To a surprising degree, natural childbirth and homebirth advocates are desperate for validation. So desperate, in fact, that when they are not validated, they actually believe that they are being bullied.
Consider how Rixa Freeze explains cyber bullying to her daughter. But before we do, let’s look at the definition of cyber bullying.
According to bullying.gov:
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology…
Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. (my emphasis)
Here’s how Rixa explains it in a dialogue with her daughter:
Did you know that sometimes adults are cyberbullies?
Yes. Did you know that there is a doctor who says mean things about me online?
Really? And she’s an adult? And a doctor?
That’s not good.
She says mean things about me because she doesn’t think anyone should have their babies at home. She says that mamas who have their babies at home do not love them and do not care about them.
But that’s silly. You love your children!
What did you say to the doctor?
I told her she was a bully and that how she was acting wasn’t right.
I’m glad that you spoke up. I think you should call the police to stop her.
No, it’s the law that people can say anything they like, even if it’s mean. I just choose not to pay attention to mean things that people say about me.
Rixa, of course, is talking about me.
Have I sent her any text messages or emails (mean or otherwise)? No.
Have I posted any rumors about her online? No.
Have I posted any embarrassing pictures or videos? Only if she think linking to a video that she posted is embarrassing.
So what did I do to Rixa that she believes is cyberbullying? I didn’t agree with her, I didn’t validate her beliefs and self-image, I failed to praise her.
Oh, the horror!
Why do natural childbirth and homebirth advocates have a dichotomous view of the world and everyone in it: if you aren’t validating them, then you must be bullying them?
Because natural childbirth and homebirth have nothing to do with childbirth, and nothing to do with babies. They all about the women who embrace them and how they would like to see themselves. They would like to see themselves as smarter, better and more loving than other mothers, and they believe that their choice of natural childbirth or homebirth is a shorthand way of broadcasting their superiority. Simply put, Rixa has made homebirth into something far more important than the way that her children were born. She has made homebirth into an integral part of her self-image. Apparently, if you believe that your choices make you superior, you also believe anyone who questions those choices is bullying you.
For Rixa, it is “bullying” to point out that she could have killed her 3rd baby who stopped breathing after an unattended homebirth. It is bullying to point out that in supporting Dr. Robert Biter, she was supporting someone who had committed negligence and malpractice. It is bullying to note that her unattended homebirths are such as large part of her identity that she manages to mention them in situations that aren’t appropriate. It is bullying to tell the truth instead of relate the sugar-coated, self-congratulatory fantasy that Rixa wishes to project.
Here’s what I’d say to Rixa’s daughter if I had the chance:
Part of being a grown up is thinking about what you do and whether it is right. There are lots of different people in the world, and lots of different ideas about what is right. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean that they hate you, or are trying to bully you.
Most people keep their thoughts about what is right within their circle of family and friends. But some people, like your Mama, want other people to copy them. She set up a public blog to tell all the people in the world what she believes about birth, and why other people ought to believe the same things that she believes.
Your Mama thinks she knows a lot about childbirth and she is trying to teach people what she knows. Unfortunately, much of what she thinks she knows isn’t even true. Worse, much of what she tries to teach people is actually dangerous to babies; it can hurt them or even end up leading to their deaths.
I also have a blog to teach people about birth, and especially to correct the untrue things that others believe about birth. Why should anyone listen to me? Well, in addition to having given birth to four babies, just like your Mama did, I spent 8 years learning everything that I could possibly learn about women having babies, and taking care of thousands of women while they were giving birth.
It hurts my heart when I learn that babies have been injured or died because they believe the things your Mama told them. She’s not a bad person. She’s not trying to hurt babies. She’s a good person. She just doesn’t realize how much she DOESN’T know about childbirth, because she didn’t spend 8 years learning everything she could about taking care of women giving birth.
So sometimes I correct the things your Mama writes. I point out when she says things that aren’t true (she doesn’t know they aren’t true). One of the things your Mama says that isn’t true is that giving birth at home is just as safe as giving birth in the hospital. It isn’t. It’s just like saying that not wearing your seatbelt is as safe as wearing it. If your Mama said that, I would correct that, too.
As you probably know, it hurts when people disagree with us. Grown ups get hurt feelings just like children do. It would be much easier and feel much better if no one noticed when we did something wrong or said something that wasn’t true. But then we wouldn’t learn to be better people. When you get an answer wrong on a test in school, it feels bad. Sometimes you might even think that the teacher is being mean to you for marking an answer wrong; after all, you thought it was correct when you wrote it. But the teacher isn’t being mean, is she? She’s teaching. She knows more than you and she is helping you learn what she knows.
I’m sure that your Mama feels bad when I point out the things that she says that are wrong. It feels to her that I am being mean; it feels to her like I am bullying her. After all, she thinks that what she say is right, otherwise she wouldn’t be saying it. But I’m not being mean, and I’m certainly not bullying her. I’m teaching and I’m helping many people learn what they do not know.
Hopefully, when you are a grownup, you can handle feeling bad about being wrong. Hopefully, you will consider that the people who disagree with you might know more than you do and might be right. Hopefully you will learn from criticism. Children think that someone is being mean when they don’t agree with them. Grownups hopefully know better.