I Don’t Know Nothin’ ‘Bout Birthing Babies

by Chloe Jeffreys · 38 comments

in Adventures as an RN, Favorites

The other day I was chatting with my friend Steve–may his blog rest in peace–and he suggested that I ought to tighten up my blog and focus on something. We got to talking about things I could focus on and when he found out that I’m a labor and delivery nurse with 20+ experience he mentioned that maybe I should write more about childbirth.

After I stopped howling with laughter, I told him that there are only two types of people on the internet who write about childbirth:

1) People who are too stupid to know any better (For informational purposes, I was going to link to some of the most ignorant websites on childbirth out there, but I refuse to give these dangerously stupid people any link juice.)

and

2) Fanatics (Once again, no linky juice for nutjobs. And don’t be deceived; each side has its share of crazy.)

Or, I guess there is a third group:

3) Masochists who love getting hate mail

Even Raynor, when I asked him, “Raynor, should Mommy start writing about childbirth on her blog?” emphatically answered:

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“Not just no, Mommy. HELL NO!”

 

To run a blog about birth a person would either need to have the brain of a gnat or the skin of a rhino (maybe both).

And then it occurred to my little gnat-brain after Steve and I talked, “Hell, this is what I know the most about. Maybe I can write about it.”

So I decided to test out my hypothesis that only a crazy-ass fool who likes being called names and having themselves compared to Nurse Ratched or Himmler would ever willingly talk about childbirth on the internet. (Of course I didn’t trial that here on my own blog. I’m not that stupid. No. I trialed it by commenting on other people’s birth blogs.)

Just as I suspected, people are extremely passionate about childbirth and nothing you say will please everyone. From hard-won experience I know that it’s nearly impossible to find a reasonable middle ground where birth is concerned, and if you are successful your only reward will be that you’ll be pelted with rotten tomatoes twice as often because both extremes will then hate your guts.

For instance, let’s say that I write something wild like:

Epidurals are okay.

O.M.G!

That sort of statement will get my inbox filled with angry protests that go sort of like this,

“Don’t you know that epidurals lead to all these unnecessary c-sections and poor breastfeeding? How can you say that they are okay? You’re one of those control freaks–like that bitch nurse I had when my baby was bornwho goes around robbing every woman of her birth experience!!! What are you? Some sort of Nurse Ratched?”

Oh yeah. Trust me. You say anything about birth from a professional point of view on an amateur birth groupie blog and you’ll be told in no time flat that you are just like that bitch nurse they had when they gave birth.

It happens with such frequency that there should be some corollary to Godwin’s Law explaining it.

I’ll call it Chloe’s Law (Remember, this here is my kingdom and I can call it Chloe’s Law if I wanna).

Chloe’s Law goes like this:

The longer an online birth discussion goes on, the probability that Chloe will be compared to that bitch nurse who took care of you when you had your baby approaches 1.

Or let’s try the other side and say that I say something equally as radical. Something like:

Unmedicated childbirth can be a transformative and empowering experience that can be compared to climbing Mt. Everest.

And O.M-effing-G!

Say that and you’ll be called a birth extremist who enjoys making women who get epidurals feel shitty about themselves, and then you’ll have Chloe’s Law with a Godwin twist:

“You remind me of that bitch nurse I had when I was in labor who wouldn’t get me my G-D epidural! (by the way, people who don’t get their desired epidurals cuss a LOT!) How dare you force women to undergo needless pain for no damned good reason! What are you? Some sort of birth Nazi?”

And it isn’t limited to childbirth.

Even though I have decades worth of experience helping women breast and bottle feed their newborns, I best not say anything about that topic either.

Say for instance that I mention the scientific fact that breastmilk is the best feeding option for almost all infants.

Even if I can provide links to numerous well-funded research studies from organizations like the US Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization, or the National Institute for Health, I’d best be ready to be told that I am “a judgmental Nipple Nazi who ought to mind her own damn business.”

Conversely, if, for instance, I were to say something like, “It is better for a baby to be loved and bottle-fed than breastfed and resented,” then I better be ready to hear, “Don’t you care that babies DIE from formula? What are you? Some sort of shill for Big Pharma!”

