How natural childbirth advocates justify shaming other mothers

eleanor roosevelt marian anderson

Shame is integral to contemporary natural childbirth advocacy.

It’s based on an entirely arbitrary standard devised by racist, sexist old white men, and perpetuated by well off Western, white women who have enshrined their privilege by making their personal preferences normative.

I’ve often satirized the passive-aggressive shaming that is so beloved of natural childbirth advocates (I’m so not judging you), but today I’d like to address it head on. Blogger Mama Birth has provided the perfect opportunity with her recent post passive-aggressively justifying passive-aggressive shaming in I Can’t Make You Feel Ashamed of Your Birth (Unless You Really Are Ashamed of It).

Fair’s fair, so I should acknowledge excellence when I see it: Mama Birth’s piece is a truly exquisite example of the genre, kind of like a double back flip in diving, simultaneously shaming women who don’t have unmedicated vaginal births AND blaming them for feeling ashamed!

Mama Birth recognizes that criticism of natural childbirth shaming is gaining traction:

Shaming is a hot topic in the birth world though, isn’t it? If you are dumb enough to have an opinion and share it then you are undoubtedly going to be accused of shaming somebody who did otherwise. If you state that formula is a poor substitute for breast-milk or mention that the cesarean section is a perverse form of birth control … or (gasp) talk about how much you loved your natural birth, then stand back. Because what happens next is you will be accused of shaming people.

But Mama Birth refuses to take responsibility for shaming others since it is THEIR FAULT if they feel ashamed, not hers:

Never-mind that the people who you have forced into feeling guilty because you had an opinion are full fledged adults who you have never actually met—never mind that! You got in their head, you twisted their emotions, you are now in charge of their brain…

Sure, it would be really nice and convenient if every time we felt bad it was actually somebody else’s fault. Then nothing would be our fault. And if we did screw up, the bad feelings that went along with it would not be our responsibility.

See, it’s not Mama Birth’s fault that you feel ashamed when she shames you. Your bad feelings are not her responsibility.

Let’s extrapolate to some real world situations:

If everyone took Mama Birth’s advice, people of color should blame themselves for feeling bad about being subjected to racist treatment. It’s not racists’ fault that African-Americans feel victimized by racist taunts; it’s their fault for taking those racist slurs to heart.

And:

No one should be criticizing homophobia, since, according to Mama Birth, no one can make you feel ashamed for your sexual orientation unless you are really ashamed of it.

And:

We could be free once again to refer to the developmentally disabled as “retards.” Sure they and those who love them might be offended, but objecting to the epithet “retard” just shows that those people are ashamed that they or their loved ones are retards.

Isn’t that convenient? Racists don’t have to feel bad about their racism, homophobes are free to feel good about their homophobia and natural childbirth advocates can continue to revel in shaming other mothers. Don’t blame the racists, homophobes or Mama Birth. It’s all the fault of the victims!!

Mama Birth quotes Eleanor Roosevelt in support of her creative interpretation of shaming. Roosevelt said:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

It’s a rather ironic quotation for two reasons. First, all her biographers, as well as many who knew her while alive, would argue that Eleanor Roosevelt was oppressed for most of her life by a deep and abiding sense of inferiority, having been constantly shamed by those she loved most.

Second, Roosevelt was NOT excusing those who shamed others. When in 1939 African American contralto Marian Anderson, one of the most celebrated opera singers of her generation, was denied permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) to use its Constitution Hall for a concert, Mrs. Roosevelt did not advise Ms. Anderson that “no one can make you feel ashamed of your race unless you really are ashamed of it.”

What did she do?

On February 26, 1939, Mrs. Roosevelt submitted her letter of resignation to the DAR president …

On February 27, Mrs. Roosevelt addressed the issue in her My Day column, published in newspapers across the country. Without mentioning the DAR or Anderson by name, Mrs. Roosevelt couched her decision in terms everyone could understand: whether one should resign from an organization you disagree with or remain and try to change it from within. Mrs. Roosevelt told her readers that in this situation, “To remain as a member implies approval of that action, therefore I am resigning.”

Mrs. Roosevelt’s resignation thrust the Marian Anderson concert, the DAR, and the subject of racism to the center of national attention. As word of her resignation spread, Mrs. Roosevelt and others quietly worked behind the scenes promoting the idea for an outdoor concert at the Lincoln Memorial, a symbolic site on the National Mall overseen by the Department of the Interior…

On April 9th, seventy-five thousand people, including dignitaries and average citizens, attended the outdoor concert. It was as diverse a crowd as anyone had seen—black, white, old, and young—dressed in their Sunday finest. Hundreds of thousands more heard the concert over the radio. After being introduced by Secretary Ickes who declared that “Genius knows no color line,” Ms. Anderson opened her concert with America. The operatic first half of the program concluded with Ave Maria. After a short intermission, she then sang a selection of spirituals familiar to the African American members of her audience. And with tears in her eyes, Marian Anderson closed the concert with an encore, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.

The DAR’s refusal to grant Marian Anderson the use of Constitution Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt’s resignation from the DAR in protest, and the resulting concert at the Lincoln Memorial combined into a watershed moment in civil rights history, bringing national attention to the country’s color barrier as no other event had previously done.

