I have a thought experiment for those decrying the fact that I highlighted a woman’s publicly proclaimed justification for choosing homebirth again after her first child suffered serious brain damage during homebirth.
What if the same woman had written “Drunk driving after brain damage” and it went something like this:
Unlike most drunk drivers whose choice has hurt others, I can honestly say that I worried very little about a reoccurence. I recognized the situation with Joshua [the car crash that resulted in his brain damage] for what it was, a rare and random event that was bad luck, and I had no doubt that it would not happen again. When I imagined driving drunk with Amelie, my second child, I imagined everything going well. The main point of difference for me, was that when I was driving drunk with Joshua I was 100% confident that everything would be fine, I knew sometimes people could have bad outcomes but I never imagined that could happen to me. After Joshua’s brain injury, I knew that it could.
She learned how to prevent something similar from happening a second time:
I consulted with an expert on drunk driving. He basically said that the only real guarantee to prevent brain damage from drunk was if no one ever drove drunk, and we all know that will never happen.
She cannot imagine attending parties and not getting drunk:
Despite what happened with Joshua, I still believe all of the things that I believed about my driving before having him. I still think I can hold my liquor. I still think that I am a fine driver even when drunk. I still want to drink at parties, I still want to avoid taxis, and I still think I will be happier at parties if I am drunk. I have seen several of the taxis in my town… I still cannot imagine how a woman takes taxis instead of driving herself home.
Would you think she was selfish?
That might sound selfish, and I guess it is a bit, because primarily I am thinking about what is going to make a party experience LESS awkward for me. And to me the answer to that is drinking at parties. Some people want access to another driver so a taxi is the clear choice for them… For me, I don’t want it… I am WAY more scared of being in a taxi than I am of driving drunk…. so its important to me that I can be in an environment where I can deal with things the way I feel like it and not be bothered or subjected to taxi drivers’ whims.
Or would you be appalled by her narcissism?
There was never any doubt in my mind after the accident with Joshua, that I wanted to continue drinking at parties. That I wanted to continue driving home drunk.
Understandably, having had a child with brain damage due to a drunk driving accident many women feel worried about driving drunk in the future. That small risk feels very, very scary the second time around and the majority of women feel safest in making choices very different to mine. They WANT to take a taxi. They WANT to have a designated driver. They WANT stop driving drunk. (Many brain damage cases, including Joshua’s, are caused by an injury while driving drunk… so many women wish to avoid driving drunk ever again.) I don’t judge anybody for feeling that way. When you have been through a drunk driving crash, you really need to do whatever feels safest to you, whatever option is going to be the best one for your mental health is the right option. I just happen to be the opposite to most women in my situation… and feel that the right choice for me is drinking at parties and driving myself home.
Is this woman entitled to our compassion because her son was permanently brain injured by her choice to drive drunk? Or is her son really the one who is entitled to our compassion?
Is this woman “off limits” for criticism of subsequent actions because her child paid a devastating price for her decision to drive drunk? Or does she merit our criticism even more because she refuses the learn from her first accident?
Does the fact that she feels happiest drunk mean that it is acceptable to drink and drive? Is it really about what makes her happiest or is what is safest for all involved more important?
Leaving aside the issue of addiction for a moment, the decision to drink and drive is a sign of narcissism. It reflects the fact that, when all is said and done, the drunk driver feels that her need to get drunk is so important that it trumps everyone else’s safety. Moreover, most drunk drivers actually believe that they are great drivers when drunk and don’t consider themselves a risk for future crashes.
Would you hesitate to criticize a woman who chooses to continue to drive drunk despite the fact that her oldest child suffered a permanent brain injury during a drunk driving crash? What’s the difference between that and choosing a homebirth (with the exact same risk factors and the exact same attendant) after her oldest child suffered a permanent brain injury at homebirth?