Because the social imperative today is: Never make anyone feel bad about anything. Ever.

Heaven forbid anyone ever feel guilty about any of the choices they’ve made since all choices are equal, and if you say that just maybe they aren’t then you are an intolerant bitch with some sort of ax to grind.

No, Steve, I was right the first time. Only a moron or a masochist would ever write about childbirth online. That’s crazy talk.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne Young November 6, 2011 at 9:06 am

Dear Chloe,

Wow! I guess I am such a middle-of-the-roader, (and I hate ridiculous debates with rabid people) that I would never launch into a “You are WRONG and I am RIGHT argument. EVER!

Like infant ICU nurses, I thought my labor and delivery nurses were all great and I had three very different birth experiences. The first was quick and fast. If you can believe it, I didn’t even know I was in labor until BANG I couldn’t deny it. Ryan was born 30 minutes after we got to the hospital. There was no time to even ask for an epidural.

While the pain was “challenging” I thought I handled it pretty well. (Like I had a choice???) Honestly, the whole experience went by so quickly that my memory is pretty hazy. Besides, I think intense pain kind of numbs your brain.

After such a quick L&D I was overconfident and thought, the 2nd one will only take 2 hours. I even quipped that I’d be eating lunch in my room by noon. Cue the foreshadowing. Overconfidence was my undoing and Stephen took 12 hours to birth. I told the doctor I didn’t want an epidural because I had done it before without one, and I could do it again. I so regret that declaration. When he finally came through the birth canal his shoulders were stuck (he was almost 9 pounds) and I had to have a big ass episiotomy. Not fun – but leaving him there certainly wasn’t an option.

And then birth number 3…after my last experience I was going to have the damn epidural! There were many complications with the birth that probably had nothing to do with Kinsey’s soon-to-be-apparent special needs, and even the doctor was a bit freaked out. Sadly, I never go the epidural because by the time the doctor got to me – they said I was too far along and I had to once again, “go natural.” Sigh…

The point? If I had to do it all again, I’d hire a doula to help me with the process, AND be better informed before the birth. We took some “Bradley” classes and I didn’t think the breathing helped with the pain at all. I’m guessing if I had been a better student, it might have been more tolerable.

I guess I am fortunate I didn’t have a difficult L&D nurse. But… I am sure in many cases, it’s not the nurse that is a pain but the birth mom! Yeah this experience is painful, but don’t yell at the nurse OR your partner! Thank goodness a 4th baby is NOT in my future.

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Chloe Jeffreys November 6, 2011 at 10:37 am

Thanks for telling your story, Suzanne.

I definitely agree that pain clouds perception. And also that people sometimes just want someone to blame when things don’t go the way they think they should.

If the anesthesiologist can’t get the epidural in just right then they are accused of being a stupid anesthesiologist when in fact the problem could be with the woman’s anatomy or just the fact that sometimes our medicine doesn’t work 100% perfectly.

Birth is unexpected and anything (Trust me. Anything.) could happen. I tell people to plan (I wish more people would make a plan), but plan with an open hand because at a moment’s notice your plans may have to go into the crapper.

OB docs and RNs often get accused of being fear-based and not trusting birth. Um, that’s because most OB docs and RN have had birth turn around and bite them on the ass. You don’t trust a tornado or a hurricane or a snow storm. Birth is like that. It is a force of nature that moves through a woman. It isn’t to be trusted, but it isn’t necessarily any better to live in fear of it, because in the not trusting we’ve made a whole new host of problems which just goes to show that you can’t mess with Mother Nature either.

The best we can do is respect birth.

Respect women.

Trust in their ability to handle whatever comes their way, be there to hold her hand when she feels she’s reached the end of herself, and always stand ready to throw out the lifeline if you need to do so.

And doing all of that doesn’t guarantee anyone anything.

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Suzanne Young November 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Most people are idiots, and when you are stressed out and in pain, probably a bigger idiot than normal. Thank goodness you can let their white noise roll off your back. And I’m with you, avoid birth commentaries whenever possible, you just won’t win.

