomplished when you’re willing to chat heart to heart, even if you don’t necessarily want suggestions. Consider grabbing coffee with that over-”helpful” parent or family member and asking for the opportunity to share what’s behind your decision.
Pro-tip for your chat with Susan: Sweet Sue might have a tendency to interrupt you or interject her own thoughts as you share, especially if she’s passionate about this topic. You can keep frustrations low by addressing your boundaries before you begin. Let her know ahead of time that you’d like to talk first, but you’ll create space for her to share after you’ve finished. Ask her directly to give you space to share your own heart and assure her you’ll do the same when it’s her turn.
Give the person the opportunity to express concerns and be willing to listen, but feel free to share the boundaries you’re most comfortable with surrounding that conversation.
Know a “Fearful Franny”?
Franny is worried. Worried about you. Worried about the baby. Worried you’ll get a flat tire on the way to the birth center. Worried your midwife won’t make it in time and your baby will be born on the bathroom floor like the woman in that Lifetime movie. She’s. Just. Worried.
This worry is not exclusive to your birth and it will probably continue on long after you’ve had your baby, only directed at other things. Worry comes when we attempt to control things outside of our control. But you and I both know…
“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.” (Quote by Emma Bombeck)
The best way to combat the worry Franny carries around with her is to release peace. The Bible gives us this promise about the Lord “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3, ESV) Remind Franny that peace is available to her.
Pro-tip for your times with Franny: Pray for Franny before you get together and invite the Holy Spirit into your space. This will help you stay grounded throughout your time together and may help her to feel more peaceful herself.
Franny may feel the need to regurgitate stories, “facts” and any other information she feels supports the worry that’s consuming her. It is absolutely okay to establish boundaries with her prior to getting together.
Some healthy boundaries might sound like:
- “I can appreciate that you have concerns about our birth but at this time, we’re not in a place where we feel comfortable discussing this topic with you. We would love to talk about what’s new with you and share our most recent ultrasound with you!”
- “It would be really meaningful to me if we could spend some time praying together, inviting the Lord into our conversation before we chat.”
- “I’d like to only discuss our family during our time together, and not details involving other people or their births.”
Overall, connecting with Franny is more about keeping your own family from stepping into worry than about allowing her to process every concern with you. Establishing boundaries with her may even help her understand that her attitude and consistent fearful chatter only serve to negatively affect the people around her. Taking these steps now could change the trajectory of your gatherings with Franny in the future!
Still hearing ney? That’s okay!
Creating space to hear the hearts of those who love you is less about winning them over to your side and more showing them that you’re open to productive dialogue. If your conversations didn’t quite yield the result you hoped for, that just needs to be okay.
Be sure to take good care of your heart, and of one another.
Take some time to process together with your spouse, especially if the recurring ney-sayer is one of your parents. Remind one another of your reasons for choosing the birth environment you’re using.
Be honest about your disappointment.
Create space to journal your feelings, pray, go for a walk in nature or take a long bath.
Above all, remember this is your birth and you can trust your instincts. Your decision to birth your baby outside of the (semi-)traditional hospital setting is just that: your decision.
You’ve got this, mom & dad.
- MacDorman MF, Mathews TJ, Declercq E. Trends in out-of-hospital births in the United States, 1990–2012. NCHS data brief, no 144. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2014. Click here for this article
- Goer H. Dueling Statistics: Is Out-of-Hospital Birth Safe?. J Perinat Educ. 2016;25(2):75–79. doi:10.1891/1058-1243.25.2.75 Click here for this article
- Cheyney M. Understanding Recent Home-Birth Research: An Interview With Drs. Melissa Cheyney and Jonathan Snowden. J Perinat Educ. 2016;25(2):80–86. doi:10.1891/1058-1243.25.2.80 Click here for this article