Tempering Passion with Humility

As a birth enthusiast, I love hearing birth stories. I love hearing positive changes in maternity care. I am eager to help women who want more information. I want to encourage women rather than scare them. I’m thrilled and honored whenever I get to attend a birth. I want to help women to get the birth they want. I even love trying to figure out exactly what happened at births.

But there’s an ugly side that sometimes can accompany my passion for birth. It’s a skeptical train of thought that slyly sneaks in… For me, it’s hardly ever voiced aloud. It could go in any number of directions…

Baby born by cesarean? Unnecessary, I’m sure.

Maybe she just took the epidural too soon.

Emergency c-section? Probably a shift change, is more like it!

If only she had read [insert favorite birth book title] beforehand. Then she would have known that [insert most despised intervention] wasn’t really needed.

The doctor probably only did that because it [sped things up/got him more money/got him home to his golf game sooner/etc.].

If only she had hired a doula! Her birth would have been so much smoother.

It’s a poisonous cynicism that is catalyzed by both a broken maternity system and my own pride. I see it all over birth blogs and forums, and quite often I see it in myself too.

What do I think? That I somehow was stronger than another woman for remaining calm throughout my labor? Did I clearly follow the Most Knowledgeable and Highest Path by having a home birth? Did I earn a complication-free birth by doing prenatal yoga and practicing deep relaxation?

What about you? Do you ever find yourself wandering these paths?

Do we really think that we know everything about a woman’s situation before we start talking or thinking through it? We absolutely do not. We don’t know her preparation, her preconceived notions, her level of being informed, her doctor’s viewpoint, her fears, her hopes… We do not know what was told to her or untold. What was performed with full consent, what was proposed as necessary, what was done without permission. What was encouraged, what was discouraged. We do not know the pain of her contractions. The position of her baby. The reason labor stalled or went too fast or whatever else may have happened.

And most of all, none of us can truly control it, and none of us can go back and change it.

We can prepare, we can practice, we can hope, and we can plan for contingencies. And lest you think I’m a willy-nilly, I DO advocate for these actions. I think that in many cases, they can help a birth to stay on track in the first place. They can also help a mother to process better if it goes awry anyhow. But ultimately, none of us can choose exactly how our births will play out. Birth is, by nature, unpredictable (though I do agree that it is usually safe when attended by a qualified caretaker and left well enough alone).

When you add to the unpredictable nature of birth the many layers of convoluted maternity care, mixed messages from friends and family, and the great birth debates across the world, it’s a wonder if any woman makes it through a birth without at least some uncertainty!

When I take a step back from my thoughts, I need to remember to be humble. I don’t need to judge doctors, second-guess decisions, and inject doubt into birth stories I don’t understand fully. My job is not to be the birthy know-it all. When it comes to hindsight, my job is to listen to the mother. Support her. Help her with her and her baby. Be understanding of how she feels. Pray for her and with her. Help her to heal. To be the one who doesn’t tell her what she should or shouldn’t have done.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2

Photo Credit

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dac on July 9, 2012 at 10:03 am



  2. Great post, friend. This is so true, a struggle for everyone of us that applies to many areas. Thanks for writing it!!!


  3. Posted by Michelle on July 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    What a great reminder to us all! Thank you for yet another thoughtful post!


  4. Great reminder! “To be the one who doesn’t tell her what she should or shouldn’t have done.” My job is to listen and validate.


  5. Thank you. Wonderful. Admonished compassionately, even felt the love!


  6. Exactly my sentiments. Here I was about to write and article on the same thing and you had put it so eloquently! Sharing for my doula sisters!


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