The natural childbirth movement is approaching a cross-roads. The culture of shame that they perpetuate is being revealed in all it’s ugliness. Natural childbirth advocates can respond like Eleanor Roosevelt and provide powerful examples rejecting the use of shame in promoting their message …

… or they can follow the lead of Mama Birth and blame the shamed for their own shame.

  • Allie P

    How is C section a form of birth control, perverse or otherwise?

    • Young CC Prof

      Allegedly because studies show that women who have c-sections for the first baby wind up with fewer children overall. Never mind the multitude of obvious confounding variables discussed down-thread.

    • Lia

      I’m trying to figure out the same thing.

  • yentavegan

    Raise your hand if after being a faithful reader of this blogsite you have come to the realization that had it not been for medical intervention you/your baby would not have survived labor/birth. Yes. my hand is raised. Both of them..and my feet too.

    • Cobalt

      My OB totally saved our butts with my youngest. I would have been a great birth center/homebirth candidate on paper, too, after multiple boring deliveries.

      • Elaine

        Yep, I had the manual evacuation with my second baby. Without it, who knows. I might have ended up being fine, or my husband might be trying to raise two motherless kids. (Things went totally uneventfully with the first one, she and I would have been dandy.)

        • Cobalt

          That’s the thing. I could have dropped the two before the last in a field and been fine. This one needed to come a little sooner, and that traitorous placenta, after refusing to feed my baby properly, then refused to vacate the premises.

    • SporkParade

      My hand is up. Of course, I read the entire archives one week or so before giving birth, so I got to go through that realization while my hormones were still whacky and out of control. Whee.

    • An Actual Attorney

      Well, since a fibroid tumor grew across my cervix and closed it, it didn’t take much to figure out Actual Kid wasn’t coming out that way. One day, during lunch, when I was pregnant, my wife (who doesn’t read this blog) nearly burst into tears remarking that if it wasn’t for modern medicine, I would surely die in childbirth.

    • fiftyfifty1

      I’m not sure. My guess is that I probably still would have survived. Touch and go though. My sister most certainly would have died along with her first (swift severe pre-eclampsia).

    • Young CC Prof

      I would have probably survived, the baby, maybe 50-50. Assuming a midwife who knew at least a little bit about breech babies. Given no help at all, yeah, probably both dead.

    • Mishimoo

      I already know that I wouldn’t have survived my own birth, but this blog definitely laid the “Unnecessary Caesarean” myth to rest for me. As for surviving the births of my kids, I’m not sure how I would have gone without pitocin (IV augmentation and IM). With my eldest, IM pitocin was only just being brought in as something that could be asked for (in my area), instead of being left for emergencies. My CNMs were happily surprised that I knew what it was for and that I wanted it.

      • SporkParade

        Oh, I hadn’t considered my own birth. I mean, I would have survived, but both my husband’s birth and his mother’s birth were medical emergencies (premature surprise second twin and footling breech, respectively). Moreover, they were recognized as emergencies and not “variations of normal.”

        • Mishimoo

          My Mormor (grandmother) was a footling breech too! It was also treated as an emergency, even though she somehow flipped and came out headfirst. Not surprisingly, she’s very pro-science/medicine which is awesome.

    • My first kid? A monkey could have delivered her. 20 minutes pushing, 1 minute APGAR of 9. No problem. My second? Hmmm. Shoulder dystocia, resolved by McRoberts and my OB cutting an episiotomy manipulating the heck out of the baby to get him out. One minute APGAR? 3. Full ressus needed? Check. But, even more important, he probably would have died prior to birth without fetal monitoring because his heart rate was not recovering (3x nuchal cord), so my doctor gave me 8 minutes to get that baby out, or she’d do a section. She knew my first had been born in 20 minutes of pushing, so she figured I could do it, and I did. But, yeah, no medical intervention would have resulted in a dead baby, for sure.

    • anh

      my college roommate is a family practice doctor but did part of her residency in OB/GYN. when I confessed to her my shame at not being able to deliver without the help of pitocin and an epidural she said “that’s ridiculous. of course you would have delivered eventually….you would have just severely jacked up your pelvic floor in the process and you might not have a baby”. It was what I needed to hear

    • Amy M

      I can come up with a few points during L&D where things could have gone fatally wrong. (Of course wo/medical intervention I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place, but let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I did.)

      1)Water broke, no effective contractions. In real life, I got pitocin, as well as abx. Without those, I could have gotten an infection, possibly killing both babies and me. Even if I didn’t get an infection, if the contractions never became efficient on their own, babies could have died in utero, in distress, after several days. And if I couldn’t get them out, that would lead to my demise one way or another. (exhaustion, infection, both)

      2)Baby A had late decels after 2hrs of pushing, and was helped out w/a vacuum. Wo/the vacuum? Same scenario as above.

      3)I had a pph several hours after delivery. Without medical intervention, I would have bled to death.

    • theadequatemother

      first kid: late decels after 2.5 hours of pushing. Vacuum. Apgars 9,9. Without the vacuum, who knows?

      1 week postpartum – endometritis requiring admission and IV antibiotics. Without antibiotics I would have had a 1/3 chance of dying (historical mortality rate of puerperal fever).

