And all that matters is that you have a healthy and safe delivery... no matter how it's done.
All that matter is a healthy baby and healthy mommy.
Whatever happens, what matters most is a healthy baby girl and a happy mama and daddy.
In the end, all that matters is bringing a healthy baby into this world, by whatever means necessary.
These are all real statements I came across one day last week.
I find these statements both tyrannical and tautological. Tyrannical because it leads to a restriction of choices in the name of safety. Tautological because *of course* mothers want their babies to be born healthy and want themselves to come out of the process unharmed.
The "healthy mom/healthy baby" rhetoric, if followed to its logical end, leads down several ridiculous and contradictory paths.
First, it allows widespread abuse and manipulation of birthing women by negating anything that happened in the course of the birth, as long as the mom and baby survived. (Because in this context, "healthy" is a euphemism for made it out alive, not necessarily thriving and vibrant and injury-free.) It excuses any and all deviations from principles of evidence-based medicine and informed consent. And ironically, it often leads to greater net harm. Why? Because the "healthy mom/healthy baby" rhetoric is usually used to justify increased medical intervention. Pressured to have a c-section you didn't want or need? Encouraged to have an induction for dubious reasons? Given an episiotomy even though you clearly said you would rather tear? You should be grateful, because all that matters is that you have a healthy and safe delivery... no matter how it's done.
Second, it creates a false dichotomy between Good Moms who do the Right Things (like doing whatever their care provider says without asking questions) and Bad Moms who care more about The Experience than their own and their baby's wellbeing. You know, the hedonistic, selfish, narcissistic moms who'd rather listen to Enya and labor in an Aquadoula than have a living baby.
Third, it creates an artificial hierarchy of women's wants and needs, in which the mother's--and especially the baby's--health cannot coexist equally with other goals. Goals such as feeling respected and honored and joyful during the birth process, being able to make decisions about their care, and emerging from the birth feeling powerful and confident.
Fourth, the healthy mom/healthy baby idea opens the door for dictatorial top-down decisions. Because if the most important thing is a healthy mother and a healthy baby, then logically anything that adds additional risk to mother or baby should not be allowed. Let's follow this logic down its slippery slope to the final, authoritarian end:
- No epidurals or pain medications except for surgical births, because they add medical risk with no medical benefit (no one has ever died from the sensations of labor, but there are a host of risks--from minor to deadly--from epidural anesthesia and IV narcotics).
- No elective inductions.
- No elective cesareans.
- No home births (if you believe there is increased risk to the baby).
- No hospital births for low-risk women (if you believe there is increased risk to the mother and/or baby from standard hospital and obstetrical practices).
- No VBACs because they have a slightly increased risk to the baby.
- But no repeat cesareans because they are riskier for the the mother and sometimes the baby as well...So if you have a cesarean, you are not allowed to have any more children, since both VBAC and ERCS carry risks, and risk to either mother or baby is not acceptable. After all, the most important thing is a healthy mom and healthy baby.
I'm not saying that I don't value a healthy mother and healthy baby. On the contrary. It's just that the "healthy mom/healthy baby" rhetoric serves as a smokescreen. I'm thinking back to a comment by a family physician whom I am honored to know. She attends births as part of her family practice and has four children of her own:
I know as a mother that I would do anything to have my children whole and healthy (and I'm so blessed that they are!). I would have 10 cesareans, I would take any intervention, I would walk on hot coals. But it doesn't mean that we should require everyone to have every intervention known - or even that that would be the safest for everyone. I would take any intervention to have a healthy baby if it was needed, but that doesn't mean I should have every intervention no matter what.