A story we covered here on Mommyish this morning has been haunting me. I cannot stop thinking about Lisa Epsteen, the Florida mother who desperately wanted to have a VBAC, even though her doctors were certain that it was too risky. Epsteen has had four previous c-sections, has gestational diabetes, and her baby isn’t positioned well for vaginal birth. But even when doctors told her that the baby was in fetal distress and that she needed an emergency Cesarean right away, Epsteen held off.
For the life of me, I could not figure out what would make this woman decide to defy her doctors and instead look to the internet, the media, and national advocacy groups for pregnant women for support in her decision to hold off, possibly endangering the life of her child. Then, one of our thoughtful commenters, Cee, made an incredibly astute observation.
Wow. I seriously partially blame some mommy blogs for her stubborn behavior. I mean aside from this blog, and I’m saying it with a grain of salt cuz sometimes this blog can be judgey too, some mommy blogs (usually ones that use acronyms like DH, DD, DS, CIO…blah blah blah) can be very judgmental about a lot of the personal choices women make about anything regarding their baby. Mothers shame other mothers for c sections and much much more. Go to any mommy blog and type a search for C-section, look at the comment section and you will not see many mothers supporting mothers there. You will see a lot of “selfish” “how convinient” “you drugged your baby” ” you should have…” “a doula would have…”
She goes on to suggest that birthing stories and blogger advice should come with disclaimers. For every mother who defied her doctor’s wishes because she “just knew what her body needed” and ended up with a healthy baby, there are millions of other stories where a doctor’s knowledge and expertise saves lives and kept people healthy. Many bloggers act like their own personal experience can or should reflect what every woman will experience, negating to mention that every pregnancy and labor is different.
Cee brings up such a wonderful and important point about the way we talk about childbirth, and the ways in which many people pretend that one way is better than another.
When our own Rebecca Eckler wrote about the reasons she chose to have an elective c-section, she received horrible insults and shaming. She was told, “Women are meant to give birth vaginally; C-sections are for emergencies, not for whiny little brats who think they’re too good to give birth.” On the other hand, a large amount of women were thankful that someone, finally, stood up and spoke honestly about wanting a c-section. The subject is still considered seriously taboo.
Personally, I’ve had plenty of people disparage my choice to have an epidural. I’ve been told that I was “drugging my baby.” Others, who were attempting to be less harsh but equally guilt-inducing, made sure to remind me about the decades of women before me who had no problem giving birth to children naturally.
In general, many mommy blogs tend to rank your childbirth on the scale of “naturalness” you achieve and how much praise you should get. Natural homebirth ranks at the top of the scale, along with the sometimes dangerous VBAC, while those hospital epidurals or c-sections gain considerably lower respect, and sometimes even insults.
I’m all for celebrating birth. Each and every birth that results in a happy mother and a healthy mother should be applauded, in my opinion. And yet, certain corners of the internet have nothing but criticism for moms who succumb to the evil urges of modern medicine.
I don’t want to suggest that this pressure from other moms or the internet mommy machine justifies Lisa Epsteen’s choice to defy her doctors and possibly risk the life of her baby. I don’t think anything excuses her refusal to do what’s necessary to bring a healthy baby into the world. But I have to agree with Cee. I think part of the reason that women obsess and fetishize the “natural” birthing process is because we spend so much time shaming and guilting one another, pretending that some births are more deserving or special than others.