      Kiddo #1 was jaundiced. Formula allowed him to avoid bili lights. Without medical intervention he would probably have been depressed at birth and then his brain further insulted by kernicterus. The damage would likely have killed him prior to his 1st birthday (feeding issues in a child with a moderate to severe brain injury from birth without access to NG/ G-tubes etc).

      Second: emergency vacuum during precipitous labour for absent heart rate followed by some BMV for neonatal depression. Followed by PPH.

      So I’m 2/2. Clearly a lemon.

    • rh1985

      Me. I had a c-section for pre-eclampsia. My daughter was very high up and there were no signs of labor starting anytime soon. Without modern medicine I doubt either of us would have lived.

    • Puffin

      Kid 1) and I are alive despite several HUGE flubs on the part of my midwives, one of which required surgical intervention by a very upset OB. I could have bled to death and it is pretty much luck that I didn’t – the midwives did everything exactly wrong. They also never tested Kid 1’s bilirubin, just told me it was breast milk jaundice and had me make sure he got as much sun as possible. He is developmentally delayed now, and I have concerns that it may be subtle kernicterus because he was FAR more jaundiced than my second who was borderline for needing transfusions and was hospitalized for two weeks.

      Kid 2) Again with the placenta problems, even with my “natural” labour. My cervix was closing and I still hadn’t expelled the placenta but was starting to bleed heavily because my uterus wasn’t clamping down. OB reached up and manually removed the placenta. I’d had no pain medication so this was insanely painful, but it probably saved my life. I was very weak and pale at that point.

      I’ve not seen my OB yet for my current pregnancy, but will be discussing the possibility of a planned c-section for this one. I have fast labours and don’t want to risk bleeding to death because I didn’t get to the hospital in time.

    • stephny

      My birth and my son’s birth, yes on both counts. Me more so; I was born with bilateral choanal atresia. That alone sealed the deal for me having a hospital. Things can go wrong so quickly…

      • stephny

        *birth, derp

    • mearcatt

      me. had cholestasis, required induction at 37 weeks. pain meds by choice. have a beautiful child who none of that harmed. no regrets. would do it again.

  • SporkParade

    I’m debating whether or not to comment on the hypnobirthing ad posted in one of my Facebook groups. It shows an illustration of a pregnant lady with the phrase, “She thought she could, so she did.” I am sorely tempted to post, “Isn’t that implying that, if a woman needs an intervention during labor, she didn’t believe hard enough in herself and is therefore a failure?” Added consideration: the ad is for the hypnobirthing course I took, though it was posted by a different instructor.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      It shows an illustration of a pregnant lady with the phrase, “She thought she could, so she did.”

      Call me an ignorant guy, but I have a hard time imagining the contrary.

      Babies are going to be born regardless of your attitude. If if there is no one there to provide any kind of alternative, they are going to be born regardless of whether you think you can or not. It might hurt like the bejeezus and the pain is pretty much unbearable, but the baby is still going to be born. As the NCB is so happy to tell us, women have been birthing babies for thousands of years without pain meds. Of course, they did that not because they “thought they could” but because they had no choice. That doesn’t make them strong, nor does it mean they are weak. It is just the way it was, and there’s no value judgement to be learned about it.

      • Poogles

        ” but the baby is still going to be born.”

        Not always: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithopedion

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Don’t take this the wrong way, but, cool!

      • SporkParade

        Does an intrapartum stillbirth count as being born?

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          I don’t know, but it would count as “birthed”…

    • fiftyfifty1

      All this Thinking You Can and Birth Affirmations and Visualizing is all such a bunch of bullshit. Even those who promote it know deep down that it doesn’t work. If they really thought it worked they would visualize something specific and useful. I mean if it works, why not? Why just say “I visualize my cervix opening like a flower”? Why not say “I visualize my cervix opening like a flower at a rate of 1cm per hour”? That way you can stay on the Friedman Curve, everybody will be happy and healthy, you won’t need any pitocin, baby will be born in a timely fashion before you are exhausted etc.

      • SporkParade

        In all fairness, my mantra helped when they were stitching up my perineum. Not as much as the lidocaine did, but it helped somewhat.

        • Cobalt

          If it didn’t help the pain, it at least helped with not committing violence against the person doing the stitching.

      • An Actual Attorney

        Why no visualize the baby tunneling through a worm hole straight to outside your body?

        • fiftyfifty1

          I decided against that as an example, because those promoting birth affirmations do limit themselves to actual biologically possible outcomes. Their belief system is that their affirmative thoughts can lead to natural perfection, but not supernatural occurrences.

          (this is in contrast to prayer, where the rules state you can request the supernatural but require that you soften all requests by adding “thy will be done” at the end)

  • Sue

    OT: interesting research results, showing that process indicators don’t always correlate with patient-based outcome indicators:

    http://saxinstitute.cmail2.com/t/ViewEmail/j/95303377F14FA61D/1F58459BBB513260F351F20C80B74D5E#research-section-two

    Study finds no link between obstetric quality indicators and outcomes.

    A population-based study of obstetric quality measures in New York City maternity hospitals has found no correlation between the indicators and maternal and neonatal morbidity.

    Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, the Sorbonne and Paris Descartes universities and the University of Washington, studied whether two core perinatal quality indicators recommended by The Joint Commission correlated with morbidity.

    The two indicators were elective deliveries performed prior to 39 weeks of gestation – intended to reduce neonatal complications among term infants; and caesarean deliveries performed in low-risk nulliparous women – intended to reduce unnecessary variation in rates of caesarean delivery.

    The study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 103,416 newborns, 8057 of whom were associated with neonatal morbidity. It found that hospital performance for both of the quality measures was not associated with performance for maternal or neonatal morbidity.

    The researchers suggested other quality measures should be considered that focused on suboptimal care, such as using haemorrhage and preeclampsia protocols in the delivery suite, rather than measures that captured only a narrow slice of hospital quality.

    “There is a need to reassess how these measures are designed and implemented and to think more broadly about constructing meaningful quality measures tightly linked with patient outcomes,” they wrote.

    Association between hospital-level obstetric quality indicators and maternal and neonatal morbidity. JAMA. 2014;312(15):1531−1541.

    • theadequatemother

      great. We need more push back like this against poorly thought out quality indicators.

  • sdsures

    It drives me nuts, absolutely NUTS, when NCBers refer to the birth of their baby as “my birth”. Mama Birth had her birth…35 years ago.

    • SporkParade

      I hate when they use “birth” as a verb. Birth is a noun. The verb is “to birthe” or “to give birth to.” Sort of like “bath” and “to bathe.”

      • No, “to birth” is NOT a verb, in English, anyway. A woman gives birth or is delivered. [I can even live with “delivers” although it makes birth like receiving a package]

        My woo antennae wriggle the instant I hear “mama[s]” and “birth” as a verb.

      • Siri

        As Calvin says, verbing weirds language. I like ‘mathe’ for doing math.

  • Young CC Prof

    Here’s the thing. All human societies use shame to enforce behavioral norms, and people respond extremely well. That’s one of those things that makes us human, that allows us to live together in astonishingly large and complex societies AND usually not kill each other. If you aren’t shaming people into behaving, all you’ve got left is the fist or the threat of the fist.

    The question is, what behaviors is it appropriate to apply shame to? Birth choices are a pretty silly target, IMHO.

    • sdsures

      George Carlin on the Ten Commandments. Instead of ten, he reduced them down to a manageable Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE8ooMBIyC8

      “Thou shalt always be honest and faithful to the provider of thy nookie.”

      “Thou shalt try REAL HARD not to kill anyone.”

      • Sarah

        I would add a third- as per the Buddha, try not to be a c-bomb.

    • Sue

      Shaming can enforce behavioral norms, because behavior is (mostly) under voluntary control.

      It can’t, however, inspire you to change things that aren’t under your control, like sexuality, skin color or how your body manages the gestation and birth.

    • Sarah

      Yes, Mama Birth shows a remarkable ignorance of human psychology, history and anthropology when she makes her claims. With shame, as with everything else.

  • MLE

    So the mere mention of pain relief in labor can break down a mother’s defenses and totally overwhelm her true desire for a drug-free birth, yet accusing her of being a bad mother/weak person for making certain choices should bounce right off of her. Got it.

  • GiddyUpGo123

    I just went over to Mama Birth because, I don’t know, I needed a distraction I guess. This kind of stuff really bugs me:

    “Because it is MY BIRTH and I can feel any way I want about it.”

    No, it’s not “YOUR BIRTH.” It’s your baby’s birth. Your birth occurred many years ago. You don’t even remember it, so although I suppose you can feel any way you want about it your opinion isn’t terribly relevant, unless, of course, the manner of your birth caused you some sort of physical or cerebral harm.

    Ah, yes, but what if it did? It was YOUR BIRTH, not your mother’s birth. The choices she made affected you for the rest of your life.

    I really find the idea of “my birth, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine” to be upside down and backwards. I guess that’s why some of these folks can justify the damage that they cause to their babies, because it isn’t their babies’ births at all, but THEIRS.

    • sdsures

      ^^ This. You beat me to it.

    • Bugsy

      Hmm, can’t help but picture that 10 years from now, the children of NCB activists will be in the school playground bragging “well, MY mom had a vaginal water birth with me.”

      Umm…

      • Cobalt

        Just like I don’t discuss my kids genitals with strangers, I would hope the kids return the favor!

        • Bugsy

          Oh, but they l-o-v-e that topic for discussions w/ strangers.

    • rh1985

      Do these people have a cake for themselves on their child’s birthday instead of for the child?

  • demodocus’ spouse

    I suspect that quote, even in context, may’ve been whistling past the graveyard. *Of course* other people can make me feel bad but maybe if I pretend hard enough I can convince myself that I am worthwhile. that sort of thing. E.R. managed to get amazing amounts of stuff done, considering.

    • Amy M

      I think maybe it could be taken as “we determine our own self-worth” which is a nice sentiment, but often, it is hard to feel like you are worth something if everyone else is telling you that you aren’t. This works better if one is fairly self-confident already, and is not the victim of systemic discrimination.

      • demodocus’ spouse

        Aye, Or of abuse.

