Friday, March 14, 2014

Defending Your Birth Story

As beautiful as the delivery of a child can be for some women, it ends up being the complete opposite for others. As the saying goes, “we plan and Allah plans”… in this case, the Hospital plans as well.  Due to a lack of real education and preparation for birth, many mothers either go into a birth with no plan at all, or they find that there are many surprises during the labor and that their plan of ‘I’m going to last as long as I can and hope for a natural birth’… ends up changing.  The end result is that our intention for a natural birth ends up requiring some interventions.

Something I have recently noticed in the Muslim Community is Mothers are finding the need to defend their Birth stories, as though it needs explanation. It often seems like the friends and family of the birth mother are more interested in the “big question” rather than Mom’s emotional health. What? you don’t know what “big question” I am referring to? Let me paint a picture of what this looks like, for about 90% of new mothers…

Mom gets a few visitors at the hospital. She quickly pulls herself together hoping to look somewhat attractive. She finds the energy to put on a smile and greet her guests. Hoping the guests will do nothing but admire her baby, but after some initial meet and greet… the question eventually surfaces. “So I am guessing now that you know what labor is really like, your plan for a natural birth went out the window. Did you take the epidural when it was offered to you?” Mom hesitates, gulps and tries to avoid the question. She starts to tell the whole story, and ends up justifying and defending why her birth plan changed. She is Defending her Birth Story. However, at this point the visitors are not listening anymore. They heard what they wanted and that’s the answer to their burning question.

So, what exactly is wrong with this picture?  The thing is, Mom herself, has not had the time to process her own birth experience. She is burnt out from her adrenaline rush, eager to nurse her adorable baby and trying to remember where she put the extra baby blankets at home. At this point, Mom may not even remember all the details of her birth story.  The last thing she needs in an interview every time she meets an “experienced” mother.

People need to be more sensitive when it comes to how others have birthed. Just because you have experience does not mean you are necessarily qualified to truly educate someone on what birth could or should look like. Some will tell you that to aim for a natural birth is “unrealistic.”  Others may say things like “birth is too painful.”  That may have been true for them… but not for everyone.

I always heard while growing up that experience is the best teacher. Experience is a great teacher. However, there are two types of experiences: your own experiences and the experiences of others. We have all been to our own births. This means we are very qualified to talk about our own experiences, whether it is 2, 3, 4 or 5 births. But how many of us can say that we have been present for the entire time in the delivery room during someone else’s birth? What about 2, 3, 4 or 5 other women’s births?

The thought I want to leave you with is this: does the answer to the burning question really matter? Our community has become obsessed with the curiosity of birth. Sometimes even the Fathers will discuss births and ask the same questions as us women. When we wrap ourselves up in what doesn’t matter, we detract from what really does. A beautiful baby!  

Whatever route he/she came by, it is always a blessing from Allah to hold a new life in your hands.

Birth is intimate, it is private and it is memorable- so long as we let it be.

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