It may be your body and your baby, but how you choose to deliver that child seems to be everybody else’s concern. Try walking into a maternity store filled with women trying on stretch-panel jeans and say loudly, “So, I’m really excited about doing a home birth. We’re even renting a birthing pool!” People will stop dead in their tracks. Some will roll their eyes. A few may even whisper loud enough for you to hear, “Is she crazy?” Or, log on to a message board for moms-to-be and type in a question like: “What do you think about scheduling an elective C-section? I really don’t see the need to go through a painful vaginal delivery when there is a perfectly safe alternative.” Then sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Our childbirth choices are largely unconscious, dictated by our history with doctors and pain, our trust or skepticism of science and technology, the influence of others, our need to control versus our ability to let go, and much more. As all these factors come together, we choose our place on what I call the Childbirth Choices Continuum. The options in the middle are the most mainstream, acceptable choices in America today. Those out on the far ends are the most harshly criticized—by experts, by the press and, mostly, by other women. They’re also the least understood, largely because women are afraid to talk about them.
In writing Deliver This! Make the Childbirth Choice That’s Right for You . . . No Matter What Everyone Thinks, I talked to more than 100 women who gave birth every which way; some are quoted here. In the process, I came up with seven destination points along the birthing-choices spectrum. Reading about them can help you make a decision you feel truly confident about. Let’s hope it will also help halt the judgment and the eye-rolling, and silence that sense of disapproval that injects so much negativity into what should be a supportive community of new moms.
On one far end of the Childbirth Choices Continuum are women who wish to exert the most control over their experience and the least control over their own physiology by giving birth at home. On the other end are women who choose a scheduled C-section; they value medical intervention the most and personal control over their birthing environment the least. Being informed about these options and all the ones in between can also help you feel prepared if your best-laid plans fall by the wayside during labor. (This happens a lot, and it’s why you shouldn’t feel “married” to any birth plan.) For more on choosing what’s best for you, see “10 Tips for the Most Satisfying Birth Possible.”