  • just me

    Well…I see your point. But 2 things:

    1) there is some merit to the notion that you are responsible for your feelings…I’ve read some cognitive therapy books that push this idea. I’m not saying you can just be happy when horrible things happen, but there is some benefit to realizing you can in some situations choose to react differently.

    2) With all due respect I don’t think shaming someone for not having a natural birth is the same as racism and homophobia. Really I don’t. As in, not nearly as horrible. Civil rights are not at stake.

    • Amy M

      I don’t think shaming someone about birth is the same as racism or homophobia either. I took those as extreme examples to make the point of how people who shame others often absolve themselves of wrong-doing by victim blaming.

      • guest

        Exactly “feelings just happen”.

    • Cobalt

      The right to pain relief or to choose to not to use your breasts to feed a baby might be.

    • auntbea

      My feelings are my own responsibility, that’s true. But it is also my responsibility to act in a way consistent with kindness and courtesy. Regardless of whether it is my fault that someone feels bad, why would I *want* to keep doing something that hurts people’s feelings?

    • guest

      I can slap you then tell you “You choose how to feel. You shouldn’t feel angry”!.
      Words hurt more than actions sometimes. When someone enjoys natural delivery or breastfeeding it is totally a personal experience, and that doesn’t make it the “right” way and doesn’t make it “superior” to other people choices, and behaving as the perfect mother who always makes the best choices is sending the opposite message other mothers who had to/or chose other choices plus judging based on their “perfect” choices HURTS. We all choose what is best to our situation and love our children unconditionally.

    • fiftyfifty1

      I do see the similarities between shaming someone for their race or sexual orientation and for failing at natural birth or breastfeeding. All of them are prejudices based on biological processes we can’t control. And NCB philosophy has its roots in sexism (as does homophobia) and racism. Sure there are also big differences. Racism is a constant prejudice where “passing” is impossible for most. In homophobia, “passing” may be possible for some, and the prejudice may not be as constant. NCB prejudice is for a shorter window of a person’s life, and may be escaped if a person is able to find a better peer group. And no, civil rights are not at stake. But ethical rights may be (ask people in Canada and the UK whether they have access to pain relief or CSs or whether NCB philosophy has limited their choices).

    • fiftyfifty1

      CBT doesn’t say that you are responsible for your feelings. CBT is very accepting of feelings. What CBT says is that there is often more than one way to interpret facts. That changing erroneous interpretations of situations and seeing them from a neutral rather than pessimistic point of view may lead to different feelings about a situation.

      • Who?

        This has been my experience too. Also trying to understand the speaker’s perspective. I am still amazed by how much negative behaviour and treatment of others is driven by fear. When you can recognise and acknowledge the speaker’s fear, their behaviour becomes easier to understand.

        Of course, some people are just arses, no help there unfortunately.

    • Bugsy

      just me and fiftyfifty1: any CBT books you’d recommend?

      • DaisyGrrl

        My doctor recommended Feeling Good by David Burns.

        • Bugsy

          Thanks! I’ll take a look at it.

      • Dr Kitty

        Moodgym is free online CBT if you’re into that idea.
        https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome

        • Dr Kitty

          Some of these Self Help guides have some CBT exercises.
          They’re pretty good, from the NHS.

          http://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/

          • Bugsy

            thanks! I’ll check them out. I’ve been due for some CBT work (for anxiety), but committing to the 3-hr weekly class offered at our hospital is a bit of a challenge…

    • SporkParade

      It’s not quite the same as racism and homophobia, but I think it is comparable when you here stories about women being denied pain relief in labor, or losing babies to preventable causes, or otherwise not having access to adequate medical care during pregnancy and labor and delivery. It’s not as openly deadly or violent as racism and homophobia, but it can definitely still kill and maim.

    • Allie P

      Except there is often racism and bigotry involved in women’s rights issues regarding obstetrical treatment. It’s jut not the ones the NCB advocates whine about. Studies show that poor women of color, for example, are much slower to be offered pain relief, interventions, etc. in hospitals.

  • AnnaC

    If there is any shame to be felt with regard to childbirth it should be for this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30452226 (Poor water and hygiene ‘kills mothers and newborns’). With all of the tools and knowledge we have to ensure safe childbirth, women and babies are dying for lack of proper care – natural childbirth in the raw, in fact.

  • Mel

    Oh, Mama Birth, you misunderstood that expression on my face.

    If you start rambling on about how much you loved your “natural” birth, I’m biting back laughter because you’ve decided to be proud of a biological function that many women will experience in their lives.

    If you start yammering about CS as a poor form of birth control, I’ll doing two things. First, I will be trying to keep as many details in my head because retelling your insane conspiracy theories makes great small talk at cocktail parties. Second, I’m going to try and figure out how to explain how birth control works to you…but will probably give up because you just aren’t that smart.

    If you start decrying formula rather than breast milk, I’m gonna get a look of shock, yell “OH MY GOD! THAT’S WHY I’M FAT!” and start pretend sobbing on your shoulder. After you seem good and embarrassed (or impressed), I’m gonna whip my head up and say, “Oh, wait. It’s because I eat too many cookies….Darned science with their truthful answers.”

  • Trixie

    Great column today, Dr. Amy. To start with something as banal as that Mama Birth article and turn it into an Eleanor Roosevelt history lesson was pretty great.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD

      Thanks!

