I recently came across a perfect example of sanctimommy literature. It’s a classic because the author has no idea what she is talking about (of course), deliberately makes a false analogy, is incredibly judgmental and is falling all over herself to demonstrate her natural mommy cred.
I’m referring to this piece: What if someone suggested morphine to help your newborn sleep? by Kristin Dibeh, who amazingly believes she is qualified to write about childbirth because she is a childbirth educator.
She starts with typical first world privilege and self-absorption:
I knew that birth was possible without drugs, and that if my baby sister can do it under the circumstances she was coping with, so can anyone.
Duh! Of course birth is possible without drugs. Who would think otherwise? 100% of women who existed prior to 1850 gave birth without pain relief, and around the world most women give birth without pain relief each and every day.
Kristen goes on to excoriate women who opt for epidurals during labor.
I knew that I wouldn’t use an Opiate or a Caine derived drug BEFORE I was pregnant, so it confused me as to why people would be so shocked by the idea of NOT using controlled substances when there was a baby inside me. It still confuses me, actually…
Her “confusion” might be cleared up if she learned something about physiology and pharmacology, but that’s obviously too much to ask, so let me make it simple.
There is nothing dangerous about medical use of opiates or ‘caine anesthetics. If Kristen wants to tolerate the pain of a broken bone or a 3rd degree burn without morphine, she’s welcome to do so. If she wants to tolerate the pain of a root canal without novocaine, she’s welcome to do so. But that doesn’t justify pretending that opiates or ‘caine local anesthetics are dangerous.
The same thing applies to pregnant women. Both opiates and ‘caine anesthetics are safe in pregnancy, too. There is no reason for a pregnant woman who breaks her leg or sustains a severe burn to forgo morphine, and there is no reason for a pregnant woman undergoing root canal to avoid novocaine.
These medications are also safe for babies. Were a baby to be experiencing severe pain (from surgery, for example) opiates are perfectly appropriate to treat that severe pain and local anesthetics are appropriate for local procedures that require pain relief.
In other words, physiology and pharmacology tells us that opiates and ‘caine anesthetics are safe for use in non-pregnant women, in pregnant women, and in babies. Hope that clears up the confusion.
Let’s address the deliberately misleading and outlandish analogies.
If you took your baby home and he or she appeared to be in pain, would you give the baby…would you even consider giving your baby the likes of morphine? epinephrine? fentanyl? stadol? bupivicaine? chloroprocaine? lidocaine? The are all in the class of Opiates or Caine derived drugs. Would you give them to your baby short of ABSOLUTE medical necessity once they are in your arms?
If my infant had severe pain, you bet I’d be giving him or her opiates or ‘caine anesthetics. You’d have to be a monster to refuse to treat severe pain in an infant.
And here’s a helpful hint: Treating severe pain IS an ABSOLUTE medical necessity. What other reason is there to use analgesics and anesthetics?
The above list of drugs are serious, you wouldn’t dream of giving it to your baby the day after your baby is born unless the risk of giving it, outweighed the risk of not giving it.
Wrong! I’m not sure what Kristen imagines the “risks” of not treating severe pain in infants to be, but we give babies (or anyone) pain medication not because the “risk” of leaving the pain untreated outweighs the “risk” of treating it. We give pain medication to relieve pain, PERIOD. We don’t encourage burn patients to do without morphine even though that’s what our ancestors did. We don’t encourage people to do without novocaine during dental work because that’s what are ancestors did. So why should we be wandering around berating women for having pain relief in labor, for no better reason than because our ancestors avoided it?
Of course, the santimommy heart of the piece is the title:
What if someone suggested morphine to help your newborn sleep?
Is anyone suggesting giving morphine to anyone who is not in pain? You wouldn’t give morphine as a sleep aid to ANYBODY, so why ask if you would give it to an infant? Because the question reinforces the sanctimommy self-satisfaction, which, of course, is what this piece is all about. Good mothers would never drug their infants to sleep with morphine so why would a “good mother” allow opiates injected into her epidural space to relieve your own agonizing pain? How about because one thing has nothing to do with the other?
Imagine if we asked sanctimommies:
Would you feed a newborn a kale smoothie the day after it was born?
Think about the risks of doing that, everything from aspiration to severe GI pain. So if you wouldn’t feed a newborn a kale smoothie, how can you justify drinking one while you are pregnant?
No doubt a sanctimommy, in her own defense, would point out that a pregnant woman drinking a kale smoothie is very different from a newborn drinking a kale smoothie; the mother digests and metabolizes the kale so the baby doesn’t have to do so; that the placenta is not a sieve so that the kale itself does not get into the baby’s bloodstream; and that the chemical components of the digested kale are safe for babies.
Guess what? The same principles apply to the opiates and ‘caine anesthetics in epidurals.
Let there be no mistake about the inevitable conclusion: the fact that a woman refuses an epidural does NOT make her a better mother than someone who has one. What determines the quality of a mother is how she raises the child, not what she does to treat severe pain while pregnant.
If you don’t want to have an epidural, don’t have an epidural. But if you think that marks you as a good mother, think again. It merely identifies you as a gullible consumer of natural childbirth propaganda.