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Are Pregnant Women Who Have Birth Plans 'Selfish?'

Are Pregnant Women Who Have Birth Plans 'Selfish?'


Sep 6 2012
Debunking the belief that pregnant women should sit back and be grateful for whatever happens on the big day.

It's okay to be disappointed with your birthing options. Chances are, if you're an American woman, you don't have many choices compared with, say, women in the UK or Germany. But you probably do have good reasons for wanting choices. And if you're dissatisfied, your dissatisfaction may well be the righteous kind.

Recently Nancy Wilson, the wife of Moscow, Idaho, pastor Douglas Wilson, suggested that birthing mothers who "fuss" about "doctors, about hospitals, about tubs or lack of tubs, about midwives or lack of midwives, about pain-killers, and monitors"
are guilty of taking the occasion of giving birth as "just one more opportunity to become a self-absorbed fusser."

There were several follow-up posts: another from Nancy stating that while birth plans are not necessarily wrong, women need to "hold it loosely" so as not to become "demanding prima donna(s)" and to be "brave," "cooperative," and "grateful." Nancy's daughter, Rebekah Merkle, stepped in to say that while birthing is "natural," it is also "cursed" as a result of sin, and that complaints about

" 'uncomfortable monitors' and 'this wasn't my birth plan' and 'sterile, medical atmosphere' and 'I didn't want a c-section' "
are inappropriate, simply because most North American women in the 21st century don't face the probability of dying in childbirth or shortly thereafter …

When Rebekah's sister Rachel Jankovic, author of Loving the Little Years, gave birth via "unplanned c-section" a few weeks later, their mother praised her "chirpy attitude" and "flexible birth plan," which was simply "to be grateful." Gratitude is admirable as far as it goes, but need a woman be grateful when she's pressured into treatments and protocols that were not truly medically indicated, as often happens?

The Femina bloggers are not the first to claim that women who, like me, advocate for "normal" or "physiologic" childbirth tend toward inordinate self-focus (or even that we are "selfish and reckless," as one UK writer put it). It's true that some modern women seem to forget the fact that birth is about more than her own experience of becoming a mother. However, there are reasons for choosing physiological birth that go beyond simple consumer preference.

There is no question that medical advances over the past 100 years have vastly improved maternal health outcomes. There is no question that c-sections save women's and babies' lives (5 to 15 percent of women will always need them—and they should have them!). There is no question that North American women have much to be grateful for in this area.

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Are Pregnant Women Who Have Birth Plans 'Selfish?'