  • GiddyUpGo123

    “I can’t make you feel ashamed, only you can do that” is about as logical as punching someone in the arm and then saying, “I didn’t make you feel pain, only your nerve endings can do that!”

    We’re wired the way we’re wired. When someone punches you in the arm, it hurts. When someone shames you, it hurts.

    • sdsures

      Mama Birth’s rant sounds disturbingly like domestic violence:

      i.e. “Why do you make me do these things to you?”

  • Roadstergal

    I was really confused by that quote about C-section being birth control, so I clicked through the links and read the MDC article, and _for fuck’s sake_. Babies dying due to lack of access to a C-section is a fuck of a method of birth control, too. Or moms having such debilitating tears/prolapse/fistula that they just can’t bear to have sex anymore.

    Like MDC didn’t have enough between the anti-vaccination and HIV denialism to raise my blood pressure.

    • Cobalt

      The MDC article was bonkers. Talk about blinding oneself to the obvious.

      • Vg2010

        What is mdc?

        • Amy M

          mothering dot com….the entire tin foil hat brigade hangs out there. Anti-vaxxers in droves, they are all AP extremists and if you say anything “unsupportive” (factual, scientific, anything other than the prevailing opinion), you get banned.

          • Bugsy

            Good to know. I’m guessing they have a fair share of intactivists there as well? Argh. I stay clear of those ones myself.

          • Amy M

            Yep. That’s a subject I simply refuse to discuss with others. The state of my sons’ genitals is no one’s business.

          • Cobalt

            That’s my stance when people ask me if my sons are circumcised.

            “Did you really just ask me what my kid’s penis looks like?”

          • Bugsy

            Beautiful reply.

          • demodocus’ spouse

            No one has asked yet, but I am definitely going to use this, Cobalt!

          • Guest

            Yep. They’re called “private parts” for a reason.

          • Vg2010

            I have a hard time understanding how we got to the point of judging others for what they do or fail to do… if you decide to circumcise your child, good for you. If I decide not to do the same – my family’s decisions. I believe the decision is meaningless at the end of the day (a bit like the vaginal vs cesarean birth)

          • Bugsy

            I’m in complete agreement…not sure if it was clear from my earlier post. I don’t care if others circumcise or not, but in the same sense, hope that such respect is mutual. We do not allow our son’s private parts to be up for public discussion nor activism.

          • Vg2010

            It’s personal… Sure, let’s say a childbirth class discusses why people do or do not do something (even though most of us have access to google for better or worse). Afterwards, up to the family to do research and choose whatever they feel comfortable with. But it is meaningless.

          • Cobalt

            They would never allow such an adulterated product as processed tin foil into their homes.

          • Mishimoo

            Only the purest bauxite for them!

          • Vg2010

            lol! thanks for letting me know! My google searches haven’t taken me to their page yet (thankfully, but now I know to stay away)

    • Vg2010

      this lady is CRAZY – she has an article about sections killing mothers…
      Can’t even make a coherent comment

      • Young CC Prof

        I just found a post of hers about how low fluid is totes made up by OBs, yo. RAGE.

        • guest

          Funny. She didn’t see when my water broke, that one disposable bad was enough for it!

        • araikwao

          Pffft, whaddya mean the placenta wasn’t working properly? Tasted fine to me.

    • sdsures

      Now I’m happy I didn’t click that link! Curiosity is killing the cat, though.

      • Cobalt

        Basically, some study shows that women who have cesareans have fewer kids, generally speaking, than women who have vaginal deliveries. That sounds very plausible.

        BUT, according to MDC analysis, this could only mean that women are so traumatised by their first cesarean that they stop having kids before they want to stop. There are no potential confounders, and this trauma never happens with NCB.

        • VeritasLiberat

          And then we get into the correlation/causality thing. Older primaparas are more likely to need a c-section, and also more likely to have fewer kids because they got started later.

          • VeritasLiberat

            And although anecdotes are not data… one of my female relatives was traumatized enough by her vaginal birth that she only had one child.

          • Cobalt

            One of my friends had elective cesareans for both kids, if that was not an option she would not have had kids. I don’t know why she had such a hard stance against vaginal birth, but she loved her cesareans.

            Vaginal birth can devolve into a very scary situation, with a great unknown potential for harm.

          • rh1985

            Maybe she has tokophobia?

          • Mishimoo

            Considering the things that can happen, it’s a very valid fear.

          • Cobalt

            I don’t know if phobia is right, but maybe it is. The conversations we had about it were when I was pregnant with my older son. I have an epidural phobia (for me, not the baby), and was hoping for a “natural” delivery. She said I was bonkers and there was no need for doctors or babies messing around “down there” and didn’t understand why anyone in the modern world would turn down the chance to avoid all that. She also thinks breastfeeding is weird if formula is an option.

            Since then we’ve had four kids between us, I’ve still never had an epidural and she’s never had a contraction. I’ve breastfed or combo fed all mine and she’s formula fed hers from the start.

            The oldest of our combined group is 12 now, and out of six kids the only one you can tell what they were fed as infants is the one who is still an infant (and you have to either check the poop or see him eat to be able to tell). The method of arrival has no impact at all.

