Fundamentalism scares me. Whether the topic is religion, politics, or health care, fundamentalism scares me.
As a licensed midwife attending planned home births, the public fundamentalism on either side of the home birth issue scares me both personally and professionally. On one side, there are folks that have not a single good word to say about home birth, and they proclaim from rooftops any shred of ‘evidence’ that shows home birth as dangerous. On the other side, are folks that eschew medical intervention in favor of a ‘natural birth’ at almost any cost.
Yesterday, immediately after reading an article in The Daily Beast entitled “Home Birth: Increasingly Popular, But Dangerous”, I read an anonymous FaceBook post and comments concerning prolonged rupture of membranes. The Daily Beast article written by Michelle Goldberg, under the guise of balanced journalism, demonized home birth, anyone that would attend birth at home and any scientific studies that support home birth. The FaceBook post (and the majority of ensuing comments) glorified the natural process of birth and fed the fear of all things medical, especially induction of labor and antibiotics. In my opinion, both the Daily Beast article and the anonymous FaceBook post, are examples of HomeBirth Fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.” This basic set of principles can be taken from Leviticus, the Koran, or from Spiritual Midwifery. Each of these writings has historical underpinnings, and each can provide information, comfort, even wisdom. But when a group chooses to adhere to a strict and narrow, ‘literal’ interpretation of any text or set of ideas, fundamentalism, terror, and fear mongering may follow. Frequently, I see people in both the Natural Birth movement and the Anti-HomeBirth camp as fundamentalists. And it makes me sad.
The weapon of fundamentalism is fear. It makes me sad when people use fear to control women. To me it is just as upsetting when one person demonizes all medical interventions as when someone else glorifies the medicalization of birth. I am saddened by stories of woman forced into unnecessary Cesarean Sections and stories of women that avoided needed interventions because of fear and rhetoric.
Personally and professionally, I am not a fundamentalist. Personally, I aim for balance in all aspects of my life, for health in body, mind and spirit, and to embrace both passion and compassion. Professionally, I strive to provide high quality, evidence based, client centered and compassionate care.
From Michelle Goldberg to the anonymous FB authors, this is what I have to say:
Let’s all listen respectfully to one another.
Let’s really study the evidence (and the basis of that evidence).
Let’s empower people to make informed health care decisions.
Let’s support midwives, nurses and doctors in providing high quality, safe and compassionate perinatal care.
Let’s concede that there are appropriate times for medical intervention and for times letting nature take its course.
Let’s all take unnecessary fear out and put real joy back into birth stories.
Let’s all work to have healthy moms, babies and families in all births, whether home, birth center or hospital.
Or, in the words of the late Rodney King, “Can we all get along? Can we all get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?”
May all babies be born into loving hands