Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I am selfish

Another response to an anonymous comment that "in my opinion unassisted birth is not only dangerous but selfish."

I am selfish. I admit it.

I am selfish because I want a birth experience that leaves me feeling fulfilled as a mother, that gives me confidence and joy.

I am selfish for giving birth at home, because I want to minimize the chances that my newborn will acquire an infection. Infection rates of newborns are many times higher in hospitals than at home. (1)

I am selfish because I want to avoid an unnecessary cesarean section; healthy women birthing at home have average cesarean rates of 1 to 4%, compared to around 20% in healthy women birthing in hospitals.

I am selfish because I do not want my vagina cut open by scissors (the nationwide episiotomy rate is STILL around 30%) or my belly cut open by knives. I have a 60% chance of acquiring a surgical wound if I give birth in a hospital.

I am selfish because I would prefer not to have to go into labor, pack my bags, get in the car, drive to the hospital, check in, sign consent forms, refuse the standard hospital procedures, and fight for what I want—all while giving birth to a baby.

I am selfish because I do not want to be separated from my baby. I want to hold my baby as soon as she is born. I do not want her to be taken from my arms to be weighed and measured, injected and bathed. I am selfish because I want to nurse her freely, without interruption.

I am selfish because I want to be washed in a “cocktail of love hormones,” to borrow a phrase from the French obstetrician Michel Odent. These hormones—endorphins, oxytocin, and prolactin—are released in full force only to women birthing without medications, in safe and private environments. Narcotics, anesthesia, surgery, and even high levels of stress and adrenaline inhibit the release of these hormones.

I am selfish because I want my baby to be born into her parents’ hands and to know only the safety and warmth of our arms. I want her be born in an atmosphere of love and ecstasy.

I am selfish because I want to avoid postpartum depression. Women who birth at home have much lower rates of postpartum depression. (2, 3)

Sometimes we need to be selfish.

(1) Mehl, L., Peterson, G., Shaw, N.S., Creavy, D. (1978) "Outcomes of 1146 elective home births: a series of 1146 cases." J Repro Med. 19:281-90
(2) Jones, Carl. Alternative Birth. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1990 p. 24.
(3) Kitzinger, Sheila. Home Birth. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1991 p. 193.


  1. HELL YES!!

    More women need to be selfish. More women need to be loud and angry and demanding and opinionated and strong and knowledgable and intelligent and in control.



  2. Rixa, I love you. You write so eloquently exactly the thoughts that I wish I could express! Keep up the fantastic work :)

  3. I'm in love with you. :)

    It's also selfish to give our babies the best birth experience possible, without making them struggle against unnatural positions, drugs, and hasty doctors. We are terrible people for wanting the best for our babies.


  4. THUMBS UP, Rixa!!

    You've said exactly what I feel!! As I prepare for my UBAC, I feel like I'm a 'sneak' because I cannot share my joy, my 411, my discovery of what birth can be, what it is MEANT to be... WHY can I not share? NOT because I'm doing anything 'wrong' or 'illegal', but because I'm seen as 'negligent', 'irresponsible', 'foolish' & even 'radical'... Well, another THUMBS UP to all us 'radicals'! ("breaking the law, breaking the law")(giggles)

  5. Excellent, Rixa!

  6. Wow, lots of sparks flying over there Tasha!

    Birth can be so personal and so polarizing that people end up talking past each other. When people discuss "safety," for example, they aren't always talking about the same things and thus the conversation keeps going round and round. For some people, being in a hospital with drugs and technology at hand = safety. For others, the absence of these things = safety.

    Part of the reason I created this blog: if people want to read about why I do what I do, they can. If they don't want to, they can simply leave. I am not forcing my views on them.

  7. I am curious: why choose UC over assisted home birth with a trusted MW? Without being snarky, it does strike me as selfish. That said, I have only come across unconvincing reasons for this choice: a bad experience with one midwife (Mothering magazine's recent article) and just because she wanted to (an acquaintance). The desires you write about are beautiful and you and your baby deserve them. But I wonder if UC is the only way to get them. I'm skeptical, but willing to be convinced.


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