            We’re still friends, but oddly enough she’s getting into Juice Plus now and I’m finding her hard to talk to. Go figure.

          • Nik

            I want 3 kids. If c-section was off the table I’d not have any more than my current one and only because I’m not interested in risking my life and a child’s in a vbac. Funny how crazy NCB people assert they can’t make you feel shame, but if you state you liked your c-section and want that going forward, well that can’t be how you REALLY feel.

          • SporkParade

            Are we related? I also have a relative who was so traumatized by vaginal birth that she only had one child. She would have loved to have had the luxury of the kind of “knock ’em out, pull ’em out” birth that NCBers deride.

          • JD

            Allow me to add +1 to the anecdata. DH wanted 2 kids. I wanted 3. We have all settled on 1 (the kid wholeheartedly supports being an only). If we were to have another, the only thing I can guarantee is it is not coming out of me.

          • Mishimoo

            My best friend is also leaning heavily towards not having any more kids for the same reason.

          • Cobalt

            Or women who know they only want one or two kids are way more likely to be offered and choose elective cesarean.

            Or maybe a birth emergency is terrifying, and they’re afraid the next cesarean won’t be soon enough.

            Or a complicated pregnancy turns them off, and the cesarean is irrelevant.

            Or women who rabidly pursue natural birth also use natural birth control.

          • Young CC Prof

            And let’s not forget that women who want half a dozen kids are more likely to seek out treatments like ECV for a breech baby, or forceps delivery, to avoid a section if possible.

          • rh1985

            Yep. I was 99% sure I only wanted one, and I was pregnant with an IVF baby, so elective CS made sense to me for a variety of reasons when my doctor offered it after I shared some of my concerns. I’m pretty sure I’m done. If I win the lottery I’ll have one more but two c-sections is not so bad.

        • Dr Kitty

          But, are the women having CS having the number of children they want to have?

          That’s the question.

          MDC has assumed that the answer is that these women all WANTED more children, but, BECAUSE of their CS didn’t have them.
          I see two major, potentially erroneous, assumptions there.

          The Gulf states ( by which I mean Saudi Arabia, UAE etc) have high CS rates, mostly female OBs, and larger families on average than the USA…
          Do you think MDC can make that compute?

          • rh1985

            One of the reasons I had decided on an elective c-section (which became medically necessary before the chosen date) was that I was 99% sure I wasn’t having more than one child, so not having to worry about subsequent deliveries and complications was a factor in favor of a c-section (I had anxiety about labor and vaginal birth and I was also very sick from vomiting and a c-section meant I could have the baby as soon as I was 39 weeks). My assumption is that women who plan smaller families are probably more likely to go ahead and chose a c-section for more “soft” indicators, and women who have complicated pregnancies that ended up in c-sections have fewer children because they want to avoid the complications that required a CS, and not the CS itself.

        • sdsures

          Multiple major abdominal surgeries, adhesions, etc. Somewhere on the SOB comments is a statistic that people are encouraged by OBs to only have 4 kids max if they are all done by CS, or a combination of CS and VB.

          • Dr Kitty

            Four children is still one more than most women in the developed world choose to have…

            Five children is a big family, and, despite what MDC believes, not at all commonly desired.

            If your family is so large that you can’t all fit in a normal sedan, it gives you an idea why most people stop before 4.

  • Zoey

    “If you are dumb enough to have an opinion and share it then you are undoubtedly going to be accused of shaming somebody who did otherwise.”

    She’s delusional if she really thinks that her posts are just stating her opinion and do not intentionally frame her choices as being superior by blaming and shaming other women. There’s a big difference between “I’m glad I was able to have an unmedicated vaginal birth” and “caesarians are a perverse form of birth control” or “actually natural births ARE better” (two titles of actual things she wrote).

    But if you do end up being shamed by her deliberate attempts to shame you, it’s totally your fault. Not hers. Obviously. *Headdesk*

  • Bugsy

    Dr. Amy, thank you once again for an excellent post. I frequently feel bad for the lost friendship with my NCB activist friend, and your posts always seem to come at the right time. Each post reminds me that each phone conversation with this friend left me feel worse about my own ability to parent, and that shame had become a large part of that discourse.

    As a vaguely crunchy mom who also believes strongly in modern medicine, I’ve found that blogs like yours are fast and far between. Thank you for being a voice to those of us with a different perspective on parenting than simply “all natural is always best, no matter what.”

  • Amy M

    So here’s a question: What’s the best way to respond when some jerk has tossed this one out? I mean, I guess its best to avoid pointless confrontation with people who are just there to be mean (so lactivist blogs and boards),but its probably going to happen to someone despite that. Let’s go back to the LCs from yesterday for an example. A woman works with an LC to try to breastfeed but ends up using some formula. She tells the LC, and the LC shames her. When the woman points this out, the LC says “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” What should the woman say or do next?

    • Bugsy

      I tend to avoid confrontation, so I would probably simply leave and never return, the same as I did for the acupuncturist who suggested I needed a cleanse diet to get rid of my endometriosis. I generally operate off the principle that I can’t change them (and thus remove them from my life), but would love to hear suggestions that are a bit more constructive!

