Why Freebirthers Have to Rely on Anecdotal Information
When I talk about unassisted childbirth, people often ask me how I knew what to do. A doctor even asked me how the placenta got delivered, as if birthing the placenta was really the hard part about having a baby…. The truth is, I have spent quite a bit of time on researching the topic. But I also trust my body and the process of birth. And I really don’t think there is anything wrong about relying on the experiences of others since we have more anecdotal information available to us than scientific studies that deal with unassisted childbirth.
Unassisted Childbirth Is (Sort of) New
Technically, women have been given birth for as long as humans have walked the earth. And women didn’t always have midwives at their birth. They certainly didn’t give birth in the hospital with doctors and nurses present until the 20th century rolled around. Today, the vast majority of babies in the United States are born in hospitals. Consequently, most studies about childbirth and interventions are centered around doctor’s and hospitals’ procedures. Of the small number of women who give birth at home, even fewer do so without a midwife present. In other words, giving birth unassisted is simply not common.
Freebirthers Keep It Private
Most women who give birth at home unassisted don’t go bragging about it (although I think they should). After all, other people don’t usually understand the reasons behind it. Moreover, they may think that you’re putting yourself or your baby at risk by giving birth unattended. Finally, freebirthers also choose to give birth alone because they value their privacy. It’s a beautiful event, but it’s not meant for strangers to discuss and judge. Besides, you never know who might take it upon themselves to report a woman planning to give birth unassisted to the authorities. In that case, it doesn’t really matter that you’re within your legal rights, because getting harassed by the authorities still won’t be fun.
Researching Natural Childbirth
If you want to research pregnancy or childbirth to plan for an unassisted birth, you’ll probably end up researching natural childbirth. There is plenty of evidence around that shows how interventions complicate matters, which is why many women have decided to skip them. Researching scientific evidence can help you decide which laboring position to choose (although your body might indicate otherwise when it’s time), and how to take care of yourself during pregnancy. But for some things, you have to rely on the experience of others.
Learn from Others
If you wanted to remove a stain, you might ask your mother, mother-in-law, or a friend who loves to clean. She’ll tell you what to do to get that stain right out. Why is it so terrible to ask others about giving birth and taking care of a newborn? Instead of saving your questions for a midwife or doctor, you can elicit answers from the people who have done what you want to do. The problem with anecdotal evidence is that you have to use your head. For example, your mother’s tried-and-proven method to remove that stain might not make sense to you, because you don’t want to use bleach. Similarly, a friend’s recommendation to get induced isn’t a reason to force your baby into being born too early.
I think if a pregnant woman is willing to keep an open mind and evaluate her options critically, there is no reason why she can’t learn from the experience of others. You won’t get a lot of chances to find out which way is the best way to cut the cord. You’ll only get to do it once for each baby. You don’t get to try out in which position you’ll experience fewer or no vaginal tearing, because you can only give birth to each baby once. Therefore, I advise you to take advantage of the knowledge that’s out there.
It also makes more sense to listen to a new mother than to a doctor who has never given birth. But the bottom line is, you don’t have to have a degree to give birth. And you certainly don’t need one to become parent and take good care of your baby. But everyone needs advise sometimes. And we should get it from the people who’ve been there and done that.
Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Ventura SJ, et al. Births: Final data for 2010. National vital statistics reports; vol 61 no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.