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Chloe Jeffreys November 6, 2011 at 10:49 pm

ha, there is this little problem that most people are idiots. I’m glad you said it first.

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Amalia November 4, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Chloe,

I don’t feel I can add anything more useful to this conversation, but I have to tell you: “YAY! RIGHT ON, MAMA! YOU SAID IT!” I love this post, and the various comments it has generated. It says everything I feel about this fundamentally human topic. And I love the way you express it. I shall follow you to the end…of what? I dunno. I just feel like it’s pretty important that I keep reading your blog…;) Thanks for your devotion.
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Chloe Jeffreys November 4, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Thank you, Amalia. I’m passionate about women and birth and yet there is no other topic for which I’ve received the most shit in my online life. Truly, I promise you, I meet every woman where she’s at. I long ago learned that each woman’s birth is about HER, not about me. I can write about birth from any side because there are as many sides as there are women. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. This made my day, my week, and maybe my year!

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Missus Wookie November 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I like your blog focused on you not on some theme you’d have to stick too. Think you are wise not to venture too far into such dangerous waters in case they break.

I’ve been involved in highly technical/intervention, low tech lit candle births and neither of mine went as planned. Always confused by how people attach such guilt to things they can’t change and won’t believe such comments as, ‘that wasn’t known way back then – we thought we were doing the best we could’ or similar.

So yeah sensible but I do think it would be useful if such a matter of fact dispensing of information was available. Sadly not all midwives/medical staff are as even handed as you.
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Jack November 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

I once posed as a breast feeding expert but I got in trouble for it. Some people just have no sense of humor.

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Chloe Jeffreys November 3, 2011 at 11:22 am

The lack of a sense of humor is a major world-wide problem, Jack. Let’s continue to do our small part.

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Carolyn Hastie November 2, 2011 at 1:29 am

Love this post Chloe, you are such a hoot 🙂 I too like the way you can take difficult topics and write about them in such a way that all resistence melts. My passion as a midwife is all about respecting the woman, her desires and her process, whatever that is and however it goes. My understanding is that when a woman feels cared about, valued and listened to and her choices are respected, her physiology works best and her fetus/baby grows well. As a midwife, I work on the premise of an old Arabic saying I saw when I was young and was instantly taken with “trust in God, but tie your camels first”. To me as a midwife it means, be educated, skilled and prepared for anything while doing simple things like smiling, encouraging, sharing information, listening, respecting, supporting and affirming … the woman and her process in the way she wants to be. For the record, I agree this blog of yours is about you and your life and as such, it is beautiful and wonderful to read. Thanks for sharing.

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Chloe Jeffreys November 2, 2011 at 4:30 am

Hey Carolyn,

I’m really glad you commented. As a birthworker (is that a term? Like sex worker but without the nicer shoes.) I do try to meet the woman where she is and not press my agenda onto her. But there are some truths and some medical realities and I believe it is my responsibility to tell a woman about those things. BUT because women have so much guilt sometimes even telling someone those things feels to them like you’re the one making them feel guilty for their choices.

But once I know what a woman wants, then I bend over backwards trying to help her get it be it formula or an epidural, or whatever. It isn’t my birth or my child. And while I do have my own personal preferences, I try very hard to not impose them on the people I care for.

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Birthblessed November 1, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I’ll let you post my birth video. The one time I did that, I had like 8000 hits on my blog within a week. I still get hits from some French website that sends people looking for my video.
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By Word of Mouth Musings November 1, 2011 at 5:17 am

Just write about the stuff that comes from your heart, to your head ….
and don’t attract the crazies if you can help it … they fight you on the opposite ends of the spectrum no matter what you say.
Had a last minute c-section myself, next baby i hopped on a plane and had her handed into my arms … my body loved me for it!
🙂
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Shorty October 31, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Ha Ha! I skipped the comments- don’t wanna know, lol. I only have four but they have been diverse… (twins w/epidural, two singletons without) and my only take is this: OB nurses are Saints! Thank you- it’s been great- all of it- and I am thankful you held my hand through it all. You weren’t there Chloe but in proxy I thank you.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 31, 2011 at 7:58 pm

And sometimes I get to be compared to the Saint who was there for you, holding your hand, keeping your hair out of your vomit, encouraging you to push when you just don’t think you can push one more time, and rejoicing with you over the brand new human being that you’ve brought into this world.