      • Amy

        That’s me, too. I’m pretty vocal in internet threads where I know that lurkers are reading and any points I’m making won’t be lost on the original jerk, but in person…..so much easier to cut ties. My circle of crunchy friends is steadily declining in number as a result.

      • Who?

        I think it is always positive to point out what your expectations were and how they have not been met. You can then acknowledge that your expectations were off base, and that therefore you will move on, a little wiser and poorer. They then know why they lost you, hopefully won’t pester you with email etc, and you have said your piece in a calm way.

    • Trixie

      Mail a box of shit to her house?

    • Samantha06

      Turn it back on her. Tell her she’s the absolute worst LC you have ever seen and she should be ashamed of herself. When her face turns red, say, “now remember, no one can make you feel ashamed or inferior without your consent.” Then tell her to go fuck herself!
      Sorry, these people really piss me off..

      • Amy M

        That’s great! I will write that down. I will not be having any more children, but in case any of my friends or family do.

        • Samantha06

          Glad you like it! I’m actually a nice person, but when people in authority start bullying, my claws come out!

          • Who?

            Yes, and it is a perverse thing that the reason nice people don’t bite back more is because we don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. Even when they have been (at best) entirely indifferent to hurting ours.

            I’d try to be more apparently constructive with the LC, not saying that she’s a terrible LC but that I experienced her behaviour is unprofessional and unhelpful, which are the two basic things you want from an LC, and that she has, on that basis, failed at both. That, however, despite this the baby is great and (if feeling a bit mean) asking if we could take a walk down to the local school where she could point out the breastfed babies, who would obviously stand out it in general fabulousness.

            By which time she has already left the room or is sitting there, unable to move or speak.

          • Samantha06

            I hear you. Your response sounds very diplomatic and effective. In reality, I don’t know that I would be quite as blunt and rude ( like telling her to go fuck herself! lol!) but I would tell her in no uncertain terms her behavior was deplorable and she ought to be ashamed.

          • Who?

            IMO better to let them work out for themselves they should be ashamed, by the thoughtful line of questioning, then they don’t get so riled up and the effects last longer.

          • Samantha06

            I think it depends on the person and the situation. I find that some people seem to respond better to the shock of being more aggressively called out. Then you have the ones who are obviously being passive-aggressive and are fully aware of what they are doing. In that case, I think the subtle approach stings more because you’ve beat them at their own game.

          • Who?

            That’s all true. The passive aggressive group get all hurt feeling-y which I find bizarre given how rotten they are often being. I do get asked if I am mocking (or taking the piss) fairly often, to which I generally say yes, because that is exactly what I’m doing. It’s a bit unkind to do it in front of others, though sometimes can amount to a public service.

          • Samantha06

            I find it bizarre too, the way they react to being called out. It almost makes you wonder if they are truly aware of how nasty their behavior is. I worked with this woman who was horribly nasty. When we did one of those group self-awareness things where people describe themselves, she went on and on about how gentle and kind she was! The look on everyone’s face was incredulous! It was like everyone was thinking, are you f-ing kidding me?

    • Brix

      My, slightly less PC, solution…

      http://i.imgur.com/pqnXV9o.gif

      • Samantha06

        Love it! lol!

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      The corollary to “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” is “Thinking your are superior to others doesn’t make it so”

      So, to me, the response to “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” is, “Maybe not, but you can be a pompous asshole regardless of whether you consent or not”

  • Amy M

    http://www.theferrett.com/ferrettworks/2014/04/the-myth-of-nobody-can-make-you-feel-bad-without-your-permission/

    Thank you so much for addressing this. I think the misuse of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote might be my hugest pet peeve the “mommy wars.” I found the above blog post (I don’t know the blogger, stumbled on it via google) and thought it was excellent.

    I addressed this directly with another blogger, who put that quote up. I don’t think she was actually trying to shame anyone, but she was, possibly willfully, refusing to see that the quote seems to be more often used as a weapon than a shield. I left a comment on her blog saying as much, and she said she appreciated my view, and agreed that there were a lot of jerks on the internet, but still felt the quote was valuable.

    So I came back again, and clarified that I wasn’t suggesting that SHE was shaming anyone, and gave a concrete example of a woman with PPD, who would be emotionally vulnerable to anyone who wants to make her feel bad. I included the above link, which (if no one wants to read) says that misuse of the quote basically gives the shamer leave to be an asshole. I said “The best thing to say to a new mother is: What a beautiful baby! You are doing a great job! Is there anything I can do to help?” This time, my response was posted, along with another response from the blogger, and she seemed to be a little more open to seeing what I was trying to say.

    Of course someone can make you feel inferior without your consent. All anyone has to do is find out what your emotional hot buttons are and push them. In the case of new mothers, they are often scared they are doing it wrong and that they will mess up the baby and/or be BAD MOMs. As a group, they are among the easiest people to hurt. I’m not sure what Eleanor Roosevelt actually meant when she said her famous quote, but she’s probably rolling in her grave to see it taken out of context like it is.

    • Roadstergal

      That’s a great link, thank you for posting it.

      I prefer “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” I always try to remember it, although I too often fail. 🙁

  • anh

    But if I say someone put their baby’s life at risk for choosing an HBAC or question the safety of untested donor milk I’m either fear mongering, hating, or shaming.