Those are the best comments.

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Maddie October 31, 2011 at 5:22 pm

There is a lot you learn after having 6 kids ( shame that it takes that many to get this sort of wisdom).. birth is what it is. You can doyour best and plan but it really is the roll of the dice. We have elevated this grueling bit of work to something of mythical status of have and have nots.. I for one love my children fiercly but am oh so glad to be done with that part of my life.. who needs guilt or competition about one more thing??

Maddie
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Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy October 31, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Um, yes. I started out so proud and confident in my choices….before I had kids. Then I had a few (okay, 4) and now I understand that there are MANY different reasons for choosing from a variety of options for the actual birth, and even those carefully-thought-out choices may or may not come to fruition depending on how things actually go down in the hospital (or living room, whatever).

I, for one, would love to read what you had to say about the birth experience. But I think I’m a little too idealistic to read the hate mail you’re apparently bound to get as a result.

I admire how you manage to write about this touchy topic and somehow come off as funny 🙂
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Chloe Jeffreys October 31, 2011 at 6:53 pm

You made me laugh. Honestly, is there anybody who knows more about childbirth and child-rearing than the woman who has done neither?

And it doesn’t stop there. I got some of the strongest advice about how to handle my wild teenaged son from moms whose oldest child was five. Um. Yeah. Thanks.

I’m just not up for a birth blog. I’d rather have my teeth pulled out one by one with pair of rusty pliers. I can see just from trialing the commenting on other people’s birth blogs or blogs about birth that I’d end up with an anxiety disorder from my blog.

I probably will write about it from time to time because I just will, but I can’t do that fulltime and stay liking blogging.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 31, 2011 at 6:46 pm

This is exactly right. There is nothing more wonderful than a beautiful birth experience, except a living baby. Not every birth is destined to be that beautiful mountaintop high experience. Some births are just downright scary and all hell and in the end I’m just happy everybody lived (and sometime not everybody does).

There is lots wrong with birth, but there is lots right. And ultimately birth is truly a force of nature that is out of our control.

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Pamela October 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I’m glad, Chloe, that you’re not going to turn your blog into a sparring ground for birthing extremists (shall I tell you about the nurse I had when I gave birth to…never mind).

I’ve been a little concerned, as you’ve considered narrowing your blog’s focus, because I happen to love it the way it is. Seems to me that your blog is a rare personality-driven blog that works very well. But I don’t know nothin’ ’bout ‘tractin’ no blog followers.

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Chloe Jeffreys October 31, 2011 at 6:57 pm

I love that you love the way it is, Pamela.

I think for now that my blog is a woman’s blog about one woman’s life. It’ll have the readers that it has. Taking this pressure of myself has been freeing. What I really want is a place where I feel free to express myself and a place that others will feel is worthwhile to visit. I hope I can create that place.

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Anne (@notasupermom) November 1, 2011 at 10:56 am

I agree with Pamela.
This blog isn’t about a “what”, but a “who”.

Tighten up, shmighten up.

You are a memoirist, so this blog is about each and every thing that pops into your head.
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Susan in the Boonies October 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I recognize that what you say about childbirth is true.

However, I am in the camp of the woman (women) who really is mystified by all the – yes, I’ll go ahead and say it – hoorah and uproar.

(Please note that I did NOT say hooHAH and uproar.)

I am in the “live and let live/birthed and give birth” camp.

Do what appeals to you, and let others go their own way.

I will say this: I do not believe this issue, the issue of having tremendously passionate opinions, is isolated unto childbirth.

When it comes to divorce, and/or how a cheating-no-good man might behave…
Or even heart disease, and the outcome of a heart attack and bypass surgery…

Or, honestly…WHATEVER the traumatic life/death/wounding/scarring issue/experience that a person is discussing based on their own experience…people believe that the truth that they have discovered through their own experience will DOUBTLESS be the truth that the world needs to hear, and, my friend…

IT AIN’T NECESSARILY SO.

(as you have discovered in your years of caring for many, many types of women who have the “giving birth” experience in common.)

EVERYONE who goes through marital troubles is not necessarily married to an abusive pig who must be stopped. SOME men ARE abusive pigs, who SHOULD be stopped…but not ALL.

EVERYONE who has a heart attack will not go through a depression/personality change. MANY WILL. But not all.

As it is with birth: for some, natural birth is an empowering experience, and ought to be likened to climbing Mount Everest. For some, drugs are welcomed, and make the birth experience exactly what they hoped for.
For some, a C-section can be the ultimate betrayal by a doctor. For some, it can be the operation that gives them a chance at having a live birth, and they are forever grateful.

Everyone’s life crisis is IMPORTANT, and people want to tell their stories, and this, too, is understandable.

And there is just no way that everyone in the world is going to share your opinion.

But all of the experience that you have has more than earned you a seat at the table, and a right to share your insights. I would think that the insights of a labor and delivery nurse would be INCREDIBLY valuable.

It would be a lovely thing if we could all keep in mind that everyone’s experience is unique, and YMMV (your mileage may vary).

But….in MY experience…that’s not likely to happen….
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Chloe Jeffreys October 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm

This is true. Passions run high on all aspects of mothering. There just is no safe zone.

I’m still going to talk about birth from time to time, but I have to know that no matter what I say, somebody is likely to be offended.

Women feel a lot of guilt. We live in a culture that is contrary to female biology. Saying “breast is best” is like a knife into the heart of some women who couldn’t or wouldn’t breastfeed for whatever reason. That guilt doesn’t change whether or not breastmilk is the optimum infant food for most infants, but what is a caregiver to do?

If I say, “breast is best” then I’m a Nipple Nazi (and yes, I’ve been called that), but if I don’t educate women about the risks of infant formula and their baby develops Diabetes or colon problems then aren’t I responsible? As a direct caregiver this is very tricky ground. On the internet it’s a veritable minefield.

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Anne (@notasupermom) November 1, 2011 at 10:57 am

Yes, I am strongly in the camp of “I don’t care what other people do”.
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Elizabeth / Liza Lee October 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Great post! I’ve seen those online conversations, and I think you’re making a wise decision. I’ve had pretty much every birth option except c-section. Yes, I preferred my non-medicated birth over the others, but in the end it’s about getting the baby out safely, not whether or not the mom had a fulfilling experience.

Nipple Nazi. :snert:
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Chloe Jeffreys October 31, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Liza Lee, I think you’ve seen ME in some of those conversations and you’ve seen how ugly it can turn. I can get just as mad as the next person about birth, maybe madder because I feel like my opinion should carry a bit of weight. I’ve attended birthing women in nearly ever conceivable situation from birthing on a dirt floor to a state-of-the-art high risk women’s hospital. I haven’t seen everything, but I’ve seen a lot. And I know that birth can be a transformativ–even magical–experience. I think that experience is well-worth preparing for and planning for. But I also know the true nature of birth and that it can turn on a dime into a life or death experience.

The reality of birth for most women throughout history hasn’t been its magic, but just the trying to survive it. On a planet where a woman dies every 90 seconds from a complication of pregnancy, no one should be deluded into thinking that birth doesn’t carry risk. Every Mother Counts.

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Stephanie (Just Me) October 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Nipple Nazi? [Snicker]

[Giggle]

[snort]

[cackle]

Ahem.

You’re right, Chloe, the topic of childbirth taps into our most fundamental passions, our sense of identity as mothers, our fears of somehow failing our children – all kinds of deep doo-doo. But I’m so thankful for the women who have had the courage to speak of their experience, and share what they’ve learned; especially those who have the wisdom and maturity to recognize that one size does not fit all in most of the issues of life. While I would never accuse you of having a gnat brain, I hope you can always maintain the ability to speak out when it matters. I value what you have to say.

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